Everspace Review

Everspace has spent just shy of a year drifting through the Early Access sector and now it is warping into full release. This space-sim rogue-like from Rockfish games manages to stand out in a market that houses big-hitters, such as Elite: Dangerous. Through its clever design, this indie title begs you to come back again and again for one more battle in a breathtaking galaxy.

Everspace isn’t your average, everyday rogue-like. This space flight sim alters the normal perception associated with death. Rockfish has fine-tuned the components of this punishing genre by changing the rules. The result is a game that is both more accessible and more rewarding than many of the competitors in its category.

Let’s kick things off with the standout feature that makes this experience incredibly addictive. Permadeath, a staple characteristic of these types of games, supplements its harsh punishment with a worthwhile reward. When was the last time losing a fight meant anything positive in a rogue-like? Death is no longer simply a frustrating, rage-inducing consequence of poor piloting and strategic planning. Now, players may find themselves happily embracing the reaper with open arms when all seems lost.

The reason for this is because of a persistent progression system sitting at the heart of Everspace. Unlike other rogue-likes, dying here doesn’t result in restarting with a new blank slate. Currency spans across each life, letting you purchase permanent ship upgrades that are also immune to explosive endings. So each failure ushers in ways to be more successful the next time around. For example, amassing enough currency could yield increased energy regeneration, more credits, extra equipment slots, or faster movement. Hard-earned cash can even be spent on purchasing an entirely new ship, shaking up the standard Interceptor gameplay with either the Gunship or Scout.

The satisfying bit is that the player is always more prepared in a successive run and, therefore, begins to feel like a growing threat in a hostile space filled with sizable threats. It also helps that familiarity with the controls only increases over time. However, it is worth noting that the default control layout didn’t seem too controller-friendly. The crosshair moved independently of the ship and it made the whole experience rather disorienting. This could have been due to the fact that the game was developed with VR in mind.

However, when you have opted for the 3rd person view over 1st person, it doesn’t translate well. Fortunately, the alternative control layouts and customization alleviated this issue completely. Fixing the crosshair to the front of the ship and tying yaw to the right stick made for one of the slickest arcade space shooters I have yet to encounter. There was a majestic flow to the Interceptor as it weaved in and out of asteroids, avoiding incoming red lasers of death from enemy Okkar ships.

And those Okkar are persistent baddies, too. Once they have you in their sights, they will try to stick to your six and leave it shattered among the stars. Each engagement carries palpable tension as you attempt to turn the tides on your attackers and its this adrenaline that keeps battles interesting. Inevitably, an encounter is bound to end with the player ship left out of commission. While the game is slightly forgiving with failure, that doesn’t mean the game is void of consequence.

Dying brings the player back to the first level, no matter how much progress has been made through the available seven sectors. Each sector is made up of changing starmaps with procedurally-generated levels packed within. You can navigate the branching paths of each starmap however you see fit, but the randomness of it all means you never really know the hostility level of the chosen waypoint. That is, unless the proper skill has been purchased that makes that information available. As a feel is gained for the flow of the game, the plan usually looks something like: fly in, blow up Okkar, mine resources, and head for the jumpgate. Rinse and repeat.

That may be a diluted overview of what actually takes place, but it is accurate. There is more depth to be found, though. Areas not only contain hostiles and minerals awaiting the blast of your lasers, there are friendly pilots, too. The Terran ships that fall into this category will often jump in to help if the Okkar stray too close to them. The game balances a risk/reward system with the Terran to keep the player weighing their options. Often times there will be loot stowed away on Terran freighters, making an engagement with the lot tempting. This can come in the form of healing nanobots, fuel-filled containers, and a handful of other tempting materials. On the one hand, their assistance could come in handy during a vital battle. On the other, that fuel may be crucial to making a safe jump to the next area.

Regardless of whether the Terran or Okkar are the ones chasing your tail, powerful weapons are a must. And Everspace provides plenty of options. Gatling guns, laser beams, missile variants, and a ton of destructive attachments can be swapped out on the fly as they are uncovered. A basic Interceptor can soon trade out its pulse lasers for a Flak Cannon or Shock Rifle. The interchangeable arsenal further enhances the replayability, mixing up run-throughs and opening up new techniques for success.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time detailing the inner workings of this single-player affair and I’ve yet to mention the story. I can’t say this was unintentional. The narrative is the weakest link in Everspace. The tale revolves around amnesia, clones, and grudges. It’s your standard fare as far as action games go. Despite its thin premise, it hardly detracts from the overall experience. Audio overlays moving drawings to bring the player up to speed on the situation as sectors are cleared. It’s just enough to explain why you must blast your way through the sectors, but it’s about as engrossing as the side missions that occasionally appear.

All in all, Everspace is an excellent sci-fi space shooter from Rockfish. The environments boast some of the most visually striking vistas crafted in a game, ranging from space lightning storms to deep, purple haziness surrounding surprisingly detailed planet surfaces. The eye candy backdrop encases addictive gameplay that brings growth through death, creating a gameplay loop that most should find gratifying. Even initially frustrating controls and a generic story can’t drag this masterpiece down by much.


Verdict

Everspace blends enough new and old to create an enticing package for both longtime fans and newcomers to the genre. The bleeding-edge graphics pair nicely with buttery-smooth maneuvering and together they are able to overcome the game’s lesser parts, such as the story. To wrap it up, Everspace provides one of the most satisfying experiences this side of the Milky Way.

9 Relentless Okkar Out Of 10

Release Date: May 25, 2017
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Rockfish Games
Developer: Rockfish Games

Disclosure: Everspace Was Provided By The Publisher For Coverage Purposes

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