If there are two genres that have seen a resurgence in recent years, its roguelikes and space sims. Though not the first horse out of the gate, ROCKFISH Games’ Everspace does a great job blending the two together to create a dynamic experience about the trials of navigating a war-torn portion of the galaxy. Everspace comes with all the excitement and unpredictability of a roguelike and should please those looking for a little more action in their space games.
The fiction of Everspace involves an intergalactic war between an advanced military power and a well-organized band of pirates. As the war dragged on, the military followed the EVE Online playbook and used clones to bolster their numbers and give their pilots a perception of immortality as their consciousness transferred to a new body upon death. The main player character suffers amnesia but his memory comes back to him in fits and starts, making him unaware why he is being pursued by those he once considered compatriots. Armed with nothing more than a small interceptor starship operated by a snappy AI, the goal is to reach an undisclosed location far off into the galaxy. Much like No Man’s Sky, the story feels purposefully vague so as to encourage exploration and find fun in the journey, not the destination.
Everspace is all about survival. As a roguelike, permadeath is a very real threat that can happen at any time. You’re a lone pilot in a vast galaxy surrounded by two enemy factions and have no friends. To progress through the game, you’ll jump across different star systems located inside sectors. These zones have branching paths, allowing you to navigate system routes of your choosing. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a jump gate in the farthest star system of a given sector to advance towards another. The contents of an individual star system are randomized but on a fundamental level, you can always expect to face enemy opposition from pirates patrolling the system. To give the player agency, and prevent them from staying in one place too long, pirates will constantly jump into the system, making the player feel as if they are constantly hunted.
There is more to exploring star systems than evading or engaging enemies. To survive, you’ll farm materials to upgrade and create new weapons. Asteroids, gas canisters, and cargo boxes are ripe for the picking and yield the various minerals and ores needed to craft better equipment. Weapons and secondary abilities are offered as loot from the debris of destroyed enemies, shipwrecks, and special locked containers. Orbiting stations and the abandoned remnants of once proud battleships hide valuables, so it pays to thoroughly explore a system before moving on.
Eventually, though, you are going to die--that’s a certainty. When your ship explodes, a results screen tracks information such as how many sectors were visited, your time spent alive, and credits earned. Before launching back into the game as a fresh clone, the hanger interface allows money to be spent on Perks designed to make your ship harder, better, faster, and stronger. As a bonus, these perks stay with you after death, promising that the initial licks you’ll take will get easier after time. A few hours and upgrades later, survival comes just a little bit easier than before. On the other hand, it’s not unusual to feel like the deck is stacked significantly against you. Additional ships can also be purchased such as the sleek and speedy Scout and the intimidating heavy Gunship. Because credits expire at the start of each run, it’s best to maximize purchases before heading out again. Credits earned in-game can be spent to refuel, rearm, and resupply via trading outposts operated by a neutral third party. Just be sure to watch that trigger finger.
Everspace is cool in concept and execution. It’s also quite beautiful to look at. Space is rife with visual splendor as massive ringed planets, Earth-likes, and gaseous nebulas fill the skybox while asteroids, plasma clouds, and hazardous anomalies make great obstacles. A lot of locations play host to massive ship graveyards, the long dead wreckages of battleships left isolated and uncared for. The appearance of these dead hulls offers a nice visual connection to the greater conflict and its bitter armistice. It’s a great detail that offers a frequent reminder of how beautifully dangerous the galaxy can be. Sometimes, though, the game can be too pretty. A frequent annoyance was the difficulty in picking out blue target reticules, which denote interactive objects because they blend in too closely with the navy blue tinted skybox. When a target falls outside your ship’s periphery, the reticule changes to a solid blue object that’s easy enough to see, though it shrinks to a smaller, less noticeable target that is hard to pick out in a busy sky. I often felt that I missed out on potential and life-saving valuables because I couldn’t see it.
Another element to the game I found trying were the unique, almost Descent-like controls because it took some getting used to. My mind had trouble getting around using the left bumper and trigger for throttle. Strafing is performed with the left analog stick as is vertical boosting--functions I typically expect to find on the right stick. It took a lot of patience and practice before I got used to the controls, though I never really felt comfortable with it. As this is a personal gripe, your mileage may vary. In the end, these concerns failed to disrupt what amounts to be a nice, stellar spin on the roguelike genre. Everspace has the same “one more run” motivation that spurs players to reach the end goal and at the same time, offering a fresh experience with every run.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.