Everspace 2 Review – Loot and Shoot Among the Stars

Everspace 2 Review

While they’re certainly not rare, spacefaring shooters are novel enough to still be exciting. Combining — and you’re gonna hear this everywhere — Diablo-esque hack-and-slash, looter-shooter mechanics with 360-degree dogfighting and space exploration, Everspace 2 pushes at the edges of a new genre. But is it a blast of interstellar fun or stuck in a low orbit?

Diablo…in Spaaaace

Everyone knows the mechanics of a dungeon crawler RPG. The loop of explore, fight, and collect loot is addictive and satisfying. Add to that gear upgrades, crafting, and a character-progressing skill tree and you have all the basics of the genre. Everspace 2 takes those venerable, familiar mechanics and transposes them to a vibrant interplanetary setting. Instead of hand-held weapons and a bottomless pack full of equipment, you have a vastly customizable spacecraft and fights that take place among the planets and stars.

The first Everspace was a roguelike with a fair amount of procedural generation, but the sequel is a crafted experience. Narratively, however, the two games share a connection.¬† Everspace 2 continues the story of an illegal clone of suspected political assassin Adam Roslin named Hero. Big-picture, Everspace 2 is about Adam/Hero’s attempt to escape the Demilitarized Zone of Cluster 34, evade the Colonial forces hunting him, and reach a new homeworld, Eden-12.

Outside the near continuous radio chatter between Adam, his new ally Dax and a long parade of enemies and NPCs, Everspace 2’s story is told through animated illustrations. The narrative is complex, sprawling, and robust, pushing Adam across star systems, planets, and an uncountable number of space stations and installations. Everspace 2 is also an environmental puzzle game of sorts. Adam uses his spacecraft and flying skills to reach difficult locations, open passages and collect key items.

Space Operetta

Everspace 2’s campaign is impressively long and engaging. Additionally, there are many hours of side missions and grinding to look forward to. Aside from a few bland performances, the voice acting is well done and there is a surprising amount of it. The cast of supporting players and NPCs gets more interesting and varied throughout the campaign.

When it comes to the story, I have a few minor quibbles. For one, the player character has a suitably dramatic story arc but the performance is a bit vanilla. Because Everspace 2 is at heart an RPG, not being able to customize the player character is a little disappointing. Lastly, while the writing is generally good, it’s also occasionally hokey and not quite convincing.

A lot of people play action RPGs for the combat and couldn’t care less about the story. For those who pay attention, Everspace 2 has a better-than-average story engine powering the campaign. The impatient can skip through the dialogue and cut scenes and get to flying and shooting.

Shootin’ Is Where It’s At

Like most action RPGs, Everspace 2 is at its best in combat. Flying through asteroid fields and cruising over hulking space fortresses has been the go-to fantasy ever since we met Luke Skywalker. Some space dogfighting games emphasize complex controls and deep simulations. Everspace 2 lands on the arcade style of things, with relatively simple — but not necessarily immediately mastered — controls. By default, your craft’s inertia dampers mean you can just hover in place and shoot. This can make combat feel almost like a traditional, character-based RPG (or Descent, for that matter, which had similar controls).

Combat maneuvers like attacks and evasive flying are great fun. It’s easy and relaxing to cruise around and pick up crafting materials, explore abandoned ships, and take on the occasional Colonial fighter. In the thick of combat, you have a really wide range of weapons and defenses. The game starts you with some basic guns, a homing missile, and an EMP blast. In the way of most RPGs, you find, craft, and upgrade a staggering number of weapons, special abilities, and defenses for your ship.

Your ship, however, is your main ally. It takes the place of both armor and weapons in a standard RPG. Each ship you unlock of course has unique visual characteristics to some extent. The real difference is the built-in abilities, weapons, or mechanics that define each craft. Some have incredible area of effect defenses or extra slots for weapons. Beyond that, ships are customizable at a granular level, like swapping wing shapes, engines, and much more.

Lootin’ Shootin’ and Craftin’

There’s a lot of stuff flying around space, derelict ships to loot, and minerals to mine. Everspace 2’s mining system isn’t terribly complex but it gets the job done. Icons floating above the resource make it easy to identify and harvesting it is a one-button press. Speaking of buttons to press, there will probably be some debate about controller versus mouse and keyboard as the best system for playing the game. There are a lot of moving parts and inputs to consider, pointing to mouse and keyboard. On the other hand, I found controlling the craft a much more fluid and enjoyable experience with a controller. So, try both. Console players will be at no disadvantage when it releases on other systems this summer.

Overall, Everspace 2 looks great and I was impressed with the unexpected variety of locations to explore. While a lot of the game is set in the not-very-empty space between stars and planets, the story and combat also take you across planetary surfaces and deep underground, through complex space installations and deadly asteroid belts. Explosions, lighting, and particle effects are effective.

On the PC, Everspace 2 has a decent number of ways to adjust visual, audio, and accessibility settings. I encountered some framerate stutters here and there but nothing game-breaking. Extended time in early access has helped iron out a lot of the game’s technical issues, so it should be releasing in pretty good shape.

Reaching for the Stars

Everspace 2 has a substantial story, solid flight and combat mechanics, and incredibly addictive, satisfying action. If looter/shooter and space combat don’t seem compatible, Everspace 2 proves they can work together quite well. The narrative, breathless arcade space battles, and deep customization keep Everspace 2 engaging for its full running time and beyond.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Expansive story and characters
  • Excellent combat
  • Fun mechanics and customization
  • Plays like a looter-shooter dungeon crawler in space
90

The Bad

  • Flight controls take some practice
  • Some bland writing and voice work
  • Minor visual glitches and framerate drops