Developed by ROCKFISH Games, Everspace is a gorgeous space shooter that manages to seamlessly blend high speed action, methodical scavenging, and serious roguelike elements both in the execution of its gameplay and its control scheme simultaneously. You’ll begin the game setting out into space, having little in the way of a backstory beyond the somewhat typical trope of some amnesiac-like symptoms. As you delve deeper into space following the path set by your ships AI, you’ll begin to uncover the truth about your questionable past. It’s an old story, but one that Everspace has added just enough minor tweaks too that it doesn’t feel entirely recycled.
Of course, a game like this isn’t meant to enthrall you with its deep and twisting plot, but instead digs its hooks in with its presentation and gameplay. As you may have noticed, Everspace is pretty. Like, jaw-droppingly pretty. Despite having spent a fair amount of time in space battles with Battlefront 2, Everspace hands down has been the better experience for me when it comes to visuals. Hopping from sector to sector to see the different backdrops – whether it’s an asteroid cluster, in deep orbit above a planet, or caught up in a haunting lightning storm – each new area to explore is worth taking a moment to absorb. What you’ll notice after its beauty, however, is the controls.
A Jaw Dropper
I enjoy space shooters and flight sims, and most of these games have relatively similar controls. This was entirely not the case with Everspace. With L1 and L2 controlling backwards and forwards respectively, the right stick would steer the ship and the left would strafe or hover. It didn’t take long to re-orient myself to the new controls, but without understanding the context it felt very strange – particularly as I had grown accustomed to using one joystick for thrusters as opposed to repositioning my ship.
It did all become clear the more I played: Everspace isn’t just about dog fighting and zipping around in space; finding, mining, and looting are pivotal to survival, and for that the ship needs to use strafing and hovering to better maneuver inside wrecked ships, hollowed asteroids, and in tight spaces. In fact once you have this locomotion down it becomes much easier to use a nearby asteroid as cover while shields regenerate or simply to get a breather during battle. The controls feel like second nature to me now and without this hybrid control scheme it would surely be a more grueling process to play as ROCKFISH intended.
Everspace uses roguelike elements perfectly, offering players an alluring and seemingly simple task: reach your destination. Along the way, you’ll gather resources to upgrade your weapons and shields, new gear to swap out and enhance your ship, and the precious nanobots needed to repair critical damage. Should you die you’ll be sent back to start and given the opportunity to spend all that hard earned cash liberating the galaxy to add permanent upgrades to your ship and pilot, giving you an even greater chance of survival for your next adventure. After the first few attempts you’ll grow attached to your ship and the loadout you have procured through numerous battles, so the thought of fatal combat becomes stressful in the best possible way; nobody wants to lose their progress, and sometimes it’s best to know when to just turn and run.
Trial and Error
The game also captures a true sense of random inevitability and cosmic indifference to your success with each time you jump between systems. You’ll encounter alien scouting parties, warships that take up more than the entire screen, complete armadas, devastating space storms, and some truly unique and horrifying experiences in space that I won’t spoil for the eager player. Not only could any of these appear upon arrival to a new sector but it can happen entirely out of the blue. I was lucky enough to jump to another system while being hunted by well over a dozen enemies in one area but more than once that very scenario had me meet a terrible end. Knowing the capabilities of your ship and your abilities to dogfight as a pilot are crucial to survival and the trial and error aspect of this game is going to include a hefty reliance on the error portion.
Jumping between systems will use up 25% of your fuel, meaning at full capacity you can jump four times without stopping to replenish by mining fuel, destroying tankers, or buying fuel at a service station. Should you not have enough to make the jump you can risk jumping without enough fuel and potentially damage the critical systems of the ship. One of the aspects I appreciate the most is the attention to detail on damaged ship systems: if life support fails, you’ll only have enough oxygen for a short time. If your targeting sensors are damaged, enemies, allies, and loot will be harder to see as well as a flickering on the edge of the screen. The fact these effect specific portions of gameplay and can be ignored if you don’t have the materials to repair them were a brilliant touch that pulled me into this world even more.
With a gorgeous, ever-changing setting, unique and functional control scheme, and some fantastic roguelike elements, Everspace is an essential experience for fans of space shooters. While the narrative remains only mildly interesting, the presentation and gameplay more than make up for it with both fast-paced and perfectly executed dogfights and yet methodical scavenging segments reminiscent of our beloved Firefly (of which the pilot makes a reference to). Every time I play I get further and further, and it only compels me to keep trying. The random encounters are frequent and varied, and the very real impact of damaged ship systems makes you care about your vessel even more. I can’t help but wonder if Everspace would look even more stellar in 4K.
**PS4 code provided by the publisher**
- Absolutely Gorgeous
- Intelligent Hybrid Controls
- Superb Roguelike Aspects
- Random Encounters
- Lacking Aesthetic Customization
- Uninspired Story