Everspace is a game that you either haven't heard of or are in love with. There's no middle ground in Rockfish Games' space shooter. In development for almost two years, following a successful Kickstarter campaign in August 2015, Everspace already had more than 10,000 backers eagerly awaiting its release.
Now that it's here, Everspace has some big expectations to meet, starting you out as a pilot of a spaceship bent on finding out what happened to him while killing space pirates. The space-combat roguelike, dungeon crawler (you read that right) manages to be many things at the same time, and doesn't sacrifice quality for quantity.
Elements of a Roguelike
I’ve been around the block when it comes to Roguelikes, specifically when it comes to this new-fangled “Roguelike-ish” class of games that slaps on permanent death and counts itself among the fabled genre. That isn’t the case with Everspace.
While it’s not to-the-letter a Roguelike, Everspace has a much greater amount of Roguelike elements than expected. Of course, it does have its own form of permanent death. That is, if you get blown up by space pirates, you will lose all your in-game progress. But this has an Everspace twist on it.
You get to keep the progress you made on your ship. In between deaths, you keep all the credits you earned and get to funnel those back into upgrades on your ship. This won’t give you better weapons, and all specific weapon, secondary weapon, consumable and shield upgrades will need to be re-earned, but Everspace has a robust upgrade system for you ship that gives bonuses such as hull hitpoints, critical hit chance, repair cost, etcetera. This takes away the deflating aspect of death, and lets you say “I’ll do better next time,” with more confidence.
And, adding another element of Roguelikes, the levels in Everspace are procedurally generated. So, while you are dying over and over again, each time you play still feels like progression, because you’re doing something different. Roguelikes that don’t use this feature feel so … what’s the word … like Nier: Automata on hard mode – you just slam your head against the same brick wall. At least with Everspace, the wall is different each time.
Another aspect that’s not often replicated in modern-day “Roguelikes” is dungeon-crawling. That’s why I really have to applaud Rockfish Games for the imagination it takes to conceive a game like this. I never thought I’d get to play a dungeon crawler in space, but that’s exactly what Everspace is, and it’s marvelous.
On its face, the two can’t coexist. Space is a vast, endless, open area. Dungeons are tiny, claustrophobic confined settings. And, short of putting dungeons in space, you can’t easily combine the two – unless you’re Everspace. In Everspace, you travel through a series of areas in a sector with the immediate goal of progressing through the next sector. Each of these areas is as much like a dungeon as any dungeon crawler I’ve played.
There is loot, resources, enemies, traps, hazards all in a relatively confined space. You can spend as much or as little time as you’d like in most of these areas, so long as you have enough resources to get to the next. Again, to take the framework of a dungeon crawler and apply it to space takes a lot of imagination, so no one can ever say that Rockfish Games didn’t try anything new with Everspace.
Fighting and Lighting
While you’re crawling through these space dungeons, you’ll have to kill (or shamelessly run away from) scores of enemies, but doing so also gives you the distinct pleasure of marveling at the gorgeous visuals present in Everspace. Rockfish Games promised top-notch, AAA-quality visuals, and they delivered.
As with most quality visuals, it comes down to lighting. Great lighting can make bad textures look good and bad lighting can make good textures look terrible. Everspace has lighting down pat. There is usually one star in each system to which you jump, which is a sight to behold, by the way, but then you’ll have beautiful explosions and lasers flying at you, each creating their own tint and shadows. Quality like this makes it hard to pay attention to what you’re actually doing, but at the same time, provides zero graphical distractions or immersion-breaking bugs.
But the first-person (which seems like the premier mode to play) ship piloting through asteroid fields, shipwrecks and giant meteors - all the while you’re being hunted by outlaws - cannot be ignored. The controls are responsive and complex, and it feels as much as one can imagine piloting and managing an actual spaceship would feel. You have to maintain your ammunition, shield capacity, weapon systems, and support systems. If any one of them get damaged, you could find yourself function poorly, or even in an extreme case rapidly losing oxygen.
This is where the reward from the loot comes into play. Each system or weapon upgrade or ammo can be built/repaired with different resources you find throughout the environment. This can be ore, crystal, plasma, scrap, nanobots, etcetera, and they’re all necessary for keeping your ship in working order, rewarding exploring and defeating enemies rather than just fleeing from them.
Amnesia and Clones
See, I thought we had all moved on from amnesia plotlines. I remember when hallucinations were the hot, new narrative trope to help bail you out when you need it. But, nope: amnesia is back, baby. In Everspace, you play a pilot with amnesia trying to figure out how he got where he is today. Marking another twist (please pronounce that “I” with a hard “e”), you also play a clone of the main person. This explains why you can die and come back. It’s just another clone of you. But why does each clone have amnesia also? I’m not really sure how that works.
Amazingly enough, Everspace still manages a degree of intrigue and excitement, but that’s mostly due to how the game reveals information about its story. While I haven’t confirmed this, it seems like it can happen at any time. I reached sector 3 three separate times before I encountered another person who gave me more information about my past, (just before trying to kill me, but whatever).
I’m not sure what queued this, so I’m left in suspense every time I play, wondering what will come up next and when.
I hadn’t heard of Everspace until I was assigned the review copy. Apparently, it’s been in the Kickstart pipeline for a bit now and has garnered a strong following. I’m happy to say, though, that it’s a gem I’m glad I stumbled on to.
Everspace provides some of the most unique experiences I’ve had in gaming this year, and it does so with style, featuring awe-inspiring visuals and intense gameplay, all without the budget and support of a AAA publishing studio.
James Kozanitis is the Features Editor at GameRevolution. You can follow him on Twitter @JamKozy.
A PC copy of Everspace was provided by its publisher. Everspace is exclusive to PC.