Having played the demo last year, I was excited to see more of what Developers Rockfish had to offer with their space shooter darling. Whilst their first outing had a focus on roguelike elements, Everspace 2 swaps this out for an open world, looter shooter experience, sprinkled with RPG elements like crafting and customization. Simply put, it was a wise decision.
So let’s get the weakest aspect of Everspace 2 out the way, the plot; Without spoiling anything naturally. You play Adam, a clone pilot working for a large corporation who after a series of unfortunate events, ends up becoming a fugitive in hostile space. What follows is a series of missions that ultimately left me with a pretty ‘meh’ feeling afterwards.
What diminished it was how disjointed it felt at times. Quite often a conversation between characters jumped around a bit too much, with dialogue and events in the narrative just springing up and happening, with little build-up or real anticipation. Instead, one character would say something, the other would say something else, and then they moved on. It wasn’t helped that some of the voice acting was just plain annoying, with certain lines feeling out of place or delivered strangely. What does redeem them, however, is the animation style cutscenes, which have beautifully drawn, incredibly detailed images, looking more like concept art truthfully.
So while the narrative is a bit lacklustre, the rest of what’s offered more than makes up for it.
Firstly, swapping to an open world does a tremendous job of creating a vast and expansive world — or rather vast and expansive worlds — to explore. Even in the games early access state, jumping through space to the available planets and locations was tinted with a sense of wonder and excitement as I looked forward to exploring abandoned space stations and star systems. What makes it worthwhile, however, was the incredible design. The galaxy is a beautiful symphony of colours, visuals and sound that often steals the show, and makes flying from zone to zone a visual delight throughout. One minute you are surrounded by asteroids that are blanketed with stars, the next you’ll be flying through a misty cosmos filled with debris, and it’s all stunning. Coupled with some great music and sound design that helps elevate the aesthetics, it makes for some brilliantly stunning environments that constantly keep the wonder of journeying through space alive. I’d wholeheartedly recommend playing in first-person too, with the UI built into the interior of the ship it just adds even more immersion and detail to the whole experience.
But even with its stunning appearance, a game that has you piloting your way across space has to nail it’s most important aspects, the controls and gameplay. Thankfully, it gets them right; depending on how you play that is. Having spent some time playing with both a controller and mouse and keyboard, I’d recommend using a controller, both for its button mapping and general game feel.
Often walking a delicate line between being too weighty and floaty, piloting your ship requires a good degree of control. Unlike other space shooters that may feel more like an arcade game, Everspace 2 opts for a more delicate approach. Whilst you can zip through areas and enemy fire with ease with a little finesse, it’s just as easy to swing wildly out of control if you aren’t paying attention. This may sound like a criticism but is quite the opposite. Truthfully, I felt this added a nice layer to the gameplay in multiple situations, making the moments when you pull off cool manoeuvres or evasions extra satisfying. Nowhere is this more evident than in combat, and oh boy is combat satisfying.
Dogfights with enemy ships are both an intense and engaging experience, often requiring you to use a mixture of weapons, abilities and flying skills to keep yourself alive. It’s not always easy, but it makes it that much more rewarding when you blast enemy ships out into space, and naturally forces you to adapt and learn; Ultimately making you a better pilot in the process. It’s made more rewarding by layers of extra gameplay elements that complement this great dogfighting. Aside from the variety of different weapons, players also have a multitude of customization options including ships, perks, abilities and items that you can use to adapt to any playstyle and situation. Whatsmore, it makes your ship a bit more personal to you, rather than just being a hunch of metal that gets you from A to B. Whether it’s buying a different ship with more weapon slots or using certain items to deal with the varied enemies and their strategies, the RPG and looter shooter elements melt together brilliantly, creating an (inter)stellar blend or exploration and thrilling dogfight combat.
Of course, with this being in Early Access, this should be taken with a grain of salt.
Whilst I have some issues with the story and voice acting, the deep RPG elements, great combat and awesome exploration more than makes up for these shortcomings. With tons of new content on the way like outlaw factions, difficulty settings, natural phenomena and more customization, I’ve no doubt Everspace 2 will grow into a standout indie title in 2021. If you are looking for great exploration, space combat with beautiful visuals, it’s worth investing in Everspace 2. Plus, by doing so you’ll support these developers so they can make their already great game, even better.