As a sci-fi space nerd through-and-through, I always get excited to delve head first into a new space-sim/RPG, and Everspace 2 was no different. Developed and published by ROCKFISH games, Everspace 2 is a direct sequel to its rogue-like predecessor Everspace. Released in early access on January 18th, 2021, Everspace 2 sheds the molt of it’s previous form in a further reaching, deeper expanding incarnation.
How one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of analysis are opinionated and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Everspace 2 through the lens of more objective metrics such as; graphical fidelity, characters & story, content & length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design & cinematics. This product was evaluated on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with an i5-7300HQ, for full transparency: using a provided copy.
Aesthetically speaking, Everspace 2 punches far above it’s weight class with outstanding visual fidelity. I mean, god-damn this game looks incredible. Which really shouldn’t be surprising considering how phenomenal the first looks. With that said, it’s sure to make potentially dated hardware work for it. While the game autoset everything to Ultra, I found this resulted in a sub-60 FPS experience on my testing rig, which admittedly, isn’t too powerful. Pulling the wide range of graphical settings back to medium smoothed out the performance dramatically with the exception of planetary atmosphere. These locations tended to chug a bit compared to their open space counterparts. That being said, the game is still in early access so I’m sure with some stability updates and optimization this will clear up. Planets look great, but need some work performance-wise.
Motion blur, chromatic aberration, and film grain are available, and off. Everspace 2 exceeds the admirable bar set by ROCKFISH, almost showing off in the process.
Nevertheless the good doesn’t come without it’s complications, sometimes it takes the Unreal Engine 4 a moment to load textures from blocky blurs into monuments of space. Perhaps this could be alleviated if installed on an SSD but large install sizes don’t leave us much room these days. But I digress. It’s the subtly of effects that truly bring Everspace 2 to life. Seeing the slipstream drift off the tips of your ships wing as you carve around an asteroid is mighty satisfying. When Everspace 2 runs without a hitch it’s a seamless, impressive experience. Truly a sight to behold. Especially when taking into account the return of the first/third person toggle giving players their choice of immersion.
Textures and models are jaw-dropping, coupled with outstanding effects and lighting that splits and shines between debris – it looks made for a photo mode. Good thing there is one, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The colour palette is wide enough to make Van Gogh blush and the lighting/shading is razor sharp. before I gush about its looks all day though, let’s move on.
Characters & Story
Expanding on the cryptic story of the original Everspace, Its sequel doubles down on a more direct style of storytelling. Players control Adam, a surviving clone-pilot uncovering his past and carving his future. Accompanied by a growing crew of yuppity misfits players must take whatever means necessary to save their friend. There’s a spoiler free sum-up, and It works well enough as a framework for space adventures and exploration. I have some issues with weak character motivations and certain individuals acting like well rounded dip-asses, but it’d be more forgivable if the main character wasn’t somewhat insufferable. It could afford a pass if, much like the first game, plot took a back seat but there’s clearly more attention on it here which draws out its flaws.
Everything I’ve experienced is still a work in progress, and growing character arcs could very well surprise me so let’s see where this goes. In Everspace 1 the compulsion to put in run after run was never derived from the story, personally. It came from the raw playability, content on offer, beautifully organic feeling gameplay mechanics, and controls. In my humble opinion.
Content & Length
As many of us are aware, early access titles grow and develop as time goes on leading up to and occasionally succeeding the full launch. Currently Everspace 2 offers access to 2 systems, with the first (Ceto) feeling more… refined. At the moment the amount on offer can be burned through in about 20 hours, give or take a few depending on exploration habits. There is a large variety of weaponry for players to try, and a fair bit of equipment to mold their build to their liking. Most of your stats, however, will be decided by picking whichever one has more green up arrows. In its current state player level will cap out at 14, with 84,893/99,978 EXP, with additional skills and rewards to be added. In the case optional side of G&B rewards (like mini achievements), there are momentary placeholders.
Many of the different sectors and associated missions vary in type from standard defense and assault missions, to clever (and sometimes frustrating) puzzles and collect-athons. The uniqueness in some of the locations is mesmerizing. From massive stations, asteroid caverns and derelict wrecks you always feel there’s something you just might miss if you don’t look closely. And if the number of locations, missions, and side quests aren’t enough, there are numerous auto-generated sectors that pop-up between cruise with mini goals or fights to engage in.
Playable ships are upgradable variants of: Sentinel, Scout, Striker, Interceptor, and Gunship. Each feeling unique and looking spectacular while not forgetting about practical differentiation. Ships handle differently and have particular stat bonuses for higher shields, armor, health, or more utility slots, for example. For now there are higher level variants of these ships, but not too much more for variety.
Controls & Gameplay
Much like the original, 2 feels as good as ever. The vectoring feels glorious giving players unparalleled amounts of control. Before I get too far ahead of myself, Everspace 2 supports Mouse and Keyboard (recommended), gamepad, and flight-sticks. On default, W & S move the ship forward and back, with shift boosting in any direction. (rebound to mouse for me to enable decline and boost simultaneously) Oh yes control re-binds. They’re here, yay. Anyways, A & D tilts the ship left and right, while ctrl, moves down on the vertical axis, with space going upwards. Now, Everspace‘s controls seem simple, yet their intuitive potential is limitless. This is perfect for the explorative style of gameplay that’s encouraged here, similar to its predecessor.
Delving into gameplay, Everspace 2 doesn’t throw any curveballs, simply building on the solid foundation of its previous iterations. Shooting mechanics and dogfighting feels tighter and more diverse in playstyle due to the wider array of weaponry and fun to use abilities.
The largest differentiation would be the divergence from Rogue-like gameplay, acquiring a more permanent, RPG base with consistent progression. Adam cannot be reborn, and can only die once. I enjoyed this as it allows players to retain equipment they might enjoy and get otherwise attached to. Players may savescum until your hearts content. In contrast to the original where, one small slip up and that gear is gone forever until RNG blesses you once more.
A stat/gear based RPG formula fits Everspace like a glove as only a minor evolution of what it already was. With an open galaxy mission-based orientation, 2 offers far more freedom to players to enjoy the universe. As discussed in content, whether there’s enough to fill that sandbox is another question entirely.
What’ll make players repeatedly return to Everspace 2 overtime is the expansion on what already feels like a glorious slam dunk. The foundation to build from is solid. Point blank: Everspace 2 is a joy to play and incredibly user friendly. Though that may be attributed to it being a space shooter as opposed to a space simulator.
Sound Design & Cinematics
Everspace 2’s soundtrack is rather complimentary of its gameplay. It uses hard hitting, hype driving, bass-heavy tunes to get the blood pumping, and it knows when to real it in with something more calming. It tends not to overwhelm you while you’re gaming and if it does, you can draw it back in the settings. Some tracks in specific that I got stuck in my head were the hyper relaxing, head bobbing, foot-tap-inducing cruise beats.
The sound design for the universe, ships, equipment and weapons, however, is exemplary. Lasers sound… lasery, Spinning up autocannons sound brutal, and boosting ships sound like they’re breaking barriers. Although I gotta nitpick.
The voice acting is not bad, but it’s not great either. Maybe the voice crew is working with some weak material, but sometimes it just doesn’t sound correct. I know, specific right? I did enjoy the return of the A.I HIVE in fact, it was a slight highlight for me.
Cinematics in Everspace 2 take the same concept-art hand drawn style as the original with a narrated overlay. It’s straight forward and effective. As an extension of it’s story elements I wasn’t particularly blown away here, in all honesty.
Overall, for those comfortable buying into early access experiences, I can wholeheartedly recommend Everspace 2. This game scratched an itch untouched for me since Elite Dangerous, Starpoint Gemini, or dare I say, Freespace 2. ROCKFISH kicked Everspace 2 off with a bang, and what truly excites me is that it will only get better from here. More abilities, more systems, more ships, more quests, story and guns. I can’t wait for more Everspace 2.
What do you think of Everspace 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, and if you enjoyed this content why not check out Darren’s review of Everspace for Nintendo Switch, where he calls it the “Dead Cells of space shooters”.
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Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.