Everspace has been released on Xbox One and PC, through Steam. It is scheduled to come to Playstation 4 later this year and supports VR on the PC version, but we tested the game on Xbox One for the purpose of this review.
After playing Everspace for only a few minutes, I was surprised at how different it was compared to what I had imagined. Granted, I had only seen a few screenshots and a handful of trailers, but based on that I was eagerly anticipating deep space combat in the style of games like Wing Commander, but with far superior graphics – because Everspace is gorgeous.
In a way, that’s still there, but not in the manner in which Wing Commander plays out – with a cinematic experience that draws you in and blends missions together. Instead, Everspace is actually a lot like many of the roguelike titles we’ve seen come out of the indie marketplace in the past few years. However, it’s not a 2D title, not a platformer, and not an RPG-like adventure. It’s glorious 3D space combat wrapped in a roguelike blanket.
As you progress in Everspace, you’ll soon find that combat isn’t enough. Death comes quickly and freqently, and preventing it means you have to upgrade your ship and resources – which mostly happens through the collection of loot that you find along the way. Whenever you bite the dust you get thrown back in your story progression a little, but you retain a lot of the hardware you earned during your last playthrough.
You’re not just upgrading and scrounging up resources though – once you save up enough you’ll also be able to trade in your initial ship for a stronger one, making progression in terms of skills and upgrading a bigger gameplay dynamic than story progression. However, there is still a story to be told, and Everspace tells it using in-game dialogue as well as a few pre-rendered cutscenes. It’s a nice touch to elevate the game above the level of your average rogue-like, but it’s a poor substitute for the likes of Wing Commander or the upcoming Star Citizen – Squadron 42.
Aside from the roguelike dynamics, space is also “procedurally generated” – another popular term these days. In Everspace, this means that environments, enemies and attack patterns are different every run. This is not something that’s too uncommon for roguelike titles, but in terms of the environments Everspace is definitely something special. Space is not a vast black environment with a few stars and the odd planet thrown in – you’re flying around in between plasma storms, asteroids, solar flares and electrostatic lightning. It’s certainly beautiful to look at, even when you’re not the one currently playing.
Aside from collecting loot and upgrading components and weapons of your ship, you also need to keep an eye out for fuel. Run out, and you might not make it out of a hyperspace jump in one piece. Fuel can be found and mined in space, but can also be acquired through combat. This is a tricky part of the game, because very often the best way of getting more fuel is to attack fuel ships that you encounter. They’re not combat ships so they’re not hostile to you, but attacking them might turn their factions against you – resulting in more trouble down the road.
Everspace can be played from a first person (cockpit) view or by using a ‘follow camera’ – which was my preferred option due to the arcade-like nature of the game and the fact that it gave me a better idea of what was going on around me, as battles can get hectic. I can imagine that the cockpit view would be great when playing in VR though, but that’s reserved for PC users and we haven’t heard if the feature is going to make it into the Playstation 4 version yet.
Perhaps Everspace didn’t live up to my expectations as the next gear cinematic space combat game, but it’s certainly the best looking roguelike I’ve ever played. Its gameplay is a tad formulaic, but the combat is fun and the story is definitely interesting enough to want to see it through. “Roguelike” and “story-driven” don’t go too well together when you run into a wall and can’t progress as quickly as you like, but at least the roguelike elements are interwoven in the story as well. How that’s done is up to you to find out – Everspace is one of the best and most gorgeous space shooters available for Xbox One today, and PS4 owners should be jealous about having to wait.