Everspace 2 Review – A Space Action Triumph

9.0/10

With a clear idea of what it is and what it wants to do, Everspace 2 is a space action RPG space ticks all the boxes. Offering a satisfying loot system and engaging combat, ROCKFISH have delivered a game that's as nice to look at as it is to play.

My feelings on Everspace 2 crystalized for me about three or four hours into the game. It was somewhere in the Ceto system — the game’s opening sector — and I was fast traveling in supralight to a main story objective when I got a distress call. I eagerly canceled my current flight path and turned the nose of my ship towards the distress beacon, then reengaged autopilot and headed to save some poor freighter from mines, pirates, or both. And then it hit me: I usually never bother with copy/pasted side content in games like this. Yet there I was, gleefully going out of my way to fight yet another dogfight against the same enemies I’d been fighting for the past few hours — why?

Well, because Everspace 2 is freakin’ fun. Modern games often dangle progression carrots in front of us, with promises of new skins, perks, or just in-game currency — having a box to check or a bar to fill is almost requisite for player engagement these days. (I’ve seen players complain in Steam reviews that the game “doesn’t have anything to do” simply because there wasn’t a progression system.) But what drew me to that distress call wasn’t a chance to level up, or get a new paint job for my skin — I went to answer that distress call because I wanted to get into another space dogfight.

That’s not to say that Everspace 2 doesn’t offer progression. Far from it, actually. In fact, it’s a game that almost necessitates engaging with side missions and odd jobs in order to acquire the gear and experience needed to beat the story missions. In many ways, it’s a looter shooter — you won’t go more than a few fights without finding some spiffy new component that outclasses what you’ve got equipped. But unlike so many other games, the fun doesn’t come from seeing a rare item drop; rather, that’s extra, and the fun is in the gameplay itself. Flying, shooting, dying, and trying again is the core of Everspace 2, and that core is rock solid.

beat up ship everspace 2 review
We’ve all looked like this after a hard day’s work before, right?

As you might have guessed, Everspace 2 is a sequel, but one that drops the roguelike element of the original in favor of a more straightforward action RPG approach. This makes it easier for developer ROCKFISH to tell a story, but also makes it easier to acquire your dream ship and loadout without having it snatched from you by one bad fight. Despite being a big fan of the original’s format, I do think the move away from roguelike was a good call, as it likely will give the game the wider audience is so very much deserves.

As mentioned, the main crux of the game is dogfighting in spaceships, but the manner in which you dogfight is entirely up to you. There are 3 main ship types — basically light, medium, and heavy — and three sub-classes for each type. When combined with the impressive variety of primary and secondary weapons, different shield modules, boost modules, and energy cores, the build variety is staggering. You can pilot anything from a small and fast glass cannon light, to a lumbering heavy that reconstitutes wreckage into drones, with plenty of room in between. Ships are expensive, but with enough time you can accumulate a hanger full of them, which can all be customized with the different wings, noses, engines, and colors you’ll pick up along the way.

Needless to say, you’ll spend a lot of time comparing numbers in your inventory screen, but that’s all part of the fun for games like this. The way Everspace 2 handles crafting also makes things easier: after dismantling enough of a specific component, you’ll be able to craft one that’s near your level, meaning that if you get unlucky with loot drops, you can still keep your ship up-to-snuff. You can also level up gear you find, improve its rarity, or remove its level requirement — and that’s on top of all the loot you’ll find when opening crates, destroying enemies, completing challenges, or just shopping. The system as a whole makes juggling components a breeze, and I never got tired of swapping in shiny new parts.

inventory screen full everspace 2 review
Can’t wait to use this one when I’m all grown up

Another crafting system that I didn’t engage with quite as much was the Perks system: as you meet new characters and they join your crew, you’ll be able to spend credits and crafting materials to unlock various passive bonuses, such as reductions to the price of repairs, or improvements to the time it takes for weapons to come online when you equip them in combat. These require a decent amount of farming to unlock, and I ended up ignoring it a fair bit as a result. However, they can be powerful, or offer some nice utility, and it adds an incentive to mine asteroids or otherwise seek out specific materials.

Of course, all of this inventory and perk management is in service of the combat, which I already told you was excellent — but let me tell you why. At it’s heart, Everspace 2 isn’t a space sim nearly so much as it’s a shooter, with the control scheme clearly designed with WASD + mouse in mind. You can use the spacebar and control keys to raise or lower your ship, and (unless you turn off inertial dampeners) even the slowest ships can turn on a dime. The emphasis is on shooting stuff, with very little of the tail-chasing that other dogfighting games tend to devolve into. Piloting skill is relevant, but not nearly as much as aiming.

That being said, you can do some cool and clever stuff via your ships devices, whose functions range from temporary speed boosts to teleportation. Like the weapons, there are a ton to choose from, and once fully upgraded you can pick one of three special modes for them as well, further changing their functionality. Additionally, much of the game’s combat takes place in and around space stations, asteroids, or other obstacles. On harder difficulties (or when attempting missions while underleveled), tactical use of cover to recharge your shields and recover your energy can be essential. Navigating these 3D environments is intuitive and easy, in large part thanks to how responsive your ship is.

admiring the view space station everspace 2
There were many locations that I had to pause to admire upon arrival

Speaking of leveling up — Everspace 2 has it. While it’s much more action than RPG, there are some light RPG elements present, with the obvious one being how you gain experience and levels throughout the game. Each level adds some base stats, and gives you a point you can use to upgrade one of your ship’s aforementioned devices. Regions tend to have enemies within a set level range, and missions also are leveled, with the foes present in those missions naturally matching the mission’s.

Sticking only to the main story will quickly find you multiple levels below your enemies, making it almost a requirement that you do a few jobs or side missions between story beats. Fortunately, the side content is on the whole interesting; while the “Jobs” are as repetitive as you’d expect, I never found myself getting sick of them, as I generally sprinkled them in among the main story and side missions — the latter of these being more fleshed out than the jobs, with their own minor characters and storylines.

The other thing that makes the side content so much more enjoyable is that the main story does a really good job of keeping things fresh. While there are only so many ways to do a mission, Everspace 2 does a commendable job of mixing up objectives and special requirements within the boundaries of its gameplay. One mission had me transporting a volatile cargo, which meant I could only use my weapons for a few moments at a time — this led to an exciting game of space hide-and-seek as I attempted to avoid enemies. Another mission required the use of cute little drones that I had to pilot through security nets.

calculating trajectory interesting mission objectives everspace 2 review
One early mission requires you to follow the trajectory of some damaged equipment in order to begin repairs

Other missions — and much of the side content — have light puzzle elements that necessitates exploring the area thoroughly to find the power cell you need, or shield generator you need to blow up. A number of these left me scratching my head, but never for too long. While many missions still boil down to “Fly here and shoot all the guys with red around them”, the variety of tasks meant I never found myself bored with Everspace 2’s missions.

The same cannot be said, however, for the game’s story. While some folks will certainly enjoy the pseudo-animated scenes, I thought they uncomfortably straddled the line between animation and still art; the writing and voice acting is also inconsistent in its quality. There are standout bits of humor — especially the conversations between Adam and his gregarious pal Elek, or Adam and his grumpy A.I. Hive — but the game drifts into standard sci-fi camp a little too often for my taste.

This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that the main story is long (about 30 hours of content), and the narrative takes many twists and turns that feel like they don’t move the story forward in any way. It’s interesting, because from some of the conversations characters have, it seems like the writers were acutely aware of this themselves. Perhaps its simply a stylistic choice, but personally I felt that some of the cutscenes went on a bit too long relative to their overall writing quality.

elek and animation graphics scene everspace 2 review

Still, taken as a whole I thought the narrative was fairly effective, and even at its corniest it did very little to dampen the fun I was having. The story also does, at a minimum, do a good job justifying all the awesome set pieces. As the game progresses, the battles get bigger and more intense; you start out fighting a few stray outlaws here and there, and end up in full fledged fleet battles with dozens of friendly and enemy ships crisscrossing the stars in front of you.

Even when you’re alone in a system, the game is still great to look at. Whether it’s a giant skeleton in space, an ancient alien installation, or a simple nebulae, environments have been lovingly rendered, and they’re the perfect backdrop to the equally well-realized ships you can pilot. But don’t take my word for it — just take a look at some of the awesome screenshots that fans have captured throughout early access:

At its best, when my shields are down, my armor’s gone, and I’m desperately turning my ship to get the last shot on an enemy, Everspace 2 evokes a kind of “man, I’m a badass space pilot” feeling I haven’t felt since I played TIE Fighter at my friends house in 3rd grade. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got another distress call to respond to.

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DanielD
DanielD

Unabashed FromSoftware fanboy still learning to take his time with games (and everything else, really). The time he doesn't spend on games is spent on music, books, or occasionally going outside.

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