Everspace is a roguelite space exploration and combat game. The story pits you as a man named Adam, and you’re heading toward co-ordinates in the Demilitarized zone, although you don’t know why, and don’t remember anything about your past. Throughout multiple runs as you make more progress, more of the story reveals itself, and the gaps are filled in at a satisfying pace.
The core of the gameplay in Everspace is flying your ship. This is done in distinct combat areas. Travel between these areas is done via a map menu, and there is no free exploring a large and expansive solar system or galaxy. These areas are large enough that they will take a few minutes to explore, however, so the experience does not feel claustrophobic, allowing for multiple separate encounters in each one, and room to explore between.
In Everspace you can fly in every direction, and can roll freely. This means that there’s no true up or down thanks to being able to roll, and it’s very easy to lose your sense of direction. The in-game HUD marks points of interest on screen, and they can be used to orient yourself with your surroundings, which is very functional, completely offsetting any disorientation that you might feel, unless your sensors are damaged, or there is interference preventing the sensors from working.
Due to the lack of gravity, ships can fly in one direction and face another, which provides freedom in combat and exploration, but it does take some getting used to if you’re more familiar with traditional air combat. Enemies are able to spin their ship to shoot at you even if you flank them, and can stop, hover, and take off in another direction. This means that players will never find themselves in situations where they need to “shake off” a foe that is tailing them.
After a few hours of play players will learn the intricacies of space combat, with clever use of equipment and asteroid cover, in addition to swerving to avoid fire, and these techniques will require mastery in order to overcome the challenges that Everspace provides.
In most encounters, you’ll be outnumbered, and in the later levels, the foes hit hard, and have drones that will shield them and disable you, so prioritising targets to get through these encounters in one piece is extremely rewarding.
At times, the oppositions forces might be too powerful to engage head on, but there are creative solutions available that the player can leverage too.
In addition to equipment that can turn the enemies weapons against them, there are two main hostile forces: the Okkar, a lizard-like species, and Outlaws. In addition to this, there is also a neutral force, the G&B mining company who will retaliate against anyone that attacks them. As such, these factions can be lured to each other and will engage each other so that you only need to mop up the survivors of these engagements.
Adding depth to the combat, ships in Everspace may have shields in addition to the hull hitpoints, and weapons may be more effective to damage one or the other. Swapping weapons mid-combat will allow players to tear through opponents, but not all ships have extra weapons in order to do so, forcing them to make use of secondary weapons (such as missiles or mines) to deal the damage that otherwise might be a struggle to wear down, however secondary weapons have limited ammo, and careful use is important so as to not run out in a critical moment.
Everspace provides 3 camera angles,
- First person view, in cockpit.
- First person bumper camera.
- 3rd person trailing the ship.
Which view the player uses will be entirely up to player preference, although I normally prefer first person view, but found the 3rd person view to have more situational awareness, which made both combat and exploration clearer.
Everspace also has VR support for those that are interested, but we didn’t test how this plays.
Exploration in Everspace is necessary in order to gain materials, find fuel, weapons and other equipment, and earn credits. As fuel is expended when you jump from area to area, the player will need to ensure that they have adequate fuel before each jump, or there is potential for the ship to take damage during the jump. The other materials that you find along the way can be traded or sold, and can also be used to upgrade or craft new equipment, which can be done from the pause screen, allowing the player to craft an important upgrade in a time of need.
As Everspace is a roguelite, the player is likely to fail multiple times, and restart the game. Everspace has a large amount of variation, as each area is randomly generated, not only providing differing scenarios for the player, but also multiple visual differences between the areas. As the player explores, the map of sectors is also randomly generated, and certain combat areas may have trading stations, or may even have environmental hazards, such as black holes, solar storms, or electromagnetic interference. These hazards each have their own challenges and advantages, and really mix up how you need to play.
For example, Solar storms will damage your ships shields and hull unless you take cover behind asteroids or other cover. On the upside, however, enemies will also be at the mercy of these storms, and combat can become more about survival than direct confrontation.
A successful run in Everspace takes between 2 to 3 hours but automatically saves at the start of each area, allowing you to pick up where you left off without losing any progress. As each area only takes around 5 – 10 minutes to complete, it allows for short play sessions so that players aren’t dedicated to a marathon gaming session.
When a run ends, whether you win or lose, you will be able to spend the credits that are earned mid-game on passive bonuses to make your next run slightly easier. There are bonuses that will upgrade the stats of a single ship, and other bonuses that apply to all ships. This upgrade tree has a lot of individual choices, with all of them having multiple tiers to purchase. In more than 20 hours of play, I focused on global upgrades over ship upgrades, and still did not manage to unlock everything.
In the base version of the game, there are 3 ships to choose from:
- A medium all-rounder, which has a decent shield and reasonably powerful weapons,
- A heavy fighter, with strong weapons, and a huge Hull health pool with no shield,
- A lightweight scout ship which has a small shield, small amount of hull HP, and only one main weapon slot. It does boast high max speed and good maneuverability, however.
All ships are viable options, and fun to play, but when taking hull damage, there is a chance that ships will take component damage. Depending on the component that is damaged, the ship will not perform as well. For example, primary weapons can become damaged and will shoot half as fast, or thrusters can be damaged, lowering how fast the ship can move.
I was playing with the encounters DLC, that adds an extra ship which is also a medium class. Similar in stats, this new ship has new weapons and gadgets from the DLC equipped in it’s default loadout. In addition to this extra ship, the DLC also introduces a few extra weapons and gadgets that are not equipped to the ship, and some even rarer equipment that needs to be purchased from a vendor.
Most significantly, the DLC adds a bunch of NPCs with their own storylines. They appear on the map screen so you know where to find them, which gives short term goals whilst traversing the DMZ, and made the choices between routes feel more meaningful.
These characters provide varied sidequests, from collecting materials, to scanning alien lifeforms, or engaging in specific combat encounters.
Eventually, when the player manages to complete a successful run, Everspace’s story doesn’t end, and some more objectives are given to the player to complete on subsequent runs.
Everspace also has a Hardcore mode has no roguelite elements. All equipment is unlocked from the start, although the player’s ship will have no upgrades and be stuck with the default loadout. This means that after collecting materials, players can build weapons that they might not have access to in the regular mode of the game. When completing a sector, the player is able to spend credits on upgrading the ship for the rest of the run. When starting each sector after the first, the player must choose one of two handicaps that will stick with them for the duration of the sector. From my experience, the handicaps aren’t too punishing, but I wasn’t able to see if they get worse as the run progresses, as Hardcore mode’s difficulty is set to hard, resulting in a significant challenge where I wasn’t able to get further than 2 or 3 sectors into.
Visually, Everspace is incredible. Flying around in space amongst all the debris creates a contrast with the backdrops that are vibrant and detailed. There are three or four main biomes for asteroids, and these are at times used in combination, with debris from ships and larger space stations littering the battlefield to make varied environments even after spending a long time with the game.
Everspace is fast and tactical, and the exploration is interesting enough to remain engaging. Thanks to a lengthy story and reasonable difficulty there’s a large amount of replay value in store. Everspace is hard, but difficulty select is available to accommodate for those of differing skill levels, and I found that the game doesn’t punish small mistakes too harshly. If you’re looking for a space combat fix, Everspace is an absolute blast to play, and will definitely scratch that itch.