This week I delved into the far reaches of space in a gaming genre that I have not played in quite a while. Everspace is an indie space crawler that started life back in 2015 as a kickstarter project. It has been about for a couple of year and has now finally seen a full release on the Xbox One and what’s more it’s a Xbox Play anywhere title. Rockfish Games has taking all out space shooting action, mixed in with dungeon like crawling, and flown off into the horizon in space. I strap myself into my ship and go wandering the galaxy to see if this is a worthy space title to have in your collection.
The goal in Everspace is a simple yet very challenging affair. You take the role of a pilot who has memory loss, I know something that is getting done more and more in games. However this background story feels much more suited to the overall gameplay than most. When you start the game you are given a set of coordinates for you to reach, although nothing is known about the destination or why you need to go there. As you set off on your journey to the outer reaches of the galaxies you will slowly uncover the reasons of your adventure. You will also find yourself to be in the thick of an intergalactic war. The story is non-linear and doesn’t follow a specific unfolding path as such. Don’t worry to much about losing track of the games plot, you can recap on everything you have discovered. The story hasn’t really got me encapsulated, however the gameplay has me hooked.
When you start the game you will be in your hanger with one of the three ships you can use, the other two you will unlock as you collect credits. You will see from this screen that you can upgrade a whole host of different parts of your ship. Each of the ships has a number of loadout’s that can be unlocked by progressing deeper into outer space. You will also be able to change the ships colour as you come across them in your exploration. At the moment I have unlocked two out of three loadout’s for the first ship. The difference in the loadouts, determine what primary, secondary, passive devices and consumables you will start your run on. Below the loadout you have enhancements that will affect things like navigation, repairs, defence, weapons and so on. Forty deaths down and thirteen plus hours and I still have to uncover glyphs and sub-routines needed to apply in the loadout slots.
Next is the perks section which is pretty much the skill tree if you were playing a rouge-like title, and boy does it take serious gameplay to max everything out. There are a vast amount of perks to upgrade and how you do this will have an impact on how you play the game if you so wish. You only get access to the perks tree after you die, and you will die a lot. Once you die, any credits you have amassed can then be spent here, if you have any remaining that you cant spend, they will just be lost in space. The more you upgrade the more expensive it becomes, which unless your an ace pilot this will take some serious grinding. My only problem with this is that reaching the end of the game is a long way off, depending on how you tackle each sector. As you upgrade the many parts of your ship, this can also impact the look of your ship.
Once you are ready to set off you will leave your hanger and then the real fun begins. While the game is best played on the PC Rockfish Games has done a stellar job in mapping controls to the xbox one pad. There are three view on offer they aer from behind, from the front of the craft and finally the cockpit. The galaxy is split up into sectors and within these are multiple systems of which will change every run you make. To move between systems you are required to find the Jump Drive coordinates, thus travelling towards the Jump Gate. When using the Jump Drive this will use up a quarter of your fuel meaning you can only safely use them four times before you could die. This is really smart and works well as it brings tension. Some systems won’t have any way of mining fuel and I have had to risk death just to fight and see if I get any fuel. Jump gates on the other hand don’t require fuel. Some systems will require you to hack a Jump Drive suppressor, just pray that it is not near an enemy freight vessel.
When it comes to the combat in the game it is fast paced, action packed stuff especially when in cockpit view. The A.I are ruthless from normal difficulty upwards so I recommend putting it on easy until you get use to the fast pace of these dog fights. The A.I will help out each other and when they come storm you at the speed they do, you will most likely lose your bearings at points which I love. I can only imagine how this game will look in VR. I have came across the Okkar’s and the outlaws in my travels and neither are friendly. At first you will only be taken on their scouts and drones but before long you will be confronted with large freight vessels, packing serious firepower and defences. The Grady and Blunt Prospects are an ally and can always be seen fighting against the enemy. You can either stay on their good side and they will help you when you are in trouble and near by. However fire at them or any of their tech containers and your pretty much dead. I am loving the open ended gameplay where you can do pretty much anything but there will be consequences.
When you are not fighting you are scouring the vast open reaches of space not just for answers but also for survival. On your voyage you will have to collect resources as well as hacking into comms systems. The hacking unfortunately only requires you to be near the equipment, it would have been great if there was a mini-game. Then again you could come across a colossal vessel guarding it when the back end of your ship is just about to fall off. Mining for resources is just a case of firing at what ever is available, although there are plasma clouds you can mine too and boy do they look pretty. There is also so much that can go wrong with your ship and the process in rectifying it is very well implemented. Your hull is your main life bar so to speak and this can be repaired by using nano-bots. However various parts of the ship like your engines, navigation system, and weapons etc. will require not just nano-bots but also a various number of resources. Finally your oxygen can run out which giving you a time limit to fix it or death results.
Everspace is one outstanding title to look at especially when running the game on PC max settings and sixty frames per second. Even on the Xbox One it still looks out of this world. The explosions from the ships look great and almost life like at times. Meteor rocks are scattered all about the place and some even allow you to explore inside them. The settings of each of the locations are just stunning. You will come across black-holes and electrical storms which just look amazing both having an impact on your ship. You will also need to keep and eye out for mines as well which depending on location can be hard to spot. There is just something special about exiting a Jump Gate or Jump Drive to see a planet in the distance shining bright or to fly about next to a ringed planet. Flying through space trying to avoid meteor belts laced with hard to spot mines just never gets old.
The Good Things
- Exploring space has never looked so wonderful.
- Gameplay element is engaging and addictive.
- I really like the die and start from the beginning design.
And The Bad
- The story never engaged me much but the gameplay has got me hooked.
- The cost of Perks is a little on the high side making it more of a grind than some may like.
- I was unsure what to expect from Everspace especially with it being a flying title mixed with rouge-like aspects. What I experienced though was an fast paced, action packed space shooter. While the story wasn’t anything different the gameplay is what really got me hooked and I wanted to travel to the far reaches of space. The game mechanics of when you die you have to start your run from the start shouldn’t work but it does. Rockfish Games implementation of this is great where you can upgrade your ship to get stronger before the next run. It hints at a Dark Souls style dying but with each death you can get stronger. This also brings true suspense to your runs, as you really need to make on the spot decisions as how to tackle each run which is different each time. If you don’t like grinding in games it may put you off, which is my only real criticism. While getting to the end game is time consuming and I have yet to reach that final destination I am enjoying the outer space experience.
Space travel Dark Souls style – you will die a lot – but dying is learning.