Space. The final frontier. Well, a frontier, we’re not really sure about the final one. Anyway, Everspace, the long-awaited space dogfight roguelike brought to you by ROCKFISH, has hit Steam after being in early access. Once the game finished on Kickstarter, there were high expectations for it, and people were curious to know if it did not only reach for the stars, but manage to hang there too.
First off, I have to say that the game is stunning. For being a person that doesn’t really care too much about how good graphics look as compared to the art style of the game, this one really caught me. The simple fact of how much detail has gone into this sci-fi gem is astonishing. The first person HUD, while being a little invasive sometimes, gives you plenty to look at, with damage taken to your hull actually being displayed as cracks on a screen really bringing you that extra step further. In third person, however, you get to marvel at even more, and get a good look at your ship from the outside too. I would definitely suggest experimenting with both, as you do have the option to switch between, to see what is right for you.
When it comes to how the game controls, I can’t find any complaints there either, while there are no joystick controls as far as I’m aware, keyboard and mouse has managed to fare very well. Your ship maneuvers very smoothly, the shooting mechanics are also very tight and make for some tense fights, as you have to take into account things like how far away you are, bullet drop, etc. While this may seem very run of the mill and what you’d expect of the game, it still has to be celebrated when it is done so well and refined to a point. You also have the option to switch out weapons that you can scavenge, allowing for a rather well rounded run. The ability to lock-on is also very well executed, allowing your missiles to home in, and the battles themselves tend to be rather fair in that not only are they in trouble, but you will be too if you’ve taken on more than you bargained for (looking at you, Okkar forces).
Did I say run? Yes, that’s right, this game is a roguelike. Meaning that, yes, you will die. But don’t worry, dying is only the first step towards becoming the space ace that the game makes you feel like. In death, you’re taken to your hangar in order to purchase upgrades for your ship to make that next run a little easier. There are also difficulty levels, with the option for easier playthroughs for less loot but easier enemies, or taking on the hardships of space and receiving rewards for your risk.
The main aim of the game is simple. Get through each sector by jumping, and making sure you not only survive, but have enough fuel for each jump. As you progress through each sector, more of the game’s story is drip-fed to you. I very much like the way that ROCKFISH chose to give the story to you, in a way that inspires players to keep going, and truly unravel the mystery surrounding them. As you travel, you will find more challenging sectors, and the low-risk jumps will come less often to you. The game progressively gets more challenging, eventually bringing boss fights into the mix along with elite ships, leaving you feeling more boned than Captain Kirk’s latest alien ‘conquest’.
The sound design of the game is very engaging and atmospheric as well, with the space battles bringing you right in, and hearing that little beep from your radar fills you with a sense of dread, given that they’ve probably brought along the kind of mates who like to say hello with plasma cannons. The sounds of the ship are all very satisfying as well, from the sound of the engine revving up to boost away from danger, or from your gatling guns, lasers, and missiles hitting their targets. Even the menu music makes for a very calm return after an intense, stressful space battle, leading to a feeling of respite before you jump right back in.
Another small aspect of the game that is a rather nice breath of fresh air is the rapport between the main character and his ship’s computer, as he chastises himself for his foolish decisions, or simply a back and forth about the progression of story events or recently transpired conflict. It never seems too scripted, and comes in at times when you don’t expect it, which makes it feel very alive, especially for a roguelike. The performances given from characters are very well done and believable, which is always two big thumbs up in my book. Nothing worse than grating, uninspired dialogue.
If I had to say something that takes away from the game, I only have two complaints, one of them being somewhat minor. When flying through space, while the HUD looks very interesting and informative, it is very distracting from the game at hand, sometimes blocking out ships, etc. While you can turn it off and give yourself a full unobstructed view in first person, I feel this takes away from the experience and the point of being in first-person. Another thing is how long it can sometimes take you to reach the next sector, with fruitless runs that might make you forget that the story even exists. I know I did after finally reaching the next sector on a run, and being presented with a boss fight where all I could think was, “Oh gosh, here’s the story coming back.”
Overall, though, the game itself is fantastic. I would definitely recommend this to anyone with even a passing interest in challenging roguelikes. Especially if you were a fan of FTL, this is a must play, or fans of any sci-fi media for that matter. Moreover, with the game being VR compatible, I can only see that adding to the experience. All in all, check this damn game out!