Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Everspace Review (XONE)

Death comes early and often in ROCKFISH Games’ roguelike space sim Everspace, but going out in a blaze of glory actually fills you with relief rather than annoyance or frustration. Every time you die you get to spend your accumulated wealth to ensure your next run goes a little bit more smoothly and this process of upgrades, gameplay, and inevitable death is amazingly satisfying and addictive. With surprisingly accessible gameplay (compared to other space sims, at least), procedurally generated levels that ensure every run is fresh and unique, and fantastically beautiful presentation, Everspace is right up there as one of the best space sims on Xbox One. See our full review for all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Rockfish Games
  • Developer: Rockfish Games
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Space Sim
  • Pros:  Great presentation; accessible gameplay; addictive hook
  • Cons: Steep difficulty curve; storytelling
  • MSRP: $30

The story in Everspace is slowly unraveled as you repeatedly play and die and are brought back again and again as a series of clones. Who were you originally? Why are there enemies shooting at you? What is your ultimate destination? All of these questions and more are answered the more you die and the deeper into the game you get. Because the game only gives you tiny little breadcrumbs of story to put together, however, it is hard to get all that invested into it. Rather than a motivational force driving you to continue playing to learn what’s really going on, the story is more of an afterthought that occasionally pops up. That’s okay, though, because the gameplay is more than enough motivation to keep you coming back.

Everspace is a bit more accessible when it comes to gameplay than a lot of space sims on the market. Realistic physics and inertia are not really in play here – when you stop thrusting you actually stop moving! – and instead the game focuses on fast and accessible dogfighting against other ships. The left stick moves you up, down, left, right on a flat plane while the right stick actually changes your trajectory in the 3D space. By using the two together you can artfully slide around and dodge and turn in order to fight enemies coming at you from all sides. This is a combat-focused title and, as such, combat consists of swapping between a couple of gun and missile types, locking on, and blasting away at enemies. The game does a great job of marking enemies and other items of interest on your HUD, so you always know where the enemies are coming from.

While the game is accessible and has fairly intuitive controls, it certainly isn’t easy and death is a common occurrence in Everspace. Unlike other games where dying is a bad thing, however, death is actually how you make progress here. Everspace is a roguelike, but instead of losing everything when you die you actually keep your accumulated credits and other items that you can then invest in buying a new ship and upgrading stuff to make your next run last a little longer. You do have to start over at the start of the game each time you die, but because the game is procedurally generated you’ll always see new stuff every time you start over. It is a great system that is really addictive as it is always a new thrill to test out your new equipment and see how much stronger you’ve become.

Combat is definitely the focus in Everspace, but exploration is important too. The way the game works is that you warp into a new system, look around for any enemies or important stuff, and then warp out to the next system and do it all over again. If you’re more thorough you’ll find more credits and items, but if you dawdle too long very powerful enemies will warp in to fight you so you have to be careful. At the end of each sector, which consists of several systems, you’ll reach a dedicated warp gate that takes you to the next set of systems with all of the new wonders, increased rewards, and more difficult enemy encounters they contain. Again, it is all very smartly designed to encourage exploration, but also keep you moving forward. This isn’t a “go explore and get lost in 1% of the map” space sim game. This is a “make progress or else” type of space game. I like it.

As you’d expect, Everspace is a gorgeous looking game with all sorts of great looking outer space … stuff to look at. Planets, asteroid belts, stars, and much more all just look freaking great. Special effects for explosions and all of the sci-fi weaponry look fantastic as well. The audio is also very well done with solid sound effects and a fitting electronic / industrial musical score.

All in all, Everspace is a very smartly designed and remarkably polished (those months in Xbox Game Preview seem to have paid off) space sim that fans of the genre will love. I also really like that it is distinct and unique among the space sims on Xbox One and provides a fresh and fun experience compared to a capital ship sim like Rebel Galaxy or a hardcore realistic exploration sim like Elite: Dangerous. All of these games can coexist, which means it is a great time for space sim fans on Xbox One. If you’re hungry for a ship-to-ship dogfighting space sim and like looking at pretty scenery, Everspace is highly recommended. Buy it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.