I’ve always fancied being in space. There is something about the idea of rocketing about amongst the stars, talking to and/or shooting aliens in their ships’ faces that really appeals to me. It’s mostly thanks to growing up with Star Wars, I’ve no doubt. I also happen to enjoy rogue-lites and their mildly torturous levels of dying, so naturally when Everspace combined them into one download, and then bringing it to Nintendo Switch, I was ready and waiting.
The game works as you might general expect of a roguelite. Before you start you pick your ship and loadout and venture out into space, exploring systems for resources, enemies, upgrades, and side missions until you inevitably die. You then use any cash you earned to purchase some upgrades, maybe a new ship, and head back out into the stars to try it all over again. Hopefully this time you’ll get a little further, now that you’re a little more experienced/grizzled, allowing you to find some new weapons, or at least enough cash to buy some more upgrades.
You may even uncover more of the story, which is uncharacteristically existent for a roguelite. A genre that revolves around you dying and restarting repeatedly doesn’t necessarily lend itself to telling a compelling tale, but Everspace manages to do a decent job of telling one. It’s just interesting enough thanks to some mysterious space coordinates and concepts like being reborn into a clone every time you die.
Unfortunately that particular idea, which is only really there to allow for the roguelite nature of the game in the narrative, also has an effect on how the story is experienced. You keep your story progress when you die, but you’ll likely spend long periods of time dying over and over before reaching the next narrative morsel, which can mean it loses its momentum at various stages.
In this genre, the chief concern is variety. When you are repeating the same thing over and over, if it doesn’t have a lot of variety baked into it, you are inevitably going to get bored. Everspace has plenty of variety in some areas, such as weaponry and other ship upgrades, or upgrades purchased between runs, but in other more crucial areas it is lacking. As you travel from system to system to reach the next sector you’ll slowly begin to realise that each one is basically the same. There’s an asteroid field, a few spots populated with enemies, naturally occurring resources, like crystals or fuel, and some ship wreckages to salvage.
Curiously, visiting all three of these things even require the same approach. Wreckages need you to explore a tiny bit before finding your way to a chest to shoot and collect whatever floats out, resources might be on the underside of an asteroid but are, again, shot to be collected, and enemies naturally drop fuel and sometimes equipment for your ship, though they do at least put up a bit more of a fight than some space crystals. Occasionally, you will come across a trader or a giant factory that can repair your ship, so long as you can reboot by way of a race to press buttons across its length, but they’re not much more than an obstacle rather than an engaging challenge.
While most space games will have elements of exploration, whether it’s collecting data on new planets or discovering alien flora and fauna, or feature questing and trading that has you trawling back and forth between systems, Everspace constantly drives you forward. The combat itself is the game’s strongest aspect, featuring fast, challenging fights against multiple ships that are a lot of fun. There are a lot of options for play style depending on your ship. Some rely on you finding them in the game, but once you’ve earned enough cash to unlock a ship you can start your runs with more options from the get go. The basic ship is a standard all-rounder, but there is a heavy ship that can use turrets and a light fighter that has a cloaking device for some sneakier space blasting.
Combat is great, though when you are playing in the Switch’s handheld mode it can be a bit more difficult to see what is happening on screen during busier scenes. Everything is large and visible enough on a TV, though it’s clear the visuals have been scaled down a little in the switch to the, uh, Switch. Explosions in particular seem lower in quality, which gets more noticeable when you keep flying through them like a badass, as is tradition. Nothing is poor enough to put anyone off, but it’s just something you notice from time to time, particularly when things get especially busy in a system that is prettier and the frame rate drops once or twice.