Last time I got my hands on Everspace 2, it was at PAX East and the game was still pretty early into production. Despite that, what I got to play was a pretty promising little slice of space-shooter action. At the time, I was given free rein in a couple of pockets of space that were occupied by some asteroids, some missions, some outlaws, and docking stations to repair and refuel whenever needed. it was a simple little loop of activity, but the sharp combat and deep customization on offer were already incredibly appealing.
With the game prepping for an Early Access launch in January (delayed to avoid the Cyberpunk 2077 launch), there’s a lot more meat on the bones of this ambitious open-world arcade shooter.
The previous Everspace was a roguelite action game that saw you navigating tight spaces and engaging in similar battles as you raced to the end of your run. Everspace 2 takes that core combat and gameplay and slots it into a massive, story-driven open-world experience where you’re rarely doing the same thing twice. As I played the recent closed beta, I spotted all sorts of objective and jump-drive markers that brought me to an impressive variety of tasks and missions.
Many of these were even tied into the main story of the game, presenting you with named characters and story beats that added to my investment. In one instance, I was asked to act as the muscle and escort a crew of asteroid miners through outlaw territory. Their leader eventually became disenfranchised with the grueling work his crew was being forced to do, though, and brought them to an abandoned space facility to go AWOL and start a new life. Except he hadn’t informed any of them of this, so I was presented with the option to either give up my mission and let them run off, or kill him and escort the miners back to their facility.
While I did choose to end the life of the exhausted captain, it wasn’t an easy choice at all. Much of Everspace 2 is just pew-pewing things and having cool crazy space adventures, so darker moments of human drama like this help make the experience a lot more memorable.
Of course, it’s hard to discount just how fun shooting at bad guys and asteroids is. The combat and controls in Everspace 2 are as tight as ever, and the visuals of the game have been improved dramatically since I last played.
You start out in Everspace 2 with a rather simple kit of tools and a basic ship, but as you progress, you can expand and customize your arsenal in an insane amount of ways. You can get new ship parts, new weapons, assist tools, special combat abilities, and more. The combat abilities are especially interesting, as you can unlock unique traits for them that completely alter how they function.
There isn’t any penalty to dying beyond the reloading of a checkpoint, but you’ll burn through cash pretty quickly if you keep on needing to repair and restock your ammo after battle, so balancing your combat efforts is key if you want to afford some fun new equipment.
There have been a few other impressive arcade space-shooters in the last few years, but nothing has felt like it has quite the same scale as Everspace 2. The world is massive, the activities are varied, and the customization is staggering. For a game heading into Early Access in just a few months, it already feels full to the gills with addictive content. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what else gets added to the game as it hits Early Access in 2021.