Very few games have made as much of a leap in scope and scale with their sequels as Everspace 2 over the original. Back in 2017, the first Everspace was a gorgeous 3D space shooter, but it was delivered through a bite-sized roguelite lens that a lot of people failed to really get into. The live-die-repeat space shooter still saw impressive success, but rather than iterate on the entire roguelite package for a sequel, Rockfish Games decided to take the core gameplay and aesthetic of that game and massively expand the surrounding experience into an open-ended, story-driven RPG experience.
It’s an incredibly ambitious undertaking, but it’s the kind of thing so many people expected when they first saw Everspace. With the sequel now in Early Access, it’s an incredibly promising and exciting first step toward being the next best space shooter, even it has its fair share of issues to iron out.
The original Everspace had light plot elements, seeing you control a cloned space soldier who, upon every death, would have his memories transferred to the next clone in the line as you repeat your roguelite loop over and over. Everspace 2 puts way more emphasis on the narrative, while also using the story of the sequel as a way to explain away the shift in game genre. You went AWOL and ended the loop of cloning from the first game, so with no more repeats or do-overs to your name, the stakes matter a whole lot more when your cozy freelance job ends up landing you in the sights of the military group you originally belonged to.
There’s plenty of space drama that occurs during the opening slice that the Early Access provides – around 12 hours of the story and 25 hours of overall content. You’ll have to race to get off their radar, work with the mysterious partner in crime who helped save your skin, and find a way to heal the life-threatening wounds of a friend who was caught in the crossfire.
There’s plenty of action movie cheesiness to the writing of Everspace 2, but it’s all pretty endearing thanks to the full voice acting. Story is either delivered through text boxes mid-mission or comic-book animatic cutscenes, and while these would be a little underwhelming on their own, your protagonist and a lot of the supporting cast have engaging voices that really help sell the interactions. Of the many work-in-progress features of Everspace 2, though, the story is one of them. If a full narrative experience is important to you, you’ll want to give this one some more time in the Early Access oven first.
The much more feature-complete and engaging element of the Everspace 2 package is, by far, the gameplay. You aren’t just cruising through repetitive roguelite battle arenas – you have plenty of large pockets of space to explore, each of them filled with surprisingly unique missions and objectives. Sometimes you might be tasked with tracking down missing antennae for a busted cloaking device, other times you might happen upon a huge abandoned cruiser and end up finding a way to disable the backup generators to open the door to the loot-filled storage room.
Plenty of times, you’ll be fighting. Ships control like a dream, whether you’re using a gamepad or keyboard & mouse. The general feeling of the original Everspace is still there, but things have been fine-tuned even further, and your combat options are impressively expansive. As you destroy bandit ships or explore wreckages, you’ll find plenty of crafting materials, valuable trade goods, and brand new equipment for your ship. There are new types of primary weapons to experiment with, specialising either in shield-blasting kinetic damage or armour-shredding standard damage, but you’ll also find things like booster upgrades, damage enhancers, healing nanobots, and plenty of other interesting support equipment.
The most impressive parts of your arsenal are the Devices and Ultimates. Like character abilities in an RPG or hero shooter, you can use these every now and then to severely turn the tides of battle in your favour, disabling enemy shields or activating enhanced healing modules. The loot pool for all of this stuff isn’t massively expansive right now, and there are even ship features and entire unlockable ship types not included in the game yet. There’s still enough in the game right now to get a kick out of looting and shooting, but the variety might prove thin if you dive particularly deep into the game.
Everspace 2 is a wildly ambitious leap from the humble roguelite beginnings of the original game, but so far this Early Access launch proves that Rockfish Games are more than capable of delivering. Plenty of areas still need to be expanded on and fine-tuned, as this is still very much a work in progress with the full release not planned until 2022. If you hop in now, though, what’s available to play is still a hefty and exciting enough experience to keep you entertained for hours.