After a couple of years in early access, can Everspace 2 live up to its promise?

Everspace 2 Review: Reaching for the Stars

After a couple of years in early access, can Everspace 2 live up to its promise?

I didn’t play Everspace or Everspace 2 in its Early Access period, so I entered my review of Everspace 2 not knowing exactly what to expect. Viewing it from the lens of a newcomer to the series, I was excited to see what the space-shooter RPG was all about. And to an extent, the game piqued my interest and held my attention. 

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However, there are some key things that hold Everspace 2 back from truly leaving its mark on the galaxy, and though it reaches for the stars, it doesn’t quite make it. There are good things here that series veterans (and newcomers) will undoubtedly enjoy, but there are some other things to know before jumping into the cockpit. 

The Everspace 2 campaign follows clone pilot Adam Roslin, who escorts a group of miners to a war-torn zone only to get ambushed by Outlaws along the way. From there, you slowly uncover more information about his identity, threats from other parts of the galaxy, and how he fits into all this. 

In his journey, Adam is joined by several companions, each with their own unique perks that confer unique bonuses to your ship. Dax and Ben improve your utility functions, providing benefits like longer Tractor Beam coverage and decreased hull repair costs.

Hive, meanwhile, has the Autonomous Cargo Dispatcher, which sends excess cargo directly to your home base, immensely helpful when you’re almost out of inventory space. There’s also Tareen, who increases the size of your base storage and hangar.

Despite these distinctive perks, the characters — and the story — suffer from a lack of depth. The narrative isn’t particularly intriguing, and characters mostly interact during cutscenes or scripted mission moments, each of which is a missed opportunity to truly capture the camaraderie among space renegades with a common goal.

Screenshot by GameSkinny

However, Everspace 2 succeeds when it comes to combat, the thrumming core of the game. The primary conceit here is combining a ship’s class with primary weapons, secondary weapons, utility items, and device abilities to create not just a loadout but a proper “build” of sorts. With these in mind, you’ll tackle challenges from story missions and optional encounters to high-risk areas and the Ancient Rift endgame activity.

A few hours into the campaign, you’ll be treated to a small assortment of ships ranging from the speedy Scout and versatile Striker to the hulking Gunship. From there, you’ll want to mix and match the right types of weaponry and devices.

Ship weapons and items are fairly straightforward and are equipped on your vessels via the menu, giving you the proper offensive, defensive, and utility capabilities. Primary weapons include the Flak Cannon, which can hit multiple hostiles at once. The Gauss Cannon ramps up your fire rate and spread. And the Thermo Gun shoots out a long-range beam of scorching heat. 

These are bolstered by secondary weapons, such as EMP Missiles that can fry circuits and stun opponents, Shieldbreaker and Armorbreaker Missiles that deal extra damage to defenses, and various types of Mines, including those that can impair enemy ship movement. That’s not to mention several kinds of modules and consumables.

Apart from these, Everspace 2 ships can also be equipped with devices, which are like special skills on cooldown timers. Within this group of add-ons are abilities like kinetic push, rapid displacement teleporting, various repair effects, and countermeasure capabilities.

In short, there’s a lot at your disposal and many different ways to build a ship that aligns with your playstyle and mission objectives. 

Screenshot by GameSkinny

Everspace 2 has numerous regions for you to explore. Indeed, there were times when I powered up my jump drive to reach a distant point on the map, reappearing later and marveling at the sights. Sci-fi’s greatest hits are here: destroyed flotillas surrounded by debris, wispy rings made of gas and ice, cracked planets with their cores exposed, and mysterious structures leading to relay gates.

With decent performance (I was playing at 4K with an Nvidia RTX 3080 and Intel i9-10900K), and a simple photo mode function, I found myself staring in awe in and out of hostile engagements.

There’s also a loot system in Everspace 2, which has a lot in common with some action role-playing games like Diablo and various looter-shooters. And though it works, it’s a bit of a tough sell. On its own, it’s passable, what with the concepts of leveling up to get a chance at rarer loot or collecting different materials to craft what you need. Still, I genuinely don’t think every game has to follow this type of core component just to keep you engaged, and it can become a needlessly tedious process. 

The biggest issue, however, circles back to companions — or the lack of meaningful interaction. Outside of a few instances, you’re mostly adventuring on your own, which leads to a feeling of forced, unnecessary isolation in the void of space underpinned by the loot grind.

Such a setup works better for an atmospheric space title or a horror game but not a space shooter like Everspace 2. Considering that you also can’t hire mercenaries from factions, the whole endeavor mostly rests on your shoulders, too.

Screenshot by GameSkinny

Outside of the limited interactions, you’ll mostly fly and shoot to a rather bland techno-pop soundtrack, Adam’s remarks that he “found some items,” and generic bad-guy radio chatter. Extra banter among the crew would go a long way to passing the time or fleshing out the characters even more, especially considering Everspace 2 is a single-player game with no multiplayer functions.

In comparison, other looter-shooters will either have co-op so you can have fun with your buddies, or they’ll employ non-stop action to keep you on your toes. Open-world titles, meanwhile, have locations that you can explore and discover at your leisure. Some, like No Man’s Sky, allow you to visit planets, too, but that’s not a possibility here, either, with worlds simply acting as set dressing.

Given the above, I sometimes found myself just listening to an audiobook or unexpectedly dozing off. To be fair, you do get to build Spatial Bypasses that allow fast travel, but this occurs several hours into the campaign. Moreover, although the game does have puzzles, these are rather simple, such as pulling a battery and bringing it to a generator. Once you figure out some of the quirks, these become repetitive in the long run.

On the bright side, controls are essential to a game like this, and Everspace 2‘s are fluid and responsive. I found myself cruising toward enemies with precious, coming in with guns blazing, and then rolling into a boosted dive before ripping through each vessel. If ever I was surrounded, I’d do my best to swerve away from enemy fire, hiding behind an asteroid or derelict hulk, while waiting for the right time to strike. Some abilities are lifesavers, letting me survive long enough to finish an objective.

It’s recommended to use a mouse and keyboard to play Everspace 2. However, I opted to play using a controller, as it felt more comfortable. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to try HOTAS support during the review period. 

Everspace 2 Review — The Bottom Line

Image via ROCKFISH Games

Pros
  • A massive galaxy to explore.
  • A plethora of ship equipment and abilities to choose from.
  • Dynamic and exciting space dogfights.
Cons
  • Lack of organic banter and conversations while exploring leads to tedium.
  • Optional tasks and puzzles can feel a bit repetitive.

Everspace 2 provides the thrills and excitement one would expect in any game built around dogfights and barreling through the void of space. Coupled with loadout and equipment systems that boast a bevy of armaments for build possibilities, good controls, and a beautiful world, Everspace 2 has some good things going for it. And those that have played in Early Access or taken to the cockpit in the game’s predecessor will find plenty to love. 

Sadly, even if there’s a huge map to explore filled with scenic views, there’s a sense of emptiness beyond the blackness of space. Everspace 2 is lonely, leaving you to tackle most threats from beyond by yourself. 

[Note: Rockfish Games provided the copy of Everspace 2 used for this review. Featured image via Rockfish Games.]

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Everspace 2 Review: Reaching for the Stars
After a couple of years in early access, can Everspace 2 live up to its promise?

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Author
Jason Rodriguez
Jason Rodriguez is a game reviewer and guides writer from the Philippines. With around 5,000 published articles, he's freelanced for numerous outlets, including GameSkinny, GameSpot, Polygon, IGN, PCGamesN, PC Invasion, and more.