Everspace 2 Early Access Review: All Systems Go
I love space, and I love games that put me in space. Old-school titles like Freelancer and X3: Terran Conflict were some of the first games to hook me, melting the world around me away as I fought, explored, traded, and built my space empires.
Then Everspace came out back in 2016, and it blew me away. I spent over 100 hours exploring Everspace and loved every second of it. I then reviewed it after its full release, and it again proved to be a defining experience. So when I heard that Rockfish Games was making a sequel, I knew I had to play it.
Everspace 2 is currently in Early Access on Steam. As with any EA title, this one's not yet finished. As of this writing, there's no firm release date for the game. Nonetheless, here's how the game is shaping up so far two weeks after release.
Everspace 2 Early Access Review
In Everspace 2, you play as Adam, a skilled fighter pilot working as security for a mining company operating out in fringe space. How did you get so skilled at fighting? Well you died, a lot. You see, Adam is a clone, and that puts a big colonial-military target on his back.
After an outlaw ambush catches you off guard, you end up in a whirlwind alliance with an ex-soldier to save the life of your injured comrade and only friend. Of course, there's also the potential to earn a lot of credits in a not-so-legitimate way.
While the story is a bit cliche and a bit predictable at times, it’s still engaging. I found myself wanting to see more of it unfold which, at the current time of writing this EA review, is a bit on the short side, taking about 3-5 hours to complete. It is Early Access though, so I have no doubt that it will become much more expansive as development continues.
Speaking of size, Everspace 2 has a significantly larger gamespace than its predecessor. Not only is there plenty of space to explore, but also there are also massive stations and planetary surfaces to uncover. If Everspace 2 already does one thing well, it's providing massive scale for its worlds and areas, giving you an expansive space to explore.
Even simple asteroid fields tell a story; some are littered with destroyed ships and mining outpost debris, while some have barely functioning automated systems grinding away. There's a feeling of hustle and bustle when you get to a jump gate port and see ships having their cargo scanned or various drones whizzing about welding this, transporting that.
The game world feels alive and lived in, which just adds another depth of immersion to a sprawling universe.
Everspace 2 differs from the first game in that it’s not a roguelike — it’s more of an open-world shooter with RPG elements. That is not a bad thing. Death isn’t a progress reset anymore, and instead you’ll find yourself respawning at the last autosave point — with your gear and credits intact — ready to try again.
While I'll miss the satisfaction of the roguelike runs of Everspace, I feel like the direction Everspace 2 is taking is one of more accessibility. It feels like Rockfish is trying to tell more of a story here, and honestly, I don't think the roguelike play loop would work for the open-world exploration gameplay and narrative they're trying to achieve.
Currently, there are five different ships to choose from — which I covered in my ship guide — and presently 10 primary weapons, three secondary weapons, ship modules, and numerous consumable items to choose from making for all kinds of mix-and-match to fit your playstyle.
Playing Everspace 2 with keyboard and mouse is as comfortable as it is with a controller, and I even prefer it because there seems to be more control with weapons like the rail gun; there's no feeling like sniping off drones from max distance with the precision only a mouse can give.
The dogfighting is natural and visceral in the ships meant to dogfight, like the interceptor and the striker, while the much heavier gunship functions true-to-nature— as a brick loaded down with heavy ordinance.
Enemies come in a number of different variations; you’ll fight scout ships, fighters, bombers, and more, sometimes in small packs and other times supported by all manner of drones. Combat is challenging and rewarding, especially when you manage to survive wave-after-wave onslaughts culminating in a mini-boss battle with a Destroyer ship.
Past those combat aspects of Everspace 2, there is plenty of exploration and some puzzle-solving pieces as well, all of which act as good changes of pace to keep gameplay fresh. While not particularly challenging, puzzles generally reward you with a strong weapon, ship module, or much-needed credits in the early game.
Much like its predecessor, Everspace 2 also incorporates crafting, though presently not to the same degree, allowing you to craft varying levels of weapons and modules with RNG bonus effects making no two items alike. I'd love to see the crafting expanded to include consumable items as at the present time, the only way to get those is to find or purchase them.
Everspace 2 Early Access Review — The Bottom Line
Everspace 2 is everything I thought it would be and more, especially in its current Early Access state. The graphics are gorgeous, the gameplay is spot on, and the story so far is fun with lots of room for growth. There's little in the way of bugs; the game loads a bit slowly, and there are subtle issues like the occasional lag between menu screens. Nothing to really complain about.
If you’re a fan of space shooters, RPGs, and open-world exploration, then Everspace 2 is right up your alley. The high level of polish and a good 15-20 hours of playtime under its belt gives you plenty to enjoy while the game continues development. Stay tuned throughout the game's run in EA, as we'll be checking back in to see how things have progressed.
[Note: Rockfish Games provided the Early Access copy of Everspace 2 used for this review.]