The gaming industry is no stranger to the thrill of blasting starships. From Space Invaders and Star Fox to modern entries like Resogun, the appeal is undeniable. However, recent years have been somewhat lacking when it comes to high quality titles in this vein. Now aspiring star pilots can rejoice, because Everspace 2 is the perfect fuel for their empty library. As a sequel to the popular Everspace, developers ROCKFISH Games need to prove that a second outing is worth hopping in the cockpit for.
Fortunately, the space shooter packs plenty of unique and gratifying content despite being Early Access. Gripping combat, deep customization, and a free universe are waiting for players to enjoy. That said, those familiar with open world experiences can expect familiar mechanics. Regardless, a preview to Everspace 2 reveals an admirable project that breathes new life into the genre.
Story – Scrappy but Charming
It is of little surprise that the shooter’s highlights lean towards gameplay verses story. As an Early Access action RPG, players should not expect a groundbreaking narrative. The team at ROCKFISH manages to do a lot with a little, and certain aspects evoke an endearing nostalgia. The central character is a surviving clone pilot from the first game and currently on the lam.
Throughout the sequel, he teams up with a ragtag group of strangers to save his friend and escape from the law. While a bit cliché, the dialogue between characters during flight is entertaining. It captures a feeling akin to the conversations in Star Fox. Cutscenes, however, are somewhat tedious even with the vivid art. During those times, I found myself wishing those beats could have been told while flying. All in all, the adequate story provides a reason to move forward and engage with the compelling galaxy.
Gameplay – A Well-Oiled Machine
Flight & Combat
Regardless of the situation, ROCKFISH games manage to tout the face-paced flight combat of their sci-fi shooter. They would remiss not to, as it is by far the best part of the experience. Flying feels crisp and precise during claustrophobic stations or the vast expanse of space. The gameplay here is by no means a simulator, and controlling the ship provides gratification without frustration.
Combat is straightforward, with the player encountering different types of creatures, machines, and ships as enemies. Varying shield types give reason to switch between weaponry which results in a dynamic playstyle. And between the secondary weapons and special abilities, combat is consistently exciting. Though sometimes battles can seem easy, there are a fair share of encounters that will keep pilots on their toes. Even though it is not a roguelike similar to the first game, the stakes for dying are still high due to limited saving.
Even with the lackluster narrative, the quests give reason for delving into the universe. Between main and side missions, players can pursue leveling up at their own pace. Though, the format is like most open world games with fetch-quests and minor skirmishes. But spontaneous events and hidden locations can appear while jumping between locations. I thought these were more enjoyable, as they typically house intriguing puzzles or combat zones to test player skill. Regardless of the type, all missions provide useful rewards.
That said, it is the special NPC quests that push checking out every nook and cranny. Throughout the game, players team up with various cast members. When returning to headquarters, materials can be invested in each teammate to provide handy buffs, like lower repair costs. In my preview of Everspace 2 it is this feature, rather than the plot, which encourages exploring the open universe.
Any deep RPG is only worth its salt if it allows meaningful customization. This entry is not revolutionary in this regard, but it does offer a fair amount for an Early Access game. First and foremost is the equipment for the player’s ship. This is a loot heavy game, so plan on finding gear of all levels and types. Primary weapons like rapid-fire lasers, snipers, shotguns, and more are ripe for the picking. When it comes to secondary tools, expect classics like homing missiles and deployable mines. There is even a host of consumable type items ranging from offensive to defensive. Being able to tweak the basic combat at any time means fighting rarely gets stale.
The ship also has two special abilities that can be switched out and upgraded throughout the adventure. By leveling up, a point is received which can be put into improving these special options. With an ultimate ability on top of all that, players will always have ways to shake up their personal strategy. Every 5th level, a special point becomes available to put into a passive perk. ROCKFISH games designed the system so the perk can be switched at will, a nice touch for flexibility. If that was not enough, there is also a full catalogue of ship types to find and collect. Pilots can personalize their ship by changing material types, paint jobs, and light colors. Customizable options can be discovered by exploring, which is another motivator to search high and low.
Graphics & Audio – Warp Five
Much like gameplay, the graphics in Everspace 2 are of a good quality. From my playtime, the visuals are high fidelity, and I never experienced any major bugs. While space may not be the most crowded locale, flying around is immersive. Areas can be diverse too, zooming through open space, above a planet surface, or even in a city scape. Though space designs can often be run of the mill, the style here is distinctive.
Despite finding the cutscenes a bit dull, the art is well-drawn. Rather than cheesy 3D models, ROCKFISH games opted for 2D illustrations with an expressive hand-drawn approach. Even if the format was not particularly to my liking, I can not deny the skill behind the images. The graphics pick up the slack where the story falls short, keeping players rooted in the game world.
Sadly, audio does not really live up to the action-packed excitement felt while playing. Like many games with a sci-fi theme, the soundtrack is full of moody synth and electronic waves. That said, the only track that got me hyped while playing was during jump drive. Anytime I boosted to my next location I was feeling the vibes. On the flip side, I can barely remember the tracks from hectic combat or relaxing exploration. A somewhat disappointing characteristic in comparison with games like Resogun.
The voice acting is serviceable, but again, nothing to write home about. At the very least the character’s personalities are understandable, but otherwise kind of average. Fortunately, the audio matches the overall atmosphere which is a good start. In any case, a quick preview of Everspace 2 reveals a riveting universe complete with great visuals and okay audio.
Everspace 2 was previewed on PC with a Steam review key provided by Evolve PR.