Finally making the warp jump onto PlayStation 4, EverSpace is a competent roguelike space dogfighter that lacks narrative depth. The FNGR GNS Review;
I’m out of fuel. My space ship is badly damaged. The dashboard in front of me is lit up with red spots like the face of a pubescent teen suffering with acne, thanks to an ill-advised but desperate attack on an Okkar Frigate that barely took a scratch and in return, turned my ship into Swiss cheese. It’s unlikely I’ll survive the warp jump without fuel and with a ship that’s on its last legs but I’ve got one roll of the dice left and it’s not a promising one – attack the fuel tanks of the neutral G&B mining platform, thus making the faction an enemy. I fly over, wait until the G&B fighters that guard the platform are out of direct firing range and make my move. Firing with my Gatling gun, the fuel tanker explodes and the precious resource I’m after flies out which I quickly scoop up. Red markers appear all around my screen. I’m now public enemy number one. A turret fires on me but my shield holds and I take it out with a my Gatling. A missing fires at me from out of nowhere and I manage to shoot it out of the way before I boost to safety and take cover behind an asteroid. “I’ve done it! I’ve got enough fuel to jump” I think to myself as I turn to point in the right direction. 10%. 25%. 50%. I’m almost there when that damned Okkar Frigate returns and this time it has friends. I’m half-way through my very best Will Smith in Independence Day impression shouting “Oh no. You did not just shoot that green s**t at me” when I explode. Boom. Dead. With a big sigh and a shake of the head, I resign myself to the loss.
Moments like this are the norm in EverSpace, a roguelike space combat and survival simulator from Rockfish Games. Thankfully, the roguelike mechanics employed in this game mean that even tough beats like this can serve as a platform for future success. Any credits you’re carrying at the time of death can be spent on buying new types of ships or upgrading your current one and buffing its abilities for all subsequent attempts making the next quest forth that little bit easier. You can increase everything from hit points, making you harder to kill, to sensors which show you the path of least resistance through the game.
EverSpace has a quintessential sci-fi video game plot. You’ve a clone with amnesia who wakes up behind the joy stick of a space ship and, guided by an AI, is directed through a series of dangerous solar systems towards an undetermined destination. The further you get on your journey, the more the clone remembers about his origin and the war between an alien race called the Okkar indigenous to Cluster 34 and the human Colonial forces that decided that that section of space was theirs now, all presented in moving comics and voice overs in between deaths. There’s very little narrative depth in this game and it’s all a little rote and “straight to the SYFY Channel movie” standard. When the game does show its hand and the story reveals itself, it’s a tad underwhelming and doesn’t really work as motivation to keep you coming back after each death.
The game play cycle makes up for the plot in this regard. The overarching challenge of EverSpace is to reach the final destination but to do that, you need to travel through 6 sectors all of which are made up of 3-5 procedurally generated, explorable areas. To traverse to a new area, you need fuel because if you warp without it, you run the risk of doing damage to your ship. The search from fuel in each new area becomes the integral game play loop, forcing you to scavenge wrecked freighters or take on hostile forces to top up the gas tank, but to progress further in the game, you’ll need to find other resources too. Compounds, scrap, gas, plasma, crystals, dark matter and a whole lot more can be used to upgrade your weapons or craft one-time-use items that’ll buff your weapons or defences. The hostile forces grow more numerous and more difficult to kill the further you get on your journey so this aspect of the game, which isn’t explained very well via the tutorial texts, becomes ever more important.
The combat itself is fluid and satisfying, giving a really good feel to the dogfights as you switch between weapons to take down shields or do hull damage on the fly. The AI is pretty smart in EverSpace but the game still prevents you getting stuck in a never ending spiral with an enemy as you chase each other’s tail, a common pitfall for space shooters. Instead, hostile ships will fly off, turn and take a run at you which means you’ve got ample opportunity to shoot back with your own weaponry. Your load out becomes somewhat customisable as your progress, unlocking new starting set-up’s if you hit specific mile stones in the game. Weapons can be swapped for those you find in the reaches of space too. EverSpace is neatly balanced too, keeping you on par with each sector’s foes until you’ve upgraded your ship or improved your weapons with the materials you’ve collected. It’s rare that you’ll ever feel overpowered but it’s blatantly obvious when you’ve reached the longevity of your current run because the difficulty spikes dramatically. Much like any Roguelike, the more you play, the easier the game becomes, the smaller the difficulty spike, the further you can progress.
Rockfish games have done a decent job of transferring a UI and control scheme which is obviously geared towards PC players to consoles. The default control set up is a little awkward at first and takes some getting used to but they start to make more sense with experience. I still think the menu system needed a little tweaking, specifically the crafting through the gear menu which, as I’ve previously mentioned, wasn’t explained in detail during the tutorial, but the vast majority of the interface is instantly intuitive.
EverSpace is, for the most part, visually spectacular, even on a standard PS4. Rockfish have gone to town on the high sci-fi aesthetic that’s part “Star Wars”, part “Space, Above and Beyond” but all of it is lovingly textured and high on details. The lighting in this game is particularly sublime. As you travel through one of the many asteroid fields in the game and the light from a star is twinkling through gaps, complete with the obligatory lens flare, it’s jaw dropping. Some sectors have clouds which interfere your sensor use and you might as well be flying above Bespin. The only visual inconsistency I noticed with EverSpace was that some environmental details disappeared as you approach them – for example, as you approach a wrecked freighter, the smaller bits of the ship which could be seen from far away just evaporate as you get closer.
A combination of roguelike repetition and a shallow plot line might have been enough to derail EverSpace had it not been for the enticing game play cycle, slick space combat and a balanced progression system which keeps you coming back for more. There’s a solid 20 hours of content here (at a leisurely pace, I hasten to add) but the game fills those hours with clutch moments of survival that tell their own story set among some stunning celestial vistas. EverSpace is far more accessible than Elite: Dangerous, is more enjoyable than Dreadnought and is among the most visually arresting space based games on Sony’s 8th generation console.
EverSpace is available now on PC, Mac, Linux and Xbox One now and will be launching on PS4 on 22/05/2018. The game was reviewed on the standard PS4.
Developer: Rockfish Games
Publisher: Rockfish Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a code for the game by the publishers. For more information, please see our review policy.