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Everspace 2 gets so much right and oh so much wrong
Everspace 2 is a game teeming with potential by way of an addictive gameplay loop, but it keeps getting in its own way.
Reviewed on an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080-powered PC but also available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
If you’re tired of waiting for the long-gestating Star Citizen to scratch your space-ace itch, there’s great news: the space race is back in full force. The hotly anticipated Starfield lands later this year, No Man’s Sky is enjoying its redemption rebirth, and then there are smaller games like Everspace 2, which are no less ambitious.
Everspace 2 has been on my radar since it first hit Steam early access in January 2021. Even then it was a refreshingly honed experience with an addictive gameplay loop. Now after 40+ hours of flight time with version 1.0, it’s unfortunately a mixed-bag experience. For the record, I never played the original Everspace, but I’m glad that developer Rockfish Games veered away from that all-too-familiar thrust of roguelite games and shifted the sequel closer to Diablo space.
Despite the shift from roguelite to action-RPG, the story is a continuation, as you jump into the space boots of Adam Roslin, the apparent last living clone of a once thriving clone army. The thing is, if you’re playing Everspace 2 for the story, you’re likely to be disappointed. It’s a by-the-numbers tale with predictable twists and turns, often terrible dialogue, and the storyline outstays its welcome by a lot of hours.
Player time-wasting is, unfortunately, part and parcel of Everspace 2’s otherwise addictive gameplay loop. Sometimes you’re forced to sit through lengthy cutscenes or chatter, some of which can’t be skipped. Other times you become all too aware that missions in the early and midgame are apparently perpetually at the opposite end of the star system. Even the game’s unrewarding fast-travel system comes way too late in the campaign. It also requires a significant amount of resource grinding to build the fast-travel beacons in a depressingly limited number of fixed locations.
Playing on normal difficulty, it’s impossible to main-path the campaign unless you’re content to snipe ships from afar with a railgun. The recommended player levels start out reasonable enough early on, but eventually leap to places that necessitate ranking up via side content. Admittedly, playing a couple of levels below does lead to some hairy dogfights, which help elevate the incredibly honed flight controls, but trying to fight any threat above that is an exercise in frustrating futility.
In these fights, your ship weapons become Nerf darts while enemies melt you in seconds. There is plenty of fun to be found in the side missions, jobs, random events and good ol’ fashioned spacefaring, but they do start to feel samey after a while. Then you become keenly aware that you’re only doing them to check off the next story mission.
The thing is, despite an incredible amount of frustration and literally hours of my time wasted in travelling between places or grinding to unlock faster ways to travel, Everspace 2 is tricky to put down and easy to come back to. When I got too annoyed—generally when I was trying to cheese a main mission that I was desperately under-levelled for (hey, it worked for Horizon Forbidden West)—I’d take a break. But there was never any question that I’d be coming back.
It takes a few minutes to wrap your head around, but Everspace 2’s default flight controls start to make a lot of sense, particularly on controller. As your confidence builds, so too does your willingness to throw your ship around asteroids, boost through impossibly tight gaps or speed backwards while you annihilate whatever’s chasing you. The UI is an overwhelming mess in battles, often cluttered with dozens of indicators, but this is somewhat mitigated by unlockable abilities that give much-needed breathing space.
Despite being an almost exclusively space-based game, Rockfish has done an incredible job of making each region feel distinct. While the actual storytelling is subpar, the environmental storytelling is often fantastic. I’ve never taken so many screenshots in photo mode in a game that’s truly gorgeous.
Like the Diablo gameplay loop in full swing, your best bet is to release attachment to particular items (especially early on) and lean into the reality of swapping out ship components and weapons whenever higher-level ones drop. It’s a good way to get a taste for the weapons and consumables you like most, then gear your ship towards your preferred play style, even if there are some very situational weapon classes.
There are ships to unlock, and it’s great that they feel different between classes, but they’re very expensive to buy beyond the initial underpowered offering. It doesn’t help that you can’t sell the resources you collect, which means you’re reliant on a lot of grinding to buy a better ship. The same is true of mining. While there’s a lot to love about using your ships weapons to mine asteroid materials, you’re seemingly also at the mercy of RNG a lot of the time.
Even some of the most basic resources that were apparently everywhere were tricky to find, which makes the process of upgrading feel more laborious than it should. When you do start getting the highest-rarity components, they’re generally either your level or up to two above. That wouldn’t be an issue if you weren’t restricted to a single level upgrade per item, which is really painful when you start dealing with legendary drops.
The best weapon I found in my 40+ hours was part of a side mission thread that I completed before the end of the storyline, mostly in an effort to level up so I could finish the campaign. In endgame, I’m now level 28 (30 is the max rank) and that once god-tier weapon is seemingly forever stuck at level 22, utterly inferior to the basic-rarity drops I get from combat.
There’s a lot of depth in Everspace 2 but it’s either ineffectively communicated to the player or possibly buried in the mountains of character babble that becomes all too easy to zone out. Other mechanics are hidden behind unlocks, which are, in turn, linked to grinding through repetitive RNG tasks.
At its best, Everspace 2 is an addictive space-combat action-RPG where hours will fly by as you shoot and loot your way through the galaxy. At its worst, Everspace 2 is wasting hours of your time via arbitrary obstacles that get in the way of the fun stuff. Everspace 2 is pretty pricey on Steam ($74.99), but while it’s not yet ready for full release on consoles, Xbox Game Pass players can grab it as part of their subscription.
During the pre-release review period, Everspace 2’s 1.0 version was unplayable on Steam Deck. At best, the early access version was capable of sub-30fps gameplay, which is really a disservice to a game that’s best played at 60fps or above. The pledge is for Steam Deck support, though, which hopefully extends to at least 40fps gameplay.
Everspace 2 trailer
What can I play Everspace 2 on?
Everspace 2 is available for PC, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.