Roguelikes can enjoy their moment in the sun in recent years (just ask Hades, our game of the year for 2020), but Everspace 2 shows that process generation is not the only way forward. The original Everspace is a cool space fighter roguelike, but the sequel has changed course towards a more traditional action-RPG style, and its series of missions over an open area of space feels much more in the vein of Freelancer or Rebel Galaxy Outlaw as a result. But it sticks to its free movement system, which makes the battles stand out from other space shooters in style. There is already a good deal to explore at the launch of Early Access, and it keeps things interesting by mixing in some puzzle solutions to break up the flashy dog fights.
The story that is here is a pretty strong start: it picks up our clone pilot from the first game, except with the interesting twist that this time we are in his last life: if he dies now he is dead for good. So far, not much has been done about the fact that the galaxy hates clones now, and most people who learn his true identity will avoid him, but it feels like a setup that could add something to his quest to do so as a mercenary and escape it. lawless region of the room where he is marooned. Granted, the main character is a bit on the boring side, as you would expect from a one-time clone ̵
Each weapon has both an energy and kinetic damage rating, so battles are mostly about switching between them as needed to strike the enemy’s shield or armor, spit the occasional homing missile, dumfire rocket or mine as you go. You also need to manage your chills efficiently so that you can activate the ship’s special abilities at the right moment to blast or paralyze the most powerful enemies, or just take a quick vacation. There’s a good selection here in that you can swap and customize your abilities: one of the starting forces is an EMP explosion that deactivates all enemy craft around you for 10 seconds, so you can pick out the most dangerous of them for free, and I reinforced it with a boot that reduced the cooling by two seconds for every enemy I killed during the effect. The second starter is a free-prison card that increases your ship from danger at high speed, so you get started when it gets tough; I juiceed this up to go 80% faster, but only half as long. You unlock more of these abilities as you go, and I quickly learned that using them well is what allows you to survive battles against groups of high-level enemies.
However, your ultimate ability is related to your choice of ship, and right now there are a handful available to buy after you have earned some credits flying your starting battle. Your launch ship fires an electric beam that links to other targets and can wipe out a group of fighter jets and drone escorts in an instant, while the hulking gunhip I upgraded to activate a turret that automatically fires at something around you for 20 seconds as you continue to explode forwards. I was a little disappointed that the weapon cabinet did not handle significantly differently, but it gave me much thicker armor statistics and allows you to carry more primary weapons at the expense of equipment that can be equipped with consumables (although it is quite pointless because you can stop and replace them at any time in the middle of a match).The enemy variation is not great, but it is good enough to prevent things from becoming too repetitive: I knew I had to approach a battle differently when I discovered a heavily armored enemy with what constitutes a space juggler, or when I had to take out certain drone types before they could capture me in captivity or self-destruct up close. Large capital ships are rare in the early history missions, but it is fun to pick up the towers when they appear.
Then, naturally, you collect the sweet, sweet prey in the wake of the satisfying explosive effects. There is a pretty good selection of pew lasers available, from quick-firing chain pistols that take a moment to spin to blasting and shotgun style, constant beams and more. The all and unusual, rare and superior equipment has some very useful bonus effects. Some of my highlights included a shield generator that blows out a minor EMP wave when the shield collapses, disabling something around me just long enough to lose a pursuer; and a superior Gatling railgun inflicted more damage when my ship was in sunlight and even more when I fought enemies at a higher level than me. I also like the upgrade system that allows you to increase the level or rarity of an equipment you want to hold on to by disassembling other parts of the same rarity, although the levels in this early stage come and go fast enough to limit the equipment to just one upgrade making use limited . Maybe in the latter levels it will be more important to gradually upgrade, but there is not yet enough content in Everspace 2 to take us that far.
Beyond combat, the fine level of motion control allows Everspace 2 to do much more with puzzles than you see in most space shooters. Many of the reward rewards are hidden behind obstacle courses and stuck in corners an X-wing could not easily reach. You are sent to do things like retrieve key items and move them into place to unlock containers and passengers where you have to navigate your ship through cramped spaces, rolling to fit through closing doors, all on a ticking bell. Some of these puzzle activities led to more downtime than I would have liked because your sensors are not particularly long distances to begin with, so you have to cruise aimlessly looking for things to interact with, and sometimes the areas are too dark and I had to use my weapons as sonar to see where the walls were. But it’s great to have something to do in a game like this in addition to shooting everything I see.Everything looks and sounds good, including the brand new planetary environments. The visual variety and eye-catching terrain details they add are striking; after staring into the void for a while, it is a completely different look to fly low through a ravine in bright sunlight. This is not to say that the space areas are visually monotonous – far from it. Everspace 2 does an excellent job of being pretty to look at, with colorful backdrops and atmospheric effects highlighting large asteroids and platforms in the distance to entice you to explore them, and you are regularly sent into caves and massive shipwrecks.
What is jarring is the transition between zones. Jumping in and out of faster than easy travel leads to a short loading screen – the kind of thing most games these days hide with a flashy animation effect. It’s not very good, but I noticed it every time; Ever since No Man’s Sky managed to smoothly transfer between atmosphere and space and back again without them five years ago, these seams are becoming harder to ignore.
In total, it took me about 13 hours to burn through Everspace 2’s early access history, and it’s often stopping to collect XP and loot unexplored locations that appeared on my map as I curled up between quests. It also comes to an abrupt end during what feels like the start of a new mission instead of a logical turning point. The other obvious sign that this is an ongoing work – apart from very occasional bugs and the watermark in the corner of the screen that says so – is that some of their storyboard-style cut scenes are placeholders that just give you the gist of things instead of get the voice actors to play them out. And although the closing screen encouraged me to explore the remaining side missions and activities, I definitely lost some motivation to paint for a better change after the plot ran out and only managed a few more hours.This is also when it becomes clear that Everspace 2 does not have much of a commodity market. Yes, you can buy and sell small quantities of things like liquor and ramen at different prices in different ports, but there is no system to keep track of it all, so feeling like a trade route does not feel like a convenient means to to make money right now. Also, you will never be attacked in transit between ports, so even if you could do this, it would be an extremely tedious way to earn a living.