Roguelikes are a ubiquitous genre within the indie scene, so it can be hard for some of them to be noticed. To stand out, new roguelikes need to try something the feels original. Everspace from Rockfish Games successfully does so by splicing typical roguelike mechanics with that of an expansive space shooter to craft a title that should stand out to fans of both genres.
Everspace’s controls and occasionally uneven frame rate take some getting used to, but once players get acclimated, they will be graced with a super satisfying and rewarding space shooter with some of the best visuals for any indie game on the market.
While Everspace’s premise is somewhat clever for the genre and its universe is vast with lore, its in-game execution is mixed. Players control clones of Adam Roslin, a dying scientist tasking them with reaching some mysterious coordinates in demilitarized space sectors that are still populated by rough outlaws. The cloning aspect of the plot helps the story make more sense within the confines of the genre but is not incredibly interesting outside of that.
Along the way, a few more characters, like Adam’s former best friend Seth Nobu, will be introduced, but none of them have enough screen time to make an impact. Voice acting is fairly mediocre and takes a lot of tension out of some of the plot’s more dramatic moments. Everspace’s story, fortunately, takes a definite backseat to its gameplay and graphics, which fare much better.
At the start of each run, a new clone will take off in a spaceship with the assistance of an AI named HIVE. As the player makes their way through the game’s seven sectors, they must collect credits and manage several different resources to both upgrade and repair their ship. I found fuel and Nano Bots to be the most essential resources, as they are what must be used to travel to new areas and fix the ship, respectively.
Each area one explores within each sector is procedurally generated, and are littered with unique weapons, resources, enemies, and even friendly AI. While there are a few commonalities between each area, their unique, procedurally generated design and AI interactions keep things fresh. Every new area also manages to look astounding in its own right, which is a great motivator.
The lighting and textures of Everspace work together to create a gorgeous looking game, which helps it stand out from its indie peers. Whether you are flying through a dark area filled with alien wreckage, next to a dying planet or sun, or through giant lightning storms in space, Everspace manages to constantly look stunning. I always wanted to see what the next area I jumped to would look like, and the game rarely disappointed.
The graphical fidelity can sometimes come at a high cost, as Everspace’s framerate isn’t always consistent. While the situation has improved since its launch on PS4, the game’s frame rate still noticeably dips when transitioning to a new area and when things get hectic, which can be a detriment to some dogfights. The situation is improving, but early adopters of Everspace on PS4 should be aware going in that there are a few technical issues.
Every run must eventually come to an end, but dying only opens some new opportunities. As is standard for the roguelike, players can use credits earned to upgrade both the pilot and ship. Pilot perks tend to tip the RNG elements in one’s favor, while the ship upgrades increase helping things like shield, health, and energy. Both the boost and energy for weapons comes from the energy bar, which makes it something essential to manage during runs and improve after one ends.
Players can also buy more ships. One is a fast and nimble ship with weak defenses, while the other is a slow and hulking one with lots of health but no shields. Each vessel has definite advantages and disadvantages, though I found myself sticking to the staring one due to its jack of all trades nature and the credit investment that I had put into it before the other ships became available. All of the spaceships control tightly, though Everspace’s control set up can take some getting used to.
Things like boosting and turning can be awkward to pull off on the default setting, making it clear the Everspace was initially designed to be used with a mouse and keyboard or flight stick. Once I got into the groove, though, dogfights became both intense and fun. Switching between first and third person happens at the press of a button, and each has their advantages depending on the situation; I tended to use third person while I was just exploring and the Descent-like first-person mode for dogfights.
While the game technically only lasts seven sectors, Everspace is very tough, even on the easier difficulties, so it should take a while for most players to get through. Once the main campaign is completed, players do have access to a Hardcore mode, which bumps up the difficulty and has players choose self-imposed handicaps for themselves with each new sector they travel to.
Hardcore mode is a little too intense for my taste, but genre veterans should have a blast with it. The Encounters expansion for the game is also already available at launch, which should also give fans of Everspace more to sink their teeth into. While many people like to play roguelikes in short bursts, Everspace is a game one can stick with for a while.
Everspace does have a few pestering oddities to overcome, mainly its initially awkward controls, lackluster plot, and inconsistent frame rate. That being said, Everspace’s roguelike elements succeed in creating an addictive gameplay loop that takes place within a fantastic looking, procedurally generated galaxy.
If you can get past Everspace’s few flaws, a game that merges the best parts of roguelikes and space shooters exposes itself. The game manages to stand on its own as a unique entity within both the above genres, so Everspace should have no problem finding an audience in the sea of modern roguelikes and space shooters.