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Not So MMO: Everspace Review - The Last Starfighter

Columns By Christopher Coke on May 25, 2017

Everspace Review - The Last Starfighter

Everspace is stunning. There’s no way around it, the game makes an incredible first impression. Within minutes, you’re zipping through asteroid belts, dogfighting with enemies you don’t quite understand, and scavenging wrecked freighters for resources you aren’t sure how to use. The Unreal 4 Engine renders these spacescapes in such gorgeous detail that once the threat has cleared, you have to pause to take it all in. Then the Okkar warp in and leave you a fiery mess ready to do it all over again.

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Everspace is the freshest take on the roguelike in years. It follows the same familiar principles of the genre: adventuring out, collecting money and resources, and seeing how far you can get before you die. When you die, you lose all of your upgrades but get to keep your credits, which can be used to unlock perks in an RPG-like skill tree or two additional ships with their own perk paths. This is the framework we’ve come to expect, though Everspace goes a bit deeper with its default ship’s progression path. It’s a rewarding system that encourages that addicting “just one more try” gameplay loop to see how your new upgrades enhance your play.

What makes Everspace special is that it takes that framework and meshes it with a more accessible Elite: Dangerous. You’re traveling between star systems, mining asteroids for resources, harvesting scrap, racing about in high stakes dogfights, and upgrading your spaceship every run. Exploding enemies drop resources, but also new weapons, ship mods, and blueprints for craftable upgrades. If you invest perks the right way, you become a more effective fighter or salvager, or even unlock trading with different alien factions. It’s bite sized in comparison to its bigger brothers, Elite and Star Citizen, but it scratches the same itch but with arcade star-fighter sensibilities.

Jumping into the cockpit of any of the game’s three ships makes for a fun flight. Controls are tight, following a 6DOF control scheme that is exceptionally responsive in its execution. For exploring, third person view is perfect, but when it comes down to fighting zooming into cockpit view gives you an extra degree of accuracy and draws you into the exhilaration of the fight. As enemies twist and strafe around you, that extra degree of responsiveness makes all the difference in the world.

There are enough enemies in the game to keep things fresh, though they do become a bit too familiar by the end. Depending on who you’re fighting, you might need to lower their shield with a plasma blaster before turning to a gatling gun to finish the job. Some enemies will disable parts of your ship or are so persistent that they force you to take on battles in a certain order. How you dispatch them also makes a difference as everything is limited by available energy or resources to craft replacements. Smart touches, like how asteroids ever so slightly guide you away from them, prevent needless deaths and are the kind of additions that keep Everspace so fun to play, even when you’re on the losing end.

It has to be said that the game is downright gorgeous. Your journey through each star system is essentially broken down into a series of levels that are absolutely littered with debris. The UE4 engine does wonders with lighting across the different types of asteroids and space ships, flying and destroyed. Every star system adds something to the mix, from massive star mining operations to magnetic lightning storms and, against the backdrop of incredible varied planets, is a feast for the eyes.

The story is a little more disappointing. It’s not bad, but it’s not exactly remarkable either. You’re a clone, because of course you are in sci-fi game that needs to respawn you dozen of times, guided through space by an wisecracking AI. Bits of backstory unfold between star systems and there’s the occasional story-based boss fight that guides you through. It’s more than most games provide, I’ll give it that, but they mystery at its heart was never the real reason to play. Everspace lives on its gameplay and does a fine job of it.

The biggest downside I encountered was the random nature of how difficult any run would actually be. Everspace can be downright hard at times, throwing you into a first level with five enemies strafing you from the second you load in. Once your ship is damaged, it can only be repaired with a rare resource that isn’t guaranteed in any level. There was one run where I made it several star systems deep, limping along until the last. My next three, I could barely get past the first two levels without being obliterated. It’s spiky without a good way to predict how damaging that first level would be.

Everspace is a blast. It is a high speed run through one of the most beautiful spacescapes this year. The gameplay is exactly as tight and responsive as you would demand of it, and the loop of upgrading perks for “just one more run” is at its best here. I wish there were more enemies, but daily challenges work to keep things fresh and push you toward new achievements you might be tempted to blow past. Perhaps the best compliment I can give it is that it made me want to play Elite: Dangerous; it subtly pulled me toward a genre I had previously set aside and cracked open a door to a new world of games. It’s the rare game that makes a gamer think, “I want more of YOU and everything else like you,” and Everspace did it with style.


Score: 8/10


Pros:

  • Beautiful environments
  • Tight, satisfying controls
  • Excellent progression loop, run after run
  • Progressively more strategic battles

Cons:

  • Enemies and environments get a little repetitive by the end
  • Difficulty spikes
  • Story is so-so
Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.

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