Two years ago I previewed Everspace 2 here at MMORPG, and I could not think of a better way to begin that piece. The full freedom of space exploration Everspace 2 gave me was brilliant, blasting me into the great unknown in a way few other space-based games are able to do. Since then, there have been constant updates, patches, bug fixes, and more in anticipation of the game's full 1.0 launch. Has Everspace 2 retained that sense of wonder so close to launch? I'm very happy to say yes, it certainly has, and it's become one of my favorite games so far this year.
Everspace 2 puts you in control of Adam Roslin, who returns from the first Everspace. In that game, the Adam you controlled was one of a series of clones whose memories would be passed on from one clone to the next, each memory building on the experiences of the previous iteration to increase his abilities and chances for success. Here though, after the events of the first game, the clone cycle has been broken, and once this clone dies, Adam Roslin dies for good.
This story element is an ingenious way to explain the game's shift from a roguelike space combat game to a more open-world sort of experience. The term "far reaches of space" doesn't do Everspace 2 justice, as it offers over 100 different unique locations spread out across multiple star systems, and each one can be traversed and explored in Adam's spaceship. There is a main story arc to follow, sure, but eventually that gives way and lets you set out into deep space, and the result is nothing short of magic.
I also like the comic book-esque panel-by-panel motif for each cutscene, which gives me plenty of information in an easily digestible format. I never felt like cutscenes were moving too fast, the panels themselves were interesting and beautifully drawn, and if I ever died and had to go to a checkpoint before a cutscene I could skip it and get back into the action. I will always think fondly of a game that respects my time enough to let me skip scenes I've already watched.
My favorite part of Everspace 2 is simply exploring the massive map Rockfish Games has created. It's just so vast; there are so many different areas to scavenge parts or find resources. I also really like the options for getting across massive pieces of space quickly, whether it's closing a gap with smaller boosters or launching into hyperdrive and shooting over to the opposite side of the map, there's always a way to get around. Player freedom was clearly a major part of the team's design philosophy, and I absolutely love being able to sightsee in this game's version of space.
In regard to that travel, however, I would like to address one major elephant in the room that I also mentioned in that preview two years ago. This is a simple warning: those who get motion sickness will have a problem with this game. There is a solid suite of accessibility options, ranging from options for the colorblind to motion blur and more, so I don't think the motion sickness issue comes from ignorance. Rather, it simply comes from the core mechanics of the game: you are flying a spaceship, in outer space, and you're given a full range of motion to do so.
Because of this, the camera will be able to move in every direction, and even for someone like me who is not prone to motion sickness, it can be super disorienting. There were a few moments where I'd be in the middle of a heated dogfight, and I'd have to fly away from the skirmish, get my bearings, and fly back in just to get a handle on things If it's happening to me, someone who is fortunate enough to have never experienced motion sickness, I can only imagine how it will make someone susceptible to it feel.
Even at its most disorienting, though, controlling the spacecraft is deceptively simple, with easy-to-learn controller inputs focusing mostly on the thumbsticks, bumpers, and triggers. Holding forward on the stick accelerates, pushing left and right will turn the ship left and right, and pulling the trigger fires the weapon, it's all basic stuff at first. However, the game will start teaching you extra abilities like rolls, and that's when the controls start to truly blossom. I never felt uncomfortable holding the controller, even when it looked like the movement on-screen should have twisted my figures into pretzels, and that makes the game much more approachable.
I did experience a few weird moments, however, and they were mostly centered around the weapons. Firing my primary weapon apparently has a cooldown system of some kind, as after a few presses the lasers would stop firing from my ship. However, I don't recall ever seeing a signal for cooldown, so I always thought something was wrong with my controller. If the cooldown meter is there and I just missed it, that's completely on me, but if it's not and a weapon has a cooldown period, that is pretty important information.
Everspace 2 lets me live out the outer space-related dreams of my youth thanks to its open space exploration and well-designed spacecraft combat. Moving from a roguelike to an open-world exploration game is a tall task, but Rockfish nailed it here. Flying around space is exhilarating, fighting against enemy ships is a rush, and the story keeps me guessing. There are a few issues throughout, namely with the disorienting nature of the ship's movement, but once you're used to it the game simply sings. I have a feeling I will be traveling in the dark reaches of space for hours and hours to come.