The Everspace games have undergone the same transformation as Dawn of War 2 did. Instead of playing as a roguelite with a focus on replay value, the sequel is designed differently. In Everspace 2, we instead get a space action game with elements of role-playing in an open world. This game is less linear than its predecessor and has put more effort into telling a story in a game engine that delivers insanely gorgeous graphics.
In the sequel, we once again take on the role of Adam Roslin, a clone who in this game can not re-emerge in a new body. This means that when you die, it is "game over," but you can load a save file. For some who appreciated the predecessor's focus on replay value, the new direction may seem repulsive. My experience with the Early Access portion is that this is the game they really wanted to create but did not have the resources for. It is also impressive what a small studio of around 20 people can achieve. Visually, the game is fantastic - beautiful even. The predecessor was one of the most technically beautiful games from a minor developer in 2016. The sequel is no exception: everything from asteroid belts, planets and space stations are all detailed with fantastic lighting.
In Early Access, I got to fly a number of classes of spaceships. I had the opportunity to try Sentinel, Scout, Striker, Interceptor, and Gunship, all of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. Each class has - in addition to a certain number of locations for weapons - an ultimate ability, items you can use in battle, and abilities you can buy or find in the world. You also have the option to upgrade the spaceship stats not unlike a role-playing game. Your character also has its own unique perk points that you can choose from when you level up.
Each class is distinct, you start the game in a Sentinel - a spaceship that is good at everything but does not specialise in anything in particular. This spaceship shares Darth Sidious' love of lightning. When you activate its ultimate ability, the ship surrounds itself with blue flashes, which they can then shoot straight ahead and sweep away all resistance. Scout is another type of ship that the name suggests is fragile but fast. My strategy was to use long-range weapons and its speed to hit targets. It does more damage from a distance and with its ultimate it gets invisibility and 300% extra damage with the first shot. The Interceptor class is more specialised at medium distances and its special ability increases the damage for a shorter period of time on its weapons. These classes can be compared to classes in a traditional role-playing game.
The Striker class is more of a melee fighter and has an ability that you throw at a chosen opponent. Approaching enemies are also infected by this and all ships that have this take the same damage you expose the first target to. It's role is to fly close to the enemy and deal high damage. Then there are weapons that interact well with the class as a counterpart to a shotgun that you can equip the spaceships with. The gunship class has the most health and armour but a little less shielding. The idea behind this class is that as a mobile fortress you have so many weapons you can fire at any one time that you do not need shields. It has the ability to have four weapons to switch between while the Sentinel class only houses two weapons.
The class I had the most fun with is either Interceptor or Scout as I like a little higher speed and a little more distance in the battles. But, of course all classes look different and there is a learning curve for each individual class. Everspace 2 is flexible, it's flexible and you learn quickly when using different objects. In my opinion, it's probably one of the best space action games in that regard, right now.
Everspace 2 is an Early Access title, which of course may mean that you as a player can encounter problems with the technology. During my hours with the game, I came across some visual bugs. There are a couple of missions where you have a pilot with you and they could get stuck in the environment.
Everspace 2 feels much more like an action arcade game than I expected. There is no direct time required to stop or change direction. Without much of the fighting, you are aiming at the enemy and moving while firing. For those who like to fly after and chase the enemy in games like Star Wars: Squadrons, Star Citizen or Elite: Dangerous you will potentially be a little disappointed. With that said, this is good, the game is quite reminiscent of the old Freelancer titles and games like Rogue Galaxy. Everspace 2 is not just about shooting and blasting enemies but also about the journey between the action parties. You have classic space stations, landing sites, places to mine minerals and secrets to find. Assignments can be picked up at both space stations and in space.
They work exactly as you expect. At these stations, you can take generic jobs, sell, buy and or customise your spaceship. The game is built so that each planetary system is divided into zones. In these zones there are then areas you can fly to. Once you arrive, you will be loaded into a level. You can not shoot when you fly between areas but you can discover new areas that way. There are also signals in space that you can explore that open up an area with an unknown situation. My suspicion is that they are automatically generated for a little extra content. At present, I think it's a little too uninteresting with too little variation, and they are very similar to the systems found in Elite Dangerous where you can stop and examine signals but without the same risk and. It's in the handmade areas scattered in the two playable solar systems that the game really delivers in.
The biggest news against its predecessor is that we get to visit planets. Large biomes to fly around and usually into, and they are beautiful and varied. Everspace 2 is in some ways reminiscent of Descent from 1995. In many environments, you have to fly into small spaces that sometimes have feature mazes. Even on the planets, you can fly down into mine shafts and into crash-landed wrecks of large spaceships. In these environments, the puzzle comes into play. In Everspace 2, you can smash fragile walls and solve problems that open locked doors. This usually involves moving energy globes or batteries using your spaceship. I sincerely hope that they introduce more variants of the puzzles in the finished version, however.
Everspace 2 also has a story that in this version is unfinished, during a number of missions we follow the protagonist from the previous game Adam Roslin who works for a mining company. He acts as security for the miners and escorts them to various asteroids. Something goes wrong and our protagonist and one of his friends end up in captivity. You manage to escape with your injured friend and another prisoner named Dax when an enemy from the first game attacks. This is how the game begins and it reflects the story of many classic space ordeals, where your focus is on survival but, you are drawn into something much bigger. The characters are well written, the voice actors sound convincing for the genre but, it is too early to know where the story ends. The developers have talked about 20-25 hours of content. It took me around four hours to play through the main missions without stress in this Early Access build. However, there are other side quests, random missions and many areas to visit.
What drove my experience was above all the outstanding graphics and battles. The game is at its best when you get to fight in varied and beautiful environments, it is less so when you are looking for batteries and trying to find upgrade points for your spaceship. Just like with some "object-spraying sliders", some of the game design clashes, and being constantly reminded that you do not have the right level of equipment is tiring.
Some will appreciate this and it works perfectly ok in the arcade-like layout the game has. What creates a balance in the system is that all weapons are unique and interesting. Whether you have a machine gun, mines, focused death laser or some form of weapon system that hits more enemies than one and acts as an air defence. If you do not appreciate the role-playing elements, it is also possible to ignore them on simpler levels of difficulty. My experience with the system is that it falls into the same trap as in Ubisoft's latest game Immortals: Fenyx Rising, as it lacks a bit of weight, significance and I often lose interest.
I am happy with the graphics, the sound and the tight game mechanics. Everspace 2 has the absolute potential to become one of the best games in its genre. It can sometimes lack simulation elements such as a more robust and deep fractional and trading system, but the whole game is based on fighting against spaceships in different environments. I may miss major battles with allies and opponents but, it will be incredibly interesting to follow the development of this game and return when it is finished. Today, Everspace 2 is good. No more no less.