Published on December 11th, 2018 | by Lee Davies
Review: Everspace – Stellar Edition (Switch)
- Format reviewed: Switch eShop
- Other formats available: exclusive
- Developer: ROCKFISH Games
- Publisher: ROCKFISH Games
- Price: £35.99
- Website: Official Website
- Players: 1
- Rating: 7+
EVERSPACE™ is an action-focused single-player space shooter, combining roguelike elements with top-notch visuals and a captivating story. It takes you on a challenging journey through an ever-changing, yet beautifully crafted universe full of surprises. Your skills, experience and talent for improvisation will be tested continuously while learning about your own existence through encounters with interesting characters, each having their own part of the puzzle to tell. Each run will be exciting as you will have to face completely new situations keeping each part of the game long-lasting and generating lots of individual, meaningful moments to experience. However, no matter how skilled a pilot you are, death is inevitable, but only the beginning of a much larger journey.
First things first, Everspace is a truly great looking game. The level of detail in the textures on everything from derelict space stations and space ships to asteroids and defense turrets, is awe-inspiring, and places you in the depth and void of space instantly. A place which you’ll learn to love and fear in equal measure. Floating in your tin-can, one shot away from your life support systems failing and death.
Your mission is to survive for as long as you can, collect what little upgrades in the form of money, blueprints, decals, weapons, and usable resources, before dying and repeating with an ever slightly better ship. Ever slightly, every time. This is in all meaning of the name a rogue-lite game. Runs can last between 30 seconds, if you’re unlucky with enemy placement, and hours, especially with an upgraded ship and some lucky drops of equipment, resources and weapons. Fortunately, the game is split into small arenas that you traverse collecting all manner of resources, with invisible walls that cut the power to your accelerator, and force you back in the opposite direction, but it’s easy to see where this is, as the void of space awaits, and the playground area is heavily populated in enemies, space stations, debris, and asteroids. The name of the game is slow burn, regularly repeating the randomly generated space arenas, and when collection and time forces you to another area, the game will save. One area can take between 2 minutes and 10, depending on how you want to play it. And, the game is always pushing you to collect more, dog-fight more, and play more to get progressively better, and stronger.
Movement at first feels overly complicated, but this is no arcade shooter, more of an arcade-semi-simulator. Striking a balance between arcade action and getting the feeling right was always going to be a difficult job to pull off, but developers ROCKFISH Games have succeeded with aplomb.
The Left Analogue strafes your ship along the X and Y axes. While the Right Analogue is used to turn in all of the 360 degree motions of space. There is a slow auto roll, that levels the horizon, however this can be turned off, as can a myriad of countless other things. Customization is strong with this game. By depressing the ZL shoulder button you’ll accelerate at your ‘normal’ speed (upgradable with copious amounts of credits), and clicking in and holding down on the Left Analogue Stick will engage a power limited boost function, handy for crossing large areas fast or outrunning heavy fire. The L shoulder trigger then acts as a brake and while stationary reverse. Your primary weapon is mapped to the ZR shoulder trigger and the secondary, normally some form of missile, is on the R shoulder button.
The D-Pad can be used to cycle through different weapon sets, and held down to bring up a scroll wheel for easy access when you eventually pay enough money to be able to equip more weapons and boosts than your initial load-out. The A and Y button lets you use your currently set active buffs, mostly duration based, like the shield boost, or weapon overdrive, and others are passive that allow you to capture resources from further away, with a handy tractor beam boost. Lastly, the X button lets you cycle between three fields of view. 3rd person, first person, and first person inside the cockpit. First person makes it a little trickier to squeeze your ship through some of the narrow cave systems, or derelict space stations that normally house a good deal of traps, resources and collectibles. A third person camera tends to deal with those types of situation better, but it’s incredibly fluid to flick between each of them quickly and easily.
Players can pause the game at any time with the – button and bring up all the internal details and workings of their current run’s ship. All details from the weapons, individual systems like the engine, sensors, shield generators, life support system, inertia dampeners, are visible and can be repaired individually, if they’ve sustained damage during one of the many enemy offensive sorties. For these repairs or upgrades, each individual system on your ship can be upgraded, all require valuable resources. Weapons, for example, can be made more powerful, have a longer range, and a faster rate of fire. These upgrades are temporary, one-run type offers, die and you’ll lose all their effects. However, you’ll be able to keep all the money and blueprints, and glyphs obtained during your run to upgrade your ship permanently, and this is where all the rogue-lite elements come into play.
Each and every run will be different, you’ll start off in a different area, and will be able to boost to a variety of other areas, randomly chosen, and different from previous runs. In order to leave the system and jump to the next one, you will need to gather enough fuel to power up the jump drive. You’ll see a lot of similar architecture, and planetoid backdrops will look familiar after the 30th run, but it’s all in a different place and shaken up to be fresh each and every time. So, after a death, you’ll have the option to spend your hard earned, but little credits, on permanently fixed ship upgrades, like the ability to move faster, store more energy for weapons and boosting, hold more fuel for hyper space jumps, increase your luck with credit and resource drops, and the whole gambit of making your ship, stronger, faster and better for the fight ahead. You’ll even have access to purchase other ships, change colours, and lots of other customization as you see fit. Make sure you spend all that money though, as starting a new run resets you to 0 Credits, and you’ll lose all that were not used.
Take damage during dog fighting and either your hull will sustain damage, when that reaches zero death inevitably ensues, or maybe a chance shot will affect one of your ships systems. Damage to one of these influences the way that your ship handles according to the system affected. Damaged Inertia Dampeners, as you would imagine, make it difficult to move about fluidly, a damaged life support system is basically leaking your precious Oxygen into the ether and a percentage countdown will remind you of the longevity and threat that space offers whilst zooming around in a souped up tin can. Repair takes place in the pause menu, and on the fly.
After getting to grips with the controls and working out the ranges of each of your weapons aboard your ship, you’ll become better able to take down even the most ferocious enemy. Upgrades can allow you to track and slow down enemies in your vicinity, and the act of following, finding an opening and blasting the opposition to smithereens is satisfying, especially with the beautiful explosions the game offers. What gets tricky is when a large group of enemies attack at the same time, and the game throws these regularly at you, especially if you spend too long in an area, then a swarm of Okkar attack with a ferocity reminiscent of The Klingons. Each defeated enemy will drop some handy resources from Credits to Fuel. Not that you have to fight each and every enemy, you can merely stay as far away as possible while grabbing other resources, or cloak your ship and sneak past. Friendly ships litter the landscape and can be attacked, too. However, they tend to have access to superior technology at the start of the game, and it’s best to keep them on the same side, for the beginning anyway as friendly traders will exchange resources for others, or let you refuel at a cost.
The frame rate is consistently smooth throughout regardless of running in handheld or docked mode. Even when being attacked by 4 enemy ships, and 4 drones at the same time, while trying to outrun them toward the relative safety of a large asteroid, no frame rate drops or slowdown was evident ever. Impressive, most impressive for such a looker.
The non-linear story is told through dialogue between the main protagonist and the computer interface within the spaceship. It’ll regale you of tales of a war between the Federation and the Okkar that has concluded, but left bad blood. Your main character is a clone with amnesia, and this goes some way to answering repeated deaths and retries. Other story elements are filled in as you get further through the sector’s (levels) and told in foggy memories via hand drawn pictures, and a rather solid voice acted performance. The story will not be winning awards, but serves to function to push you forward toward you goal of memory recall.
If the game didn’t make you struggle enough with multiple deaths then the Hardcore Mode with permadeath may be for you. One run, one life, see how far you can get. The Switch version of the game automatically includes the Encounters Expansion. Encounters adds new story characters and questlines, a brand-new player ship, loads of novel equipment and additional enemies, and all this is seamlessly incorporated into the game.
The music is perfect for its setting, tending to be atmospheric violins in sedate parts and ramping up the music when hostile encounters occur. And, these occur frequently. The soundtrack contains more than 60 tracks, adding up to a duration of over three hours in total which is instantly available via an unlocked artbook and music player. The sound effects are suitably impressive, and exactly what this kind of game needs, thumping explosions, that are enhanced by the great feel through the HD rumble of the Joy-Cons.
Everspace - Stellar Edition (Switch)
Summary: The mix of persistent progression (blueprints and personal wealth) and temporary progression (crafting and equipping your ship during a run), combined with an ever-changing universe, intense dog-fighting action, fantastic visuals enhanced by a great soundtrack and HD rumble, and tension built through decisions required for your survival, lends Everspace a hearty recommendation, but only if you don't tire of Rogue-like games.