Everspace: Death & Shopping Amongst The Stars

To some extent, “early access game” is increasingly a school of design as well as a state of development. Let’s play bingo:

Crafting
Looting
Permadeath
Free-roaming
Proc-gen
“story to be added later”

And there you’ve got yourself the recipe for a potential Steam hit, as Everspace [official site] has been.

This seems especially likely if you can marry it with a theme that hasn’t quite been done yet. Everspace pins the formula to space-set dogfighting, ditching the trading that is the traditional space sim route to bigger and better tech in favour of unlocking permanent upgrades with any earnings accrued before death.

Right now, the only structure to speak of is “kill things! Make money! Grow stronger!” and, though more expansive goals and a campaign are promised further down the line, this tried and tested hamster wheel of self-betterment is almost certainly enough to pull a crowd.

Everspace is pretty. Let’s get out there. It looks slightly like Elite Dangerous, but lobs in more in the way of derelict outposts with a vaguely gothic vibe, and more importantly you’re all but guaranteed to run into a pack of angry space-bandits in any new spot of space you jump to. This is a straight-up action game with arcadeish dogfighting, set within starfields that we’ve come to think of as relatively placid, and as such it will be something of a panacea for anyone who finds modern space sims too glacial.

As much as I’m digging this, I’d like something in the middle, which hopefully this might become in time, once the promised campaign mode is added. With Everspace I can get my space-age kicks in an instant, which I appreciate, but being immediately set upon by drones and pilots every time I jump to a new sector gets a bit gruelling.

There isn’t much opportunity to take a new place in before my focus shifts entirely to where my reticule’s pointing, and then once the dance is danced, my interest is in hoovering up the debris and blowing up floating containers or special asteroids in the hope of loot.

OK, I want to mention No Man’s Sky here. I steer clear of doing so, because as we’ve already disclosed all over the place I did a spot of writing for it so it wouldn’t be appropriate to share opinions. So please skip the next couple of paragraphs if you’re at all uncomfortable, but all I want to do is make a point of comparison. One of the major hooks in NMS is upgrading your suit and ship, which by and large involves amassing resources via exploration. Everspace is doing something quite similar, but the key difference is that it that it sticks it within a roguelikelikerepeatasnecessary framework. This is about how much you can amass before death, which effectively works as cashing out.

Die with just a few credits in hand and you won’t be able to afford any cool, game-wide upgrades from the post-death tech tree. Die after a long and fruitful session and you’ll be able to do some pretty tasty stuff to your ship’s durability, shields, weapons, sensors or assorted other systems. This creates an innate tension, where NMS by contrast has ambience. You want to stay alive because you want to be able to buy more things. Getting set upon by a horde of bad’uns isn’t just an irritation, it potentially means this whole life has come to nought. Deathspacerace. What I’m saying is, if you felt NMS didn’t have enough structure for your tastes, Everspace has a very evident and even motivating structure, an inbuilt sense of drama even if it is an artificial and very Videogames one.

What it doesn’t have is much else, at least not yet. In this early access form, there is a loose FTL structure, in terms of leaping forwards through the galaxy, moving on from one small rocks’n’freighters area to another once you’ve exhausted it of enemies and resources. Really though, it’s just about how long you can last before death, and then how many goodies you can afford afterwards.

You can pick up and upgrade weapons and a few other bits and bobs such as scanners and mines during the course of one play session, and there’s some tension around what you keep and what you scrap given limited item slots, but this stuff’s all lost on a reset. So don’t stress it and just enjoy yourself. There’s plenty of cause to: the asteroid fields are beautiful, the small outposts look ever so slightly 40K, and the fast, Freelancer-ish dogfighting’s a giggle even if you are, right now, seeing the same handful of stuff repeatedly.

That stuff’ll increase in variety as Early Access proceeds. Right now, what there is of Everspace feels highly polished, but only really like the opening act of something ultimately bigger. It’s got at least a chance of becoming the pop, whizzy, muck-about singleplayer space-battler that Elite Dangerous resolutely was not, and that Star Citizen might be too elaborate to pull off, but with no trading or what I’ll nebulously call ‘discovery’ it also risks wearing thin too soon.

Oh, and it desperately needs to spend some of its Steam-top-10 cash on re-recording its pilot dialogue, which right now sounds disconcertingly like Zap Brannigan would if no-one got the memo that it was all a joke.

Everspace is a good time though, in its slightly simple, grindy way, and I reckon I’ll be popping back in over the months to see how it’s coming along. Presuming I can remember its name, anyway. I do keep confusing it with Canadian rock bands or air fresheners.

Everspace is out now, via Steam, GOG, or direct from the dev.

From this site

36 Comments

  1. MrLoque says:

    Nice try, Sean…

  2. godunow says:

    It is also on gog…

  3. dongsweep says:

    So is this more of a roguelike or roguelikelikelike?

  4. vorador says:

    I’ve got my eye on it, but i will wait until is more cooked.

  5. wykydtronik says:

    This game looks gorgeous, my only question is how in-depth it goes and if it has replayability. I wish a game like this was multi-player or even co-op!

    • ramirezfm says:

      It’s a roguelike shooter, so basically replayability is a must as it’s the way to progress. Depth? Umm, it’s a shooter. You shoot stuff, and hours in you shoot more stuff.

  6. Thurgret says:

    It’s relentlessly repetitive (and the community says this is all part of the fun, in which you get better by doing the same stuff repeatedly), and ability to survive is dictated primarily by pushing strafe keys to throw off AI targeting. More like a 6-DOF shooter than what we’d usually call a ‘space sim’.

    I want to like it, but it needs a bunch more work.

  7. DarkFenix says:

    I don’t think Everspace will do it for me. One of my favourite things about any space game is buying newer, shinier, bigger ships to flying around and pew pew in. Everspace has one player-flown ship, their plans don’t go beyond three.

    • p2mc28 says:

      Maybe I’m misremembering or just plain wrong, but doesn’t your ship change drastically based on the part you’ve equipped? I’m a backer and have very loosely followed the game (hoping for an Xbox key rather than the Steam one at the moment) but I thought they had a video showing off the variety of ships. Could have been the Kickstarter trailer, and that hasn’t been implemented or has been scrapped or just isn’t in yet? Or it’s in there and that just doesn’t do it for ya xD

  8. CartonofMilk says:

    “kill things! Make money! Grow stronger!”

    essentially the basic framework of every space sim right now. Ok so in Elite you can trade things to make money, in NMS you can ONLY mine for more money, buy the only point is to make money and grow stronger. I guess at least everspace doesnt attempt to disguise it but it would be great if someday someone could make a space sim with a better incentive.

    • Thurgret says:

      You must mean FreeSpace 2.

      • deadlybydsgn says:

        Am I going to have to wait a full 20 years to get a proper successor?

        I feel like every new space game is either an MMO or 4X. Neither appeal to my inner teenage Freespace 2 fan.

        • jon_hill987 says:

          Well there is Squadron 42. Single Player, Military Campaign, should be perfect if you were a fan of Freespace.

    • Koozer says:

      What progress is there in computergames that doesn’t boil down to ‘grow stronger?’ From Elite to Skylines to WoW. Even Peggle progress by thowing harder levels at you, for you to prove your strength.

      • Shinard says:

        I know it’s a rhetorical question, but there are other forms of progression. Visual novels and walking simulators, for example, work on narrative progress.

      • Premium User Badge

        The Almighty Moo says:

        I’d say ‘grow better understanding,’ a la Fez and The Witness perhaps?

      • syndrome says:

        I’d say ‘complexity’.

        The complexity of your decisions should grow. It shouldn’t be more complicated, mind you, but more complex, whether philosophically, narratively, ethically, or mechanically.

        Regardless of how exactly the game engages with its player, it should grow in complexity of its underlying designs, or at least gradually reveal the possibilities.

        This game, for example, is twitch-based fast-paced combat shooter with a lot of room for improvisation. It mostly caters to the eye-to-hand eye-candy-loving crowd, but delivers some narrative backbone as well.

    • Premium User Badge

      modzero says:

      [zombie voice]Progreeeeeeessioooooon…[/zombie voice]

      Gah, I have quite enough chasing progression in work and political life, why can’t games just let someone have some fun?

      The best feature of Star Citizen is “renting” ships for playing against the drones or races, too bad it’s marred by the need to somehow “earn” REC.

  9. Papageno says:

    That pilot (whom I’ve dubbed “Captain SquareJaw McWhiteGuy”) definitely sounds a bit like an un-ironic version of Zapp Brannigan or a Bruce Campbell character.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Captain Narol says:

    Funny, when I first saw that game I immediately thought that it was the perfect game for the many people who felt that the zen-like atmosphere of NMS was utterly boring…

    Seems that Alec came to quite the same conclusion.

  11. Otterley says:

    See-bare-espace – it is everting.

  12. Det. Bullock says:

    It seems nice, but I’ll wait when it comes out of early access, this doesn’t look a complete package with a few kinks to iron out like House of The Dying Sun.

    • epeternally says:

      It is not a complete package. I picked up the game and the fundamentals are pretty good, but it still feels like a Kickstarter tech demo. The Q1 2017 date bothers me a bit. Hopefully they’re just being overly optimistic and won’t abandon their game – which is two or three years away from what they advertise on the store page – prematurely.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Ericusson says:

    About the story to be added later I can’t help to mention the long dark who for now made such a good early access process until now.

    It’s worth mentioning as this normality and competency seems the exception in the matter sadly.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ericusson says:

      It would be kinda fun to have a ships like the ones from the beginning of the Lost in Space movie. Still finds the firefight at the beginning really cool after all this time.

      Who cares about armor when you have Matt LeBlanc ?

      Bought it just cause I had some titles reimbursed lately (Rive and Halcyon) and the soundtrack of the teaser makes me want to blow s…t up.

  14. Holysheep says:

    “blah blah blah blah no man’s scam, blah blah blah star citizen, blah blah roguelike.” Not one word on peripherals/HOTAS and the type of flight system we have, no real stuff about the gameplay. Just comparisons to games that have nothing to do with it. Is that supposed to be journalism?

    • Thurgret says:

      Plays a bit like a 6-DOF shooter. Easiest to control with mouse and keyboard for precision aiming. Think it supports gamepads too.

    • ramirezfm says:

      It’s a space shooter, like a shooter set in space, so you basically shoot things. In space. Arcade’y space shooter in space. Not a space sim, not even close, never pretended to be. As most shooters it’s probably best with pad or kb/m.

  15. haldolium says:

    It’s pretty much FTL in 3D and realtime, altering necessary components. Something Into The Stars didn’t achieve.

    For what it has to offer, it already is very addictive and quite a lot of fun. In comparison to most EA titles it is also extremely well polished. So far, it leaves the same EA impression as Darkest Dungeon did when it hit EA.

    It’s also far away from most space games, plays more like 6DOF games aka shooter in space. And it does so very well with proper A.I. and quite a few possibilities in strategy and arsenal.

  16. syndrome says:

    If anyone is wondering, this plays __exactly__ like Sublevel Zero minus claustrophobia.

    That being said, production level is much higher, and the look&feel department is just perfect. Can’t wait for the finished game.

    As for additional intricacies, there is a lot of easy-to-learn/hard-to-master in terms of know-how and addressing threats/opportunities properly (think Spelunky or FTL).

    It’s a typical rougelite in every respect (again, Spelunky or FTL), with occasional shops, diverse threats, “treasure chests”, resource caches, progressive chapters, new environments, environmental hazards.

    Each run unlocks more options (and better ship) in the long term.

    • syndrome says:

      (and better ship*) = *in terms of its qualities/abilities/features. Although there are three ships planned for the release, only one of them is playable.