Everspace 2 Review – Interstellar Diablo
Free-form sci-fi combat/trading simulators are the rarest breed of games. You can practically count good ones using one hand, and even that seems like an overreach. Elite, Privateer, Freelancer… what else? Tachyon: The Fringe? All of those are more than two decades old. Some will argue that Eve Online suffocated the genre, offering a massive and connected space playground, and they would probably have a point. The company of other people is a powerful incentive to explore and exploit the universe. Stanisław Lem had said it so effectively in Solaris – “We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors”.
So what’s left for us recluses who prefer single-player cosmic experiences instead of competing with reflections of ourselves? Elite: Dangerous (in offline mode) is intimidating and dry as the open space, demanding total investment of every free second you might have. X4: Foundations is the latest entry in super-boring series designed to appeal to space entrepreneurs who get high on industrial automation – if you aren’t German Protestant from Rhein-Westfalen, chances are you won’t like it. Maybe No Man’s Sky? It’s brilliant but has the same problem as Elite, being too unfocused and overwhelmingly vast. There are a few additional low-profile titles, but they are really not worth much consideration.
Returning to the roots
Everspace 2 is here to answer our prayers. The first game from 2017. was a simulation/rogue-lite hybrid with procedurally generated content. Instead of staying on that path, Rockfish games took a detour to Classicville, sculpting the sequel as a narrative-focused hybrid of space sim-lite and loot-driven action RPG. This is true cosmic Diablo, much more linear and focused than Freelancers of old. It offers freedom to roam and explore, but regarding the career choices, the player is funneled through a narrow tunnel. This game exists to tell a story, offering combat and limited trading as the means to gradually move through its chapters.
If you have played Everspace you know about the war and the clone pilots. In Everspace 2, you are one of the few that survived the ordeal, working incognito as a corporate flying escort for the G&B conglomerate, Rio Tinto of our colonial future. One pirate ambush later and your life begins to unravel, setting you on a path that will define the future of the entire region of space.
Everspace 2 is a massive game, with the story wildly jumping from one sci-fi trope to another. Narratively speaking, it’s a classic space opera comparable in character to an (imaginary) hybrid of The Expanse and Babylon 5. You will deal with ruthless corporations, outlaws, oppressed settlers, colonial authorities, space cultists, rogues, and religious, rigid aliens. The region of space called Beltegrades DMZ, approximately a thousand light-years from Earth, is a powder keg. Will you be the spark lighting it or a bucket of water rendering it less volatile?
Focused space playground
Flying the missions, leveling up, exploring the radar pings on the planetary system’s map, solving the puzzle or three, asteroid mining, fighting the pirates, selling the loot, min-maxing the ship stats… Everspace 2 is a real activity powerhouse that tries hard to prevent even the possibility of a dull moment. Story missions are rich in character and dialogue, presented as radio chatter and (effective) collage cutscenes. There are plenty of optional missions, often with fantastic rewards – play the Keto family storyline from Prescott starbase until the end and see what I’m talking about. For extra credits and fame, you can tackle procedurally generated jobs. If you feel especially pumped and seek great challenge and loot, there are “high-risk” areas teeming with elite foes. And more.
Apart from space, you will fly a lot underground, visiting massive natural and man-made caves and complexes. Your craft compensates the forward and lateral momentum, flying in an inertialess mode which enables helicopter-like movement. Everspace 2 borrows a lot from classic Descent, expanding upon it by introducing simple spatial puzzles. Those are usually related to unlocking loot crates or, in the case of a story missions, some machinery or a doorway impeding your progress. You will mostly solve those by finding and tractor-beaming power cells toward wall-mounted receptacles. Almost every location in space offers a “location challenge” with a loot/fame reward. Those are mostly related to solving puzzles, but some are combat-related.
Stay awhile and listen
Loot will be a major motivator for farming the pirates and doing every mission you encounter. It’s color-coded and level-based, forcing you to be on a constant lookout for better and more effective pieces. Everspace 2 is not a particularly difficult game, but some missions can make you sweat, especially if you attempt them under-leveled. There’s a slight grinding aspect to the game, as you can’t breeze through it by exclusively doing story missions. The most effective way to speed-level is random combat with the foes on your exact level or slightly above it.
As I said before, Everspace 2 tries hard to please and offer you an avalanche of content. Sometimes, it tries TOO hard. A case in point is drone sections. Remember GTA: Vice City and its stupidly annoying toy helicopter mission? Expect to repeat similar activity ad nauseam here. Drone piloting sections are beyond irritating because any tiny mistake means death and repetition. Flying the little gizmo through ventilation shafts and industrial machinery while avoiding detection fields is nerve-racking due to camera behavior in a cramped environment. Speaking of the camera, Everspace 2 offers several modes of play, but the default mid-third person is the most effective. The cockpit view, for example, makes the bad indoor camera even worse.
We have a winner
Everspace 2 is a game destined to win due to a couple of significant reasons. Firstly, it’s a competent new twist to the old-school space sim lite formula. Secondly, it’s a massive game that can easily take 70+ hours of your time, which will please folks who pay attention to the dollar/engagement ratio. And lastly, there’s nothing like it on the contemporary game markets – it’s both compact and expansive, both focused and open-ended. That’s a massive value on its own.
- Solid and engaging sci-fi story.
- Competent combat module and effective inertialess flight model.
- Fantastic, often breathtaking visuals.
- Addictive loot mechanics.
- Drone piloting sections are beyond irritating.