The original Everspace – which I Did Not Review back when it came out – was something of an oddity. A space combat roguelike, it inserted some pretty stunning production values into a subgenre that, at the time, was largely confined to low-budget indie projects. We got the gorgeous vistas and exciting dogfights of a modern Freespace successor, but folded and fitted into a digestible run-based structure.
It eventually fell into the same trap that many roguelikes do – the lack of variety between runs combined with slow-moving overall progress led me to eventual burnout – but it was a unique title. Its follow-up ditches the roguelike angle altogether, opting instead for a light, open-world space sim with a more story-driven campaign. The resulting game has a lot more forward momentum, but sacrifices what made it interesting to begin with.
Aside from the terrible voicework, there’s little explicitly wrong with Everspace 2, even in early access. It looks gorgeous, the ship handling is smooth throughout, and while I wasn’t terribly engaged in the plot, there’s a casual pace and demeanor to the campaign that suggests that developer Rockfish is more concerned with just allowing us to hang out in this universe. As someone who loves playing as a space mercenary, it should be my kind of jam. The problem is that I was raised on Freelancer and still semi-regularly revisit Elite Dangerous — an almost unfathomably massive space sim. Nothing could hope to match that title for depth aside from perhaps Star Citizen, if that game actually existed and wasn’t just a long-running scam, but Everspace 2 seems content to sell itself as a diet version of what we already have.
It could wrestle itself out of that predicament with an interesting hook – hell, even the largely mediocre Rebel Galaxy coasted by on the unusual decision to model its combat after maritime warfare – but Everspace 2 has nothing of the sort. It also, again, doesn’t have much of a plot to latch onto, reworking the clone who served as the original’s protagonist into a generic roguish type. (Get this – everybody in the galaxy wants a piece of this guy!)
So instead it’s just another game that has us jumping from one sector to another via hyperspace, scavenging, engaging in some relatively stock-standard dogfights, and customizing our ship with the spoils. That’s not inherently a bad thing. Elite Dangerous isn’t for everybody, after all, and I’m sure many people crave something with a gentler learning curve and a more defined structure.
For those folks, Everspace 2 is clearly a quality product. It’s currently in early access with a full release slated for later this year, and Rockfish regularly reminds us that this is still a work in progress. Honestly, though, it doesn’t feel like one. I didn’t run into any major technical problems in the time that I played, nor did I notice an abundance of missing features. I hesitate to recommend early access titles, but the current state of Everspace 2 makes me confident that the eventual 1.0 launch will be quite smooth.
For me, playing this felt like returning to Toukiden after hundreds of hours spent on Monster Hunter, but that’s less a comment on the game itself and more on where I’m approaching it from. (I was, after all, a Toukiden fan before I became a Monster Hunter fan.) Everspace 2 clearly accomplishes what it sets out to do, and when it’s finished, it’ll likely have the potential to amass a sizeable audience. I just doubt that I’ll count myself part of that crowd.
Everspace 2 is currently in Early Access with a full release window of early 2022.