Everspace 2 (ES2), from developer ROCKFISH, is a fast-paced shooter with a heavy emphasis on exploration, RPG development, a story-driven plot, and, most importantly, all the loot you can store in your cargo hold. Last year I had the opportunity to try out a prototype build and was excited for the direction the game was moving.
After months of further development and following up on the success of Everspace, this title aims to raise the bar on what a space looter shooter can be. Currently in early access on Steam, I’ve spent that last couple of weeks strapped into my starfighter looting and shooting my way through a galaxy far, far away.
After hours of exploration, white knuckle space combat, and some pretty engaging storytelling, I’m ready to update my captain’s log with my initial thoughts of Everspace 2. Is it a successful call back to the 90’s space looter shooters of old? Can it hold up against other space exploration titles? Grab that coffee, kick back and find out in our preview of Everspace 2.
Second Star to the Right…
Set shortly after the events of Everspace, the sequel puts you immediately back in the cockpit. As of the time of writing, I’ve only spent a few hours focused on the story but can say that the story beats and characters offer the kind of variety and intrigue that I loved in some of the 90’s space shooters like Privateer or Wing Commander. The story offers a nice focal point for those that need it but isn’t too restrictive for those that would rather carve out their own path.
This is one of the great strengths of ES2; the freedom to decide. Ships, load-outs, friends, enemies; you really get to decide how to interact and develop almost all of it. With so many space stations, planets, and wayward ships to discover, you can spend countless hours developing not just a ship but a private fleet of ships to use. The variety of ships available even in early access were a real treat. I ended up spending much more time running jobs for various outposts and mining colonies than I did running the story simply so I could buy sweet new ships.
And what ship is complete without a sweet loadout? ES2 is packed to the cargo hold ceiling with loot to be collected, earned, or stolen, depending on how you want to play. With a wide array of weapons and modules to choose from, players will have no problem catering their ships to fit their playstyle.
New Way to Navigate
This brings me to one of my favorite aspects of ES2, the playstyle. This is an arcade shooter. In fact, it’s a 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) arcade shooter. If you’ve ever played the original Decent you’ll feel right at home. If you haven’t then you’re in for a whole new way of flying. The freedom of movement that ES2 allows players creates some interesting and creative ways to approach combat. In fact, the world (or more accurately, the galaxy) design caters to this style of movement.
Indeed the world-building in ES2 offers players a unique and exciting way to explore everything from asteroid fields to planetary mining stations. More than once I found myself navigating my way through the inside of derelict space stations or on the inside underground tunnel systems. All of which was a nice change from the standard floating through space style of levels. It’s these types of environments coupled with the aforementioned flight system that gives ES2 a creative and engaging edge over other, more traditional, arcade flight titles.
In regards to movement, it’s important to highlight that ES2 supports Keyboard/mouse, controller, and HOTAS controls. Why I mention this is that after testing all three, I’ve found that if you’re primarily a HOTAS controls person, you’ll want to lower your expectations. Although the HOTAS controls are fully-baked in and functionally work, a 6DoF style game isn’t well suited for this type of control scheme. Even the mouse/keyboard lacked the finesse that I got when using my Xbox controller. It’s not to say you can’t use these methods of control just that they feel subpar when compared to the controller.
Everspace 2 works to put fun above everything else. When compared to the original, ROCKFISH has made some wise design choices that help the second title improve over its predecessor. For starters, zones feel a lot more open. There is a sense of invitation to explore which is a huge improvement over the original. Gone also is the roguelite element that I felt was more of a hindrance than a feature in the first title. In its place is a checkpoint system that feels much less punishing and encourages players to get out there and risk it to explore.
All of the systems feel much more streamlined and focused. Menus are more quickly accessible for players. Upgrades, loot management, and progression mechanics all feel much more focused and easier to use and navigate. Although many of the systems have carried over from the original title, each feels deliberately retooled to fit into the mantra of fun first. To be clear this focusing on mechanics doesn’t cheapen or lessen the experience. On the contrary, it adds focused depth to character (ship) development and allows you to make more informed decisions when crafting and upgrading.
Although I’m still working my way through everything the Early Access build has to offer, Everspace 2 is shaping up to be an amazing title. If you’re looking for a game to scratch that Arcade shooter itch, I cannot recommend it enough. It has all of the things that made those old 90’s titles so great while raising the bar on what we can expect from the genre.
In regards to measuring up to other space titles, Everspace 2 offers a fun, unique take on the genre. One that potentially offers countless hours of exploration and engagement for players. Currently on Steam in Early Access, EverSpace 2 is a fine example of taking something good and making it better.