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Everspace 2 Ditches the Roguelike Formula for a Richer RPG Experience

A space-shooter after my own heart.

by Brandon Adams

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The first Everspace was a bit of a unique gem: a roguelike space-shooter with a dash of FTL seasoning, all tied together by a captivating story that took you all across the galaxy. Rockfish Games have opted to move away from the roguelike structure of the first game with the sequel, but ultimately Everspace 2 will prove familiar to fans of the first.

As a part of the Steam Game Fest: Summer Edition, Rockfish Games have released a demo for the early alpha build of the game for all to try. Don’t let the alpha state turn you away, however, because what’s here is pretty substantial, far as demos go. You’ll be given three different starships to toy around with, such as a classic fighter and a dedicated electronic-warfare barge, and a handful of different points-of-interest to explore. Nothing too complex, but there’s enough meat on the bone to get a proper feel for Everspace 2’s flight and combat.

They’re both remarkably similar to the first Everspace, which isn’t a bad thing. Everspace was certainly more arcadey shooter than straight-up space-sim, which was to its benefit as a snappy roguelike where death was always one mistake away. Ships don’t carry the same inertia in Everspace as they do in other space titles, like Elite Dangerous. When you cut the throttle your vessel will come to a full stop almost immediately, meaning you’ll spend more time strafing, weaving, and maneuvering around foes than chasing them head-on.

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This design decision means combat in Everspace 2 is quick and violent – you won’t spend twenty minutes chasing down every foe while plucking away at their hull with a few potshots. It feels more like you’re playing a third-person shooter with the Z-axis entirely unlocked than a traditional dogfighter. If you’ve ever played around with Archwings in Warframe (after the last bundle of patches at least) then you’ll know what to expect here: full use of the space (*ahem*) around you isn’t just encouraged, but required. That’s not to say you can’t point your nose in pursuit of an enemy and place a missile up their exhaust – you totally can, and it feels great –  but you’ll spent a lot of time circle-strafing enemies as well.

It all feels responsive and punchy, and the audio tied to shredding enemies apart is solid even in this early alpha state. It could use some more bass – a touch more oomph, essentially – but you’ll clearly know which shots are connecting and which are sailing beyond into the expanse. The handful of weapons on offer in the demo were a joy to fiddle with, and each filled various key niches, such as the scattergun for close-range brawls. What’s here doesn’t deviate too far from the formula established in the first Everspace, but hey, why fix what isn’t broken?

Even graphically the two games look near identical. Everspace 2 is missing some of the post-processing luster from the first game, but given the demo’s current alpha state I’m willing to believe further improvements will be made in the lead up to launch. Not every texture is crisp (like the muddy surfaces of asteroids), but what’s here works well and the bright, often colorful design helps paper over what deficiencies there are. That, and the inclusion of atmospheric combat will help break up the monotony of space, which is a welcome addition.

Performance wasn’t half bad either, and the UI is already well-designed, which were both welcome surprises after playing a handful of far rougher alphas prior to jumping into Everspace 2. If you liked the look of the first Everspace then you’ll find Everspace 2 doesn’t deviate too far from the established aesthetic while in space, but the new planetside incursions look promising.

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At a glance it would appear not much has changed between Everspace and Everspace 2, but after a couple of minutes fiddling around the new RPG mechanics appear in force. You’ll still pick up better guns and equipment as you play, but everything has a level and quality-ranking attached to it. Hell, even you have a level now that’s increased by killing enemies and completing missions. That’s because Everspace 2 has gone full open-world RPG, with a fully-fleshed out loot and progression system bolted on to what is essentially the first Everspace’s frame.

You can easily stay in a single system and farm experience, eventually out-leveling your foes. You can spend your time hunting down purple-quality weapons and armor to give yourself an edge in combat. Loot drops from enemies, shipwrecks, and can be bought within a trade hub. While not entirely available in the demo there’s even a robust quest system for players to engage with, and every point-of-interest in the demo had some sort of side-mission that would trigger when you were within range. Everspace 2 is no longer about scrounging for upgrades, resources, and repairs, then bolting away into the next system before Hell comes knocking, which may upset fans of the original.

Yet, the transition from roguelike to RPG has been graceful. Much of what made the first Everspace a solid space-shooter remains intact in Everspace 2. Instead of trying to fly as far as possible before dying and resetting you’re now free to explore the entire galaxy as you see fit, collect loot, take on missions, and even trade for profit. Everspace 2 is more Rebel Galaxy Outlaw than Binding of Issac in space, and it’s all the better for it. The prospect of creating various builds for my armada of ships is an enticing one, and as a larger fan of RPGs than roguelikes Everspace 2 is the sort of space game I’ve been dreaming about for ages.

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If there is one thing about Everspace 2 that perplexes me is the lack of coop. I understand there are various technical hurdles and limitations that come with coop implementation, and that Rockfish Games is a small team, but Everspace 2 feels like the sort of game that would be an absolute blast to play with a few friends in tow. Take the electronic-warfare barge I mentioned earlier: how cool would it be to sit back and jam enemies as your pal mopped them up in the fighter? Throw in the loot, missions, and open-world structure and you have what could be a compelling cooperative experience, especially knowing the game will have A.I. driven co-pilots for players to recruit. That all said the game doesn’t need coop, and it’s shaping up to be a great game without it, yet I wouldn’t exactly be angry if Everspace 2 somehow adopted it in the future.

That’s Everspace 2 in a nutshell: take the combat, flight, and aesthetic of the first game, and graft it all on to the body of an open-world RPG. If you wanted the sequel to follow in the original’s footsteps you’ll probably be disappointed, but the demo has me excited to see how the final product shapes up. Hopefully the story is as good, if not better, than the first game’s, which is the only lingering mystery shrouding Everspace 2. Otherwise, if the demo has been any indication, the foundations are solid. Everspace 2 should release sometime in 2021 and is currently in closed alpha, but until then why not give the demo a shot for yourself?

- This article was updated on:June 18th, 2020

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