When one game pays homage to another, whether an intentional or unintentional aspiration of the developer, the end result is usually either respectable or catastrophic. Finding a product that falls somewhere between those two extremes is rare. However, ROCKFISH Games achieves a middle ground with its newest space action title, Everspace. Intentional or accidental, Everspace draws inspiration from Elite: Dangerous—a space-trading-and-combat first-person shooter produced by Frontier Developments—while also offering innovative, roguelike ideas. Through stunning graphics, impressive audio, an average story, and interesting gameplay, Everspace provides an experience that is a mixture of remarkable and uninspiring.
Everspace is visually respectable. The amount of detail ROCKFISH Games put into the space adventure conveys both the passion and skill the developer brings to the table. Every tiny rock that crumbles away when using a ship’s weaponry to chip away at resources, each explosion marking an enemy’s demise, and architectural depth of space installations and larger ships—such as freighters or trade ships—are all worthy of players’ applause for the aesthetic artisanship. Elite: Dangerous’s influence is particularly evident in Everspace’s graphics. Drawing from the former’s Frame Shift Drive mechanic, when one engages in interstellar travel, the stars blur and the space around the player’s ship warps and twists until reaching whatever destination the player decides to explore next from a limited number of options. While the graphics are not the epitome of perfection, finding major fault with Everspace’s visuals would be a tedious undertaking.
Enhancing the game further is Everspace’s splendid audio. Everything, from engine thrusters to the rapid patter of a ship’s guns and the zapping of lasers, delivers an authentic, immersive feel to the game’s fast-paced combat and space journeying. With the story’s convincing voicework added to the mix, the overall acoustics are nothing short of powerful. Drawing more parallels with Elite: Dangerous, Everspace’s sounds excel at drawing players into the game’s tumultuous, enigmatic universe and thrusting gamers into a nebula of nerve-shaking adrenaline when fighting multiple enemy fighters and turrets at once. Being cacophonous, Everspace’s audio makes players feel as though they are vying for survival in ever-changing hostile territory.
While traveling through the aforementioned hostile territory (which is a form of No Man’s Land) and successfully reaching one of their various destinations, players will witness a few narrated cutscenes that unfold in the form of comic strips. The story is rather simplistic: the player-character (PC) is looking for answers as to who he (players cannot choose their character’s gender) is and why he is experiencing the life of a space fighter pilot. During the PC’s journey, he is aided by an automated voice—the ship’s AI—that offers the PC advice regarding his enemies and using resources, and teaches him how to operate his ship and traverse the game world. The story is rather lackluster, unfortunately, despite ROCKFISH Games’s boast that the tale is deep and contemplative. The fable offers no real individuality to separate itself from the myriad of other ambiguous narratives within video games. Despite voice actors that deliver believable dialogue and narration, the story’s actual content is rather scarce and unimaginative.
Players can embark on Everspace’s journey from a first-person or third-person perspective. In first-person, gamers play directly from the ship’s cockpit, where users are able to see the interior of their war machine as they pilot through debris, asteroids, and AI ships both neutral and hostile. Third-person, naturally, provides an outer view of the player’s ship. The decision to play from either perspective boils down to a player’s preference, for neither offers a superior experience. Mechanically, Everspace is decent, but the overly-sensitive handling of the player’s ship(s) can lead to some overturning during combat, thus resulting in frustrating confrontations that end with getting the player killed.
Death is not the end, however. In fact, death is not only inevitable, but encouraged. When a player dies, they are taken back to their hangar, where they can spend credits (earned by defeating enemies and mining resources) gathered during their most recent flight to purchase upgrades to their ship(s). These upgrades range from different types of weaponry to stronger defensive capabilities, faster thrusters, and better radar to give players a “risk analysis” before proceeding to the next area. Dying and upgrading one’s ship is a critical strategic factor in progressing through Everspace’s content. However, every time a player dies, the game world changes, generating new enemies in different numbers in an effort to make every flight a unique challenge. With this in mind, players must both improve their ships’ capabilities as well as their own skill in playing the game. Thus, gamers are unlikely to participate in the same fight repeatedly, keeping Everspace unique and thrilling. Unfortunately, gamers may find themselves getting frustrated at times due to the aforementioned high sensitivity of the control scheme, which causes considerable overcompensation during combat, resulting in deaths that could have easily been avoided. Moreover, the awkward targeting system makes for some aggravating target acquisition, which often causes players to fall behind during battle, resulting in yet another death. However, with enough practice, and some tweaking of the control scheme in the game’s pause menu, players can overcome these minor flaws in an otherwise decent title.
For an indie project by a developer accustomed to producing titles for mobile devices, Everspace is an interesting idea with some well-executed qualities. The graphics are admirable and the audio is fantastic. Despite the underwhelming narrative and the fun but somewhat annoying mechanics, Everspace is a decent debut PC and console title by ROCKFISH Games. With enough fortitude and patience, players can find themselves spending hours tweaking their ships and learning how to better defeat enemies while dying less along the way. Provided ROCKFISH Games keeps up the good work, the future looks bright for the growing independent developer.