REVIEW: EVERSPACE™

Jul
06

REVIEW: EVERSPACE™

Gorgeous graphics and brilliant 3D dogfighting combat, but extremely repetitive.

Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Space Shooter
Developer: ROCKFISH Games
Publisher: ROCKFISH Games
Release date: 25 May, 2017

How To Play EVERSPACE™ – Jim’s 10-Step Guide

  1. Start in an area of space with floating rocks, space debris, neutral ships flying around and assorted man/alien-made structures.
  2. Make your way towards the blue markers to collect loot – ore, plasma, nanobots, crystals and suchlike. You either just fly at them and they’re auto-collected or else you have to shoot at a rock/fuel container/crate/whatever to mine the contents. Occasionally you have to find your way into an asteroid or ship wreckage to find the items inside. Sometimes there’s a trading ship that never seems to have anything you want. Other times you have to fly near a thing to ‘hack’ it and then a bunch of new collectibles (or a swarm of enemies) appears.
  3. The items you collect can be used as ‘ingredients’ to repair or upgrade parts of your ship to make it temporarily stronger to continue the run. You need to try and keep it healthy for the inevitable combat.
  4. After a while some red markers will appear. These are enemy ships or drones which will find you before long unless you go after them. Shoot them all down and collect the useful stuff they drop, most importantly the Credits.
  5. There are always a number of current challenges to complete (ram a drone, kill 10 so-and-so etc) but the opportunities rarely seem to present themselves to complete these tasks, or they’re too difficult, so they seem to hang around for ages and never change. They’re like Steam achievements but you get in-game rewards instead of icons.
  6. When the area has been cleared and there’s no longer anything to collect, point towards the green marker for a few seconds, it will count up towards 100% and you’ll be transported out of the star system – being under heavy fire will prevent you from reaching the required 100%. If you make it, the main sector map will invite you to choose your next destination – if you’ve purchased the necessary instruments you can see the level of threat and other details to help with your decision.
  7. Clear the next system as before and move on to the next. After 3 or 4 of these you’ll reach the last system with the main jump gate for the sector. This system usually has a lot of loot and also a lot of enemies if you hang around for too long. This main jump gate will take you to the next main sector, of which I believe there are 6 or 7 in the game.
  8. At some point, often quite early on, you will die. This most commonly happens by being shot down by an overwhelming number of enemies but you can also explode during a jump due to lack of fuel, pass out from lack of oxygen or other miscellaneous mishaps.
  9. After you die you’re back in the hangar where you can spend the Credits (looted and awarded for various aspects of your last run – how far you got etc) on permanent ship and pilot upgrades or, if you’ve been successful enough, buy a new ship.
  10. Rinse and repeat for the rest of your natural life. The idea is to go as far as you can without dying, over and over again in an endless cycle.

… and here sits the elephant in the room. It’s a $30 game that can be described in only a few paragraphs. What I’ve just told you is 95% of the game. Once in a blue moon something slightly unusual is thrown in, but these events are so rare and insignificant that I can’t even remember an example to tell you.

The store page boasts a “captivating story”. That is a lie. There’s no story here, just a couple of cutscenes at the start of the game and then an occasional comment once every 10 hours about some lizard race’s home planet or whatever. I’ve managed to reach Sector 3 and made many ship upgrades and I’ve yet to learn anything of interest about this alleged story.

It’s like having fillet steak for lunch every day. It’s absolutely delicious for a while but no matter how good it is, there comes a point when you wonder why it’s the only thing on the menu.

Sound & Vision

I can’t help noticing that the devs must be Doctor Who fans of a certain age. The sector jumps look like the tunnel of light in the opening credits and the voice of your invisible companion reminds me of the Doctor’s mechanical dog, K9, from way back.

The visuals are stunning, featuring glowing, glittering scenery and crisp, colourful objects. Light from the local star is like something out of an epic Hollywood space movie, and the shadows are often an essential part of the gameplay, for example when trying to find the entrance in an asteroid to mine some crystals. Once you’ve seen one system you’ve seen them all though. They’re all the same more or less.

I played on a normal desktop but there is VR support and if I had a headset this would definitely be my first game to try it with. Must be awesome.

For such fancy graphics the hardware requirements are surprisingly low. I can confirm that my GTX 1050Ti hardly makes a murmur. I can’t hear the fans at all, it’s like my PC is idle, even in the midst of a battle.

Background sci-fi themed muzak plays every few minutes. It’s unobtrusive and pleasant, no complaints. Sound effects are nicely done and give you sensory feedback about the gameplay, for example a soft ding to tell you a rock is mined out, or specific sound to denote a critical hit on an enemy. Your K9 companion (I think it’s probably your ship’s computer actually) occasionally makes a comment like “you’re running out of fuel” or “nanobots are always useful” and other fascinating dialogue (not).

Combat

I’m a gamer who likes to use a controller whenever possible, and with this being a space shooter I was unprepared for the necessity to use mouse/kb here. At first I was disgruntled, let me tell you, but after a while I realised that it has to be this way. There’s full controller support but it’s impossible to fire at enemies accurately enough. You need the mouse.

Enemy ships twist and dodge all around you in 3D and first you have to get a lock on them with the middle button. This puts a red circle on them with a smaller red circle just ahead of the direction where they’re going. You then have to left-click fire at the small red circle which ‘leads’ the bullets. You also have a limited number of secondary right-click weapons (homing missiles etc) that you can fire at particularly tough enemies. If you have the finger dexterity you can use tertiary abilities like shield boosts by pressing other keys.

There are people on the Steam reviews complaining about the controls and normally I’m firmly in the camp of mouse/kb-haters, but somehow this has won me over. Firing at enemies in 3D like this is exhilarating and very satisfying indeed. Getting a bead on the enemies darting all over the place and zooming past you, while trying to dodge them at the same time… fantastic!

Difficulty

You can choose between Easy, Normal and Hard at the start of a run and on top of that there’s also a Hardcore mode, whatever that means. I’m a self-confessed wuss – my Steam profile unapologetically describes me as a ‘filthy casual’ – so naturally I’ve been playing on Easy. I can usually make some decent progress, shoot down groups of 3 or 4 enemies and occasionally reach Sector 3 before 20 enemies turn up and obliterate me. I tried Normal a couple of times but I was out of my depth.

The permanent ship upgrades you make in the Hangar between runs are painfully ineffective. I usually have a few thousand Credits to spend and it’s like having a couple of pennies in your pocket, it only upgrades the tiniest amount and makes no noticeable difference to your ship’s power. I’m sure it does help in the long term… the very, very long term.

The idea is that you get 25/50% higher rewards/upgrades for Normal/Hard but for me that makes no difference because I can’t survive for long enough to collect anything outside of Easy mode, and I really don’t think it would make progress any quicker anyway. It’s a long, long haul whichever way you do it.

Value

It depends on your outlook. If you enjoy the specific aspects that this game offers and just want to do a lot of it, then it’s well worth full price. Nobody can argue that this isn’t top quality. However, if you’re looking for variety and new discoveries to hold your long-term interest then steer well clear, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Steam

EVERSPACE™ recently came to Linux! Woohoo! And it’s buttery smooth right out-of-the box, accompanied by Steam Cloud for all you dual-booters out there. Achievements and Trading cards all present and correct, and full controller support although it’s redundant as I’ve explained above.

Verdict

For the first few hours this is an impressive game with a real WOW factor. Stunning visuals, ship upgrades, exciting dogfight battles and a couple of cutscenes even promise a storyline. Unfortunately this is a bit like the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes – eventually you realise that there’s really not much of a story and the rest of it is, frankly, a grind-fest.

About JimDeadlock

My main focus is puzzlers or anything with puzzle elements in it. I also like forward-planning strategy and discovery/adventure. Games that engage your brain without too much urgency. || I'm a rabid Linux user and try to avoid Win-only games but I'll suffer it if the game is worthwhile. || I don't go for multiplayer games in general, and you couldn't make me play FPS if you tied me to a chair and held a blowtorch to my toes. || Steam Profile

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