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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Rockfish Games
Developer: Rockfish Games
Release Date: Dec. 11, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Everspace'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Dec. 20, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Everspace is a roguelike 3D space shooter with a non-linear story and fast-paced shooter gameplay.

Buy Everspace

The space shooter genre is rare these days, especially on consoles. Oh, they certainly exist but they're few and far between. They're so uncommon that they don't tend to boast distinct new features. Everspace is a solid attempt to add some life to the genre by combining it with popular roguelike mechanics. It might sound like an odd combination, but it generates some genuinely fun gameplay.

Everspace puts you in the role of an unlucky spacefarer with amnesia. He quickly finds out that he's a clone, and the few memories he has are those of his genetic source. He is one of many clones, and the collection of clones must venture through the dangers of space — in the hopes that one of them will survive long enough to figure out what the heck happened.

Its bare-bones plot mostly serves as an excuse to explore the world. The depths of space have many different factions and creatures, and your on-board computer, HIVE, will gladly tell you all about them as you advance. The further into the story you get, the more pieces of plot and history you're rewarded with. The story isn't worth playing for its own merits, but it's a nice little reward for a tough challenge.

At its core, Everspace is a space shooter. If you've played any arcade space shooters, you probably have an idea of what it's like. You control a single ship that you can fly around the environment at will. You have both primary and secondary weapons in addition to equippable customizable power-ups and items that range from healing nanomachines to super-powered weapons. It's very simple to pick up and play, and the in-game tutorial teaches everything you need to know in about five minutes.

Everspace doesn't reinvent the space shooter in any way, but it's fun to pick up and play. I customized the default controls a lot, but once I did, I found it really fun to play. The heavy amount of customization makes it fun to find a solid loadout for your ship. Sometimes I'd go with missile-heavy builds that are extremely powerful but needed tons of resources. Other times, I favored lasers that are efficient but can lead to longer fights.

The roguelike elements of Everspace come into play in that each area is randomly generated. While there are a set number of events, the game mixes and matches enough that you'll never be quite sure what to expect. Everything is hidden from you early on, but as you play through the game, you'll gradually unlock perks that reveal what lies ahead, but even then, you'll have to adapt as needed.

The easiest comparison for Everspace is the hit PC game, FTL. In essence, both follow the same basic pattern. You warp from sector to sector trying to reach the end of the game. Each sector is randomly generated and may contain dangerous enemies, environmental hazards, precious loot, or some combination of the above. Your overall goal is to scavenge what you need and get out. The longer you stay in a sector, the more dangerous the enemies become. As such, your goal is to get what you need and get out before you lose the battle of attrition. Escaping requires you to have fuel and to lock on to a beacon. You can warp without fuel, but more often than not, you'll take serious damage for doing so.

As with any good roguelike, attrition is the key in Everspace. You need to balance collecting resources with spending them. There are multiple ways to repair your ship, but ultimately, if you're getting into too many fights, you'll experience death by a thousand cuts. Rushing through stages doesn't help, either. You need to collect fuel to power your FTL jumps and gather scrap to upgrade your ship. It's a fun balance that encourages taking risks whenever possible. More to the point, the random nature of the game works in its favor, as it supports exploring and trying new things. You can't always depend on having your favorite weapon or upgrade, so you need to adapt.

All in all, the roguelike elements are well executed. They're simple but fun and scratch the progression itch quite well. You will die a lot, but in doing so, you'll learn and unlock special perks that carry over from game to game. Some of these are boring (a small percentage boost to damage), but some can change how the game plays. Unlockable ships and bonus difficulties also give it a lot of replay value if the core mechanics "click" for you.

One major complaint about Everspace is that its portable nature is somewhat hurt by the general UI design. It's clear that the game was designed with a significantly larger screen in mind. While this doesn't hurt most of the game, I was squinting helplessly at the screen trying to find the one barely recognizable dot that showed a mining node amongst the admittedly very pretty environment. It got frustrating after a while, and although the core gameplay is great when portable, the visuals weren't. Over time, I got used to it and found ways to adjust — oddly, Colorblind mode helps a lot, even if you're not colorblind — but it never felt like a natural fit.

The game also takes some noticeable hits for being on the Switch. It's a nice-looking shooter, but when it's in docked mode, you notice a lot of shortcuts, poor textures, and pixelation that are the result of a game trying to work on a less-powerful system. It's not ugly, but beyond the portability, there's little to offer Everspace for the Switch over the version for other systems. The portability is nice, but if you're not planning to play Everspace on the go, the Switch iteration is the worst version of the game due to the UI issues.

Ultimately, Everspace is a really fun roguelike/action game. The by-the-numbers space shooter gameplay is amplified by the roguelike elements, and it's the perfect game to pick up and play in short bursts. Unless we're lucky enough to get FTL on the Switch, it's the closest thing you can get. Unfortunately, the limitations of the Switch show through in the port and can drag down the overall experience. It's worth playing if you can look past its foibles, but it may be too big of a barrier for some players.

Score: 7.5/10

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