Everspace & Everspace: Encounters DLC – Xbox One Review
We’re Going Rogue(like)!
In an interesting mix of sci-fi exploration and dogfighting, Everspace gives the player bursts of excitement, coupled with micro-management all set to a visually beautiful backdrop. The story revolves around the characters in an intergalactic war between a large military power and a ruthless collective of space pirates. In a bid to win the war, the military power used clones as its fighting force, and as mirrored in Battlestar Galactica, the pilots and crews believe themselves to be immortal, thanks mainly to the fact that if they die, their consciousness doesn’t die with them, it lives on by transferring to a new host via some kind of intergalactic wifi. You play as a clone suffering from amnesia, being pursued across space by those who were once his compatriots, but he is frustratingly unaware why they want him dead, although his memory slowly starts to com back in a series of brief flashbacks. You’re not given a lot in the way of background information so its gives you extra encouragement to explore the environment of each level.
The visuals of the game are stunningly beautiful at times, with backdrops of shining ringed planets and swirling gaseous clouds, as well as the foregrounds of the asteroids and giant space ships and bases that you can weave in and out of. There’s plenty of detail on show that make good use of the capabilities of the Xbox 1, but the screen can become too busy when trying to find your targets and tagging them with the blue target reticule. Its not easy to keep track of opponents especially when in combat, as the enemy usually moves quicker that your ship can track, but I guess this is the essence of a good dogfight. There are plenty of setting to mess with to get a movement that feels comfortable for you, but its really about creating a balance between speed and accuracy, as the faster you can move your aiming reticule, the more difficult it is to get an accurate shot on target as the controls become too sensitive. The flight controls are very firmly of an arcade style rather than an accurate portrayal of real zero gravity physics. On the one hand I was disappointed that the real physics weren’t there for the combat elements, but on the other hand, the simple movement and stopping techniques are very welcome when navigating through obstacles or simply trying to land on them!
The aim of Everspace is to make your way through each sector without getting yourself killed, as death is permanent. This makes you assess the risks of your actions rather than just flying straight into battle knowing a respawn wont hold back your progress. You play your way through the star systems that are split into sectors. As you get to do what you want in each sector, the game tries to give the feeling of a sandbox game, but in reality this is just an illusion as the game is very much linear, albeit with a choice of branches to go down, but eventually arriving at the same destination.
Each level lands you in an asteroid field with various ships and space-stations scattered about. Some friendly, some hostile, and some that’ll ignore you until you do something to piss you off, and then come at you all guns blazing. Its another mechanic that adds layers to the game, making you think twice before you perform any action, as you know there are going to be consequences. Each sector is pretty much randomly generated so although they never look familiar, you come to know what to expect content wise. You’re encouraged to move through each sector without lingering too long, so it gives the game a bit of pace, and you cant really buck against this trend as if you loiter for too long a period then increasing numbers of pirates will find you and make it obvious that sticking around will end in death to you character. As well as seeing off enemies, you need to locate minerals, mine fuel to enable you to jump to the next sector, and find ore and metals that you need to craft materials to boost your ship, as well as salvaging lost cargo to sell to traders for valuable currency.
Obviously death is inevitable in Everspace, its just all about how long you can avoid it, but when your ship goes up in a ball of flame, you get the info about how well you’ve done, how many credits you’ve earned, how many sectors visited and all the associated stats to determine your success or failure. The money you’ve earned can then be spend to upgrade your ship, improve the weapons and shields, or eventually splash out on a brand new ship. Then you’re off for another run. This continuous upgrading after each run should mean you get more powerful and so progress further into the universe on each run. You will however have to make a hell of a lot of runs to be able to buy the new ships, so it ends up being a bit of a grind, even if it does get ever so slighter easier each time. The good thing about the ships are that you can purchase one that suits the way you prefer to play. For example out can go for the nippy but vulnerable Scout, or maybe you prefer the heavy firepower but reduced manoeuvrability of the Gunship. There are checks and balances with each ship so I didn’t find one that was over-powered for the price, its all down to personal preference.
The first expansion DLC for Everspace is called Encounters, and it really ups the ante for more roguelike dog-fighting action and exploration if you’ve previously got immersed in the game. For starters theres a new ship to buy, and a few new weapons to equip it with that you wont have seen in the game before. The expansion pretty much does what it says on the box as NPC encounters are what its all about. You’ll run into various adventurers and renegade just like yourself, and they’ll offer you missions that will get you the credits to buy those new weapons and put them to use. And the added firepower certainly comes in handy, as I found most of the missions to be combat heavy, so you really need to have mastered the flight controls if you want to stay alive and not end up in a million tiny pieces before you’ve got your teeth into any of the real action. The developers Rockfish Games seem to have made more effort to flesh out the NPC’s to get you more involved in each vignette,
The new weapons are certainly impressive, with my favourite possibly being the goo gun, partly because of the name, but also because its just that little bit quirky. Instead of just firing a laser or missile, you shoot blobs of green goo at the enemy. Now that doesn’t sound too threatening, but this space slime is highly explosive and goes off on a timed charge, creating a nice satisfying bang! bang! Each weapon has an upgrade path as well, so pick your favourite and get to work making it more powerful.
Overall Everspace was a fun game to play, and visually stunning, but without ever getting me hooked. At its heart its nice and simple, and the good thing is that its easy to pick up and play, so is good for the casual gamer as well as someone who gets drawn in and commits to it. The Encounters DLC is great value for money too that is likely to help draw you back for repeat play, even if they may be in short bursts.
Developer: Rockfish Games
Publisher: Rockfish Games
Price: £24.99 Expansions DLC – £8.39
Many Thanks to Plan of Attack for the review copy.