Space is one of the most interesting settings for any fiction - books, games or otherwise. The amount of creativity spawned from great science fiction is undeniable, and it's unique to the genre because of how little we know and understand about the universe outside of our little blue rock. When it comes to space games, modern creations delve deep into the the minutia of space life in ways they couldn't 20 years ago. Mass Effect, Sins of a Solar Empire, Elite:Dangerous; all examples of our modern fixation with immersing ourselves into hardcore space fiction.
Oddly enough, that might be why Everspace stands out so much in 2016: it's decided simple focus on the early 90's shooter side of space. It's Wing Commander without the politics, Rogue Squadron without The Force, and one of the most fun pure shooters in the genre in a while.
By pure shooter, I mean that the majority of your gameplay will involve you jetting in and out of dogfights with hostile forces while buying time to transport to new zones. There are resources like fuel to gather and keep your ship moving, but resource management and ship customization are decidedly secondary features. The draw here is the gun play, and it feels tight and responsive. From the cockpit or a third person perspective, space shooter enthusiasts will feel right at home here. Iterating on Rockfish's excellent Galaxy on Fire series, Everspace brings the space shooter to conventional control schemes without a hitch.
It does have roguelike elements most like Faster Than Light, especially in its core premise and traversal methods. As a pilot of this ship with no clear origins, one motivation is clear: you need to get somewhere, and you can't let the wilds of space stop you. Like FTL, that means jumping from node to node on a procedurally generated map, with each location holding some sort of choose-your-own-adventure style event. Similarly, each location is procedurally generated, but as FTL asks you to survive for a certain amount of time before leaving (usually to charge a warp drive), Everspace asks you to explore. Each zone is a pocket in space full of stuff, be it asteroids with valuable ore, old ship wrecks, or fleets of roving enemies. More than once, I would warp to a location only to be directly slapped in the middle of rival factions trading fire with one another. Deciding how to deal with them, plus choosing to explore and reap resources or explore the area, are only some of the choices you'll be making on the fly when deciding whether to warp away to the next spot immediately or not.
There are elements of progression that speak to its roleplaying sub-inspirations, as well. Perks can be gained after each run, giving you that trademark roguelike sense of progression after multiple deaths. Various add-ons and upgrades can be swapped on the fly that do various things during each playthrough. Sometimes it's something as conspicuous as changing your weapon loadouts, while other times it's upgrading your oxygen tank - something you don't appreciate until you're about to suffocate. Things like repairs are also a constant upkeep, but none of it is very complex. It serves as an extra layer of cognitive interaction, but not as a distraction. Reinforced by the fact that even though you could switch things out on the fly, time doesn't stop when you open those menus. Whenever you veer from the main focus of the game, you're putting your journey in danger.
Your journey will at least look great, though. Not only are all of the various obstacles and debris well textured and rendered, but they're also pretty well designed. Alien space craft, especially the bigger battleships and freighters, are really cool. Being inside asteroid clusters is a humbling experience, thanks to the gravitas they're given. And that's not even to mention the big, beautiful planets that sometimes serve as backdrops for your adventures. Space is deadly, but it can also be a visual delight.
My time with the Alpha really got me excited to see more, as it aims for a full release sometime in Q4 of 2016. If you played the Alpha, let us know what you thought about it on Facebook and Twitter. Also, head over to the Official Everspace Wiki and help your peers chronicle the secrets of deep space.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.