Telling you that a game is a combination of two others may be lazy shorthand for complex narrative, but I’m going to do it anyway: Everspace is an addictive mix of the beauty of Descent: Freespace and the exploration intensity of FTL: Faster Than Light.
If you have played and loved both those games, then you can just skip the rest of this article and head over to pick up the Everspace Beta. You’re welcome.
For the rest of you: in Everspace you pilot a ship through seven sectors to its destination. Along the way you fight enemy ships and installations, searching for the credits, equipment, crafting materials, and fuel you need to make it through. Each sector has a lot to explore to get you those resources, but you’ll find that you’re also being hunted. Spend too long in place and interceptors will jump in, forcing you to move along.
The game is very easy to pick up for a quick session. The term “rogue-like” comes up frequently in the marketing notes, which you can take to mean that you will require many runs to be successful and resources will be scarce. (The furthest I’ve made it so far is sector 3.) But dying doesn’t mean a total reset: credits you earn during the run can be used to purchase perks that will persist through all future attempts. Over time, you’ll find your shields are stronger, your energy reserves charging faster, and your sensors scanning further. Moreover, blueprints that you find during a run are permanent; they can be used for crafting items during your travels from the materials you collect. This lets you build a beam laser rather than waiting to find one on an enemy ship, for example. Customizing your ship this way is really fun and helps focus your material collection in the early stages of your run.
The game’s primary platform is the PC, and it shows in the control scheme. The ship flies like a dream using mouse and keyboard, responsive while still requiring you to think ahead. If you prefer using a controller you’re in luck: the devs have added gamepad support, and I’ve found it to be as good as the mouse and keyboard. No definitive word on HOTAS controls at this time.
The focus on the PC also pays off in the visuals: the graphics are jaw-dropping. Every sector you fly through is a unique visual feast, worthy of printing on canvas and putting on your wall. Realistic? No, but real space can be mighty empty and boring. Everspace‘s sectors are full of asteroids, planets, nebulae, plasma clouds, and I even jumped in beside a black hole on a run. It’s your choice to play from 1st or 3rd person, with 3rd person giving you an incredible view of the fireballs enemy ships leave behind.
Don’t look too long, though, because bad guys are gunning for you. With thrust in 6 axes, shields, damage boosters and reducers, multiple weapons with different effects and differing optimal ranges, you have plenty of ways to fight back. When you wind up outgunned you’ll take damage to your shields and hull, but that damage can also take out critical systems. You can repair your hull and systems if you’ve collected the right components, but if you’re lacking a key resource you’ll find yourself having to make do without something critical like sensors or flight assist. At that point you either need to be very lucky or very, very good.
At this point, Everspace is still in development. Elements of the graphics (VR support!) and game mechanics are still being tweaked, but the main missing component is the story. Everspace has a full plot already written and will eventually have about 30 story events. Those events will be tied together in a non-linear fashion that should leverage your multiple playthroughs to show off about a dozen character archetypes and 2-3 hours of voice acting. The devs are targeting a price in the range of $35 to $40, but you can get it now and start playing in the closed Beta for about $45.
The closed Beta sale has been extended to Sunday, 7 Aug. If you’re still not sure you want in, check out Londongaming4fun’s Twitch stream, which sold me on Everspace. Good luck out there and happy hunting!