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Rockfish has launched its roguelite space shooter, and the results are impressive.

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Roguelike mechanics are taking over the galaxy, it would seem, and Everspace is the latest in a long line of games that takes inspiration from that classically archaic dungeon crawler of yesteryear, Rogue. However, while it's true that Rockfish has adopted some of the genre staples, it's also true that they've made a good stab at employing them in a fresh new way. For starters, instead of ASCII graphics we've got asteroids, and here permadeath makes way for a soft progression system whereby each failure gives the player credits to spend upgrading their ship - just a little bit - ahead of the next run.

There's a story, whereby the devs make an effort to explain away the roguelike setup of repeated attempts (which, let's be fair, is more than most bother with), and it's suitably futuristic in tone, with the player returning via the body of a freshly pressed clone for each new run. Throughout your adventure you're guided by a robotic voice who talks you through the various things - both friendly and not - that you encounter along the way, before you eventually die and the action starts up again from scratch. It works, though, and Rockfish has crafted a setup that's as cohesive and individual as anything we've seen from other notable genre entries such as Darkest Dungeon, Invisible, Inc. and, looking back a bit further, Rogue Legacy.

We mostly played the game on normal difficulty (which as the devs so eloquently put it is the "this is the way you're supposed to die" difficulty setting), but it should be noted that we probably had more fun playing it on easy. That's not usually how we roll when wrestling with a roguelike, but the more forgiving gameplay actually gelled nicely with the fleshed out narrative that landed when the game came out of early access. We got to see more of the game due to our enhanced longevity, whereas before our deaths had always felt particularly untimely, and it almost feels like a shame to have to constantly restart just when you're getting into the groove.

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Much of your time in Everspace will be spent engaging in dogfights with other spacecraft, and it's here that Rockfish has done a great job. It leans more towards arcade action than something simulation-based like Elite: Dangerous, and it's relatively easy to pick up and have fun with it thanks to intuitive controls (we played on PC with an Xbox One controller, and it worked fine). Each craft has a limited selection of weapons and tactical systems, but when used with care and in conjunction with one another, your weapons are capable of dismantling most of the foes you encounter. Energy based weapons are, for example, great a stripping shields, so firing off a few rounds can soften up an opponent before you switch to bullets that can tear through their hull in seconds. The combat can get intense, with explosions popping all around while bullets whizz past, and at times there can be a lot going on, which sadly leads to noticeable but manageable frame-rate drops.

There are upgrades to be discovered by exploration and from looting downed enemies, and you also need to spend time discovering what each area has hidden away. Indeed, on the normal and harder difficulty settings, you'll need to be carrying supplies if you're to progress. You get this much-needed gear by taking the time to explore each system, mining resources and searching space debris, before moving on to the next. Each sector is made up of several systems, and the player has a limited choice in terms of how they progress (in a system that reminds us of a streamlined FTL: Faster Than Light), and you can always pick the path of least resistance. Each sector is bookended by a warp gate that transports you to the next, where new and more challenging enemies await.

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If and when you take damage, you can, if you have the resources, mend your ship, although sometimes your systems are simply too broken to fix and the materials you need aren't forthcoming in a timely fashion, which we found a little frustrating at times. Scavenging supplies is helpful, certainly, but it's not always enough. Upgrading parts and making general repairs is easy enough, but fixing certain systems with particular parts gets overly complicated and felt a touch too fussy for our liking, and this is one area that we feel would have benefitted slightly from being more streamlined.

The only other system that's anywhere near as complicated is the soft progression, whereby credits earned in-game are spent between attempts, and little by little your ship is upgraded and improved over time. This is a welcome addition, though, and it gives the player something to ponder between games. There's a lot of room to enhance each ship as required, and for those who spend a lot of time with the game, the incremental upgrades offer a good reason to keep pushing forward.


There aren't many negative points to raise, but one thing that we would have liked to see was a touch more variety. Some of the space vistas are stunning, there's no denying that, but there could have been a few more varied environments integrated into the early sectors. Moreso, different mission types thrown in every now and then would have helped to mix things up a little more. It's a minor gripe, though, and we largely appreciated the freedom offered to us, where we could explore reasonably large areas as much or as little as we liked.

When scavenging for extended periods of time, every so often you're probably going to pause to marvel at a view that you encounter, and overall we thought the visuals were decent, with lots of detail in the environments and some stunning backgrounds that really helped immerse us in each run. Furthering that immersion, the soundtrack is also solid, with some well-written guitar driven tracks really selling the sci-fi style. The voice acting was, on the whole, pretty good, although in this respect we were reminded on more than one occasion of a favourite of ours, Galak-Z, and its leading man A-Tak (although with that comparison came a constant reminder that Everspace doesn't quite match the personality found in 17-Bit's fellow space-based roguelite).

True to the legacy of the games that it draws so much from, Everspace is challenging and built for replayability. VR fans will like the fact that there's a version of the game on PC for those with a headset (although we didn't try it in VR for the purposes of this review, because: space vomit). The combat is decent, the action fast and frantic, and it comes encased in a thoughtful and cohesive wrapper that's likely to resonate with sci-fi fans. It also comes with options that can put it on the more accessible end of the scale when compared to other roguelikes, and Rockfish has done a fine job using the genre's best-loved mechanics to create something fresh and engaging.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
Good space combat, nice presentation, lots of depth.
Your inability to make certain repairs in time can be frustrating, some noticeable frame-rate drops.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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REVIEW. Written by Mike Holmes

"True to the legacy of the games that it draws so much from, Everspace is challenging and built for replayability."

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