New Persistent Universe, Same Fast Space Combat in Everspace 2

This may come as a bit of a surprise but the defining feature of space is the sheer volume of Nothing it contains.  We can shoot a probe through the asteroid field without worry because the odds of hitting something are so incredibly low and those super-pretty nebulas only look like beautiful clouds in space because we’re seeing a structure light-years in size compressed down to a picture only few inches in size.  The universe of Everspace is pure space-fantasy, however, and it couldn’t be prettier because of that.  The original Everspace was a giant 3D action space-shooter (as opposed to the more sim-style) set in a series of environments defined by giant asteroids, wrecks and debris, clouds of plasma, space stations and cruisers, all set against a backdrop of suns and planets creating fantastic lighting through each new encounter.  Everspace 2 is currently finishing up its Kickstarter and it continues the drop-dead gorgeous presentation and high-speed shooting that made the first game such a hit while bringing a huge number of changes with it as well.

The first game got away with being a roguelike by having clones.  Die, get cloned, die again, repeat.  How the player could afford all these ships was a bit of a mystery, seeing as the cash from each run was sunk into permanent stat upgrades, but it all worked out somehow. Now clones are illegal, which is a problem seeing as you play as one of the surviving clone pilots from the original Everspace, so the mission is to lay low and take odd jobs, exploring the newly-persistent solar systems while saving to pay for an escape from this dangerous corner of the universe.  The randomly-generated areas of the first game aren’t completely gone but only show up as encounters on the way from one hand-crafted environment to the next, such as a rescue mission or being tracked down by raiders.

I’ve had some hands-on time with the demo to test out Everspace 2, poking through a small handful of areas to see how everything fits together.  The new structure is based around solar systems or other massive celestial bodies, with the demo having four of the Ceta star system’s fifteen areas open to play in.  Starting at home base there are three different fighters to choose from, each armed with its own loadout of primary weapons and secondary abilities, plus a small handful of single-use items.  The ships are stored in your hanger, tucked away in the heart of a hollowed-out asteroid, and you can return there at any time to swap out the current ship for a different model.  The development plan is that this is simply the start of the armada, with many models to choose from and personalize waiting to be earned.

While the secondary abilities (EMP generator, cloak, weapon overdrive, etc.) are all locked into place, everything else is fully upgradeable.  If you only use two out of three default weapons on a ship there’s no reason to waste that slot, and odds are good a decent drop will show up quickly.  Modules like physical plating and energy supply can be swapped out as soon as they’re found, whether that be in crates tucked away on the wreck of a massive freighter or bought at a G&B Mining facility.  Like any good RPG masquerading as a space shooter the loot comes in color-coded rarity, but it’s worth paying attention to variations in power even in weapons and modules of the same class, because while a five point stat bump may not let you suddenly take down a heavy cruiser it’s still nice to find.

Even without fancy upgrades the starting ships are easily able to handle the opening areas, although odds are good part of that is due to the current build being a demo for Gamescom/PAX.  Each area is its own little adventure, with several mini-quests to chase after.  Points of interest generally have something lying in wait, whether it be a handful of bandits, some crates being guarded by turrets or an escape pod in need of rescue.  More obscure objectives require a little more exploring, like a gate that reveals the chance for a checkpoint race when you get close or a shadow creature in search of a mate.  That latter one is a nice little mini-game, because while you can easily grab the creature and carry it in front of the ship’s nose, if it’s held in sunlight too long it flees back to the starting point.  The reward is a chunk of rare dark matter, which will probably be quite handy when the crafting of the full game goes live.

The current demo feels rich with content but is fairly bare bones compared to plans for the full release.  Planetary landings are on the way, which is why my attempt at flying into the atmosphere was met with an explosion and reload from checkpoint.  There was a single small pirate cruiser to shoot down, but the big ones to fly inside will be along later.  While I did get jumped by pirates and find a rescue mission while zipping about the solar system in supralight mode, any additional secrets like the planned wormholes have yet to make an appearance.  The important thing to take away from this isn’t that the game is incomplete (kind of obvious, what with the Kickstarter’s purpose being to fund development and all) but rather I had a great time playing what I could find and kept digging for more.  The first Everspace was fantastic and the sequel is promising more, bigger, better and somehow even prettier.

Everspace 2 is currently finishing up its Kickstarter run with a bit less than a week to go.  While it looks like it should just barely reach the goal a little help wouldn’t be amiss.  Head on over and give it a look and if you’re feeling particularly impatient to get your hands on the same demo I got to play it’s available in one of the tiers.  Or you can watch the developers play it in one of their many livestreams.  Whichever you may choose, Everspace 2 is shaping up to be a truly fantastic sequel to what was already an incredibly fun action space shooter.