Since the earliest days of video games, developers have tried to send players into space. From the most primitive examples of the medium all the way to treasured PC classics like Freelancer, the best space games present a vast galaxy of possibilities and let players go nuts. I've never played anything that realizes this core gaming fantasy better than Everspace 2. A title emerging from Early Access and developed by Rockfish Games, Everspace 2 takes the best ideas from its roguelike-inspired prequel and combines them with an engaging single-player narrative that keeps you guessing every time you warp into a new quadrant. It's an open-world game that feels vast while keeping things constrained to avoid Ubisoft-esque bloat. Oh, and it's a damn fine arcade shooter all the while. If you're not expecting AAA production values, Everspace 2 will provide a spectacular galactic jaunt worthy of an all-'80s mixtape.
Continuing from the original, you play as Adam Roslin, a clone pilot one job away from retirement. Things go haywire, ships explode, and you end up on the wrong side of the galactic lawman. You meet new companions early and often in Everspace 2's 30-hour campaign, each with a unique flavor and exciting contributions to the team. From a robotized former friend to a chatty and overly optimistic furball, these are the kind of characters that you want to go out of your way for. When I load up a game I'm reviewing to take another crack at a big boss and instead fly thousands of lightyears for a box of CDs, I know things are working as intended.
Speaking of character work, Everspace 2's voice acting can range from acceptable to laughable in a single conversation. Sometimes, one character sounds like he's recording from the cockpit despite sitting on a couch in a penthouse, and the person he's speaking with is boisterously swallowing his microphone. Despite that, the dialogue and storytelling punch above their weight class. Everspace 2 doesn't feel like a game where you should be coming for the story, but anyone yearning for something in the vein of Mass Effect could do a lot worse.
Players never leave the cockpit in-game, and everything outside of space combat is depicted via illustrated cutscenes. Thankfully, this is much better than it sounds. Characters animate, layers shift, and reveals feel appropriately dramatic, more so than in almost any game I've seen that uses this style of cutscene. Rockfish really puts the "motion" back into motion comics, presenting what is often a tired and cost-cutting narrative device as a dynamic way to add layers to the narrative without sacrificing a pure focus on starship gameplay.
That is what drew me into Everspace in the first place, a dedication to arcade-style dogfighting. Everspace 2 has that in spades thanks to a diverse lineup of weapons and ships and a constant stream of new loot that reveal more options for future fights and upgrades to your existing tech. While I eventually found a few reliable favorites, nothing felt underpowered or obvious. It's simply a matter of preference for how you want to blow the next outlaw out of the blackened sky. If anything, there are sometimes too many options to remember in the heat of the moment, but they all contribute to the feeling that you're blasting through space in a fully featured fighter. Unless you bump it down to Easy, you'll need to learn to use every tool in your arsenal to avoid becoming space dust yourself.
Everspace 2 also fully realizes an open world spread across a massive universe. Each area is relatively small but packed with things to do, and there are numerous areas to discover in each massive star system you visit. Switching between maps feels like an event, whether jumping around the same star system or taking the massive warp gates along the galaxy's edge. It's not all just space either; there are planets to explore in the atmosphere and space stations designed like neon cities. The number of docking ports for your spaceship does start to feel funny, but you get used to the design of the world before too long, and then it's easy to buy into the ongoing narrative.
I knew that Everspace 2's open world was a success once I found myself roaming around undiscovered areas and seeing what was to see without any prompting. The goal of any design with this much space is creating fun moments not planned out by the designers, and the constant activity of passing starships and rogue outlaws warping in gave each area a sense of energy. Finding more loot and mining for resources feel novel from the cockpit, and finding something new to do once you get bored is never complicated. I do wish there was more variety in the soundtrack and more ambient dialogue between the protagonist and his crew, but what is there was welcome.
Considering the genre's history, Everspace 2's gamepad controls are admirably smooth. This game takes full advantage of every button a standard Xbox controller offers, letting me strafe, switch weapons, and keep aim on circling enemies with laserlike precision. Of course, there is a generous auto-aim on many available weapons, but the sheer number of obstacles in any fight makes that feel like a necessity rather than a handicap. Outside combat, things can get a bit wonky as you try to remember which button takes you to a different shop tab and which will launch your fighter back out of the hangar, but everything is butter where it counts.
With the final Guardians of the Galaxy feature film on the way next month, Everspace 2 couldn't have come at a better time. In fact, I feel like this small-scale creation captures much of those films' spacefaring feel far more than Square Enix's official Marvel game from 2021. Both games can also claim a fun cast of oddballs and an offbeat story that keeps players engaged for hours. This is everything I could want in a galaxy-spanning adventure, and it will be a tough act to beat, even for those with the sheer financials to top this game's modest production.
TechRaptor reviewed Everspace 2 on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.
- Great cast of characters
- Open world worth exploring
- Arcade-style dogfighting with massive variety
- Voice acting can be a roller coaster of quality
- Wonky controls when navigating menus