Germany-based independent developer Rockfish Studios, known for the incredibly successful mobile game Galaxy on Fire, makes the transition to the PC and console game markets with Everspace, a science-fiction rogue-like game built on Unreal Engine 4. This genre continues to build steam following some hugely successful releases in recent years but it’s a thin line to tread. Can a traditionally mobile-based development team bring their talents to all-new markets?
I’ll be honest, knowing Rockfish Studios previously focused on mobile gaming didn’t give me a lot of hope for Everspace. We don’t have to look too far back to find a science-fiction release from a previously mobile-focused studio that went down the shitter. Not that No Man’s Sky and Everspace have a lot in common, but I’m a glass half-empty kinda guy. If it wasn’t for the quality of screenshots and media surrounding the game, it’s likely it would have missed my radar completely. I’m so glad that wasn’t the case.
Getting straight to the point, Everspace looks absolutely fantastic. Everything from the lighting to the texture quality and particle effects has the feel of a AAA title that has been in development for years – quite the feat considering work began on Everspace in January of 2015 and the development team consists of just 10 members. Whether I was smashing my face into an asteroid, dodging enemy fire, or just admiring the various ship models in the game, I was in awe of the graphics every step of the way. Technically flawless, I might add – not once did I encounter any frame rate drops or other graphical glitches.
Take a look at some of the screenshots I managed to grab while playing – using the in-game “Action Freeze” feature that removes the UI, freezes combat, and allows you to rotate and zoom to grab that perfect moment.
Note: Had to reduce the images in size to reduce page loading
If you’ve been keeping up with the release of trailers and screenshots, it’s everything it looks to be.
Great graphics do not make a game, however, but Rockfish Studios haven’t spent the last 18 months making pretty textures – the gameplay is there to back it up.
In typical rogue-like fashion, you move through various stages before jumping to a new sector with your primary goal has you reaching the highest possible sector you can. You’ll die, and you’ll die a lot – but that’s all part of the fun, right? Each time you begin the journey anew before you changes, making each run fresh and challenging regardless of your experience level.
The first few hours could definitely do with a bit of tweaking. When you die, you can carry your credits with you to upgrade various parts of your ship and blueprints you grab on each run are permanently saved so every run is increasing your ability to survive and progress. This does, however, make for a frustrating introduction to the game as there’s little chance of you making it past the first couple of sectors until you have a few upgrades under your belt.
Although this is typical of the rogue-like genre, it felt more prevalent in Everspace, and the first couple of sectors don’t generally include the really interesting elements of the game. Moving from area to area your tactics and strategy in combat will be tested constantly with various enemy types, new environments, and environmental hazards. Pro tip: If you want to admire a lightning storm in space, do it from afar.
As I got further and further into the game my excitement continued to grow. The new technology discovered each run combined with the progression-on-death mechanic makes even the most frustrating element of a typical game feel rewarding, so even death was never that much of a setback.
And I died a lot. I’ve highlighted some of my most memorable scenarios of death below.
- I’m not the biggest fish in the pond. While attempting to get a great screenshot for the gallery featured above, I decided to tease a corvette. Not a good idea
- Death by droid. Despite being easy as hell to take down I left several droids destroying my shields while trying to get the killing blow on an alien when competing with other forces. Not worth.
- Curiosity killed the idiot. I made an attempt to travel to the very edge of space. Yeah…that didn’t work.
- Death by black hole. I’m not really sure what I thought would happen when I flew into the center of black mass in space.
- What does that skull icon mean? Oh, an Elite Ship? Let’s see how elite you are against my beam cannon of doom! It was the rock, I was the scissors.
- Khajiit has wares if you have coin. Attempted to trade with the Trader ship forcefully. Awfully big guns for something that’s meant to be neutral!
- What’s that group of shiny red lights? Apparently you shouldn’t get too close when inspecting a minefield.
- Navigating a huge asteroid belt during a conversation with the other half. I blame her.
- Death by greed. In my haste to collect a container I used my boost (which drops your shield) and hit my target dead on…with my ship.
- Death by giant space laser. The actual use for this beastly construction is mining, but I accidentally found myself between it and its target.
- Admired a lightning storm in space from within the storm itself. A bolt must have hit my Flux Capacitor or something.
For a rogue-like game to make death both rewarding and entertaining is no easy feat, and it’s something that will really give the game longevity when it leaves Early Access.
The only other guarantee outside of death is combat, and there’s plenty of that too. Make no mistake, this is not a game of pure exploration – you will have to fight every step of the way. The control scheme is one of the games most impressive elements. It is incredibly easy and accessible, allowing players of all skill levels and experience to dive right in and pull off moves that would usually take weeks mastering controls. I can typically last 90 seconds flying a plane in Battlefield, but in Everspace I was squeezing through gaps you’d struggle to fit a car through on my first run. Something I’d like to add, hitting crap in space will kill you. You won’t simply bounce off asteroids or other ships, you hit them hard enough you’re going down. For this feature alone I’d like to pass on a personal thank you to Rockfish Studios, even if it is the cause of 90% of my deaths.
I’m getting on in my years and don’t have the reactions I once did but I am really excited to see what some of the more skilled players can pull off with such a versatile flying system.
Furthermore, there’s a basic crafting system and resource gathering – although the latter can get a little mundane after several runs but there are ship upgrades to make the process less time consuming. You can upgrade a variety of elements from resource gathering speed to carrying additional weapons and increasing chances of finding rare loot, you’re only restricted by the cash you carried from your previous mission.
When I was originally planning on publishing, the game didn’t feature much of a story. There was no narrative, very little information available in game, and no real information on the website other than it was a confirmed feature. Since then however the team updated the game with various elements of story narrated through voiced content – several hours of play since and I’ve yet to hear any recycled one-liners or introductions.
Everspace is still in its earliest form of Early Access on Steam, and while it may lack content in some areas and not feature much of a story, Rockfish Studios have put the foundations in place for something really exciting.
Everspace officially launches under Steam Early Access September 14th, for more information check out the official Steam Store Page.