The first Everspace game was a frenetic roguelike space combat game that delivered pretty handily on every area but one – story. The combat was tight, the controls were fantastic, customization was top notch, and the game was absolutely gorgeous. If the roguelike aspect clicked with you, there was a lot to like. If you were looking for a longer story-focused space combat game, well…you might have been disappointed. If you fall into the latter category, fret no longer – I’ve got just the game for you.
Everspace 2 does precisely what you’d expect out of a sequel, taking what the first game did well and expanding upon it. They then completely overhauled some systems to the point where it’s not even in the same genre any longer. To say that Everspace 2 is a complete rebuild would still be somehow selling it short. Let’s get into the particulars, and why over two years of Early Access has made Everspace 2 one of the very best space games you’ll play in 2023.
The story of Everspace 2 is the story of Adam Roslin. He is a clone pilot that has defected from his prior employers only to find himself captured, on the run, and trying to figure out just who really is a good guy, bad guy, or even what those terms really mean. Joined by a fellow prisoner, he sets out to make his own way in the galaxy only to find that the galaxy is simultaneously far larger and far smaller than he could have ever imagined.
Ultimately the game starts with the primary motivation from your new friend/fellow prisoner Dax offering to bring you in on one final job. This one last score is one so large that would escape the DMZ, and our past, once and for all. What unfolds is something that will take you all over the galaxy, both known and unknown, across nearly a dozen star systems comprised of over 128 hand-crafted locations and sporting over four hours of voice work. If you are getting the idea that this game is big, you are probably underselling it. While developers Rockfish tell me that you can beat the main story in 30 hours, I’m here to tell you that’s Dark Souls level of difficult – this game is 50 hours at a minimum and far, far closer to the 100 hour mark for a completionist.
If you’ve been following this game through the last two years of early access (the game has been in development for over five), then worry not – you’ve not had access to the full shebang quiet yet. The Early Access version contains roughly 70% of the main game, and you absolutely should start over to play through all of it at this point. Missions have been rebalanced, loot tables adjusted, and brand new quests, puzzles, and locations have been sprinkled throughout the entire game.
Unlike the first game, the team’s passion for storytelling is on full display here. Yes, the combat is phenomenal (more on that in a moment), but it’s very clear that Rockfish wanted a central pillar of Everspace 2 to be the game’s story thread. Adam’s quest is a difficult one, but not one he has to take on alone.
One of the best things about Everspace 2’s approach to storytelling is that much of what you’ll encounter is your choice. There is a critical path, to be sure, but much of the mysteries in the universe happen when you step off into the dark. Side missions are literally everywhere, and many of them lead to some of the best moments in the game. There are a few folks who will join your team along the straight and narrow, but more lie in the spaces between spaces. Seek and find as you’ll not want to face the final battle, or some of the more difficult fights that occur along the way, without all the help you can get.
As I mentioned, there are over four hours of voice work in Everspace 2. Every parts of the game is given a voice, and over 20 actors help bring it to life. There are a few stiff lines from some of the ancillary NPC types along the way, but for the most part it’s truly solid work. HIVE, your smart-assed AI ship companion is a real highlight, as is the good Doctor Wendo. I’m glad Rockfish spent the time, because the game is all the more immersive for it.
While the story of Everspace 2 is often told with a comic “panels in motion” style, you’ll spend a great deal of time in space and in your ships. While you can only field one ship at a time, there are nine classes and quite a few variants in each, though you’ll be playing with the default stolen Nemesis-B9 Sentinel for a bit. Your ship has a collection of stats and attributes that generally tell you how it’ll perform in battle, though it’s very much about the skill of the pilot when the lasers start flying. Attributes like Firepower, Precision, Structure, Utility, Resistance, and Expertise provide bonuses to damage, critical hit chance, overall hull hit points, energy and kinetic damage, resistance to damage and debuffs, and shield damage, respectively. Some of these, when they hit high enough levels, can even reveal additional surprises and specialties for the craft, but I will leave that for you to discover. Suffice it to say, picking the right craft for the job can provide significant advantages, so bring the right tool for the job.
In addition to attributes, your ship also has nine stats. Four of these are obvious – Shield, Armor, Hull, and Speed, with Tractor Beam’s number denoting how far you can fire that tool, and Handling denoting how well you can shift, glide, and otherwise disobey inertia when pulling off tricky maneuvers. There are also slots for Special, Ult, and Passives. Special is the unique utility attached to this particular craft. ULT stands for Ultimate, and is a cooldown-timed weapon to unleash at just the right time. Passive, as the name suggests, is the ship’s passive bonus. For example, on the Nemesis the ULT is a static overload that overcharges the weapons, turning them into a lightning weapon for a short period. The passive synergizes with that ULT to provide a 10% chance to apply an EMP to affected targets for 5 seconds, leaving them adrift and vulnerable.
In addition to weapons and ultimate attacks, there are also devices that can provide some additional edge. Devices can be upgraded with Upgrade Tokens you receive at Level-up, and once e device reaches level 5, that device is mastered. Additional modes are unlocked, providing even more powers. By way of example, the Short Circuit EMP Generator will create an electromagnetic pulse in a wide radius, disabling everyone around you for 8 seconds. Mastered, however, you can select from three new modes that can change the way you unleash it on your foes. A Short Circuit attack will also make your enemies take electrical damage over time, a Hard Reset attack will reduce the cooldown by 2 seconds for every target you hit, or the Shield Surge will restore 10% of your shield for every impacted enemy. You can only choose one of these, but you can also change them from your inventory screen at will, albeit with a short cooldown. Mastering each device can tune the device to your liking, maybe even exposing additional exploits and synergies that might have otherwise been hidden until that Mastery is achieved.
It’s odd to talk about puzzles in a high-speed space shooter, but Everspace 2 has plenty. As you zip around derelict hulks of long-forgotten and dead ships you’ll occasionally find a small compartment that still has power. If you want whatever was worth protecting, you’ll have to figure out how to crack it open. Sometimes that’s just unloading raw firepower into the superstructure to rip it open, other times it means finding the power source and ripping it out. These moments where you have to slow the frenetic pace to focus your mind instead of honing your trigger finger are some of my favorites. Other puzzles require a bit more thought, or a bit of speed, like the asteroid bomb triggers which have to be set to explode in a very short window lest they disarm themselves for you to restart the process.
Not unlike titles like Privateer and No Man’s Sky, your ship has a limited amount of storage in the hold, and a handful of equipment slots, depending on the chosen frame. When you’ve got no more space, you can’t pick up any more loot, so you’ll want to be mindful of what’s collecting in the hold and sell it off, scrap it, or otherwise repurpose it periodically. There are items you can get to expand your hold, but generally speaking the larger the frame, the more the storage, as you’d expect. With that in mind, let’s talk about ramen and guns.
One of Everspace 2’s inspirations was clearly games like Privateer, with its trading mechanics. As such, you’ll spend a lot of time paying attention to the cost of goods in specific sectors. In the beginning you’ll be locked into a single system, so the demand and supply doesn’t change. Once you can get through your first jump gate, your ramen / gun trade will begin. Ships are expensive, as are modules and weapons, but I found that carting ramen and small arms back and forth between sectors was enough to start my smuggling empire. As you reach new areas you’ll find new and more expensive goods to traffic, but I found my holds filled with delicious ramen profits, packed with small arms to round things out, more often than not. If you find yourself short on funds, don’t neglect the noodle.
One area that will siphon funds quickly is the crafting system. When you take out enemies you’ll occasionally see them drop blueprints. These, combined with resources you find or purchase from stores, can be used to craft components. These components can then be combined to craft new weapons, modules, and upgrades. With a Diablo-like rarity system for Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Superior, you’ll slowly unlock ten weapon or module types for each tier. Unlocking each will require that you find and dismantle three of that type of weapon in that tier. Once unlocked, you’ll be able to then craft your own item of that type, often with better stats than you’d otherwise find in the field. All of these items are expensive, but more often than not, very worth it.
Modifying your weapons and items is also part of the crafting system. Here you can increase a weapon or item’s rarity, increase level (though you can only do this once, so you are effectively buying time until you find or craft something better), remove level restriction to equip a weapon or item earlier than the designated level, or install a catalyst. Each of these require special resources that are rare and expensive, but transforming a weapon into something higher tier can be a massive and lasting boon.
Catalysts add prefixes like “Calibrated” or “Powered” to a weapon, improving a stat or characteristic. For example, Calibrated will reduce the overall spread of that weapon by 50%. When that weapon is a Flak Cannon, it can turn something from a wide shot into a concentrated death-dealing cannon. It’s another way you can extend the life of a weapon beyond its natural level, so if you are particularly attached to a tool, consider these.
The other aspect of Everspace 2 that’ll soak your cash faster than a paper towel is the Perk system. Each character you recruit has a number of perks that they can bring to the party. These can be simple improvements to travel speed or the ability to jump into a fight occasionally and help out, to ones you’ll be chipping away at for dozens of hours to unlock everything. For example, Delia’s Energy Orb has six levels of unlocks, each requiring a bucket of credits, as well as increasingly rare materials.
One of the most surprising things about Everspace 2 is that it keeps things varied throughout. There are lots of cool moments beyond the run and gun fights you’ll encounter taking down bandits. You’ll engage in underground missions, battles against capital ships, sandy worlds, asteroid belts, derelict hulks, and that’s not even scratching the surface. Just when you get settled into a sector (eventually unlocking a high speed travel for that area), you open the road to another sector, new enemies, additional friends, and challenges that are legitimate surprises. On more than one occasion I was opening boxes in ancient temples and solving puzzles, and then suddenly I’m scrambling for my life as I am suddenly locked into a fight for my life with a boss out of nowhere.
Speaking of combat, there wasn’t a problem with this in the first game, so it’s no surprise that the team has simply built on an already solid foundation here. It’s fast, it’s frenetic, it’s unpredictable, and it can turn on a dime. Fights that are going well can suddenly have you on your heel when a rival ace suddenly rips into the system. It’s very easy to go from “I got this” to frantically using all your consumables just to stay alive as you find yourself overextended. I love that I never really felt comfortable and that I always felt the pressure to keep tweaking, tuning, upgrading, and replacing my equipment and ship fleet just to stay up with the threats ahead of me.
There are some very cool moments that are doled out as you go through the game that I would love to describe for you, but would hate to spoil. As one small example, you’ll eventually gain access to a “Fusion hook”. This tool is meant to reel you in towards an object, likely originally meant as a way to pull in errant floating cargo. Once you get the hang of it, it can be used to slingshot your ship off of other objects, including other ships. I’ve used it to grab onto a larger ship, whip myself forward as I turn, unleashing hell as I drift backwards. I’ve also used it during missions on a planet’s surface, slingshotting me through debris fields during dogfights. These little moments elevate this from a cool arcade space shooter into something that requires a great deal of skill, turning the tide in the process.
I would be derelict in my duty as a reviewer if I didn’t mention just how absolutely fantastic the music is in this game. I don’t know if Rockfish is going to offer an OST, but I’m telling you I’d pay folding money for it. It’s the kind of jam I’d put on my low-fi playlist to just bob my head to while I work.
Truth be told, there are very few things to complain about with Everspace 2. Occasionally the game pulls a hockey stick with its difficulty curve, but the penalty for death is merely restarting the area. Retreating to fight another day is always an option, and one you should take when you find yourself on the losing end. Coming back with better (or longer ranged) weapons can give the battle a completely different start as taking a few shots at over 6000 meters puts the hurt on folks whose weapons have only 600 meters of range. It pushes you to learn all of the weapons in the cornucopia of carnage (literally hundreds of them!), as well as the various ship frames that suit them best. One size does not fit all.
The only legitimate problem I’ve had with the game was performance related. I’m using an RTX 4090 and an Intel 13900K and NVMe drives, but that hasn’t stopped the occasional odd framerate dip or latency. These are thankfully short lived and infrequent. I also had two crashes to desktop during my time with the game. Hopefully both will be resolved with day 1 patches and driver updates.
Speaking of updates, the team is already planning for the future. They’ll be releasing one free DLC featuring new items, ship customization, bosses, Ancient Rifts (endgame fights with increasingly high difficulty levels that can yield special weapons and equipment), ships, blueprints, and additional stories and quests, and more. Additionally, they’ve also secured funding for their next major expansion after this, meaning you can expect this game to have legs well beyond the story.
Every once in a while a game snares you and simply won’t let go. You start playing, look up, and realize that it’s 4 in the morning. Everspace 2 is one of those games. Every new area you unlock brings new challenges and new foes, requiring new tactics and new weapons. It’s pure addiction, and frankly I can’t wait to experience everything team Rockfish has in store for us in the future as well. This is a game you don’t want to end, but when there’s this much content on the table, you’ll get to savor it for a very long time.
Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.
Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.
Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 27 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
With fast paced frenetic combat, a story that keeps you guessing, and enough interlocked systems to bring it all together in a way the first game never could, Everspace 2 is the best space game I’ve played in a very long time. Rockfish reached for the stars, and damn if they didn’t catch ‘em!