I warped into a new sector. I was immediately wowed by the pink and orange starscape ahead of me. It was like a cotton-candy sunset that spanned further than my puny ape brain could comprehend. Then ten ships converged on me, and I exploded.
That was my first death in new Steam top-seller Everspace, and it sums up the game pretty nicely. It's a single-player outer-space roguelike that's as beautiful as it is deadly. It might have the looks of EVE: Valkyrie, Elite: Dangerous, or Star Citizen, but it's got the mean, blackened heart of FTL.
It shoots to kill. You, however, have an ace up your sleeve. Each time you die, you get to upgrade your ship a bit. Progress is slow, but Everspace doesn't try to leave you SOL in the howling vacuum of space. With enough persistence, you can move forward.
But there's more to it than simple roguelike "enter randomly generated room, fight things, loot stuff, move on" antics. All of that is there, but the "rooms" in this case are vast pockets of space, sometimes populated by roving bands of outlaws, aliens, or derelict ships teeming with loot and story.
In many cases, I've found myself spending more time exploring each sector than fighting. Over time, I've uncovered bits and pieces of an intergalactic war that reduced both sides to rubble. Everspace is a game that goes out of its way to feel vast — more so than just about any other roguelike I can think of.
That said, you can't always take your time. If you piss off a group of outlaws, odds are you'll have interceptors hunting you down before long. You can fight or flee into the next sector, and I'll be damned if this game doesn't make it fun to be a coward on occasion. Check out this video of me escaping certain doom by the absolute skin of my teeth:
Everspace is no space sim, but movement and combat feel weighty, responsive, and intuitive. It takes cues from space games — albeit arcadier ones — just as much as it does roguelikes. Enemy ships strafe and swarm, and they can easily overwhelm you if you're not careful.
Even on occasions I've made it out of combat encounters alive, I've come away with key systems damaged. Once, my primary weapon took a big hit, and my gattling gun became a pea shooter until I repaired it. Another time, my life support system got obliterated, and I didn't have the supplies to put Humpty-"all of my precious oxygen"-Dumpty back together again. You can probably guess how that ended.
After a few hours of play, I have a couple quibbles, but they're minor. Scurrying around to collect materials like credits, scrap, and ore after they have been scattered by a battle feels like busywork. I wish there was a tractor beam or something that would just let me pull everything in my direction.
Also, the repair system feels sorta unfair. In the life support example above, things might have turned out entirely differently if I'd just been lucky enough to pass through a sector with a few more nanobots (a crucial repair supply). Some of the most important materials feel a little too rare and random. Lastly — and you probably already heard it in my video — the main character's voice acting is cringey as hell. I hope they replace him before the game leaves Early Access.
Still though, Everspace is remarkably polished and well thought-out for a) an Early Access game and b) a game that tries to push roguelikes and space games in an interesting new direction. It's not just a stab in the dark. It's a game that's in turns thrilling and contemplative, often allowing you to pick your own pace, but sometimes jolting you out of it with a life-or-death scenario. I have some balance concerns, but that's what Early Access is for. In short, Everspace is really fucking cool. Check it out.