Steam's Latest Hit: An Intense Spaceship Roguelike Called Everspace

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.


    Not a roguelike.

      What part of the game isn't a roguelike?
      Seem like this is slap bang in the middle of rogue like territory

        Oh, I don't know, let's see. Roguelike is a subgenre of role-playing video games characterized by a dungeon crawl [nope] through procedurally generated game levels [kinda], turn-based gameplay [nope], tile-based graphics [nope], and permanent death of the player-character [kinda]. So, unless Roguelike has morphed to simply mean 'game' (and yeah, sadly it does seem to have), 2 kindas out of 5 seems like stretching things a fair bit. (Kindas meaning that, yeah, the words kinda apply to both Roguelikes and this game, although in practice what the words describe is vastly different in implementation in actual Roguelikes than is relevant to a 3D dogfight simulator such as this.)

        Last edited 16/09/16 3:23 pm

          The word "roguelike" is the worst thing to happen to games journalism ever, even worse than anything to do with gamergate.

          Did you know that etymologists (whose whole business is words and their meanings) don't say things like "that's not what that word means", they say things like "isn't that interesting how the meaning of a word changes over time". Roguelike now represents an idea of permadeath and often overarching progress instead of short term progress. Whenever someone uses the term, we all know what it means, and that's a sign that the definition of the word is changing to match.

          Don't fight against the "wrong" use of words for too long. I tried to do it when the entire internet decided to ignore what "hipster" really meant and use it to describe almost anyone they don't like or understand or who doesn't share their interests and realised very quickly that you can't halt progress, good or bad.

            Sure. My comment in a crappy Aussie-gated forum isn't going to change anything. Go figure.

            Like 'hipster', however, it's worth mourning the passing a word that once actually meant something and has now been blanded down to the point of utter meaninglessness.

            Now I'm off to mourn the loss of "they're" and the possessive apostrophe.

              They're isn't going anywhere. The difference is they're is about grammatical rules, whereas Roguelite was a made up niche word in the first place. Words mean everything and nothing, they mean what the majority decide they mean. You can be speaking the "right" words, but if everyone else thinks they mean something different, you may as well be wrong. Language is about communicating with each other.

              The original definition of hipster is no more accurate than the current one, it was a snapshot in time when it meant something else. Meaning is ephemeral.

      I agree that it's in the middle of rogue-like territory.
      Death is a key driver, you lose your individual 'run' progress, but can upgrade yourself if you did OK to give you a bit of a help for the next run, and on and on it goes.

        Upgrading between deaths is, at best, roguelike-like since carrying things over between deaths isn't a core feature of rougelikes at all, it's a development that has appeared in some subsets of games in the Roguelike genre only fairly recently.

        Regardless, it should be self evident that a flight sim in space can't realistically be compared to a 2D turn based dungeon crawler on any reasonable interpretation of the term. Sid Meier's Civilization is procedurally generated and has permenant death as well. It's even turn based on a 2D plane, so it has much more in common with the genre than this game. Thankfully, however, nobody is pretending to describe it as "Roguelike", yet.

        Last edited 16/09/16 3:51 pm

          See I have never read the formal definition of roguelike so the fact is needs to be on a 2D plane wouldn't even factor into it for me. My personal definition is based on the games I have played that are called roguelike. It could be those games aren't roguelike by your definition so my entire starting point may be flawed to you.
          But rogue legacy, renowened explorers, bedlam and FTL are the basis for my understanding of roguelike.
          Fior me the core gameplay loop is the primary requirement of a roguelike, death is just a stepping stone and is expected rather than a punishment. Each run is relatively short and aids you in the next one, either through new unlocks, ongoing levelling or knowledge.

    Freelancer, without the story?

    Blackholes are pretty alarming when you find them. Something overly creepy about them.

    I jumped into a system, had about $15,000 saved up and was doing very well. Did my initial probing, saw some containers in the distance and energy boosted my way there at speed (the utility boost). So off I go, flying across the sector and then around the other side of a massive asteroid (that was covering it from view) was a mini black hole... I had stopped too close to it, couldn't boost out. Sucky sucky. That was my run over... Halfway through sector 3.
    The money went to good use on my upgrades.

    10/10 would get sucked into a blackhole again.

    Maybe if you learn how to use an inertial targeting system, a staple mechanic of space flight games since the dawn of fucking time, you wouldn't suck so much.

      I have no idea what you're talking about when you say "inertial targeting system", and it gets no hits on Google. Is this a term you created yourself?

      I'm confused as well. Do you mean leading the target??

    just putting it out there.. but Arkham Knight is also in the top sellers and above Everspace

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