Everspace 2

Everspace 2 is a game that completely revolves around space combat. No, you won’t get out of your ship ever (though you’ll often dock in space stations to interact with merchants and quest givers); your entire method of interacting with the game is via your spacecraft.

On paper, that sounds like it could be extremely limiting. I mean, how can you make a space game — especially one based around exploration — feel fully fleshed out when you don’t let players leave the ship to walk around on the rocky (and/or squishy) planet surfaces? But the thing is, Everspace 2 figured it out.

Now, let me get something out of the way here: This is not a space sim. While it does feature genre staples like trade, asteroid mining, ship customization and upgrading, and so on, Everspace 2 is more like… I don’t know? Star Fox 64 reimagined as an open-world game?

Everspace 2

And that makes it feel like it came out of a different time — but not in a bad way; there’s almost a feeling of nostalgia here.

The controls are pure arcade, with stick acceleration/deceleration, easy lock-on targeting, and separate buttons for primary and secondary weapons (with the ability to swap between two primaries and two secondaries on the fly). And of course there’s a barrel roll feature too. You can mine minerals by shooting at them (sort of like in No Man’s Sky) and if something’s floating out in space that you want to pick up, you just tap a button (A if you’re using an Xbox controller) to suck it up with your tractor beam. And collecting resources also rewards you with bleep and bloop sounds that never get old.

While Everspace 2 is mostly about combat, it presents a universe that’s begging to be explored. It keeps unfathomable amounts of goodies — ship upgrades, weapons, resources, and even cash — hidden around every sector of the universe. Sometimes you’ll find hidden crates by blasting open asteroids, or by solving puzzles to power up a metal door on a demolished satellite. Or sometimes you’ll find an unmanned station in a desert, and you’ll just blast away at crates of resources, robbing the place blind in the process.

Everspace 2

And the game keeps things fresh by offering countless different environments to explore, from debris fields of wrecked freighters to varied planet surfaces to the insides of asteroids. And there’s a sense of both scale and spectacle here, where environments occasionally catch you off guard. For example, in the tutorial mission, you’ll be exploring the inside of an asteroid, through caverns lined with glowing purple crystals. All of a sudden a mining drill bursts through to send enemies pouring through an opening that had just been a solid rock wall. And then, once you take down all the enemies, you’ll exit the cavern through the fresh tunnel that this drilling machine just made.

What really hooked me is the freelance job system. Some space stations offer a list of freelance jobs for you to take — blowing up an outlaw station or simply delivering some goods, for example — and these will reward you with extra cash and XP. Once I found my first freelance hub, it’s pretty much all I wanted to do. I love this stuff.

Everspace 2 is constantly rewarding you with cool stuff, like ship upgrades, new weapon types, and better and better versions of components you already have equipped. It feels almost like a looter-shooter, because you’re constantly swapping out your gear for new gear, which you’ll then swap out an hour later for something better. You can even buy new ships at certain vendors if you can spare the credits. There’s an almost Diablo-esque quality to this loot system, and it’s hyper-addictive.

Everspace 2

The crafting system is super fun too, though you will need a cargo upgrade in order to access this feature (if you explore every nook and cranny of this game, though, you’ll probably find one pretty early on). You earn blueprints by deconstructing tech. So, let’s say you have a Level-2 Beam Laser that you’re not going to use anymore. You can deconstruct that to earn 1/3 of the blueprint. Deconstruct two more of that same item and you’ll earn the full blueprint, which allows you to craft more Beam Lasers. And when you craft something, it’s automatically scaled to your current level. So you can actually deconstruct three Level-2 Beam Lasers and then make a Level-6 Beam Laser. This keeps you constantly recycling gear to add it to your blueprints list so you can re-craft it at a higher level later on. (You can sometimes find full blueprints out in the wild too, which means you won’t have to deconstruct absolutely every item in the game three times.)

There is some story, but it’s admittedly not that interesting, and it’s mostly told through Metal Gear Solid-style coms dialogue or through static images with text on them (though all of this is fully voiced). I zoned out for most of this stuff, anxious to get back to my freelance job queue so I could save up some credits to buy better gear, which I could then use to tackle harder jobs.

Everspace 2 is simply incredible. I can’t stop playing this game, and every time I think I’m getting tired of it, it lures me back in and offers more surprises. It might lack a lot of those fine-tuned sim elements that some folks really love, but it replaces them with spectacle and sheer fun. I think the tradeoff is more than worth it. Seriously, this is the most addictive space combat game I’ve played in a really, really long time.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Everspace 2 for Steam, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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