Some of my earliest gaming memories include watching my dad play Elite on the BBC Micro. Something about that wire-frame game always stuck with me; the movement, the combat and the micromanagement around it. I tried playing it myself over the years and it never quite hooked me the way it did my dad. Even the latest shiny Elite Dangerous with all of it’s bloom lighting doesn’t quite get the balance for what I want in a space shooter. It’s a jarring thing looking back at the BBC Micro’s Elite and then to Everspace on the Nintendo Switch, there’s a similarity but also an advancement into a more accessible title. With its arcade style shooting and flying controls, to its simpler maintenance mechanics this really is a perfect pick up and play game for those looking to get their fill of space shooty shooty without getting bogged down in the minutia of rocket science.
It’s starting to feel like every review I write these days is for a Rogue-Like, a genre that hit its stride 5 years ago is now a perfectly standard mechanic to be implemented into pretty much every genre going. Sometimes it feels like Rogue-Like is being used as either a cop out for not building a save system (numerous Steam titles fall foul of this) or it’s a way of skipping out on producing a long term story for a game. Thankfully Everspace doesn’t suffer from either of these traits. With each run on Everspace you are tasked with moving between sectors, these sectors each have a slew of locations to visit and investigate. Whilst floating around the vast nothingness of space you are encouraged to acquire resources, money and taking up a side gig as a space miner. Flying into oddly cavernous asteroids you look for the little piles of gloop and crystal you need to either flog to a passing trader or alternatively upgrade your weapon and ship.
Pissing off intergalactic corporations seems like a given in this game, with the equivalent of a space mining conglomerate, and with space mercenaries on your tail if you hang around in a location for too long, there is a lot of people looking to stop you from progressing with that breathing thing you’ve been doing your whole life. Death thankfully isn’t actually a point of failure in Everspace, every run has it’s value, as long as you don’t die in the first couple of locations like I did a number of times. With currency stored on a per run basis it means you can upgrade your abilities, ship and various traits. Each will give you the opportunity to make it a little further with each run. Do not expect this to be a game where you could make a complete run in your first few hours.
Dropping out of a warp gate to a new area never fails to be impressive, a blast of light and then boom, you’re looking at one of the best star scapes I’ve seen in gaming. From there you need to assess your situation, look for mine-able materials, deal with an onset of enemies or get your mid-run barter on at a passing trade vessel. Flying from point to point feels wonderfully fluid and satisfying, once you’ve changed the default controls that caused me a couple of hours of grief before I dived into the options, for reference, Option C was a far more logical set up for my brain. Once you’ve got all you can from an area you must head to the waypoint for the warp gate. Flying directly at it for a few seconds triggers the jump to a new area and an star map for you to choose your next location in the chain of jumps. At first this is relatively redundant as locations are random and unknown but with upgrades you can get a better idea of what to expect.
Everything in Everspace is colourful and awe inspiring. You get the appropriate feeling of insignificance that all space travellers should feel but there’s also the feeling that you’re being held in quite a generous pen to make sure you don’t just drift off into areas that aren’t populated. There is a third person view but, apart from a bit of a learning curve with the 3D waypoints floating around the edge of the screen, everything you should want and experience is perfectly produced in first person view.
The difficulty is set at the start of each run with a lower difficulty producing significantly less rewards, but to be incredibly blunt I spent many hours sucking at this game before dropping the difficulty, learning the flow of the game and the ship before knocking it back up to start making some funds and getting on the upgrade train.
The story is shown through some great looking but static cut-scenes with some well performed voice over work. The interactions between Adam and his ships AI that really make the world feel more real. There’s a little bit of SyFy channel brevity to the whole situation that gives the story a fun feel without ever really crossing the line into parody or silly.
In docked mode this Switch port of Everspace is good looking, graphically the game holds up and the frame rate stays mostly stable throughout. Obviously this is a slight step down from its console and PC originals but for the sacrifice to be able to play this portable, its a fine compromise. Undocked the game does have some issues with keeping track of everything on the smaller screen, way-points and indicators for mine-able asteroids can be troublesome and when you’re often on a time limit this can cause some frustration. The soundtrack, which is playable from the main menu, is awesomely epic and fitting for the title, it’s just present enough to give you atmosphere without being overbearing but still swells suitable for your epic encounters.
Overlooking some issues with controls and difficulty, both of which can be dealt with a quick visit to the options screen, Everspace is a great Switch experience. Don’t go in expecting a Deep Space Nine level of intergalactic politics that you would dabble with in Elite or games of that ilk, this is borderline arcade with its world and style, but that is not a negative. With the bonus of portability and being roguelike this game is made for pick up and play. Stunning vistas and an experience that can go from ‘chilled space tourist’ to ‘holy crap, space war’ in a split second, Everspace really is a game to be checked out on the Switch.