As someone who reviews video games I face a unique conundrum - what do I do if I suck at a game I'm reviewing? If I was playing it for my own amusement I could just give up and move on, but that doesn't cut it when you have copy to get out the door.
This is the predicament I found myself in with Everspace
. Everything the game does I love, but I am terrible at it. I've put in around twelve hours so far and I've made virtually no forward progress.
So here's the deal, below is a collection of thoughts and impressions that would normally go in to a review, but there is no score or the usual pros and cons, just me eating humble pie and admitting that I sometimes suck at a game.
is a roguelite space sim. You play as a pilot trying to escape an authority that tried to kill him, an objective you are going to fail over and over again. Each run is randomised so you have a variety of levels to get through that seemingly provide endless permutations. You start a run by jumping in to a sector of space. Here, you gather fuel, loot and cash by mining and fighting before jumping through a gate to the next sector.
The map you go to between jumps is reminiscent of FTL and several other games. You have multiple paths to head down with unknown challenges in each sector. At the end of the map is a final gate to jump through leading to ever-increasingly difficult encounters. The greater the risk is the greater the potential reward.
With those risks also comes an increased chance of dying. Once dead you return to the start, but not before you have a chance to change ship or upgrade the one you are currently in. There are a lot of different ways to enhance your vessel - better manoeuvrability, increased weapons output, it all helps you get a bit further on the next run.
This gameplay loop is compelling and the sense of improvement is what kept me trying for as long as I did. I'm a sucker for incremental improvements in games and it will eventually drag me back in to Everspace
because I dislike feeling defeated by my own inability.
You might be wondering why I seem so intent on blaming myself over the game. I persevered long enough to have the starter ship almost three-quarters fully upgraded before I realised that no matter how little actual progress I was making, it felt like I was missing something important and so I started to experiment with different approaches that all ended the same way - my death and restarting with a handful of minor upgrades.
I next thought to blame the controls, but the truth is the controls are similar to a lot of other space-based games, games I love and have successfully finished. The odds are stacked against you because of it being a roguelite, so the AI isn't to blame (at least no more than any number of similar games). Enemy ships will swarm you and whittle down your shields and hull armour until you either die or emerge victorious. There are a number of neutral AI that appear throughout space and it is infuriatingly easy to antagonise them. I also advise using them to your advantage because they will engage hostile ships, so picking up a bunch of enemies and kiting them over to the neutrals can help, just don't engage unless you have a clear shot.
My only real complaint aimed at the game's design is aimed at the AI companion, the voice of your ship, which has a habit of talking at you during stressful encounters where you are likely to die, then never continuing or repeat the bit of lore it had been trying to tell you. The universe Everspace
is set in is interesting and (presumably) full of lore and interesting little stories, most of which you'll never get to hear through to completion.
I loved Everspace
, but ultimately I had to face the fact it isn't for me. Frustration at little progress and my own failings outweighed my store of patience for repeatedly trying to get through the first few sectors. If you enjoy roguelites and space combat I do genuinely recommend the game, it is both beautiful to look at and packed full of features and neat ideas.