Everspace: Stellar Edition (Switch eShop) Review
There’s a few genres the Switch is lacking, surprising given the number of games crammed into the system nearing its 2 years since release. Along with serious racing games, space combat/exploration games in the vein of X-Wing/Tie Fighter and Freespace are few and far between. While it’s been out in early access on PC and has been out on the other platforms, Everspace has now made its way to the Switch. Even though it is no Freespace, or even the first game with ‘space’ at the end of the word (thanks Innerspace), Everspace helps to fill the void (or black hole) the Switch has had for too long.
The story of Everspace has you waking up in the cockpit of a space fighter, with fragments of memories that you’re a clone and not even the first one who’s made this journey. You slowly piece back your memories of your often-cloned pilot, why he was and is on the run, and unravelling the mysteries. Meanwhile, you’re travelling through a demilitarised zone, throw in some mysterious structures and there are a few things going on for you to deal with. Starting a new run involves sending a new clone out into the depths of space to find out what happened and who you are. The story is told through cutscenes not too dissimilar from a motion comic, more of the story is unveiled through your first run into new sectors. You’re not on the journey of discovery and rampart spaceship destruction alone, the onboard computer HIVE talks with you throughout. The banter usually helps flesh out the world as your amnesiac-addled pilot slowly remembers who he is. The story isn’t going to set the world on fire and there’s no shortage of computers with a touch of snark in gaming, but what is there is good and the further you get the more you’ll want to know. The story pushes you to go further so you can learn more about what brought you to this point, meeting new characters that will give you side missions to do as you make your jumps across the universe.
The way each run goes is that you’ll spend your money from the last run, make any changes to the ship and choose your difficulty. There’s easy, normal and hard, normal being the way the developers intended and hard netting you a percentage bonus of credits to buy things. Easy mode has you receiving less currency, but don’t let that discourage you. Early on, the game can feel like progress is too slow on normal mode. The easy setting is a good way to make progress, and of course the further you get the more money you’ll build up regardless of the lowered rate. In each area, you’ll encounter different environments, whether it’s derelict ships, mining areas, asteroid fields or middle of a fight between bandits and the mining Corp. It doesn’t take long to get used to the different areas, but the more time you spend with them the better you’ll also get at getting the most resources out of them before it’s time to move on. Not long after you enter an area a jump point will appear when it’s time to move on, although sometimes the jump point isn’t so easy to get to. You might ask why you can’t just quickly go from the jump point to jump point through the sectors and speed everything up? When you make a jump it uses fuel, and you can only get so far without salvaging fuel from enemy fighters, fueling stations, mining or just stealing it. To make it far across the sectors you’re going to have to balance finding fuel, collecting credits and salvaging resources to upgrade your ship parts. The longer you stay in each area the more likely enemy ships will arrive in large numbers suddenly and turn you into another wreck amongst the stars. When you do make a jump you’ll wind up to a map screen where there’s forking path through each sector. The more you upgrade your scanner, the more you’ll have some idea of what difficulty paths take and if there are any side missions to do. The side missions come from characters you meet along the way and can help break up the usual run.
In the world of Everspace, everything can be hostile towards you. Some attack on sight and bombard you with drones and attack ships, some factions won’t attack unless you shoot first. At the end of the day you’re going to find yourself in a lot of fights with other ships, so how does the combat fare? It’s pretty good, outside of the really small groups of bandits no dogfight is a sure thing. You’ll have your primary weapons, secondary weapons (like missiles) and other devices used to stay in the fight or get out of it such as EMP devices and nanobots.
At first, the controls didn’t feel that great when flying around, but you can change the controls around. I didn’t mess with them, but after getting a bit further into the game I realised I just needed to adjust to the range of movement Everspace gives you. It wasn’t long until I found I could maneuver the ship around through tight spots and generally hold my own in a fight…when there are not too many enemies about to kick me around,
In your runs bandits usually cause the most issues because unlike the mining company, they won’t ignore you if you leave them alone. Bandits early on will be the bane of your existence, destroy some of them and it’s a matter of time until too many show up to end your run. Different factions will respond to you differently. The corporation fighters and drones will ignore you until you attack them or their base. Fairly often I would come across the mining company while helping them fight the bandits or the Okkar aliens. If you’re outnumbered it can sometimes be handy hanging back and then salvaging what’s left behind in the wreckage, just be careful shooting around the mining group so you don’t make a powerful enemy.
In this roguelike space shooter you’re going to die and die again, but really I’ve just described almost any run-based roguelike/lite. As is the pattern of this genre, you’ll be getting incrementally better as you make permanent upgrades to your ships, making them sturdier and giving them better loadouts. Through each run, you’ll start getting better payouts as you get further through the sectors. Because you can’t hold onto your credits after you start the next run, you’ll be spending them on getting new ships and perks. There are not many new ships, although they do mix up the approaches you would take in a run. For example the small and speedy fighter for stealth, or the big and bulky heavy hitter that doesn’t have any shield both change how you play compared to the starting ship. Perks are similar to upgrade trees in similar run-based games, increasing stats and percentages of loot and all the things you’d expect like hitpoints and amount of fuel.
Initially seeing Everspace way back when in early access, it always looked like it might be a more open game where the whole emphasis wasn’t on combat. But I was wrong, and immediately found out soon as I loaded up the game for myself. It is very much a space combat/shooter with a touch of resource collecting. If you were a fan of the X-Wing, Tie Fighter or even the Rogue Squadron series, this style of space fighting might be up your alley. You can either view the game from the cockpit or a behind the ship view. As much as I like the view from inside the ship, behind the ship lets you see more of what’s around you which is especially handy in dogfights. Also honestly, the Switch version just doesn’t look that great from inside the ship. Everspace benefits the most from the full real estate of a TV over playing in handheld, waypoints are easier to see as well as enemy targets. It is manageable on the portable screen but it’s likely to be a harder time for you. The additional downside of Everspace is that when you’re playing it docked, the visuals still aren’t on par with other consoles. Honestly, the graphics aren’t that bad, if you don’t care about console comparisons and all that then there are just some rougher looking bits. Fortunately, the game runs well and even in handheld I could play hours upon hours of this game with little issues which I mentioned before.
Everspace: Stellar Edition works as a fun space combat game and as a run-based rogue-lite, it even comes with DLC not available with the original game so there are lots to do as you make your way across the universe. Getting into dogfights (the space fighter kind, not the horrible kind) and flying through large shipwrecks scratches an itch that the Switch has left itching for too long, and fortunately, there’s plenty of hours you can sink into it (that said I would also love the Rebel Galaxy follow up!). While it doesn’t run and look as great as other versions, it still runs pretty well and besides some minor hard to see visuals, it’s great for handheld too. If Starlink wasn’t enough space fighting, definitely check out Everspace.
-A fun space combat game
-Once it gets started it’s hard to put down
-Even with a lower resolution it’s a beautiful universe
-Interface not as good in handheld
-Visually not as nice as the other versions