Everspace 2 hands-on preview at PAX South 2020

With a successful Kickstarter behind it, Rockfish Games is making Everspace 2 as ambitious a sequel as they can. We played it at PAX South and got a glimpse of how it's shaping up.

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The first Everspace was an amazing venture out of Rockfish Games. Providing players with a ship to be customized to their likings and a universe full of random possibilities, the game captured the hearts of many looking for a solid space shooter experience with action RPG and rogue-like elements. Now Everspace 2 is in the works following a successful Kickstarter, and at PAX South, I got to play a demo of the game and talk to Rockfish about how they’ve expanded on the efforts they poured into their successful first outing.

Trading rogue-like randomness for a honed RPG universe

Right off the bat, Everspace 2 is taking a step away from the original with a light genre shift. The arcade-like combat and exploration elements are still there, but Rockfish chose to follow a blend of community and studio desire to ditch the randomized elements in Everspace and instead give players a vast, yet static universe of galaxies, factions, quests, and missions to explore.

In the PAX South demo, I geared up my ship and set out to deal with a nearby colonized mining asteroid taken over by pirates. Nearby was a small trader station that allowed us to engage in some missions to both help repair the station and fight off marauders. I could also gain the ire of the station by attacking it. Ultimately, the small vertical slice allowed me to engage with a larger ship and required some tactical maneuvering and strategy in order to overcome.

It was all typically Everspace affairs we’ve come to love, but the idea that players will be able to follow a similar path or carve their own through this galaxy was ultimately both a bit comforting and cool. If you see someone playing this game and doing a thing, you won’t be cut off from that same direction by a dice roll of opportunities. You can follow in that player’s footsteps and do it their way to get the outcome you want or pursue your own. It will also provide the opportunity for players to recognize the choices they’ve made in one playthrough and maybe run in an entirely different direction in another. It’s all up to the galactic career you wish to pursue and that anchor of familiarity with each go feels like a great next step for Everspace 2.

Everspace 2 may be tied down a bit from the randomness, but that doesn't mean how you choose to engage with it won't be varied, fluid, and reactive to your motives.
Everspace 2 may be tied down a bit from the randomness, but that doesn't mean how you choose to engage with it won't be varied, fluid, and reactive to your motives.

Rockfish Games and Everspace 2 Community Ambassador Erik Schrader is interested in the fact that players will hopefully be able to grasp the choices and consequences of the storyline a bit more in Everspace 2 than they might have been able to with the first game.

“We had a pretty focused storyline in Everspace, but it was kind of hidden behind the rogue-like aspect,” Schrader explained. “Because we had such a challenge in the game itself, a lot of people only got fragmented parts of the story instead of fully enveloping themselves into it. Moving into Everspace 2, having it be a firm open-world, and be story-driven through the campaign means that we can tell that story much more clearly and concisely, which has kind of been a delight for us. We’re really able to show you what’s going on and how your actions are really ending up taking hold of everything else moving in this environment sitting before you. We’re also taking what we learned to improve upon the first game’s systems and give you a much greater pool of resources and decisions in order to go out into this universe and engage with it the way you want.”

A bolder, more beautiful galaxy to explore

We didn't know what we were in for at PAX South. Everspace 2 is already looking like an outright gorgeos step forward from the first game.
We didn't know what we were in for at PAX South. Everspace 2 is already looking like an outright gorgeos step forward from the first game.

If the story didn’t catch your interest for Everspace 2, the visuals might. Even our demo of the game looked gorgeous. It’s not that the original Everspace wasn’t a looker in its time, but Rockfish’s evolution of their artistic design of the universe and its inhabitants alongside the sleek, yet modular crafting of both player and NPC ship models and the frenetic explosions and laser light show of combat could be felt from top to bottom in the vertical slice of the game that I played. It’s not just gorgeous in a screenshot. The demo ran in beautiful motion from my first launch out of the space station to the flak cannon volley fired into the vents of an enemy battle frigate and the deliciously satisfying explosion and fragmentation of ship debris that came after.

It feels clean too, which Schrader told us was a big part of keeping an arcade-like sense of clarity and conveyance in both the UI and the direct handling of the game.

“Everspace 2 has to be intuitive and the UI has to make sense, guiding you to where you need to go and what you can and need to do,” Schrader continued. “Because if we are not clear in what you’re looking at and how you’re engaged with the game, then we feel we’ve already lost you. So unlike other simulation space games, we’re using that arcade mindset as a means of creating accessibility and allowing you to jump right in. We’re set on ensuring that the controls will be nice and fluid in allowing you to explore and experiment with your ship and what the game space offers for you to customize and capitalize upon.

Indeed, a glance the controls allowed us to access most of the necessary elements of the Everspace 2 demo with relative ease. The arcade feel is definitely there, but it didn’t seem to venture into a cheap, gimmicky territory for which the depth of the rest of it could not support and augment to an overall satisfying effect.

The next steps into the vast Everspace

With plans that place final launch of Everspace 2 in 2021, Rockfish is pondering next-gen console release as well as current-gen.
With plans that place final launch of Everspace 2 in 2021, Rockfish is pondering next-gen console release as well as current-gen.

Everspace 2 has a successful Kickstarter behind it and much on the way for backers. The Kickstarter got to over 500,000 euros (a little over $550,000) and the team is putting their noses to the grindstone to make the game everything they and their community want it to be. It is currently in pre-alpha, but Schrader told us they are planning official alpha steps for April 2020, beta shortly after that, and Steam Early Access in late 2020. Full release on PC is expected in 2021 and a console release is also expected at full release time, but with the 2021 full-release plan, Rockfish is eyeing the possibility of next-gen systems as the gaming world transitions with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

If you’d like to learn more about Everspace 2, check out the game on Steam where you can wishlist it now, and for the latest news on the game, follow Everspace 2 and Rockfish Games on Twitter.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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