I ran across Everreach: Project Eden when I was looking up some old videos and articles about the PS2 game Project Eden, which while unrelated was also a sci-fi shooter. Struck by the vibrant art style, I decided to keep an eye on Everreach, since I was in the mood for a sci-fi game that wasn’t dark, gritty, and depressing.
Over the intervening months and years, I wasn’t entirely certain if the game was actually going to be finished, when suddenly it got a release date, a Steam page, and a series of updates on its Twitter account. I hoped it would turn out to be good, but I’ll admit that I was also kind of hoping it would be dreadful so that I could title this article Overreach.
Well, as it happens, I liked the game, so I’ve had to go with something else.
So what is Everreach? Let’s start off with the setting. We’re some distance into the future, and corporations [continue to] control everything. The titular corporation, Everreach, is setting up an expensive luxury settlement on the planet Eden, but things have hit a snag, and Nora Harwood has been sent in with a small team to find out what’s happened.
Nora swiftly finds that many of the local colonies tasked with investigating and setting up the project are inexplicably hostile, and teams up with the few friendly settlers to secure their survival and stop the uprising.
The game advertises that it has a game writer and former narrative QA from the Mass Effect trilogy, and quite honestly, it shows. One could argue that the overall story isn’t the most original, but it’s got a lot of personality and nice touches, whether it’s the idle chatter around base, or the connection between Nora and her teammate Jake.
Similar to Mass Effect, there are some dialogue choices that you can make, but this isn’t a long game, and the majority is spent in the field, so if you’re after a deep series of impactful choices and enormous world-building info dumps, this probably won’t scratch that itch. It does elevate it above being a simple shooter, however, and I personally would like to spend more time in this universe with these characters.
I should also touch on the soundtrack, which reminded me in many ways of Mass Effect (again) and Shadowrun. Either way, I was a big fan, and especially appreciated one theme during an important plot sequence later in the story.
Visually, the game’s obviously not triple-a, but there’s a lot of nice touches to it, whether it’s the looming obelisks, the comfortable forest-based outpost where you can relax away from being fired upon, or the unusual flora to be found dotted around the landscape. There are a few things that feel off, whether it’s how other characters motionlessly stare past you, or some areas block you off with invisible walls when they’re less steep than areas you actually can traverse, but overall the art direction felt strong.
As for voice-acting, with the exception of a handful of slightly-off lines (and one grammatical error from a being that should’ve known better near the end), I think they did a pretty good job. There’s also one character who narrates the [spoilers] of [spoilers] and [spoilers] towards the end of the game who did a particularly decent delivery (and who I believe also did the acting for the robot companion).
But now I should talk about the core gameplay. Everreach is a shooter, and the majority of your time will be spent fighting violent colonists or hostile drones. Your tools are initially limited to your rifle or your pistol, and a crouch button, but you also have access to upgrades that you can purchase with materials collected around the world, including abilities such as a force field, or overloading your shields to destroy surrounding enemies, at the cost of your own defences.
There’s no cover system, so you’ll have to manually move behind objects and crouch when you don’t want to get shot, and you can’t peek out from behind rocks at the press of a button – though there were several occasions where I was able to slightly game the system and clip enemies without being hit when my gun was debatably still blocked.
Overall, it’s functional and enjoyable enough to run around shooting enemies, though the game’s comfortable with punishing you for reckless tactics. While I naturally blamed the game whenever I got sent back to a distant checkpoint (they’re not always the most conveniently-placed), I’m pretty sure that I usually deserved it.
As for the upgrades system, I didn’t know how long Everreach was going to be, and planned for the long haul. One branch is focused on making all upgrades cheaper, and increasing the number of item drops you obtain, so I figured it would be wise to grab all of those first. Then, since I’m bad at using abilities, I focused on upgrading all of my passive abilities – health, regen, damage, that sort of stuff. However, just as I reached the last of those, I abruptly finished the game. Oops! Maybe I’ll try some of the abilities next time…
Everreach is a very direct game – there are few moments where I felt like I was stuck in filler. It’s also, as I hinted, quite short – I have about eight hours clocked in on Steam, and probably forty minutes of that was spent replaying the final section of the game six or more times because it would crash every time it tried to initiate the ending cutscene.
Is that a bad thing? For me, no – I grew up on games that lasted under ten hours, and sometimes I just want to finish a story in a couple of evenings. It also makes it easier for me to come back and replay it later. Much as I love Mass Effect, I struggle to get around to doing the entire series, especially as there are certain features that I barely enjoyed the first time around, let alone on repeat (*cough* Galactic Readiness *cough*).
Everreach quite neatly managed to touch on various Mass Effect features while trimming the experience down to a few hours, so in many ways it will probably work to scratch that itch when I want to play a sci-fi adventure with some mild alien spookiness, but only really for a weekend.
Here we go, I found an excuse to use that pun after all. While I enjoyed my time in Everreach, it would be remiss of me to pretend like the experience was nothing but smooth. Probably the most notable issue was that Nora tends to sort of stick on walls – not in any permanent fashion, but she’ll noticeably slow down and sometimes stop, and that’s a bit awkward in a game that seems to be expecting you to manually slip around corners in gunfights. Similarly, given that there are various hidden spots not shown on the map, you might find yourself following the edges of maps carefully, looking for those trails concealed by bushes and rocks, and some areas are just tight to squeeze through anyway.
There was an issue I had where the camera would sway during dialogue with specific characters, but this has already been patched, so I guess I can take that complaint out.
One issue I’m mixed on is the minigames. Certain chests dotted around the landscape require you to succeed at a minigame to open them. One has you highlighting a series of lines in a pattern, where you need to activate each of the nodes in order without repeating them. While I like the puzzle concept, you have thirty seconds to complete them, or the chest gets locked out forever. This is fine for the most part, but then suddenly one pops up with three times the nodes that any of the others had, and thirty seconds feels very unreasonable!
Still, they’re not required, so I suppose it’s not a huge issue.
As for the second minigame, it involves moving a blue square around to avoid descending red-and-black squares for thirty seconds, as in the image above. The earlier ones are fairly tame, especially given that this minigame seems to give you infinite retries, but near to the end of the game they seemed to give up all pretence of balance and some of the combinations I had to dodge would probably have required the Force to overcome. Either way, since I had infinite retries, I just kept doing those until I got a favourable thirty seconds.
In terms of game performance, that’s very difficult for me to judge, as my computer is many years old and I have an aura of malfunction that makes all electrical tools I use go haywire. All the same, reloading checkpoints took ages (I read a fair bit of Fellowship of the Ring during one level that gave me some trouble), and saving checkpoints also felt unreasonable. In fact, it would straight-up freeze for a short while. The latest patch notes say that checkpoint saving has been improved, but I haven’t had a chance to test that yet.
I had some complaints about my rifle’s accuracy, but that’s also been patched. If you’re noticing a theme here, then yes, the team really seems to be on the ball for addressing complaints.
However that does come with its downsides. A change was made to camera sensitivity in the latest patch. When I first tried the game, my mouse sensitivity was bonkers, and I ended up playing with my controller. I booted the game up after the patch to check some things today, but now my controller sensitivity is so low that I’ll probably need to switch back to the mouse. Yes, there’s an option to increase sensitivity, but yes, it’s already maxed!
If I was to level another complaint, it would be that the game ends fairly abruptly. That’s not to say it’s not telegraphed, but the final level is very short indeed, and I didn’t exactly analyse the sequence in depth, but I felt like the main battle was made wildly easier by the presence of friendly NPCs. The earlier stages are a lot longer, and while I appreciate that the pace should absolutely increase towards the finale, I’m not sure this was quite where it needed to be.
Ah, and I should really discuss the hoverbike. I wasn’t sure where exactly to put this part, because I actually liked the hoverbike… for the most part. The first and last stages with it were a lot of fun, and I enjoyed zipping around the gunship’s relentless assaults. However, the second stage involved moving around a lot of awkward and tight turns, and the problems with the bike came into stark relief as the camera moves by itself, and it stubbornly looks behind you if you so much as hint at the possibility of moving backwards. This didn’t make the section impossible, but it sure made it frustrating.
Nonetheless, given all the issues that have been patched already, I wouldn’t be surprised if this section was out-of-date within a day.
I’m more forgiving towards indie games, and I doubt I’m holding Everreach to the same standards as, for example, Shadow of the Tomb Raider. However, I do think the game has a lot of heart, and I loved what was done with the eight hours of playtime I had.
The core gameplay has the basics down but there’s definitely room to be more adventurous and diverse. While most of the issues I encountered weren’t huge, and are things that can largely be patched (more easily than, say, reworking an entire game system), they do add up, and I can understand them being off-putting.
All the same, I enjoyed the adventure and it was a good way to end the day, just kicking back and clearing a little bit more for a couple of hours over a week. It feels like, even though the story does wrap up, there is plenty of room to explore both the setting and the lead character, and I’d be on board for a second trip.