Title: Everreach: Project Eden
Developer: Elder Games
Release Date: December 4, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Headup Games
Genre: Action Adventure
Simplicity has many benefits in life and various industries. The way things focus on a sole purpose communicates intent in a way that appeals to others, but there are also ways that they can sour experiences. Being too simplistic can make that appeal have the opposite effect. Giving the impression that there could have been much more done. Unfortunately for Elder Games’ sci-fi epic, Everreach: Project Eden, the potential is there, but the substance isn’t.
Everreach: Project Eden stars Nora Harwood, a soldier for Everreach’s Security Division tasked with aiding the colonization of Eden, the first habitable planet discovered in the galaxy. Harwood was first sent to Eden when word got out that complications were delaying the opening date for colonizers. Upon landing, Harwood and her team discover that hostile groups are attacking Everreach and its communications. It is up to Nora to investigate the disturbances and restore order to Eden.
Much of Project Eden’s story has Nora gunning through the usual problems that sci-fi adventures have, such as re-establishing communication networks or finding data drives. None of which holds much attention aside from the appealing cinematic cutscenes and the occasional joke that the robot companion, 73-Q, utters.
If there was an appeal to the story, it is almost immediately bogged down by the game’s repetition. The kind of repetition that players might see coming with just an hour or two of shooting the same enemy types and pressing the action button on a static object, which I’ll go into later. My point being, it’s hard to be invested in a story when you might be too focused on the unsatisfactory the playing portions are.
That’s not to say that there aren’t elements about Everreach: Project Eden that I appreciated. A small development team at Elder Games put together visuals and cinematics that show a lot of potential. With clear inspiration from sci-fi movies, the use of unconventional tilted camera angles, light blooms, and coloring made the planet look and feel otherworldly.
The light haze layering over the visuals that give the impression of another atmosphere that’s conveniently safe to breathe, I mean otherwise people would be wearing helmets. It’s excellent that Elder Games was about to pull off such an effect, but it seemed the more I played, the more it was something focused on too much.
If it isn’t Nora or her robot friend, the quality of character models lacks detail. The notion can also be said about the environments. While backdrops and distance mountains look fabulous, immediate areas are empty, and objects have a static feeling that does not help the world seem alive. As harsh as it is to say, the game feels reminiscent of Nintendo 64 levels that have this unnecessary emptiness to them in an attempt to make the levels seem more open. If the stages adapted more to Project Eden’s story-driven linearity, the issues might have been more beneficial to the title.
Project Eden could have also benefited from a more polished action and exploration experience. During missions, Nora can run around a level blasting apart enemy robots and scouts while discovering resources to upgrade her abilities and arsenal. When it comes to gunplay, Project Eden presents some solid mechanics. Early in the game, Nora only has a rifle and pistol. However, after discovering that the pistol has a slow firing rate and low damage, I pretty much exclusively used the rifle. Unfortunately, firing Nora’s automatic rifle seemed to be the only effective way to battle enemies from close to mid-range. Any further and players will notice that they will be wasting precious ammo.
After a few upgrades, players do have access to abilities such as shield or stamina boost. However, Project Eden does not have more weapon types. Instead, the skills are only useful for taking a breather or getting closer to enemies. These would be good reasons to use these abilities regularly, but they only make fighting more tolerable.
The enemies in Project Eden are fierce. On normal difficulty, a small group can kill Nora within a second if now played carefully. Seeing as cover in the game is awkward to use due to a hard locked third-person camera, I found myself frequently using the game’s rudimentary hitscan. This means that Eden’s shooting mechanics are programmed to hit where the reticule is pointed no matter what is in the bullet’s path, including walls, rocks, or buildings. Despite this unfair advantage, it was pretty much the only way I felt I could complete some of the missions.
Other elements that proved to be more simplistic were the upgrades and crafting that can be done in-game. Leveling up, Nora allowed me to choose three skills to enhance: Strength, Agility, and Intellect. These upgrades raise Nora’s health, stamina, and shields, respectively. Still, being at the halfway mark to maxing out these stats, I saw no tangible differences to gameplay as I was still easily defeated or quickly losing my ability to sprint. What the system did allow is the option to unlock augmentations in the Upgrade menu.
This is where Nora can unlock her abilities, upgrade damage stats, or carry more ammo. Upgrades can be done when players find enough resources in the world and reach higher skill stats. While simple and easy to understand in nature, it shows that Everreach: Project Eden could have been able to have more fun with the systems if there were more guns, ammo types, abilities, and armors to alter. Instead, it reminds players that Nora only has two guns to work with.
Everreach: Project Eden is presented as a story focused action game that stands out with some main core mechanics: fast-paced shooting, RPG elements, and exploration. But unfortunately, every single one of these mechanics is executed in primary structures.
Players follow these gameplay loops that have Nora speak to a few non-player characters then have a transitional cutscene to a mission start, which is structure is, again, reminiscent of earlier gaming eras that had linear progress. So compared to modern titles in the same genre, other games just have a better value.
Seeing that Project Eden is designed to be a story-driven game, I could have overlooked these issues and took the game as it was meant to be. Instead, what I feel it was meant to be was a game that could have been more fleshed out with more weapons, abilities, and an extra round polish. Because for such a small team to develop a complete vision of a sci-fi world, it seems that all was needed was some more time.
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