Why do all the best-laid plans go wrong in the gaming universe? You want to create a utopia, a heaven on earth, and as soon as you start to build it hell arrives with a machine gun and a nuclear bomb. For example, Bioshock’s Rapture soon became an underwater city of madmen and genetic mutants, and the message seems to be that we can’t be trusted with fun toys. In Everreach: Project Eden there is a wonderful world that has been created on the planet of Eden, a world that was meant to be a luxury resort able to provide the perfect holiday location. Guess what? It didn’t quite work out that way!
Everreach: Project Eden is a sci-fi adventure that is played in the 3rd person, combining RPG elements with dialogue tree choices and some good old-fashioned shooting with space guns. It’s a game that wants to be a bit like Mass Effect, but I don’t think it gets near to either the heights or depths of that franchise.
You play Nora Harwood who works for the Nova Corporation as a pilot and a security gun for hire. You’ve been sent by your bosses to the planet of Eden after receiving a distress call. As soon as you enter the atmosphere the planet’s defense systems kick in and you are shot from the sky. You crash-land and that’s where the game begins. From there out, the narrative is fine with different characters to talk to throughout, letting you accept main and side missions as and when you see fit. It does feel like something from a different decade narratively though, and the actual dialogue between characters never really flows; particularly not as well as other games in this genre.
The gameplay consists of moving around and sprinting. The game developers have decided not to include a jump button though, and this is hugely annoying as you find areas in which you’ll get stuck behind the simplest and smallest step known to man, leaving you to instead have to walk around it. And then there is the simple task of shooting. I say simple because it really should be. You have the usual buttons of RT for shoot and LT for aim, but for some unknown reason the holster button is on B and crouch is associated to Y. Why? It sounds like a minor gripe, but it really does annoy after a while as your muscle memory is programmed to another more familiar pattern that has been learnt throughout the years.
The shooting itself is a bit basic and has no weight to it whatsoever. In fact, it feels like you’re shooting in thin air with a feather. The aiming mechanic is terrible and getting accurate shots in on an enemy on the easiest level is no simple feat. The AI is all over the place, sometimes seeing them standing next to you and just shooting up into the air, while at other times they’ll spot you from 20 miles away and pinpoint shoot you in the head. It’s a bit of a mess, and that’s a shame because it could have been great. And further to that, the cover system is practically useless except the crouching option, but most of the time you will run away to recover your shield and health in some corner before trying again.
Project Eden also includes some driving mechanics, throwing you onto a space bike; something which is entertaining the first time around but soon gets very tired and annoying. Thankfully the missions are okay, but never anything special, usually consisting of standard ‘go here, shoot things and collect that’ structures. Yes there’s story attached, but once more it’s nothing groundbreaking. It’s not helped that the dialogue tree options with characters are basic, never being able to compete with something like the Telltale games. There is some RPG levelling up options too, letting you build on strength, agility and intelligence with talents to unlock like shields and the regeneration of health. This all means that Everreach comes across as a strange hybrid of games, where nothing ever lands properly.
In the looks department, the game certainly has an old-school last generation feel to it, with some nice environments and occasional charming characters. But it’s all a bit bland and similar to a ton of stuff that has come before it. The camera angles and sudden cuts don’t help its cause and it feels like Project Eden has been directed in the cutscenes by someone who likes weird camera angles. It never really feels alive and instead, frankly, it comes across a bit half-finished, which I guess is the point of an incomplete holiday resort?
The soundtrack is good though, and the music aligns with the action on screen and the tone of the genre. I also like the voiceover work, which is done with panache and commitment by the actors. But that said, once again, the effects don’t ever really feel solid enough or have any weight to them, and this means it’s hard to immerse yourself in the experience fully.
I hate being hard on games, especially those which come with smaller budgets, but Everreach: Project Eden on Xbox One just doesn’t feel finished enough. It needs more work on the shooting mechanics, the AI systems and the bike sections. The concept, mission structure and ideas are all good but the game as a whole fails to feel as polished as it should be.