Escape Velocity: Nova is a top-down shooter and role-playing game set in space. It is the third and most likely final in the Escape Velocity series published by Ambrosia Software. The player controls a spaceship which they can use to explore the galaxy, engage in space combat, and conduct interplanetary trade. Gameplay is largely open-ended, but there is a number of possibilities to latch on to one of the 8 plotlines or multitudinous side missions.
The game starts out as many games do: a couple of slides explaining the game's universe and your currently insignificant place in it. You may eventually conquer every system in the galaxy (a gargantuan task), but without the help of a cheat mod you start out in the most basic of spaceships, slow-moving and so fragile it can easily be destroyed by stray gunfire from a randomly occurring battle. Completing missions, some occurring randomly when you walk into a bar and some up for election on each spaceport's "Mission BBS", will earn you the cash necessary to build larger, more specialized ships, which allow you to pursue your aspirations, whether in asteroid mining or space pirating.
EVN has several strengths. One is the written story that unfolds as you play. Though not comprising a masterpiece of prose taken on its own, it integrates well with the game and lends the EVN universe a strong sense of character it would otherwise lack. Another is the combat system, which is robust yet has a much kinder learning curve than 3D space combat simulations. A third strength is the game's graphics which, while not groundbreaking in their technical aspects (and in fact almost retro by this point), exhibit an infectious imaginative spirit in their design.
In the context of modern graphics and gameplay complexity, the game hardly wows. There is also no built-in multiplayer aspect whatsoever, and the once-churning modding community is decreasingly active. Nonetheless, the game's fan base among longtime Mac gamers and its frequent imitation by others in the genre secures a place among the classics of sci-fi video gaming.
- Extensive in-game universe to explore
- Spaceship combat is a blast
- Fight on whichever side you want through branching storylines
- Over 800 user-developed mods to switch up gameplay
- Lacks the dynamic complexity of modern space simulation games
- A bit too easy to end up at a dead end - with no automatic ability to restore previous saves