Hardsapce Shipbreaker is a game developed by Blackbird Interactive, and had been in early access since June 2020. It’s a job simulator set in space, yet differs greatly from other games with similar tags like Kerbal Space Program and Space Engineers. Let’s see just how fun is the life of a shipbreaker.
It’s not much, but it’s honest work
This month’s dystopian flavor is.. corporate dystopia! The game takes place in a not-so-distant future where mankind has industrialized most of the solar system. Lynx is presumably one of the mega-corporations that helped pave the way, and now holds some sort of monopoly on spatial-industrial activities. I say “presumably” because, as aforementioned, the game is in early access and the story is far from detailed. Regardless, the player character has had enough of the troubles, wars, and famines on earth, and has decided to settle in space and become a shipbreaker for Lynx Corp. It’s a dangerous job, but you can’t put a price on freedom! Lynx still did, and the player owes the corporation 1 billion credits, plus rent fees for the station and equipment, plus interest. Your goal as a player is to complete enough work orders to repay your debt to Lynx, and to make sure you complete the, fast enough to stay on top of your daily payments of 500,000 credits. I’m not entirely sure why there is both a debt and daily rental fees since it’s usually one or the other, and having both is equal to paying mortgage and rent for the same house, but I guess it serves the purposes of giving a challenge to the player. Apart from the main character’s poor financial decisions and Lynx questionable ethics, that’s as far as the story goes. You disassemble ships that are sent to your station until you manage to pay off your debt, and that’s it. There is at least one audio log to be found that gives some insight into what’s going on in other corporations, so more audio logs will probably be part of future updates. Overall, the story and setting of the game is very Borderlands-ish. A giant megacorp that treats its employees like property, uses politically correct language to describe grave and somber things (asphyxiation = decrease in productivity), and most of all, uses yellow as it’s company color.
Motion sickness simulator 2020
Your job as a shipbreaker is to strip down the ships that are sent to your station. Your two main tools are a laser cutter (named Stinger in-game) and a grapple (named.. Grapple). The laser cutter melts down certain weld points to detach materials from each other and can cut lines in other materials. The grapple moves objects, and can help you move across your station. Metals are sent in a processor, plastics and glass go in a furnace, and re-usable components go in a barge. Misplacing materials will mark them as destroyed and remove potential income. Now is probably a good time to mention that all that work isn’t done in a hangar or some spatial dry dock. Your ships and salvage are floating around in space, and so are you. Movement is now in 3d, you can tilt left and right, and stopping is achieved by thrusting in an opposite direction. Learning to move around in space is fairly easy, and the player can feasibly master 3d movement within 2 to 3 hours of gameplay. Where things get rough is inside ships. Decommissioned ships are dimly-lit, cramped, and with no way to quickly tell which way is up. Motion sickness and disorientation are increased tenfold when inside, so quickly opening up a ship to the outside is a must. Your suit also has a limited amount of O2 and fuel so you’ll have to make your way to a workstation once or twice per shift to buy those. Upgrades can increase your supply limit, but the over-arching problem with buying your supplies is that they don’t cost enough to impede progress (full refuel is 500 credits, an average shift brings in 500,000-1,000,000 credits), but you run out of supplies just often enough to make it annoying. The shift mechanic is another important thing to mention. You can only work in 15 minute increments, and the end of a shift is equal to the end of a day, at which time you have to pay your daily rental fee of 500,00 credits. It’s important to pace your work, because bringing less than 500,000 credits at the end of a day will increase your debt to Lynx. Overall the gameplay definitely has some kinks, like having to pay both rent and mortgage everyday and having to spend precious shift time to buy ridiculously cheap supplies, but the game can offer some very satisfying moments, like stripping a ship completely with butchering it too much.
PhysX? Never heard of it
Sure, the goal of the game is to pay off your ludicrous debt. But just like any other job simulator, true satisfaction comes from a job well done. In this game, a job well done means using the laser cutter at just the right places, and have ships seemingly disassemble themselves into large chunks of metal ready to be recycled. Each piece of metal flying around has a discrete weight, speed, vector, and precise hitbox. Those bits flying over the place, getting accelerated by the grapple and colliding with each other are usually bad news for a GPU, especially for an early-access title since those are rarely well optimized. But somehow, Blackbird Interactive pulls it off. Maybe it’s because of the low average speed of those objects and overall okay textures, but the game runs smoothly. No clipping issues between items and an average of 30+ fps, only stuttering because of certain particle effects like glowing melting metal or dust rising because of decompression.
Between a rock and a hardspace
The game is promising. It looks nice, feels nice, and despite the ridiculous goal of 1 billion credits, finds a good difficulty balance. However, the game also has its flaws. Supplies are more of an annoyance than anything else, having to pay both debt and deficit is odd to say the least, and as is to be expected of an early-access game, the story feels more like a draft. The dev team is active and has released fully fleshed-out games in the past, so hopefully it’s just a matter of time before Hardspace Shipbreaker becomes a game to sink dozens of hours into. In the meantime, it’s still an excellent stress-reliever.