Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a game that might have been made with me and my proclivities in mind. In Hardspace: Shipbreaker, you play as an unnamed “cutter” for a company that dismantles and salvages derelict space crafts for various clients, while making sure to pick through everything in an effort to get a little extra bonus cash. It’s currently in early access which is reassuring considering its various and completely understandable technical issues, that hopefully will be fixed as time goes on.
Booting up Hardspace: Shipbreaker, I was immediately greeted with the telltale signs of a game that didn’t play well with my dual monitor setup, constantly dropping the image in favor of a black screen. This happens sometimes and simply requires me to change some resolution settings and toggle between windowed full-screen and regular full-screen. I only mention this because Hardspace: Shipbreaker has a surprisingly long and potentially interesting introduction sequence in it, but it was lost on me because I could only see it in quick flashes. Which is why you should all sign my petition to make sure that games let you edit your settings instead of throwing you straight into various cut-scenes and gameplay.
Once that was all sorted out however, I made the smartest decision of my life and played through the entire tutorial. Do yourself a favor if you end up picking up Hardspace: Shipbreaker and play the tutorial. It doesn’t explain everything to you, but it gets you on your feet faster than just winging it ever could.
In the tutorial you’re walked through the basics of movement, which even after completing it, I found myself gently floating into space more times than I’d like to admit. In Hardspace: Shipbreaker you need to account for all dimensions of movement including vertically, horizontally, and going forward and backward. You have jet thrusters on your space suit that allow you to roll, accelerate and decelerate, which can help counteract the momentum you’ve built up while you hurdle into the sun.
Once you “master” your movement abilities, it’s time to do some destruction. You get access to a few tools during the course of the tutorial including a grappling laser, two kinds of laser cutters, and tethers. The grappling laser allows you to shoot a beam of energy at something and whip it around if it’s light enough. The two laser cutters allow you to either focus a laser on a fixed point or cut long horizontal or vertical lines into a surface, like if you wanted to make a new window in a ship. The tethers are basically the same thing as the grappling laser, except they’re capable of moving heavier objects and you have a limited amount of them.
Using all of these tools, you have to deconstruct a few ships, take their various components and deposit them into one of three locations. I’m not entirely sure what the delineation between the three areas are, but one of them is burning with fire which I understand to be where sheets of metal and miscellaneous materials go to be refined. The second one is this glowing blue area that accepts other, usually bigger pieces of the ship to be refined, and the third is a barge that sits below you that’s where you deposit the mission critical stuff like the ship’s reactor.
While inside of the tutorial or freeplay mode, you’ve got unlimited time and resources at your disposal, but once you start your career in earnest you have to worry about oxygen, thruster fuel, tether amounts and the condition of your tools. You also have a time limit to complete each job, which means completing the task list. If you’re using a controller like I was, you will not be able to open the task list without using the keyboard. The controller support is mostly there, but that seems like a pretty important function to not have working.
Within the career mode, you have to make sure you’re being mindful of your tools and resources, all of which can be repaired and refilled back at your floating hub platform that’s right by the ship you’re scrapping. You need to make sure you complete the objectives of the job first, whether they be removing the reactor, or collecting a certain amount of a particular metal or material. Secondly you’ll want to scrap and salvage anything you can after the objective is completed, because you’ll earn both money and an upgrade currency that can be used to unlock more features and abilities for your tools.
You can work on a particular ship for more than one shift however, allowing you to truly complete a job if you’re so inclined. Just make sure it’s worth the time investment, because your character is in massive debt to the company they work for, and need to make payments regularly to stay afloat. Hardspace: Shipbreaker captures that capitalistic dystopian nightmare that we’re heading for so well, genuinely making me worry if I’ve worked enough to pay off the company I work for.
Lastly, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is an early access game, which means it’s pretty rough around the edges at the moment. Cut up too many particles or accidentally trigger an explosion in the ship and the frame rate vanishes before your eyes. I don’t begrudge the game for that considering there’s a lot of physics occurring at once and slowdown is to be expected. I also experienced a crash in the brief time I spent with Hardspace: Shipbreaker, but I’m going to chalk that up to it being in early access.
Hardspace: Shipbreaker can feel overwhelming at first, what with the amount of mechanics you need to learn before you can actually feel comfortable doing anything on your own, but once you get the hang of it I found it to be a genuinely enjoyable time. I think the tutorial needs to do a better job at explaining how to properly, safely and efficiently dissect a spaceship instead of leaving it to trial and error, but that’s just my personal preference. Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a truly good time and I recommend checking it out if the idea of being a space scrapper is as enticing to you as it is to me.