Shipbreaker review – original, relaxing, impressive
I float in the cold expanse of space, laser cutter in hand, trying to cut a cargo container from the hull of a spaceship. The ship itself is in motion after being knocked over by a piece of debris, and I’m trying to line up the perfect slice by rotating my cutting angle, trying to match my own rotation with the ship.
It goes slightly wide.
There’s a loud hiss and my head-up display starts sending alerts, letting me know I’ve just punctured a pressurized part. I don’t have time to react before the force pushes me back and the ship shatters in front of me, pieces of hull and the remains of destroyed electronics sucking into space.
A piece of debris smashes into my helmet, punctures it, and switches my radio station to a deranged Saturday morning cartoon jingle. The force of that second impact pushes me back even further, and my brakes aren’t enough to keep me from being ushered into the giant recycling bay where I usually drop ship parts – a big blue mouth that eats metal leviathans.
I die with a horrible crack.
The world goes black and the soundscape of a space shipyard is replaced by sloppy noises; fluids squirming and sucking sickeningly, as if someone were sucking the dregs of a cup of intestines through a straw. It’s the sound of my body being rebuilt – a process that ensures only a 0.02% probability of DNA corruption. Before I know it, I’m back at work, laser cutter in hand.
Hardspace: Shipbreaker is not always like that. When you’re not set on fire, irradiated, crushed, electrocuted, eaten by bunkers, suffocated, or sustaining blunt force trauma, this is actually one of the most relaxing video games I’ve played. It taps into that same part of your brain that games like Unpackingwhere you’re tasked with cleaning up and organizing a virtual space – something I don’t find relaxing in the world of meat.
It gives us a vision of the future where capitalism still reigns supreme and people are drawn into dangerous manual jobs with the promise of high wages and adventure. In truth, the costs of getting there, rebuilding your body when you die, and all the components you destroy doing the work become billions in debt that you are immediately saddled with. This is the student loan trap in the form of a video game.
Before you even begin your new life as shipbreakers – salvage professionals who tear down inactive spacecraft – you must sign a consent form that requires you to confirm that you are not a member of a union. Between jobs, you have a “dedicated sleep period”. You are often warned that death can lead to lower profit margins.
You end up embroiled in a battle between middle managers and other shipbreakers who want to form a union, but there’s always a bit of a disconnect because you have no agency in those conversations. They’re just pretty uninteresting characters talking to you, while you can’t wait to get back and get the job done – because it’s fun! – which does not correspond exactly to the general themes. shipbreakerThe critiques of capitalism are neither intelligent nor original. He knows what he means – but the themes just don’t mesh with the mechanics. It doesn’t help that strange audio distortions sometimes obscure conversations, and you can only fix this by recharging.
Apart from these minor complaints, shipbreaker is a great game. There’s something romantic about it – you’re a gold digger on the new frontier, floating through the cosmos, listening to Americana on the radio, and methodically taking down huge spaceships. That’s great! It’s an atmosphere.
Of course, this being a large company, you have quotas to respect. Each task is timed, so you’re always on the lookout for ways to optimize your process – which varies from ship to ship – of recycling, scrapping and transporting parts.
There are three loading docks – blue takes good chunks of the hull (and sometimes you), furnace takes scrap (also sometimes you), and barge below (although sometimes it’s above you because it’s space and there’s no underside) takes things like chairs, computers, and door controls. You can grab these pieces with an energy beam and whip them towards the berries, or you can use energy tethers, which pull them to an anchor point as you work to carve more of them.
It is better to cut ship parts in this game than to shoot someone in the head in dozens of first person shooter games. It’s incredibly satisfying how the components hiss when removed from an unpressurized cabin, slowly floating away from the cut-off point. When you hit something you shouldn’t have, the resulting carnage leaves you in awe.
Each ship comes with a bunch of yellow slash points, and you can either use a Focused Beam (which takes a few seconds) or a Quick Slice (at the risk of accidentally damaging other parts of the ship) to get the job done. . Each ship has its own quirks and they are all intricately designed. It is really impressive. Sometimes it’s a job in itself to find the way through the maintenance corridors to reach the cut points. You also have to methodically fight your way through each ship to depressurize the rooms, if you don’t want the ship to break apart and potentially suck your whole body through a pinhole. Or you can use controlled, forced depressurization to crack it open like an egg, if you’re brave.
Some ships are also equipped with more durable cut points, which require ranged breach charges to cut. Then there’s the fact that each has its own set of dangers, from nuclear materials to fuel lines and meltdown reactors. A misplaced cut can turn a day of relaxation into a series of unfortunate events. The different combinations of ship types, hazards, and components do a great job of keeping you engaged.
There are also many interesting nuances to each of the mechanics – like how you can use Tether to travel faster by latching onto a heavy object and coiling up, or how you can use environmental hazards to speed up the process. demolition (if you know what you’re doing). Later you have an additional objective that asks you to collect specific components from ships so you can build your own and escape your corporate nightmare, adding another layer of progression to your gear upgrades and ever-changing ships.
It eventually gets repetitive and as a result feels like a game I’d rather dive into than spend 30 hours mastering it. It also feeds the drip mechanics at a slightly too slow rate for my liking, but that’s not a deal breaker. Hardspace: Shipbreakerr always well worth your time. It’s beautiful, relaxing and sometimes awe-inspiring. Careful not to recycle, huh?
Written by Kirk McKeand on behalf of GL HF.