Hardspace: Shipbreaker Review

Megacorporations. Who doesn’t love them? You better love ’em because you owe the LYNX corporation a whopping total of 999,999,999 credits. Given that they’re the leading ship-salvaging corporation in the entire galaxy, can you guess how you will pay them off? That’s right; by being a shipbreaker! Hardspace will have you break apart ships piece by piece while you attempt to avoid being decompressed, incinerated, asphyxiated, and many other painful -eds. Get to work, cutter.

Life as a blue-collar shipbreaker

Hardspace starts you off with a tutorial so you aren’t completely confused about how to play the game. You’ll of course be salvaging ships, but the way you go about doing so is where your source of confusion and potentially frustration will come from. In your toolbox, you have a handheld utility grapple, designed to manipulate objects around you; a modular laser cutter, able to cut through designated cut points and weak materials like glass and aluminum; thrusters, vital for moving around both in and out of a spacecraft; a scanner, to know where to cut and where to avoid certain death; and a helmet and suit, also used to avoid certain death. Use these tools well, and you’ll live to salvage another day.

You will find, however, that starting off as a salvager in a whole lot of debt doesn’t equate to having the best equipment. In fact, you’re forced to pay rental fees on the meagerly-performing tools you have. Your thrusters are slow, your grapple is weak, and your cutter overheats like crazy. Not to mention the fact that your protective gear isn’t very protective. And all of this will be very noticeable due to the fact that with every ship, you’re on the clock. You will have a set amount of time to complete every work order with assignments either asking you to salvage a specific item like an antenna or to salvage a set amount of material like metal. 15 minutes may seem like an ample amount of time, but with multiple work orders and the fact the initial equipment will slow you down, you may find yourself unable to complete your objectives in a timely matter at the start.

Thankfully, every work order you complete earns you a form of currency called Lynx Tokens, shortened as LT. LT is what is used to purchase upgrades after your shift is done. Even if you don’t complete every work order for a shift, you will still earn LT per assignment, allowing you to begin the next shift with better range, more fuel and oxygen capacity, more tethers, and so on. Combined with more experience with the ships you work on, you’ll progressively get better at working within the 15 minute time limit.

The ships

Now for the ships themselves. There are two classes of ships as of now: the mackerel class and the gecko class. Mackerel ships are small ships used for transit in short ranges, while the gecko ships are large in size with equally large cargo. There are different versions of each ship, with each certification level you achieve unlocking progressively harder ship grades to tackle. Every ship has the potential to be fully dismantled and salvaged, though time constraints discourage it.

The basic routine is simple: depressurize the ship’s atmosphere, disintegrate cut points to make the ship, extract the most important parts of the ship into your ship bay’s barge, and throw the rest into either the processing or furnace unit. The first ship grades you’re able to work on will primarily deal with depressurizing the atmosphere and removing the ship’s reactor without setting off a nuclear explosion. Easy. But as you move onto higher ship grades, the ships become more complex in design and begin to exhibit extra challenges such as cryo units, more advanced reactors, protected cut points, etc. It can be rather daunting to take these ships on, especially when you work on your first gecko class, but once you run through each ship grade enough times, you will know full well of what to do, and most importantly, what not to do.

At the time of this review, Hardspace is still in early access, but it is more or less a fleshed out experience. It’s not exactly an action-packed adventure; while you will be working under a timer with hazardous conditions, it’s a rather slow-paced game due to the nature of the controls and how long it takes to disassemble a ship and making your way around its innards. It’s actually quite a stress reliever, to be able to tear apart ships so meticulously and feeling the instant gratification of receiving credits for every component you process. There are still bugs to fix such as having your game crash, but the game otherwise runs smoothly and continues to offer new kinds of ships as you progress, with new content to be released as the game continues development. So don’t worry, cutter: focus on repaying that debt, and everything will be just fine.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker can be found on Steam here.

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