In these uncertain times of economic instability, what better way to relax than by playing a game in which you are an indentured laborer and pay off an impossible debt? Hardspace: Shipbreaker scrapes giant ships to relieve a huge financial liability for Lynx Corporation. This apparently shady group has filled in a questionable survey before signing off on their lives, metaphorically and physically. The first few hours feel glacial as you progress through the tutorial of your new life as a cutter. Stick with it, and you’ll discover an atmospheric and deeply immersive experience.
Armed with a grapple and a laser, you gain experience by slowly floating around the grip, scanning for cut points, and awkwardly depositing material into designated gravity fields. Oxygen and fuel need to top up from time to time, which means flowing back and forth in your “hub” and adding to your Lynx debt for basic things like breathing.
You are introduced over the radio to other shipbreakers who talk about and admire their lot in life. The central conflict between kindly foreman Weaver and reckless middle manager Hal is charming and heartfelt. The strength of the narrative is a real surprise; You care about the plight of all your colleagues.
As your career progresses, new types of ships add complexity to the core loop, while a tech tree provides more tools (demo fee!)
Cutting becomes second nature and ship-to-ship pacing becomes comfortable, so the change in work feels monumental. In the beginning you’ll unlock Tether, which completely revolutionizes the way you deliver content. When power cores are introduced, their extraction becomes a stressful set-piece. Likewise, decompressing a ship is initially a complicated task that can ruin the entire salvage if you mess up. Later there are some claustrophobic horrors as the “Ghost Ships”, the abandoned ships doomed with whispering AI drones.
There is much more going on in Shipbreaker than a simple premise. Outside of Career, there are a collection of difficulty modes that provide a challenge by limiting resources and feedback. You can compete against other cutters online to see who can scrap specific ship classes in record time.
A blue collar simulator-cum-puzzle game where each ship feels like a mini-expedition, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a truly unique and rewarding experience, if you have the time and patience to put in the clock and work.