Hardspace Shipbreaker is certainly not the first game to concern itself with reducing spaceships to their component parts, but it is certainly one of the most methodical in its approach. The usual method generally consists of flying around high intensity combat situations, dodging missiles and lasers and to be honest, sometimes it can feel like a bit much.
Luckily for me, Hardspace: Shipbreaker offers a gentler, more meditative technique. As a shipbreaker, your role in the game is to methodically dismantle unwanted spaceships by hand high in orbit. With only a spacesuit protecting you from the harsh vacuum of space, you navigate via small bursts of your rocket pack around the decaying remnants of spaceships and slowly, carefully, strip them of everything of value.
That computer screen? Don’t just throw it away – someone will pay good money for that. The lights, the seats, everything inside the old ships can be carefully extracted and deposited in a vast container to be sold for credits. Pluck the power core from its secure housing and if you can manage to deposit it before it destabalises, you can fetch yourself a substantial profit.
However, it’s not just the juicy interior of the ships that’s up for grabs. Using a powerful cutting laser you can slice and dice armour plating, cut through bulkheads and doors, selling each and every piece of the ship you extract. The ship is affected by the physics simulation too, meaning that with just a few well-considered cuts you can send entire chunks of the ship slowly drifting off in different directions.
Dismantling enormous floating containers can however be dangerous. My father always told me ‘measure twice, cut once,’ and while I don’t think he was talking about dismantling spaceships, he’s definitely right. Slice into a ship without first decompressing the interior and you can find yourself violently attacked by flying debris. Cut through a live fuel line with a high temperature laser and it’ll probably be the last thing you ever do.
Conveniently, as Dave Lister once said; ‘Death isn’t the handicap it used to be in the olden days.’ In Hardspace: Shipbreaker, if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself post-life, your employer will graciously present you with a clone body and send you back to work. Not for free, of course. Clones aren’t cheap and will be added to your debt.
What debt? Only the rather staggeringly large billion credits you owe your employer. Every shift does reward you financially, slicing the tiniest of tiny chunks off your debt, but also with upgrade abilities and new tools. What you do manage to salvage is deducted from your overall debt, but just like in real life I find it better to just not worry about how much I owe.
Despite the dangers, the overall experience is surprisingly calming. Surrounded by the sheer emptiness of space, you are your own boss (metaphorically speaking). You’re free to take your time, pick your angle of approach and really get to grips with perfecting your work. Sending the final chunk of metal into the furnace nets a similar satisfaction to that of finishing a painting or complicated piece of DIY. Put on a podcast or audio book, grab your laser and get cutting.
Be aware, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is currently in early access, with the usual ‘it’s not finished yet’ caveat that entails. Currently there are only a few different ship types on offer, although more are planned, but the key gameplay loop is definitely present. Although slowly carving up spaceships might not be everyone’s cup of tea, if you’re after something a little different in your sci-fi escapism, Hardspace: Shipbreaker might just scratch that itch.
The Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Review based on code supplied by PR. Please read this post for more on our scoring policy.