Ever dream of going into space and performing manual labor for an oppressive megacorporation? Well, thanks to Blackbird Interactive and Focus Entertainment, you can. Sign up for LYNX today to start working off a ludicrous amount of debt by cutting up spaceships in Hardspace: Shipbreaker.
Info: Developer: Blackbird Interactive Publisher: Focus Home Entertainment Platforms: PC Release Date: May 24th, 2022 Played on PC
Get to Work 52:
Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a game set in the distant future. Earth has been ruined and man has taken to the stars. Those that are left on Earth live under what remains of their government bodies and LYNX, a megacorporation, controls it all. With big dreams of making it off planet, you sign up with LYNX, taking on massive debt in the process and work one of the most dangerous jobs they offer, cutting apart spaceships. While the job might be perilous, it can also prove to be quite lucrative, if you can succeed.
There is a story in Hardspace: Shipbreaker, but you aren’t ever really involved with it. You more or less are just kind of there to witness the events unfold. You play as the silent shipbreaker known as “52” and throughout the game, your team talks about one day unionizing and earning their freedom from LYNX. LYNX being the evil megacorporation that they are, catch wind of this and try to put a stop to it. Needless to say, the one they put in charge of investigating these talks sucks and it only incentivizes the team. Meanwhile, 52 just keeps on cutting away at various ships and trying to lower their debt.
The whole point of Shipbreaker is, as I said above, to cut up spaceships and pay off your debt. In the beginning of the game, it’s quite simple and ships don’t require much attention. They lack power, have already been decompressurized and just need to be stripped down to their frames with their parts sorted into the appropriate areas. Some pieces of the ship, like the outer hull, often go into processing. Aluminum, glass and wires will go straight into the furnace. Miscellaneous items like chairs, light fixtures, computer terminals, etc. will all be tossed into the barge.
In order to accomplish this task, you need to utilize the tools provided to you by LYNX. You start off with a simple laser cutter and grappler (Gravity Gun). The laser cutter is for disintegrating various cut points while the grappler will help you aim your salvage at the appropriate area. There are two processing ports and two furnaces. One of each is located on both the left and the right with the barge taking up position under the ship. You’ll want to make sure you carefully process each piece of the ship correctly because LYNX will punish you for incorrectly sorting out parts. If you toss the wrong part into either the processor or the furnace, there’s no going back and it’s coming out of your paycheck. Thankfully, where the barge is concerned, you can actually grab parts out of it if you made a mistake.
Your Gear and the Elegant Science of Shipbreaking:
Correctly doing the job will earn you the most amount of money out of each ship as well as a certain number of LYNX tokens. With these tokens, you can upgrade your tools to make them more effective and tougher. For instance, the laser cutter can be upgraded to burn through cut-points quicker while also building up heart slower. Gear will also take damage throughout your time on the job, and increasing your gears’ durability is essential when working on the larger ships you’ll unlock later into the game. You can also buy your gear from LYNX as well, which helps cut back on the outrageous rental fees they hit you with every day you wake up. If you’re running low on supplies, don’t stress because LYNX has a vending machine nearby to restock on tethers, oxygen, fuel, repair kits, and demo charges.
Throughout the game, you’ll also level up, which unlocks access to larger, more dangerous ships. Eventually, you’ll be exposed to fire, electricity, radiation and pressurized ships. That last one sounds mostly tame but incorrectly depressurizing a ship can result in catastrophic consequences. You don’t want to lose cargo by damaging the ship and end jettisoning cargo into space while you’re having to spin up a new clone because you y’know…. died. Did I mention that you can die in Hardspace: Shipbreaker?
For a game about taking apart spaceships, there’s danger around every corner. Explosively decompress a ship? A rogue item flying about might shatter your helmet and you’ll suffocate in space. Get too close to the furnace? Well that’s a one-way ticket toward getting a new clone of yourself. Then there’s burning to death, shocking yourself, and freezing yourself with coolant leaving you weak and brittle enough to shatter at the slightest impact. It’s best to avoid death because with each and every clone you spin up, you add on to your debt in story mode.
While it does lack in the story department, there are other modes to play, like Cutter’s R.A.C.E, which puts your time and money earned for shipbreaking on leaderboards, as well as a Free Play mode. You can also up the ante and turn off revives in career mode, making it a much scarier job to do. My next complaint, after its lackluster story mode, is that each ship takes quite a bit of time to work on. Thankfully, you can go back to your HAB and save your game. Time is money though, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to do as much as possible before calling it quits for the day.
In Space, No One Can Hear Americana
One big issue I have is the voice-acting. I’ve had Shipbreaker for quite a while, thanks to our friends at Focus Entertainment, and when the game was in early access, I found myself really enjoying the actors they had in the game. When I received 1.0 on May 10th, I noticed something. All of the developer voice actors were place holders and had been replaced by professional voice actors. This news actually made me sad because I loved the actress who did the voice of Lou and the replacement actress isn’t nearly as interesting. To me, it felt like a downgrade.
The soundtrack however, is another story. It’s incredibly well done, if not a touch repetitive where the music is concerned. Throughout your time on the job, what you’re normally given is guitar-driven Americana tunes. If something important begins to happen, like you’re removing a reactor from the ship, a synth track takes over to imply a high tension situation and your character begins to breathe heavily. Pressurized areas sound differently than they do when you’re in an unpressurized space and there are often abandoned audio logs you can pick up to get an expanded view on the state of the world. Ghost ships are full of rampant AI nodes that interfere with your radio, creating a silent atmosphere. It creates a much creepier mood as the AI makes doors open and close or rooms pressurize and depressurize. LYNX doesn’t want anything to with the AI nodes either so it’s up to you destroy them and listen to their final screeches of agony.
After a long day, Hardspace: Shipbreaker has become one of those games I go to in order to unwind. I have lost hours stripping down ships to their frames and it’s become an addiction at this point. I never quite realized how much I needed a puzzle game where the solution was to break the puzzle up bit by bit. The game is currently only available on PC but Blackbird Interactive is also working on a console version for the PS5 and Xbox Series as well. As it stand however, if you have a PC that can handle it and ever wanted to take apart space with your bare hands, I really can’t recommend a better game.
Review Disclosure Statement: Hardspace: Shipbreaker was provided to us by Focus Entertainment for review purposes. For more information on how we conduct and handle reviews here, please visit our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info. Thank you!
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Hardspace: Shipbreaker Review
For what it’s worth, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is one of the most relaxing sci-fi games I’ve played in a long time. I don’t have to worry about crashing my ship into a planet or being shot up by aliens. As long as I’m not getting sucked into the furnace or shattering my helmet with a table I tried to throw into the furnace, life is good…especially once LYNX is out of the picture.
Great soundtrack and sound editing.
Cutting up ships is fun.
Rather large pool of upgrades to unlock and improve gear.