REVIEW – Blackbird Interactive’s game spent almost two years in early access before the simulation entered Steam correctly.
So anyone who’s ever dreamed of making something usable out of abandoned spaceships should be happy.
Life is terrible on Earth, and many prefer to escape into space by working for the company above. It’s undoubtedly a jab at the American education or healthcare system: we take on a ton of debt when we apply, and while we try to survive by consuming Lynx products, we have to work off our debt while the company gets paid for the tools we use, not to mention the housing or the cloning that results from our deaths. The game, which depicts the final phase of capitalism, gives us the task of breaking up the ships from the inside, and we have to be gritty about it. Aluminium remnants go into the furnace, nanocarbon into the processor and usable stuff into the barge. If you put everything in the right place, you get money. If you screw up, you pay the penalty, so it’s never the player who wins. It’s the giant corporation named after Atari’s handheld console (which wasn’t as enormous as this gigantic corporation; the Game Boy was uncontested, and even the SEGA Game Gear couldn’t keep up despite better hardware specs).
Your main tools are a cutter and an item you use for moving things around (Cutter and Grappler). Still, you can’t cut a lot of material, so you have to scan the right points to perform the cut, and don’t forget that electrical devices and gas containers, for example, don’t decompose harmlessly, so using the laser on them isn’t good for your health. The Grappler can’t move everything because of the weight, so you have to watch the dimensions, and although you can get used to the basics quickly, as time goes on, you will be asked to do more complex tasks. More complex tasks will have pressurised sections so that you will need the atmosphere device, or you will be rewarded with a big bang as a result of decompression. And failure to do so can have serious consequences, and it will not be unusual for the ship to collapse into chaos due to the mishap. Oh, and oxygen will not be neglected with only fifteen minutes per shift. So the game will push us to complete the tasks set as efficiently and quickly as possible, and here, at the end of page one (hallelujah), we could end with a meme because it fits: git gud. You have to be good, but it’s a long way to get there.
…we rarely get above that in taking a ship apart, and the rewards don’t go much beyond that. While learning, remember that while there will be fixed elements on the vessels in the given classes (the larger structures and their cutting points), everything else’s placement will be randomly generated. We’ll slowly start to see a trickle of Lynx tokens needed to reinforce our gear, but it’s become so average, without anything special. For example, the cost of refilling tethers is always the same, a fixed $18k… but if there’s room for forty instead of twenty through upgrades, it’ll be more economical in the long run. It is also helpful to increase the HP of your suit and improve the damage resistance.
You’ll need these for a good 25 hours to eventually play through the game (probably more than that), and if that wasn’t enough, you could play freely outside of the story, and those who are more competitive can have fun with the Cutter Race. Everyone will have the same ship to dismantle. The story mode also has an international ranking board, broken down by difficulty levels, which I haven’t even mentioned yet now that I think of it. The standard has the fifteen-minute shifts with no respawn limit, while the hardest difficulty level has one life… so it’s essentially the equivalent of permadeath. Now, at that level, you’ll know the inner workings of all four ship classes and their subspecies by heart, and the randomness factor won’t help you with that, so you’ll be able to know what to do effectively via muscle memory. There are issues with the game, indeed. Let’s not even deny that.
Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a seven and a half out of ten because the visuals didn’t go into too much detail and followed a more clean, sci-fi book style. Therefore, it’s simply looking good without being too complicated. The studio (of Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak fame, for example) has packed the Homeworld style into this game, which is also suitable for quick runs when there is some downtime at work, for instance, as the fifteen-minute shifts don’t require you to be glued to the screen for hours, but perhaps one can hope that since the game ha reached version one point zero, it might expand in terms of content, maybe to challenge more professional players with more complex systems. But the problem (and the drop from an eight out of ten rating, although it might deserve it) is still the repetitive gameplay and the story’s stagnation.
+ Requires creativity
+ Correct graphics
+ Playable for short periods of time
– No matter the randomness, we’re “learning” …
– There’s room for expansion in terms of content and ships
– The story is down
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Blackbird Interactive
Published: May 24, 2022