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What is Hardspace: Shipbreaker and should you play it?

Most of us play video games to escape our everyday life. We want to forget about our tedious day at work and the bills we have to pay. Games are a perfect getaway, allowing us to focus on something else than what we have to do. But sometimes, the harsh reality of capitalism can get to you even in a game.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker is the latest game from Blackbird Interactive. The studio wanted to create a game set in space, after their collaboration with NASA for Project Eagle, an interactive model of a base on Mars. And if there are plenty of peaceful games set in space, where you can freely explore the galaxy and relax, Blackbird Interactive had something else in mind for Hardspace: Shipbreaker.

The game is set in a distant future, where humankind left a dying Earth to industrialize space. Instead of navigating through hyperspace aboard a fancy spaceship, you play as a blue-collar worker tasked with dismantling these ships. Lynx Corporation, your employer, made sure you would have everything you need to work: formation, tools, and shelter. But everything has a price, and you begin the game with a debt of over $1 billion.

First day on the job

As you have a gigantic debt looming over your head, there is no time to waste. The only way to make money is to dismantle spaceships and send various parts to recycling. On the first day, you only have access to two tools: a cutter to break the ships, and a grapple to send their parts either to the furnace or the processor depending on their nature.

Moving in space is easy. The commands are intuitive, and after a short tutorial to show you how to move around and spin without throwing up, you will be able to glide from one place to the other in a few seconds. The tools are easy to use, even if they all have various modes and you end up switching between them a lot.

Hardspace Shipbreaker tools
Screenshot by SQUAD.

When the ship first appears in the salvage station, it seems a bit overwhelming as there is plenty to destroy. But with enough patience, you will eventually find the best ways to carve and slice through the spaceship to separate its components. Each time you salvage a material, you get a bit of money. Or rather Lynx Corporation gets this money since you owe the company over one billion dollars.

The dangers of working in space

Throughout the days, you gain experience and rank up your certification level. These levels grant access to new tools for you to be more productive. It also unlocks new ships that are far more dangerous to dismantle that the initial ones.

Some of the spaceships have dangerous hazards that can kill a Shipbreaker within a second. Fuel canisters, pipes, and tanks can easily ignite or explode, burning everything around – including yourself. Some ships also include electrical components that may arc when touched. And of course, the spacesuit doesn’t protect Shipbreakers from dying horribly or frying like bacon.

To make sure you would come back to work if you ever died on the job, your employer destroyed your body to create a backup of your soul so you can respawn if needed. There is no way to escape work, and don’t even consider asking for sick leave.

The various dangerous hazards hidden in the spaceships are not the only threats you will need to overcome. On top of making sure you don’t blow everything up by accident, you need to constantly check your thruster fuel and oxygen levels so you don’t choke to death. The peaceful simulation game turns into a challenge where you must pay attention if you want to survive.

A good simulation game, but not a relaxing one

There is something quite satisfying in breaking up things in zero G. And as you can die from pretty much anything, there is a rush of adrenaline whenever you risk getting swallowed up in the furnace, shocked by a component, crushed to death by part of your ship, or just straight up die from an explosion.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker makes a repetitive job both fun and exciting. The game is like a 3D puzzle set in space, where you have to break things down methodically. You can’t just run around and cut everything without paying attention, as you could blow up the ship in an instant. The game is not a relaxing experience where you can take your time. Each shift lasts 15 minutes and there are many things to monitor to make sure you don’t die.

However, since the gameplay is repetitive, it is perfect for players who want to unplug their brains. Most ships are similar, and once you understand the main dangers of the game dismantling ships isn’t as overwhelming as it seems. It is just a puzzle requiring attention to cut the right thing at the right time.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker is available today on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.

*A Hardspace: Shipbreaker copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes.*

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Ophélie Castelot

I was born with a gamepad and played my first MMORPG at 8. I'm scared to death by Resident Evil's dogs. FPS enthusiast, I like to pewpew people. I love both video games and writing, so naturally, I'm a gaming writer. Want to pitch an idea or debate the latest game you played? Let's talk!
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