Thinking of escaping the rat race of your 9-5? Feel like Earth is holding you down? Hardspace: Shipbreaker is your chance to see where all this capitalism is taking us. It’s space. We’re going to do some space capitalism.
You know how Elon Musk recently sent a load of shite into orbit around Earth – because that’s something you can do if your dad owned an emerald mine in Zambia, apparently – and really annoyed astronomers? Hardspace: Shipbreaker is about the potential fallout of that kind of hubris. It’s about cleaning up cosmic debris and making scraps from the chewed up chicken bones of hyper-capitalism.
Space here is like a teenager’s bedroom, but instead of discarded socks it’s hulking capital ships and derelict space shuttles. There’s money to be made for anyone brave enough to float out there in the expanse to salvage it, as long as you make enough to pay off the billions in debt you accrued just to get up here in the first place.
I realise I’ve made that sound stressful, and I’m sure it would be in real life, much like the act of simply existing in this modern world is a living nightmare for our monkey brains. But let me tell you: there’s something strangely relaxing about this game. It might be the most relaxing game I’ve played all year, in fact.
Most video games are secretly about cleaning up. And I’m not talking about games that are specifically about cleaning, like Viscera Cleanup Detail – I mean open world games. All those icons dotted around the world map represent repetitive tasks – treasure chests, collectibles, pigeons, audio logs. We will literally hoover up anything if it has an icon.
What compels us to tick them off? It’s because, like I said, we have idiot monkey brains, and that’s why those “oh so satisfying” channels where someone just, I dunno, rubs a carpet pile so it’s all even are so popular.
Hardspace: Shipbreaker leans into this cleaning compulsion and asks you to, well, break ships. You use your thrusters to float out towards them and you cut them apart or tactically rip them open with well-placed explosive charges.
You start each job with a list of objectives, and the idea is to turn them all in before your shift is over, while balancing the durability of your tools, thruster fuel, and oxygen levels. But you can’t just go in thoughtlessly.
Take this one job. One of my objectives was to turn in a cargo hatch. Easy. That’s the thing on the top of the ship there. Two small slices with my precision laser cutter is all it takes to loosen it free, at which point I’m free to use my laser tethers or grapple to deposit it in the correct processing bin. But there’s a small problem – I didn’t depressurise the ship. It pops like a pack of crisps that’s just been run over by a car, debris flying in every direction. The entire bay is filled with unidentifiable debris. In plain terms: I absolutely fucked it.
The correct way to do it is to open an airlock, wait for the inner door to pressurise, head inside, find the pressure controls, and activate them. From here you cling to the ship so you’re not sucked into the void and you wait for it to stabilise. Once that’s done, that’s when you can start cutting. But even then, you have to be careful about it. One wrong slice can damage expensive components or catch a fuel line.
Each ship type has its own quirks, too. There are specific points you have to cut to break them open, and they get more complex as you progress. But even with the danger, there’s something meditative about it – like your character in zero-G, you feel weightless, almost zen.
Simply lassoing ship parts into the various recycling zones is meditative, slowly shifting them into place as the Earth comes into view below while Americana music strums away, making way to synths when you inevitably bump an unstable power core into a hard surface.
It’s one of those games that finds the perfect balance between tension and calm, and there’s a surprising amount of depth if you want to play it in a more serious way, too. That grapple of yours is bound by the laws of physics, so you can use it to speed yourself up by attempting to pull something that’s heavier than you, performing a last-minute air break while flipping through a small opening in the side of a ship. However you want to play it, though, buying Hardspace: Shipbreaker almost makes capitalism feel worth it.
Next: Hardspace: Shipbreaker Is A Blue Collar Job Simulator About Scrapping Space Ships (& I’m Obsessed)
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Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief at The Gamer. He likes Arkane games a little too much.
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