So what if you’ve punched an alien so hard his forehead make-up came off? Intergalactic junkyards are where you find the Galactic Federation’s real heroes.
They’re the ones who break their backs, risking their lives to salvage an exploration vessel after the crew died horribly. And thanks to Blackbird Interactive, you can experience the joys of dying on the job with Hardspace: Shipbreaker.
Armed with a laser cutter and a bargain basement version of Half-Life 2‘s gravity gun, you’re tasked with hacking up old ships in a space-based shipyard, recovering or recycling their metal carcasses. Currently in early access, Hardspace: Shipbreaker casts you as an employee of LYNX, ‘the galaxy’s leading ship-salvaging corporation’. The tutorial lulls you into a false sense of security, showing you how to painstakingly melt bolts, freeing the parts of each ship that are actually worth something. I was so confident that I had a handle on junking that I leapt into Hardspace‘s free play mode. Five minutes later I was watching the empty vessel rip itself apart, all because I’d cut into a pressurised cabin.
In my defence, hacking things up is so much fun that it’s hard not to get carried away. The cutter carves through metal like a knife through butter, leaving a glowing orange line; flip it around 90 degrees and you can hack out a square in a matter of seconds. Or you can keep going, cackling like a lunatic as chunk after chunk drift off into space, your joy diminishing as you realise you’ve made more work for yourself. Since the game takes place in zero g, objects can move a long way with just a little nudge. If you’re not careful, you can turn around to discover your salvage bonus is halfway to Mars.
Even when you’re not deliberately messing up, it’s easy to get engrossed in Hardspace: Shipbreaker. Its basic tasks may be laborious, but they’re ultimately so satisfying that you may end up forgetting about something important. Floating around inside a ship, something that’s usually necessary to get the job done, I decided to cut the cockpit in two, giving me an clear to extract the vessel’s nuclear reactor.
And so, with the front of the vessel removed, I used my space-age tethering tool to smoothly pull it free, earning the praise and respect of my co-workers. At least, that’s what happened in my head. In reality, I’d forgotten that the cockpit and instrumental panel was still live and received a massive electric shock for my troubles. One clone body later, I was able to go back to work, albeit with a more cautious outlook.
Hardspace: Shipbreaker’s early access status means there’s only a limited selection of ships to hack up. My biggest gripe is how small these are; I’m hoping that the final release will let you get to grips with larger ships. It’s currently single-player only, but a multiplayer mode would be a real boon. Imagine working as a team, disassembling a huge star cruiser, then challenging other teams to beat your time. And the potential for crossovers is immense, even if they’re modded in by players. Who wouldn’t want to hack away at the Enterprise, the Sulaco or some other headlining vessel?
If a shipbreaker’s life appeals to you, pick up Hardspace: Shipbreaker on Steam. I know I’ll be coming back for more.