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PAX East 2020 Hands-on: Hardspace: Shipbreaker

9 Mar 2020

How should one describe Hardspace: Shipbreaker? At its core, this is a first-person simulation. It’s just not really like any simulation we’ve seen before.  As described in its press release, the story is as follows:

Welcome to LYNX, the galaxy’s leading ship-salvaging corporation! Across your career, you’ll have the privilege of paying your debt to us by purchasing salvaging rights to increasingly large and valuable ships. Cut them open and extract as much value as possible! You are equipped with the latest in LYNX tech. Slice through material at any angle with your cutter. Carve entry points, cut off profitable materials or slice scrap metal into a million pieces as you ponder a lonely existence… the possibilities are endless! Be cautious – dying is extremely unprofitable. We strongly advise upgrading your tools, helmet and suit to take on more lucrative contracts – all you need to worry about is how you’ll pay for it ! As of today, your debt amounts to: 999,999,999 Credits Good luck on the job, cutter!

That’s right. This is a simulation of life as a “blue-collar spaceship salvager.” But not just any blue-collar spaceship salvager, but one in debt!

While the story may be thin, it does provide a meaningful basis on which Hardspace: Shipbreaker sits. As the salvager, you have to purchase each ship that you salvage, meaning you are going further into debt with the hope, and expectation, that your salvage operations can turn a profit. But make a poorly executed laser cut and hit a fuel line, and well… your ship could end up in a lot of less valuable pieces.

The gameplay consists of analyzing the ship you are salvaging, identifying valuable pieces and/or pieces you need to meet certain requisition orders, and then try to carefully cut them lose without damaging and devaluing them, or damaging nearby components. Once you cut lose an item, you use a grapple system to carefully move it to your barge for safekeeping. If the item is not barge-worthy, you can toss it into your incinerator for a few bucks.

Fundamentally this simulation operates in a campaign mode- As you gain funds, you can upgrade your tools, thereby making future salvage operations easier, buy larger and more complex ships, and eventually, try to get out of debt.

All of the ships you acquire can be entered, explored, and salvaged from the inside. However you do have to be careful, because while inside you are under the affects of cabin pressure and one false move can cause damage not only to the ship, but to yourself.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker is slow and methodical, but also fun in a peaceful sort of way. It is akin to Farming Simulator, but in space. If you enjoy the concept and style if this type of game, the execution here will not leave you disappointed.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker is scheduled for an early access summer 2020 release on steam.