Video games are, at least to some degree, about having a good time! You can cast off your worldly obligations and embrace a new life. You want to go slay monsters? Sure, we can do that. Feel like piloting a giant robot? We’ve got you covered. Now, thanks to Hardspace: Shipbreaker, you can get away from your obligation to your wage-slave job by…getting a newer, more exciting wage-slave job. Technology offers us such wonders!
As a Shipbreaker, your job is to salvage old ships so your employer, the comically oppressive Lynx corporation, can recycle the bits. That means steadily disassembling the old boats and shoving the parts into whatever receptacle is appropriate. That’s easy enough at first when you’re messing with basic shuttles, but later on you’ll discover the many reasons that Shipbreakers get hazard pay. Explosive fuel lines, zappy power generators, nuclear reactors and more will all pose their share of dangers, to say nothing of your constantly-draining oxygen and fuel. What’s more, it’s entirely possible to play on a sort of roguelike mode with a single life, so you’ll want to be extra careful.
By learning the ins and outs of each ship as well as the quirks of your tools – ranging from a tractor beam to a laser cutter and more – you can rapidly become a master of the craft and work to earn your way out of an endless pile of debt. Likewise, you can upgrade your gear to become more and more efficient. The difference in your character’s performance once you make some headway into the game is significant and helps you feel a lot more “powerful,” at least insofar as this can be applied to a game where your enemies are mostly your own mistakes.
While Shipbreaker’s Lego-esque gameplay is great, that’s not all that’s going on, and the rest of the experience struggles to keep up. There’s an overarching plot that appears to exist mostly to keep you from getting back to work, for instance. While I’d struggle to get as emotional about it as some folks in the long-running Shipbreaker Early Access community, I’d certainly agree that your time is better spent actually breaking ships.
Likewise, there’s little touches here and there like collectibles that, while cute, don’t add much to the underlying experience. It’s hard not to think that development time might have been better spent adding more ships or tools to the mix.
That said, these are minor complaints more than anything. Shipbreaker looks great, sounds great – story, perhaps, aside – and it’s plenty of fun to sink hours into tearing ships apart and getting the most out of their salvage. Now that it’s reached full release and you aren’t risking the loss of your save every time there’s an update, there’s really nothing to stop you from delving headfirst into Hardspace: Shipbreaker. Get to work, cutter.