I’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a spaceman. If so, Blackbird Interactive’s latest title might just be the game for you. In this action game, you’re tired of living in a world that, after all the environmental degradation, is barely habitable. Your debt is high and you want to build a new and better future for yourself. Your hopes rise and the ad you read seems to have the solution. You’re applying to work for a company called Lynx Corps, which dismantles spacecraft at large depots in orbit around our beautiful planet. As expected, you will get work and read many contracts. The absurd toilet guidelines and several paragraphs of the contract you signed made me laugh out loud.
I will say up front that Blackbird did a great job introducing interactive players. You are not left out to find it out entirely yourself. There is a narrative that supports the gameplay with context and world building. However, all is not as it should be. You quickly realize that the company is a dystopian nightmare, to which you have given up all your rights. They buy your Earth credit and increase it when they equip and train you. Then, to make money in the profession, you have to pay off all the debts, which is an almost impossible task. This new future won’t be what you imagined, but hope is the last thing people abandon, they say, and it’s clear here. Your work supervisor is a friendly person with a southern accent and you soon get to know the other space-breaking workers at the surrounding stations. Storytelling is interesting and enjoyable without getting in the way of gameplay.
Once you start, you have limited tools and need to take advantage of every opportunity you are given. You have limited shifts, which means you have to prioritize how long you’ll be working on the spaceship. Each shift lasts about 15 minutes. Don’t think for a second that you have free oxygen, rocket fuel or repairs. You’ll be able to buy these refills at a kiosk, which adds to your credit. Costs are low, but it’s always good to try to cut costs and increase hull revenue. Spaceships are different from each other and there are different ways to distinguish them. With a tool called a “handheld utility grapple” you can use energy beams to grab and send trash to the proper container. It is important that you send the scrap metal in the correct container or a loss will be added to your loan. You can cut out the spaceship with your laser cutter. It’s a puzzle game and the charm is how quickly and efficiently you can break the contraption. As you level up and are able to upgrade your equipment in your office, new challenges also come. Spacecraft brings not only scale, but also danger. It is this evolution and increasing challenge that creates a cycle of continuous improvement and acceleration.
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It took me a while to get a handle on the outside and inside pressure differences. Get it wrong and you can create an explosive reaction as things suck out of the ship. It is important to know what you are doing because you have health and you can die in the game It’s not just the pressure that matters, the more you level up the more hazards start appearing in each gear The company you work for thinks it’s cheaper to leave this kind of thing to the employees. If you’re not careful where you cut, you can trigger domino effects where the air pressure causes the container to explode, rendering your precious shell completely useless. It is important to constantly think about where you will start and plan to make as much money as possible. Fortunately, you have a special visor to help you and great training that prepares you for the new dangers on the campaign.
More money means bonuses, points to upgrade your gear, so there’s plenty of reason to progress. If you get blasted, melted, stabbed, or killed, that’s okay. Society has already killed you once to collect all the genetic material they need, like bodily fluids, to create your clone. Each clone body costs you a lot of money. Hatred increases when many die, which is certainly sad. However, it is not uncommon to die from explosions, burns, oxygen depletion, or electrocution. Accidents happen in this universe and every death is a lesson.
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While I think it can get repetitive at times and lacks a multiplayer mode, there’s a lot to gain here. I think the game came at the right time for me. It is a light game which is quite comfortable to play. Learning how to beat other players’ best records takes time and shows depth. The more tools you earn, the more opportunities you have to think outside the box and really shred starships in your own way. It helps that it looks neat with a custom design that I think pervades everything in the world. The lighting is also fantastic. The words and voice actors do a good job describing and explaining. You don’t meet the characters in person, but they talk to the player via email and radio. I also love the music, which reminds me of great bass games, the American South and the Wild West. Darren Korb, the man behind Bastin’s music, describes his music as “frontier acoustic trip-hop”. Hardspace: Shipbreaker takes the trip-hop side and offers a bunch of great songs. Using dark country-blues/folk in space games is nothing new, but it fits the theme perfectly.
What makes Shipbreaker shine is the combination of gameplay and music. It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing a large spaceship literally floating in pieces. Even though you’re floating in space above Earth, it’s dripping with the atmosphere. It’s a world that developers manage to breathe life into.
While I love the music, game mechanics, and setting, there are a few minor issues worth mentioning. I feel that despite the increased complexity of the spaceships, the game could have used a bit more variety in setups and missions. Of course, I understand that the game is intended to simulate very repetitive slave labor. It’s also understandable that developers can’t do much and it’s better to have a polished base concept to develop later on. There are some problems and lack of clarity in cuts in some situations. You can accidentally stop a blast because the tool doesn’t quite cut where it should. In addition to the campaign with its varying difficulty levels, there is also an open game mode and a competitive mode, both of which add some longevity.
If you can look past the lack of variety and some minor technical issues, this is one of the best experiences of the year. If you don’t get bored at first, you can get 20-30 hours out of it. I was completely engrossed in my hours with the game and it was hard to put it down. However, if you’re not hooked on the gameplay, you won’t like it. I love the fact that we have more experiences that try to allow us to see other perspectives of this world. Shipbreaker’s gameplay concept was a great thing to build an experience around the first moments of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. Allowing us to work for the “Scrapper Guild” of this universe and scrap the awesome warships after the Clone Wars. If you think Shipbreaker has something for you, you can’t go wrong playing it.