Last week Hardspace: Shipbreaker released on Steam in Early Access. I liked the look of the game, which falls neatly into the space and simulation genres. The game does a good job of giving the impression of working in Zero-G – utilising tools that impart energy results in opposite reactions for yourself so you can wind up drifting around quite a lot. The graphics are good although the game rightly comes with an epilepsy warning at the start because you can get some quite vivid flashing effects.

There are currently two modes of play – Career and Free Play. The background to Career mode is that you have signed on to be a ‘Cutter’ – a worker who breaks up old space vessels and salvages the parts. You are an indentured employee with a huge debt to Lynx – your employer. You have to work to pay back your debt but you also have to pay for the hire of your equipment, your habitation unit and even the oxygen you breathe – Very topical at a time when we are recalling the effects of slavery but whether the developers intended it that way I doubt. I think it’s more likely to be based on the system of legalised slavery within the Empire in the game Elite Dangerous though the background story is very different. Free Play is just an opportunity to practise your skills, get to know the ships a bit better and to generally have some fun.

Currently the game is a bit limited because it is still Early Access. There have been some design decisions in Career mode that, whilst intended to give the player a challenge, can be quite frustrating. Each shift lasts 15 minutes and your Oxygen supply lasts around 7 minutes (depending on how much you can do inside the ship before you evacuate the atmosphere). Having to go back to the Hab unit to buy more oxygen mid-shift, sometimes twice, initially felt a little too much. But after spending some time in Free play to get some practise in ship breaking I found it less tedious when I restarted my Career save and began the shift process again. I do think there maybe a case for increasing the shift length and oxygen supply duration but, if that were to happen, perhaps there could be an option for the player to choose to carry out their work detail in a shorter shift for a greater reward?

I think this game has a lot of potential especially with things like discovered objects in the derelict spacecraft. Some of these are already building a background story and I can see all sorts of possibilities for future development in that area – who knows, perhaps we may find alien stoways? Overall I like this game and I’m glad I decided to invest in the Early Access 🙂

Here’s some screenshots taken in Free Play mode…
…Those last 2 shots are of me being electrocuted after I deliberately sliced through the cockpit area – Space is Dangerous and the game will reward bad cutting decisions with Depressurisations, Electrocutions, Fuel Explosions and Reactor Meltdowns 😉

I gaze upon the moon
Try to count the myriad of stars
And wonder…

Do clones share their thoughts?
Were you individual
Once separated post-vitro

Did you fight loyally
With no thought of death
Serving those who grew you

How many battles, how many foes
Lay shredded by your heavy gun
Before fate drew us together

Our battle – A sealed test-tube moment
Highlighted instants of life
In the midst of death

Now you lie broken before me
A rag doll, soon to decay
And be forgotten

Poem – Martin Addison; images from Warframe by Digital Extremes.

Continued from Night Station…

I woke late, my mouth dry though thankfully from the coffee in the early hours rather than the ale. I slung my clothes in the valet and pulled on clean. It was too late for breakfast in the crew room so I sat and watched Galnet broadcasts while I waited for restaurants to open. Some prominent scientist had gone missing. There were local wars in systems throughout the Galaxy but none very close. There was no news of Jenckque but I didn’t expect any. I decided to pop along to the Security Office to see if they had any information. “No one of that name inbound.” said the officer behind the desk. There were a number of ships coming in – the station was busy as usual – but no Jenckque. I made my way up to the shopping malls and headed towards Dayzie’s.

Border had beaten me to it and he motioned me to join him. I slipped into the chair opposite as Daisy miracled a coffee in front of me. She must have known I needed it! Staring at me from beneath his eyebrows Jaxon came abruptly to the point – “Your friend never left Tlapana.  In fact he never got there – his ship was destroyed a few days before you arrived here, in LHS1599. It’s clearly registered in the system records.” He turned his hand pad towards me to read. “There is no record of his escape pod reaching any station or base there either.” He sipped his drink while I took in the import of his information. “Your friend appears to be dead… But…” He continued “An escape pod arrived at Melchiodi Base in Tlapana a while after the ship was lost – the name of the owner was Anson22.” He looked curiously at me before continuing – I may have registered surprise but I don’t remember now.

“I did briefly wonder who you really were” he said “but I know you’re Anson – the exploring records don’t lie – so why the subterfuge in Tlapana?” I thought for a few moments and then understood! “Jenckque’s alive – it’s a message to me to tell me he’s alive!” “But he can’t know you’d get that message?” said Border. “No – but he’s sent in it hope and in case I’m still waiting. But where is he?” I wondered. “He’s not registered as a pilot on any vessel leaving Tlapana or from any station between there and here.” Border flipped through the pages on his pad to show the records “So I’d guess he’s travelling as a guard on a freighter. Can’t be on a liner – he’d need a ticket and that would be registered. It would explain why he’s taking a long time to get here.” I sipped my coffee and pondered Jenckque’s whereabouts.

“There’s more” said Border “Your two ‘friends’ for want of a more descriptive word… They are really very strange. I’ve seen all types of pilot over my time bounty hunting. I check you and I find criminal records… Nothing major and all bounties paid or deferred. I check these two and there’s nothing – they’re archangels of godly pure behaviour! There’s no such thing in my experience as a clean pilot! They don’t ring true.” “Someone shot at me when I arrived here!” I said. “I agree” Border responded “But the record seems to be missing the details of the attackers! – Someone has wiped it. Do you understand what that means?” He asked. “I’m not sure?”

“This is Citraxx” He said, indicating the screen of his tablet – “The only people who can change records in this system are ISS themselves or approved bounty hunters like me… And we can only update records to show prosecutions or terminations. No records are deleted – only amended! For records to disappear, someone has to have influence in at the core of ISS… Someone very powerful… Just what did your friend get himself involved in?” Border slumped back in his seat and I stared into my coffee. “I wish I knew…” was the best I could offer. “Well, he’s still coming otherwise they wouldn’t still be here… I guess you wait!” Said Border and then he scraped his chair back and wandered out of the restaurant.

Continued here…