HomePC GAMESForza Horizon 5Hardspace: Shipbreaker and the joy of doing a boring spacejob perfectly

Hardspace: Shipbreaker and the joy of doing a boring spacejob perfectly

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Space will neither save nor free us. Like Starfield, it will not be glamorous or exciting. As billionaire jebends plot to establish their own corporate fiefdoms amongst the stars, our descendents’ potential spacelives are looking as miserable as collecting 5 spacewolf livers. But I find some hope in spaceship salvage sim Hardspace: Shipbreaker, both in the overt plot about unionisation and in the small satisfaction of doing a job well. Head down, shut up, and focus on dismantling this spaceship carefully and efficiently. It’s an attitude that won’t save the world but can get you through one more day, and sometimes that’s enough.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker was one of our favourite games of 2022 tooWatch on YouTube

You can read our Hardspace: Shipbreaker review for a full explanation but in short: it’s a first-person salvager set at an orbital scrapyard, where you take apart a series of spaceships for fun and profit using tools like cutting beams, grapple lines, and explosives. Give each ship a good look, identify where to cut and any hazards to avoid, then set about methodically slicing it up then flinging the scrap into resource processors. And try not to die, because simply starting the job lands you $1,252,594,441.92 in debt to your company, thanks to fees for everything from cloning you to handling your luggage ($35% gratuity included).


A shipbreaker in Hardspace: Shipbreaker is pushed back by an explosion on the vessel they were breaking down

Hardspace’s Lynx Corporation company are no more kind than our future spacebosses will be. It is unfortunate that it’s growing harder to see space as a place of dreams and discovery for all humanity. Space is now where the rich hope to escape the consequences of their planet-plundering by building a biodome with a lovely view of our increasingly blue marble. If we’re lucky, we’ll get up there to serve them in conditions just good enough to keep us from rebellion. Hardspace: Shipbreaker does engage with this, telling a story of unionisation and direct action. We have written plenty about that before so instead I’ll focus on another aspect of surviving spacehell: finding satisfaction in mastering a skill and doing a job well.

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Sometimes, change and revolution feel beyond your reach. There’s a lot to say for putting your head down and just surviving for awhile. In those times, I find a lot of peace, satisfaction, and distraction in doing something—anything—with a great degree of care and mastery, even your dayjob.

While you can half-arse your way through Hardspace: Shipbreaker, the real joy is developing the skills and procedures to expertly pick apart a ship. Come to understand a ship at a glance. Learn the points on different ships to cut to most efficiently dismantle them. Chain tethers to watch a line of components neatly drift off into the processor. Hold on tight before decompression. Touch fuel lines and listen out for the gurgle indicating that cutting would end poorly. Remember that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. A job well-done can be a joy, even if it barely scratches your ten-digit debt.


A breakdown of your $1,252,594,441.92 debt in a Hardspace: Shipbreaker screenshot.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Focus Entertainment

Part of why I like Hardspace: Shipbreaker so much is that you can screw up, massively. While games like PowerWash Simulator and House Flipper also offer pleasures of developing routines and performing procedures, a little empty-brained meditation, playing them well feels more like optimisation than mastery. You can’t do them wrong, you can only do them more right. But with zero-gravity physics and other simulated bits at play in Hardspace, you need to learn how these systems interact or you be paying to reincarnate as clone after clone after clone.

I find the same satisfaction in Viscera Cleanup Detail. This first-person sim casts you as the spacejanitor who comes into facilities to burn bodies, mop up blood, and buff out bulletholes after Doomguy, Ian Halo, or some other spacehero has swept through and saved the day. The mess is simulated, not static, so you can (and will) spend 15 minutes gathering gibs and mopping blood only to accidentally kick a bucket down the stairs and create a whole new mess. So what satisfaction when you manage to clean a toilet without starting a fire!

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I suspect many people who’ve had uninteresting jobs to pay their rent can relate to getting really into the task. Shut out the world, try to forget your worries, and focus on nailing this one task. Maybe the job feels pointless, maybe no one will even notice what you’ve done, and certainly the work doesn’t pay enough, but you’ve performed perfectly and you can find some pride in that. You’ve made a perfect cut, and that’s more than your CEO could. Then when your pal says it’s time for action, you know what to do. No one else will save you.

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