Cool People Column – 06/22/20

You expected Josh, but it’s me, Eden! Actually, now that I think about it, you probably didn’t since it’s going to say my name right there by the post. Anyway, this post was ostensibly created in order to give people who are not me (or Noyan) a share of the fun of talking about non-metal stuff. And yet, here we are! I have too many cool things going on in my life, OK? I’m just so cool.

So! Cool People Column. Here we go.

Blackbird Interactive – Hardspace Shipbreaker (2020)

Think of a space game. You’re probably either imagining some sort of exploration based game (like No Man’s Sky) or a breakneck simulator (like Rebel Galaxy). Some of you, the more veteran gamers, might recall the Homeworld series, AKA the best RTS games ever made (yes, I will die on this hill). Funnily enough, the same guys we are here to talk about today are also the studio that’s looking to revive that franchise and maybe that’s not a coincidence. But back to the matter at hand: what if I told that space games could be relaxing?

If you’ve played Elite: Dangerous (or any of its predecessors), this might not surprise you too much. After all, that game offers the alluring quiet and emptiness of space as its backdrop and you can play the entire game for hours and hours without fighting even once. But what about a game where the entire loop is about being slow, methodical, and considered because hey, guess what? Space is really dangerous. That’s the kind of vibe that Hardspace Shipbreaker tries, and succeeds, to bring to the table.

In the game, humanity has just discovered FTL technology, making all of the previously constructed ships redundant. Of course, the cruel forces of space capitalism (we’re actually already in space capitalism, by the way), don’t want to put all of those raw resources to make. And so, they want to strip down the ship and recycle the precious materials contained therein. A job which is, of course, highly dangerous. But fear not, for the indentured hordes are standing by, suffocating on a planet getting progressively less habitable and more oppressive.

You play as one of those poor souls, signing up with a corporation to take these ships apart. The ploy is simple: sail out in zero-G to one of your contracted ships, follow a list of tasks to strip it of its valuables, and then “use the whole buffalo” by digging deeper and recovering as much as you can. On the way, be wary of causing the reactor to explode (you’ll die and a clone of you will take your place, and your debt), decompressing the ship (you’ll die and a clone of you will take your place), swinging debris in zero-G with no way to stop (you’ll die and a clone of you will take your place) and a million other dangers waiting for you up there.

The rhythm these challenges create is one of caution and of measured steps. Every cut needs to be considered. Every use of your limited supply of tools needs to be accounted for. And, always, the immense debt hanging over you head (which, at least at the point where I am in the game, seems insurmountable) is a constant reminder that you’re in no rushing; this is the rest of your life. The result is a cleverly challenging and satisfying game, one which does away with the adrenaline packed action scenes of FPS or the depth and details of an RTS for the cool, lethal, bewitching realities of space and capitalism.

Comments

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.