Hardspace: Shipbreaker (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £21.99 (Soundtrack £6.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

If there’s one thing we can be sad about with Hardspace: Shipbreaker, it’s that we can’t huck segments of the ship, especially kersplodey ones, at Corporate. Then again, I can imagine we aren’t the first cutter to be disgruntled and think about that, so they might have giant cannons for just such an eventuality.

One of those “Last things you’ll see” moments. Whoopsie.

Anyway, yes, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a game about dismantling spaceships in a dystopian hellscape where you are a clone whose processable (not furnaceable) worth is approximately $8. Armed with substandard tools you can improve (and later buy) thanks to completing work orders, and slowly, ever so slowly reducing a billion in debt, you cut up ships and yeet the various portions into the right trash receptacles for recycling, for your corporate masters.

You’re also a clone without a union, so no, diving into one of the three processing areas is a no-go, I’m afraid. You can, to be fair, set your number of clones between infinite, 30 total til game over, and none. Don’t pick none, you will die at least once learning the ropes.

I did, eventually, work out a way of getting these parts apart without this happening. Eventually.

It’s actually pretty relaxing, although there are motion sickness warnings for six degrees of freedom movement and the odd thing that’s moving while you’re looking at something that’s not. And with only a few tools, it’s pretty easy to learn the ropes. Cutting tool in focused mode for getting rid of cutting points or smaller metal plates you just want off to get the sodding airlock already, line cutter for when you’ve got metal things connected you don’t want. Grapple tool, its tether, and force push for moving stuff to the right receptacle and picking up even most things that are nailed down, visor to see the harder to see stuff to shove in the barge or destroy, and demo charges for when you can’t cut the bastard (nanocarbon or cut guard), but you want the damn thing gone. Simple!

…Except a friend just told me I can get rid of cut guards with a charged force push. Fuck my life.

Spooky ship, spooky ship, scares you just like a spooky ship…

The aesthetic is pretty cool, although glitch effects annoy the hell out of me, as does a resetting windowed mode, the UX is pretty clear, the music… Well, it’s space trucker guitars, I have no problem with space trucker guitars for, essentially, working yourself for the company store. The three base ship designs and their variations are pretty cool, each with their own challenges (sod you, Javelin, and your backasswards way of building a ship. I hate ensuring your individual toroids don’t snatch up the core of the ship, or drag the whole thing into the wrong station, and you are my nemesis), so… Yeah, I’m liking it on the aesthetic front.

But I also love me some worldbuilding, and, through collecting data boxes, we see just how shit a company Lynx is… And the mystery behind the AI nodes hiding in the Ghost Ships you encounter later on. It’s really not much of a spoiler to say “Someone done fucked up their if-whiles”…

This one isn’t the biggest. Even at the current stage.

Shipbreaker is pretty far along from the looks of things, and I’d love to see multiplayer, but as it is? Granular difficulty’s fun, the world’s fun, the game modes are fun, and if you’re into just chilling out for an hour or two with some mild swearing, a session of Shipbreaker is a good way to do it.

(EDIT: Well, ain’t my timing great. I published this, then found out the story update is hitting soon. Ah well, enjoy the story, I’m certain it’s suitably dystopian!)

Taaake me hoooome, hyperspace roooaaaads…

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Conan: Exiles (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £33.99 base game (£21 for the “Added goodie bag” content, or £54.99 for the whole deal)
Where To Get It: Steam

NOTE: Conan: Exiles is a game that comes in 3 flavours with the same base game/maps – PvP, PvE, and Single-Player/Co-Op. The majority of the review touches on the Single-Player experience. Thankew.

Conan: Exiles is a lot of things. The problem being, it takes a hell of a time to get to a lot of it, as, originally, Conan was a survival MMO. It shows, as the single player, on normal difficulty, is… Hell. To the point where I look at other reviews, and wonder what game these folks have been playing.

Approximately 15 seconds before the *first* time I lose all my kit to this small Darfari camp, and about 30 minutes before I switch to Easy difficulty.

For example, the usual survival game rule of “You die, you lose all the stuff it took you ages to craft” comes into play. In the very early game, this isn’t so much a problem. Woo, you need to get some stone and wood, and make a sword, some plant fiber, make some clothes. Big deal. But the further you get, the more of a pain this becomes. Got iron weapons? Odds are high this means you’re taking on things that need iron weapons, which means… Good luck getting your corpse back, and equally good luck with the trek to your nearest iron deposit (hopefully restocked), fending off the beasties there, harvesting, trekking back… It’s a game with a pretty hefty buy-in to each stage of the game, time and resource investment wise, and even the gains you’ve made in terms of buildings can be undone by… The Purge. Aka “A horde of AI that attacks at randomish times once you’ve gotten to capturing Thralls.”

CONTENT WARNING: Aside from the naked bits that people joke about, Slavery is a core mechanic of the game, treated pretty much as *a mechanic* . You have been warned.

If you’ve guessed that I very quickly switched to easy mode once learning how painful it can be to progress on Normal? You are, like me, a person of sense. Although, unfortunately, this doesn’t make building (a necessary element) any less of a pain. Want those neato iron weapons? Okay, first we’ll need 540 stone for a furnace. This is the easy part. Next, we’ll need 50 bricks, and 100 iron for a blacksmi- wait, you don’t know how bricks are made? Easy, that’s 10 Stone a brick, chuck it in the furnace, and use Wood or Coal to fuel it, and… What do you mean, “WHAT?!?” , it’s only another 500 stone and 200 ironstone! Oh, and the 40 ironstone you’ll need for a basic sword, ta.

Oh, you don’t know where ironstone is, or what it looks like? Look around, or look at wiki, like… Look, if you’re going to keep complaining, player, about stupid things like “Unreal Engine games disliking alt-tabbing”, I’m just going to take my crocodiles and go home!

I detect… Mystery! Also History! Mystory?

I’m sure that Conan: Exiles has an interesting world. What it’s shown me so far has been hints of awesome locations, and, for the early game at least, I’ve been levelling up like a levelling thing (Level 24/60 as of this review.) But it hides it behind so… So much grind. Even with a couple of friends to help out with the buildings, I definitely wouldn’t be playing this on normal difficulty, because of the pain of keeping everything going, and 7 hours of play and more than a third of the way through the levelling process before hitting iron weaponry can best be described as “Extracting the Michael.”

“And PvE?” I hear you ask. “Is it any different?” Well… Yes and no. Yes, once you have some friends or have managed to join a clan, it is. Your survivability goes up. You can descend like locusts on a resource node and gobble it up. But until that point, it’s like playing on normal difficulty, with the disturbing addition of the Unconscious, players registered but not logged in, littering the landscape like the introduction of Phillip Jose Farmer’s “To Your Scattered Bodies Go.” Oh, and the core narrative conceit, that Conan himself frees you (there’s your tie in), and that Thoth Amon, for some odd reason, is the one who put the murder-bracelet on you… Kind of falls apart.

See? Disturbing as hell.

Sometimes, you have to keep going, to get a better picture of how the game pulls together. But this is one of those times where I can see my future stretching out in front of me, and, funnily enough, it does not involve gathering 200 corrupted stone, whatever the hell else that Map Room which finally lets you access the equivalent of quick travel in the game, and beating Thoth Amon’s demons. Theoretically, having a friendly group of, say, 5 or 10 players clanning up immediately would make the game flow that much easier… But even then, this feels like Game as Job, which is a distinct turn off for me.

Ironstone, so you know what to look for without a god-damn wiki, and one of the many and varied beasts that will try to kill you on the way to or while harvesting it.

The Mad Welshman is already underpaid in this job. He has no desire to take on a second for nothing.

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