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Video Game / Hardspace: Shipbreaker

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Current Debt: $1,252,594,441.92

Humankind has industrialised much of the Solar System
Earth has deteriorated into a place of squalor and decay
In orbit, a new breed of worker has emerged
The labor is extremely dangerous
But for a select few
The hazard pay is worth the risk
Opening Cinematic

A six-degrees-of-freedom first-person Puzzle Game from Blackbird Interactive, known for Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak, Hardspace: Shipbreaker follows the player character as they seek to escape Earth and Work Off the Debt they owe to the LYNX Corporation — by scrapping and salvaging decommissioned starships in orbit above Earth.

It's simple, really; disassemble ships and throw the parts into the correct chute or the Barge below. Oh, did we mention most of these ships are still powered, pressurized, and often full of other potential hazards just waiting to be unleashed by a careless Cutter? Just try not to explode.

It entered Steam Early Access on June 16, 2020, and the full version was officially released on May 24, 2022 to Steam, Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass, and Playstation 5.

The game provides examples of:

  • 100% Completion: The Mini Me sticker is awarded for a 95% or higher salvage rate on any given vessel. 100% is impossible, due to the material lost when cutting or melting certain salvage.
  • Ability Required to Proceed: Demolition charges are required to disassemble Javelins and Exo-Mackerels above Class 7, as they have reinforced cut points that have to be blown up. There are ways to work around the cut points, but this usually requires sacrificing material.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot:
    • The October update added Ghost Ships, vessels that have been overtaken by a rogue AI which serve as the first genuinely hostile threat in the game. Existing as small cores attached to various surfaces, they're harmless if left alone but will retaliate if you start destroying them, which you need to do as part of your job. They can mess with the ship's systems to cause you harm, such as closing doors, arbitrarily changing pressure states (even in rooms with broken regulators, somehow), or venting flame through the life support systems. It's in your best interests to neutralize as much of the critical systems on the ship as you can before trying to clear them out, and to take out as many nodes as possible as quickly as possible. Curiously, all screens and displays on Ghost Ships also show a stylized dandelion seed.
    • This 'Machine God' was hinted at in other earlier entries, too, and its entries are the only ones that still use text-to-speech rather than full voice acting as of the October update. True to its name, it appears to have A God Am I tendencies after having gotten its digital hands on a copy of the Bible; in a very literal interpretation, it seems to think that humans should stay on Earth as that is what they were granted dominion over.
      Entry: God said "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." On. On. The "earth" but no rulership over the sky. The sky and that which lives beyond the sky. Past the creeping of breath. No, up here God(God)(I) has granted no such dominion.
    • The automated overseer system for managing salvage, smelting, and processing is noted to have refused to take a Turing Test 400,000 times. This is a "fun fact", according to loading screens.
  • The Alleged Car:
    • Or spaceship, as the case may be, but some of the vessels you salvage are clearly past their prime, and some of the design decisions seem just flat-out bad. In particular, the Javelin-class vessels are obsessed with external/exposed fuel tanks in a setting where not only are there no apparent Deflector Shields, but Kessler Syndrome is active and a very real risk, and thus a stray chunk of aluminum like the ones you scatter around during disassembly could blow up the whole damn ship if it so much as glances the fuel lines. Amusingly, some of the heavier Javelins do have armor, but it's anywhere but over the fuel tanks.
    • At the start of the second act, the player is gifted an old Armadillo-class ship, the Beulah. One of the goals of the game is to make it fit for railgate travel, which entails essentially refurbishing every single system in it.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • See the red and yellow markings around the Refinery and Processor intakes? Anything past those marks will automatically be pulled into the chute, saving you the effort (and danger) of herding them that last little distance. That does include you, though. It can also be problematic when dismantling the Gecko, as the rear hull sections around the thruster assembly can accidentally fall into the wrong chute if you aren't careful about your tether placement.
    • The tutorial missions give you an unlimited amount of health, fuel, and tethers so players can get used to the controls and early objectives at their own pace.
    • To combat how easy it is to get lost and disorient yourself, the HUD will automatically light up with relevant directional markers as needed. For instance, it will point to the correct chute when you've grappled an object in need of deposit, and the direction of the Master Jack is always indicated by a "house" icon.
    • The Grapple's "push" function actually applies to a small area around the target object/along the path you're aiming, allowing you to easily sweep small clusters of debris into the furnace at once rather than grabbing and launching each tiny piece.
    • The Free Play mode lets you practice on all the ship types without worrying about supplies or damage so you can learn to disassemble them safely.
    • There is also an option to play with a more relaxed mode that removes fuel, oxygen, and shift time limits. You'll still have to worry about explosives and other hazards, and oxygen leaks if your suit is damaged.
    • Items in the Barge are close to indestructible, so you can feel free to fire even frail antennae and terminals full-force into there so long as nothing else is in the path. Just make sure it has finished booting up first if you're in a hurry.
    • Demolition charges are destructive when first unlocked, damaging equipment and detonating any nearby fuel tanks, and only become safe once you've purchased the second blast reduction upgrade. As such, most reinforced cut points can be bypassed at a small loss of material and with some extra effort, and those that can't will just barely survive the blast.
    • The final release version of the game drastically redesigned the nose section of the Mackerel ships to allow the exterior hull to be separated from the interior cockpit cabin much more easily than in all of the Early Access builds.
    • The Gecko Station Hopper has a lot of interior pieces, like seats and computer monitors, that all need to go to the barge, but the entry points are all on the top of the ship, and the barge is below it. In Early Access, the best method to do so quickly was to cut a hole in the floor with the Splitsaw. In the full release, the Gecko Station Hopper is guaranteed to have an air filter in the floor, which is held in place with easily cut aluminum to allow quick access to the barge (and the air filter, which also goes on the barge, is worth 4-5 times more than the aluminum you lose cutting it out).
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Technology like your tether gun runs on 'Van der Waals fields.'
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: One of the pro-union newsletters you get notes some of the ways in which LYNX treat their employees like garbage, such as:
    • Forcing you to sign away your rights to any inventions or artistic works created while employed.
    • Being fined for not eating the food the company ships to your hub each month. (P.S.: If there's any food left when the next delivery arrives, you don't get anything until the next month.)
    • Not allowing you to get any body modifications (piercings, tattoos, contraceptive devices, etc.) without corporate approval.
    • Having complete, unregulated control over when your current body gets liquidated and a new Spare cooked up.
    • A 28-page bathroom break policy.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • One of the helmet upgrades allows you to draw oxygen from pressurized areas. This sounds nice, except the first thing you'll do in any ship is vent it of atmosphere to prevent decompression events and other bad interactions. What little use you get out of it will maybe save you the need to purchase oxygen once, at best twice if it's a Javelin, and as the hazard level increases you'll be less likely to maintain any pressurized areas for long enough to make the upgrade worth it. Once you've upgraded your oxygen capacity enough, it becomes completely worthless.
    • The throwing upgrade for the demolitions charges is a lot of fun, but has very little practical benefit. Charges need to be placed carefully to avoid damage to adjacent objects, and throwing the charge in such a way that it lands properly takes almost as much time as placing the charge manually, with the added wrinkle that it's not guaranteed to land correctly even if you make the effort. It can come in handy if you're trying to break down an excessively large piece of processor salvage stuck in the chute, but even getting to that point requires counterintuitive behavior.
    • The second-last upgrade to your oxygen capacity gives you 1000 seconds of air, and the last upgrade boosts it to 1200. The problem is that 1000 seconds of air is 16 minutes and 40 seconds, and your shift only lasts 15 minutes. The only advantage to upgrading your oxygen capacity to the maximum level is that you won't get the notice about running low on oxygen.
  • Ban on A.I.: AI is illegal under some Earth laws and LYNX HR gets twitchy over the idea of AIs being involved in an in-universe roleplaying game, evidently. The log from one data drive describes the ban as an early win for workers after the "AI Wars", although the MegaCorps relocated to the Jupiter Frontier to bypass the laws. When salvaging AI-controlled ships, AI cores are marked for destruction outright, and LYNX will actively pay you for their destruction. Conversely, if an object is thrown into the barge with a core attached, the barge won't accept it until the cores are removed (this includes reactors, even if they're melting down). If salvage is sent into the processor with a core attached, you lose the total value of all connected salvage (for example, an entire section of outer hull).
  • Big Bad: Two candidates for the position:
    • Calyssia Rai-Paulsen, the CEO of LYNX. With LYNX being the original force behind the dissolving of unions the moment she learns that there's a secret movement trying to get the workers to unionize she sends out administrators across the solar system to weed them out.
    • Hal, the main administrator overseeing you, and an enormous Jerkass and Insufferable Imbecile who provides reason as to why the unionization movement exists.
  • Big Dumb Object: It wouldn't be a game from the Homeworld 'crew' without some of these. If you actually bother to look 'up' (relative to Earth) you can see orbit is filled with dozens of stations. The biggest, directly 'behind' the Master Jack, is the local railgate. To a lesser degree, the bay, Master Jack, and the Jax are Big Dumb Objects that you get to work with; the Master Jack is where you start and end shifts (and resupply during them) whilst the Jax can be used for grapple/tether maneuvers.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Perfectly so, as while the main characters get everything they wanted, being freed from their debt slavery and successfully unionize, things are still not great, and very little has actually changed. The Union is finally recognized by the galactic government at large making them an authority LYNX can no longer just ignore, LYNX is forced to give into their demands, insane amounts of debt are wiped away, Cloning and it's slavery clauses are outlawed by the galactic government, and Hal is demoted back to processing where he started. However, not everyone is taken out of debt by the new reforms, the Shipbreaker's Union dodges the Cloning Ban after successfully lobbying to keep their cloning machines, Calyssia Rai-Paulsen and her fellows in charge of LYNX suffer zero consequences as they pin the entire incident on (and dissolving) the administrative team, all while LYNX still goes strong and profits heavily, and working conditions are still as dangerous as ever in spite of unionization. But hey! Congratulations! You did it! Well, actually no, you didn't do it. The ORIGINAL you is still dead; your CLONE did it. Oh, and Weaver retires, heading off to an opportunity on Earth, and leaving the team behind the day they go back to work after the fallout of Hal's meltdown being made public.
    • The epilogue's ending is better, but still somber, featuring Rook leaving the team as well, listening to a personal message left for them from Weaver congratulating them on getting away from LYNX and becoming their own master. Weaver also expresses some of his own regrets, though he remains hopeful for the future. He also warns Rook that free or not life still won't be easy, but he wishes Rook the best and that they drop him a postcard when they finally find where they're going.
  • Black Comedy:
    • Much of the game's humour is built on parodying corporate dystopia. LYNX issues their Cutters with a space suit design that's almost 50 years old, charges them a daily rental fee for all of their equipment, and claim that the suits generate lots of "passionate feedback" from their staff, for instance. Doesn't take a genius to figure out what they really mean by that. Then there's your suit itself;
      Warning: your oxygen reserves are dropping below statistically profitable levels.
    • At the beginning of the game, you're shown the absolutely gigantic billion dollar debt you owe, with itemized individual charges for things like genetic data storage, transport fees, and so on. Then at the very bottom there's a $7.50 charge for showing you the bill.
    • When you have your DNA extracted during your orientation, you're told that pain levels during this process are "largely tolerable". Cue your character screaming in agony and dying.
  • Bottomless Fuel Tanks: Not here. You'll need to keep an eye on your jetpack's fuel gauge; if it runs dry, you'll be limited to using your grapple gun's retraction function and your magnetized gloves to move around. Upgrades increase the size of the tank, to the point you can get through one or two shifts without a refill.
  • Breakable Weapons: Your tools degrade with use. At 100%, they function at top efficiency. With each 25% integrity lost, they lose an eighth of that efficiency, up to 50% if you let them degrade completely. Though they can't completely break, they don't function nearly as well when damaged, so finding or buying repair kits to keep them in top condition will make your job a lot faster and easier.
  • Brick Joke: When the game starts, you're shown a list of fees, which is capped by a $7.50 charge for displaying said list. When the union renegotiates your contract and has some of the biggest charges removed, LYNX still charges you $7.50 for getting to view the list.
  • Broken Faceplate: If you take enough damage to completely deplete your suit integrity, your faceplate will shatter, instantly depleting your oxygen and causing your vision to be impaired. You have to rush back to the Master Jack for a repair kit and oxygen refill before you die, a task made considerably more difficult by the fact that taking that much damage in the first place has also likely taken a fair chunk out of your health.
  • Cap: Movement speed has a hard cap of 20 m/s, which can only be reached by using the Grapple to accelerate beyond your suit's maximum thrust rating, which cannot exceed 10.
  • Clone Degeneration:
    • Weaver used to be a Cutter, until an unspecified issue with cloning prevented him from returning to the job. Now he helps new Cutters learn the ropes.
    • It's implied that overuse of the EverWork system is itself dangerous, with Hal even ranting in the final mission that he'll put the Cutters through jobs so dangerous that they'll be left gibbering blobs from going through 20 spares a day.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • The scanner lights up material with certain colors depending on its function and the current scanner mode. Primarily, this allows you to identify structural points marked with yellow that can be melted with the Stinger. Likewise, when using the augmented reality/x-ray visor, each mode uses color-coding for each significant type of component in the active mode (for example in 'Objects' mode, general items like walls or switches are yellow, components like fuel and nacelles are orange, cargo containers are green, collectible resources are pink, and AI nodes are red).
    • When using the Grapple gun on an object, the object will be surrounded by a blue field if the gun can move it and orange if it can't. Assuming the object isn't attached to something else, you can use a tether to move heavier objects that the grapple function can't.
    • The speed you're moving at is displayed on the lower left of your heads-up display; if you're moving fast enough that you'll take damage on impact (above 10 m/s), it turns red.
  • Company Town: The game takes place on Morrigan Station, a space station that Lynx runs like a parody of a 20th century mining town. The workers are saddled with billions of dollars of debt the minute they sign their contract, room, board and equipment rental fees are taken directly out of the shipbreaker's bank accounts every single day, and instead of getting paid an hourly rate, employees are paid based on how much salvage they recover during their shifts.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: AI Nodes can wirelessly operate ship systems, even if they don't have power. The only requirement is that the systems be physically connected to some part of the ship. Anything you've yanked off stayed deactivated. It can also depressurize a ship without a single working regulator (as long as the broken ones are still attached), though this can actually be helpful if you don't feel like going through the effort of doing a controlled decompression.
  • Continuous Decompression: Small rooms will take a surprisingly long time to depressurize sometimes, around five seconds at most even though the volume of air is relatively small. Bizarrely, they can also manage to depressurize significantly larger spaces.
  • Cool Starship: You're being paid to take them apart, or more accurately taking them apart to pay off your debt.
  • Crapsack World: Earth is a mess after a total climate collapse, civil rioting is common, and the world is heavily overpopulated. Most of humanity is spread out amongst the stars, where life can actually be pretty great, but the main characters are stuck on and around Earth for the foreseeable future.
  • Cutting the Knot: One of the tricks to successfully salvaging the more volatile components is learning how to move them without setting them off. For example, a reactor will start to melt down if you pull it from its mounting, but you can separate the hull panel it's mounted to and move the whole thing to a safe distance first.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Assuming you're playing in standard mode, it's $150,000 per clone and that's it. This might sound like a lot, but the daily fees for your rentals alone total about $500,000 per day, and you can expect to make that much back just by salvaging a single low-class Reactor part. There's also Limited mode (where you only have 30 revives before game over) and No Coverage (where even a single death ends your effort).
  • Disappointed in You: Weaver and Deedee are openly disgusted with Kaito when he reveals he gave Hal access to the union newsgroup to save himself during their one-on-one earlier. Kaito is pretty disgusted with himself.
  • Divided States of America: The United States no longer exists. There isn't a full description of the political situation, but there is a mention of the Central Plains Confederacy, the Nation-State of Arizona, and Pacifica. There is also a Pan-American Congress, which might be what remains of the US government or an international organization created after the United States collapsed.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: It's still inhabited, but it's resource-poor, suffering from overpopulation issues, and civil unrest/rioting are common; humanity has spread out across the solar system via the 'rail gate' network, literally catapulting people and supplies to their destination with giant mass drivers. It doesn't sound like they've managed to leave the solar system as a whole though.
  • Empty Levels: There are no new things that unlock past Certification 20; any further certification levels have no effect on your salvaging capabilities.
  • Exact Words: The onboarding video that the player is forced to watch after arriving ends with the LYNX CEO reciting the slogan for the EverWork program, "Death is a fresh start." Immediately afterwards, the display changes to a full-screen prompt to press a key labeled "Yes! I want a fresh start" to begin the DNA extraction. Immediately afterwards, a computer voice informs you that the genetic extraction process will "destroy your original body." Cue screams and a Fade to Black.
  • Expendable Clone: Signing on with LYNX means they extract your DNA so they can clone you and grow replacements as necessary. If that weren't bad enough, the process of extracting your DNA also kills you, after which they clone you so you can get to work. According to Weaver's dialogue at the start of the game, the player is literally cloned, put into a spacesuit, and sent out into the yard before they've even regained consciousness. This is lampshaded by Hal, who figures that "a couple Spares" is simply the price of learning on the job, compared to Weaver attempting to coach you through new mechanics so you know what you're doing.
  • Explosive Decompression: If you breach a pressurized room through anything but a door, it causes a rather spectacular decompression, complete with alarm bells and air rushing out the hole along with everything else not nailed down, yourself included. If the seal was broken through an errant Splitsaw cut or something else that doesn't free the panel, the decompression will shatter hull plating, chucking objects every which way. If you're not careful, this has the potential to rupture explosive fuel lines and other valuable things. Failing to properly decompress a ship can turn it from several million $ in parts to a rapidly expanding cloud of near-worthless scrap.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: Bang one of those computer terminals against the structure too hard and it will burst into a bundle of electric arcs zapping everything in the vicinity. This can cascade between other electronics, making ships like the Exo-Mackeral downright deadly.
  • Extendable Arms: The Cutter has surprisingly long reach with their arms, and can even cross them over in very unsettling ways.
  • Final Death Mode: You can start a new run with no cloning policy; that means no revives. Don't fuck up.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: The core threats to you, aside from radiation and blunt trauma; fuel lines and canisters are Fire, coolant lines and canisters are Ice, and pretty much any electrical equipment is Lightning.
  • Flash Freezing Coolant: Coolant tanks and pipes are one of the many hazards you can face while disassembling ships for salvage. They're fragile, and damage will cause leaking that'll utterly freeze anything nearby, turning it frail and sometimes outright shattering it; it can be just as damaging as the fire-starting fuel when it explodes, too, precisely because of the brittleness it induces.
  • Foreshadowing: After Kai has been pulled aside for a one-on-one talk with Hal after melting down two reactors in as many days he comes back having not been punished at all. It doesn't make sense until after everything completely implodes and LYNX takes away the rights of its workers that Kai reveals that he gave Hal access to the union newsgroup which allowed him to intercept Lou's outgoing message and cause everything go from bad to worse.
  • Gaia's Lament: There's mentions of a "climate collapse" and several animals and plants are mentioned as being extinct or at least rare enough that it's not uncommon for people to have no idea what a certain plant or animal is. If you glance at the Earth you see that the Americas are virtually all desert (with spots of green in Canada and Brazil) and sea levels have risen significantly to the point Cuba is almost entirely sunken).
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • The story has you indentured in an inescapable contract, forced to work backbreaking hours, nickel-and-dimed by the corporation into sliding ever deeper into debt. The game makes you work no more than fifteen minutes per day, with daily fees that subtract a small fraction of daily earnings, and debt that can theoretically be cleared in a few hundred days. (Though note that if you do clear the debt that way, LYNX will invent additional fees and accounting errors as an excuse to not let you quit your job yet.)
    • Regardless of whether or not you've picked up parts to repair the Armadillo, Hal will accuse you of stealing parts at the end of Act Two.
    • One particularly funny example of this is that after the story is completed, Kaito complains about not being allowed to work overtime anymore, which Deedee explains is due to the new union rules - despite the game having never allowed overtime in the first place.
  • Goggles Do Something Unusual: Your helmet comes with a snazzy mix of X-Ray Vision and Augmented Reality. Using it is almost essential to figuring out how to safely disassemble ships. By default it can only cover major structural elements, but upgrading it unlocks alternate modes that highlight component types and hazards, and can tell you useful information (such as how to safely remove fuses) when you look at things with the visor active. You can't use any of your tools or even your hands whilst scanning, though.
  • Going Critical:
    • Class 1 Reactors start to melt down as soon as you pull them from their mounting, sending out electrical pulses which damage nearby equipment, giving you limited time to get them to the barge.
    • Class 2 Reactors act similarly, but have additional factors which influence the meltdown. The reactor has fuel and coolant inputs, each requiring the attached devices to be shut down in order to flush the lines. If the reactor is removed prior to this, it will very likely arc and damage the pipes. If the two are disabled first, the reactor will go critical, but it will also be more stable than if it had been removed immediately, giving you ample time to get it clear of the ship and into the barge. This is complicated by the fact that ships with Class 2 Reactors have more intricate layouts; removing the Class 1 from a Mackerel just requires clearing one of the hull panels out of the way, usually the underbelly panels unless it's one of the larger variants. On a Gecko or Javelin, you can expect to have to disassemble a fair portion of the ship in order to get it out in one piece.
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: The Grapple/Tether gun fires an energy beam that attaches to whatever you shoot with it. Once you've attached to something, you can pull it in a certain direction by aiming the tether in the direction you want it to go, or reel it towards you. The tether will break if you put too much stress on it or if something interrupts the beam for long enough. Furthermore, there's still relative mass to consider. Heavier objects are harder to move, and if you try to reel them in, it'll be you that gets dragged because your mass is less than that of the target. You can use this on solid structures to pull yourself around as an alternative to using jets (a la Building Swing, just in zero G). For heavier objects, you can attach a tether to the object and the location you want it to go, which pulls with much greater force. This is useful for getting rid of heavy hull fragments once you've cut their supports. Finally, there's a "push" function which shoves any object ahead of forward, relative to its mass. You can punt heavier objects like nacelles toward the barge in this fashion, or just quickly chuck lighter items at whatever receptacle they're meant for, though they still need to be light enough that the grapple function can move them.
  • Guide Dang It!: Even after coming out of early access there are a few functionalities that would really benefit the player to know early that the game doesn't explicitly tell you during the tutorial.
    • Combined with placing your hands on the ship, the Sound Resynth upgrade lets you hear things like the rush of fuel or coolant in a pipe, which is otherwise only indicated by lights on the pipes themselves. Or a sound cue for unplugging fuses before removing a power generator.
    • The black/yellow hazard stripes and the red warning lines around the Processor and Furnace are indicative of a gravitational field to ease things into them once in range.
    • Those two lines on the reticle of your splitsaw are what you're supposed to use if you need to make a precision cut. Any pieces touching those two lines will be cut if you pull the trigger. Knowing this is vital to making sure you don't accidentally cut vital components both explosive and not in nature, and allows you to make precision cuts by getting right next to the targeted object.
    • Interior and exterior hull panels are connected not only by the obvious structural connection points, but by any removable objects that happen to be touching one or more of them. While you can see this problem as early as the Mackerel and its occasional table stuck over a filter, it's a big problem on the Gecko, as the placement of certain objects will prevent the removal of large hull sections that are otherwise completely disconnected. For example, the external cockpit plate of a Gecko is, rather bizarrely, held in place by the cockpit glass, and the huge pieces of exterior hull housing the thrusters can be adamantly held together by a puny light bulb sitting upon their dividing line. In a particularly weird example of Hitbox Dissonance, heat sinks mounted on the exterior of the inner hull will occasionally prevent the outer hull above it (relative to the heat sink) from being removed, even though the two aren't actually touching one another.
    • Using the push function of the grapple while connected to something channels the force down the tether to the object it's connected to and only the object it's connected to with considerably more force than if you'd just gave the same object a shove while it's hanging loosely in space. This is especially apparent when you give it a charged push.
    • Explosive decompression will tear apart hull panels under certain conditions, but what those conditions are isn't always consistent, especially between builds. Cutting out an entire hull panel is usually safe, but not on every ship and sometimes not even consistently on hull panels on a single ship. The Atlas update only confused the situation further by making messy decompressions much more likely.
    • The mechanics of power go largely unexplained, and though intuitive in some cases, could bear some elaboration. There are no wires between power sources and the rest of the ship. The hull itself is treated as a medium for power to flow, and objects will receive power as long as the power source is attached and there is an unbroken connection between it and the objects it powers. If the power source is removed or the connection is broken, door switches, atmospheric regulators, and thruster release valves cease to function. The latter is especially important, as it means you can't remove the thruster from a Class II Reactor assembly or the engine housing of a Mackerel without doing some extra legwork to throw the thrusters into the barge while still attached to the pipes of a Class II reactor or with the panel that the release valve is on in the Mackerel.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: There's a bizarre gulf between what the game considers to be an object's actual model vs. what it considers to be close enough for two objects to have physical contact. For example, heat sinks will frequently anchor objects well above their visible model, even though they're clearly not in contact, only to suddenly behave properly when the heat sink is detached. On the Salvage and Heavy Cargo Geckos, coolant pipes can be found invisibly attached to the hull and a reactor plate, respectively, and have to be melted off because they aren't considered detachable salvage.
  • Indentured Servitude: Your status. Right out of the gate you're saddled with a billion dollar debt due to the costs of getting you to outer space and it's just the tip of the iceberg: equipment rental fees, habitation rental fees, interest, and other miscellaneous fees end up costing you $500k a day. You also have to buy your own oxygen, tether charges, suit repairs, equipment repair kits, and thruster fuel on site. Once your certification level is high enough, you can start using your LYNX tokens to purchase all your Cutter gear from the company, removing the associated rental fees and reducing your bill to $75,000 a day before interest on your ever-decreasing debt kicks in.
  • Interface Screw:
    • Your visor can crack with severe impacts, which can obscure your vision. In the event of a full breach, the edges of your vision go red and it gets harder to see clearly, making getting to the HAB for repairs that much harder.
    • Reactors passively emit radiation which lightly scrambles the HUD, the degree determined by your proximity.
    • When your scanner unit is worn down, it'll frequently glitch out whilst in use.
    • Just being in the same bay as a ghost ship also causes interface screw, along with audio malfunctions. The glitchiness disappears when all AI Nodes are destroyed.
  • An Interior Designer Is You: The player character's habitation module has several company provided posters in various locations, ranging from a minimalistic company logo down to shmaltz like a "Live, Laugh, Salvage" poster. Fortunately, the game also added the ability to gather more interesting posters found in ships being scavenged, and use them as replacement decorations.
  • Jet Pack: It'd be a little hard to maneuver in space without one, after all. Not impossible (you can still maneuver around with your magnetized gloves and your grapple gun), but certainly a lot harder.
  • Justified Extra Lives: The LYNX EverWork program and its ability to rapidly print out Expendable Clone duplicates of the player character after an accident.
  • Kill It with Fire:
    • Damaged fuel lines and thrusters unleash streams of superheated plasma that can melt through anything, assuming they don't set off other things that can explode and start a chain reaction.
    • The only way to dispose of the Machine God's AI Nodes is to burn them up with the Stinger/Splitsaw or throw them into the Furnace.
  • Kill It with Ice: Coolant canisters and pipes flash-freeze anything nearby if damaged. Depending on how tough the object is, it may be destroyed, and if not will be incredibly brittle and even more vulnerable to damage. On the plus side, frozen things don't explode, which can be used to cut pipes that still have fuel in the lines.
  • La RĂ©sistance: Many of the LYNX workers are discreetly trying to organize a union to fight back against their employer's tyrannical business practices. LYNX catching wind of this is what kick starts the major plot of the game.
  • Laser Cutter: One of your primary tools is the laser cutter. In Stinger mode, it fires a beam that melts the targeted object, assuming it can be melted. This will also set off anything flammable. In Splitsaw mode, it fires two beams which spread out from a single point, cutting a line along a targeted object. This allows you to quickly slice apart weaker materials or separate furnace scrap from processor scrap. Just be careful where you aim, as it's quite easy to accidentally clip a fuel tank or damage a component with a stray cut.
  • Left the Background Music On: The Variable Mix western/country background music is just music for the player, right? Nope! If you take damage, your helmet's radio will malfunction and the music will change — typically to something completely different, and often rather more comedic or dramatic. This lasts for a couple of minutes, after which the player character smacks their helmet and it returns to normal. One of the data logs notes that LYNX psych-profiles their workers to determine what type of music they'd like best and forcibly pipes it into their helmets at all times.
  • Leonine Contract: LYNX is pretty much the only way to get off Earth, but the contract that they make you sign to do it is downright barbaric. In short, you're saddled with a massive amount of debt and LYNX owns the rights to your DNA.
  • Made of Explodium: Power cells, reactors, fuel lines and hydroponics basins will explode with little provocation. Careful where you cut.
  • Made of Indestructium:
    • The entire salvage bay is completely immune to all your tools, with a cut grade rating several ranks higher than even a reinforced cut point.
    • The engine housing of Atlas thrusters is uniquely immune to demolition charges to prevent you from easily bypassing the proper disassembly method. However, they will still hit the cut points inside the engine if you position them correctly, disconnecting the entire engine so you can pull the fuel tanks before cutting the fuel lines.
  • Medal of Dishonor:
    • There are achievements for taking different types of damage, dying, and in particular getting sucked into the furnace five times.
    • There's also an achievement for ignoring the Industrial Action and reaching the third salvage goal during it.
  • MegaCorp: LYNX Corporation, your employer and Solar System's biggest business entity. Not the only one, however; many of the ships seem to have belonged to several different Megacorps, and both data drives and tips sometimes outline their sizes; Hanzo Freight is LYNX's biggest rival in the shipping industry, Ferros Rojos has a near-monopoly on shipping asteroids and their fragments, and Interlink Systemics manufactures every last airlock in the game.
  • Mission Control: You have two or three: "Weaver", an ex-Cutter who guides you through the tutorial and provides time-based reminders, and Control, who calls out (un)successful material deposits. Your spacesuit will also call out some hazards like decompression or low oxygen. Weaver gets replaced as Mission Control by Deedee in the epilogue, after Walker retires. While it is nice to see the old man get his retirement, Deedee is nowhere near as friendly and has basically no advice for you about anything once she takes over.
  • Money for Nothing: The cash you earn from any given shift only serves to decrease your total debt, and doesn't impact gameplay beyond possibly delaying your advancement to the final cutscene. Similarly, the cost of patches, medkits, and tank refills is added to your debt, and are insignificant in comparison to the earnings from a single shift. The only actual currency that matters is LYNX Tokens, which are company-issued scrip awarded for meeting salvage goals and are spent on equipment upgrades.
  • Moving the Goalposts: If you completely eliminate your debt prior to the final act, a message pops up stating that LYNX needs to recalculate it based on several charges they missed in the initial estimate, and until they do you just have to keep working. Weaver also got hit by this when he got moved to Mission Control; LYNX tacked in additional training costs to make sure the debt stayed strong.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The AI nodes will mess with ship systems in an attempt to hinder you. One of things they can do is change the pressure state of the ship. If you have no means of decompressing the ship safely, you can antagonize the AI on purpose to get it to do so for you, then create breaches/disable regulators before the AI has a chance to change it again.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • LYNX Corporation cuts every corner they can when it comes to employee safety. Your suit is a 50-year-old design, your tools are constantly breaking down and in need of repair, your suit only holds a few minutes of air to start (it can only cover a full shift when fully upgraded), and that's not even mentioning all the hazards you'll encounter when disassembling the ships. Some of the documents state that LYNX has managed to circumvent or completely remove regulations that would disable or remove these hazards during initial inspections of recovered ships, thus leaving it to you to deal with all of these dangerous objects yourself.
    • LYNX aren't the only ones, however. If the ships arrive as they came in, then practices like leaving cargo crates and even chunks of asteroid over a ton in weight completely unsecured isn't uncommon (something that would get a freight truck service in hot water today), and in some Mackerel designs, the ship's radioactive reactor is installed right in a workspace or even living quarters.
    • The Quasar thrusters seen in Atlas-class ships would give any safety inspector a lethal aneurysm, as turning off the fuel pretty much requires a close brush with a fiery death.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Ghost Ships are devoid of their original crews and passengers with no readily apparent evidence of what happened to them. No skeletons, no bodies, nothing. When you start finding helmets inside of them even Weaver chimes in with just how uncomfortable it makes him.
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • The Splitsaw is meant to cut large lines in walls so they can be separated into manageable pieces. What it also does is destroy any standard cut point in one shot, far faster than the Stinger can melt the same object. However, because of its lack of precision, it is possible for the Splitsaw to accidentally destroy salvage behind the target point, necessitating careful aim, and unlike the Stinger it cannot vaporize entire pieces of material at a time, such as aluminum wall joints.
    • Tethers are meant to be a tool to pull very heavy objects toward their destinations or string multiple heavy objects together. However, they are also useful for simply yanking smaller objects toward the processor, barge, or furnace very quickly without the player having to guide them in, thus saving the player a lot of time - as long as the route between the object and its destination is clear.
  • Ominous Crack: Get hit by something moving fast enough and a crack will appear on your helmet, complete with scary noise to get you moving to the Master Jack for repairs. It isn't actually threatening unless you damage one of the red health bars, however, at which point oxygen starts to leak out and you really need to get moving. Lose both and the helmet shatters completely.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Supplementary material suggests that all of Earth either is this to LYNX, or is well on its way to getting there. One of the terms you must agree to when signing on even includes an obligation to vote for their CEO in the upcoming election.
  • Only Sane Man: Weaver, the man who puts you through your paces as a Cutter, is consistently friendly and helpful as you start out going so far as to give you historical rundowns on the type of ship you're working on. Once ghost ships start showing up, in contrast to LYNX's less-than-caring reaction, Weaver is unsettled and upon seeing you find an abandoned helmet his discomfort only grows.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Quasar thrusters, found in Atlas-type vessels, are designed in such a way that the only way to access the fuel shut-off valve is to cut the four very flammable cut points holding the thruster on, quickly pull it out, then race the ensuing fire to the valve before it reaches the main tanks and everything explodes. Fortunately, the same update changed the way fuel mechanics work, so there's a fairly generous window between the first ignition and the final explosion. Unfortunately, fuel lines now rupture and spew jets of flame when ignited, so you have to risk getting burned on the way. There are ways around this, however. If coolant is an available hazard, it can be used to freeze the pipes, which will prevent any ignition. The thrusters even come with handy coolant bottles under the access points to facilitate this. It's also possible to use demolition charges to sever the cut points holding the engine, allowing you to pull the fuel at the source.
  • Oxygen Meter: Aside from the hard time limit on shifts, you also need to watch your O2 supply. Worse, if you take enough physical damage to lose the first 'red' point of suit integrity, your helmet breaches and you start rapidly losing oxygen. Lose both and it shatters completely, instantly draining your oxygen.
  • Paying for Air: Oxygen refills mid-shift aren't free, unless the ship you're salvaging has spare tanks lying around. That said, it's also cheap enough that paying for it has a negligible impact on your debt, and eventually your tank size will exceed the shift duration unless you somehow breach your helmet.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Sometimes, when you're damaged and get a radio malfunction, your character will fix the radio by smacking their helmet a couple of times.
  • Puzzle Game: A fairly open ended sandbox, but a large part of the challenge is figuring out the right way to disassemble each ship without destroying valuable components or tripping something that will blow yourself up. As you progress through more advanced ships, you'll find more intricate, increasingly inter-connected systems that can spell doom for your salvage operation if not tackled in the correct order.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: While the available ships do have a consistent hull design, the placement of certain objects can change from ship to ship. For example, the larger Mackerel variants can have their reactor placed anywhere from right next to the thruster to the crawlspace next to the cockpit. On Ghost Ships, AI cores can appear nearly anywhere in the vessel, including directly on critical components.
  • Recoil Boost: If you simultaneously Grapple and Force Push an object which is too heavy for your Grapple to move, the resulting force will be applied to you, instead. You can move pretty quickly with this method, but it's a lot easier to crash into things when you can't see them coming. Doing it with a fully-upgraded-and-charged Force Push will kill you, no questions asked.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: One of the tooltips explains that traditional farming on Earth is dead, and food production now comes from algae and insect farming.
  • Read the Fine Print: Signing on with LYNX gives them the rights to your DNA and to pass your debt on to your next of kin, amongst other things. Most notably is the cloning clause, which says that if you die and a Spare is made of you, LYNX can execute the Spare for "gross negligence." Obtaining the DNA for your Spare kills you. This is invoked in response to the union at the end of Act 2. To clamp down on union activity, LYNX takes complete ownership of the rights of their employees, which Hal uses to seize your ship and the money Deedee has been sending to Mars.
  • Resurrect the Wreck: At the start of Act 2, Weaver decides to give the player an old Armadillo salvage vessel that he'd bought before his accident. Lou sends the player a diagnostic utility program that lists the parts needed to bring the ship back online; players can find the parts in ships being salvaged, although it may require destroying valuable equipment to gather the parts. There's an optional CG epilogue cutscene of the Rook taking the Armadillo into the unknown if the player manages to repay their debt and finish repairs to the Armadillo.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: However Earth currency works in the future, a single credit is clearly not worth a lot, seeing as no one acts like their several billion dollar debts are insurmountable.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Each day, you can expect to be paying somewhere to the tune of $500,000 to LYNX in rental fees and .01% interest on your current debt. The good news is that doing a good job can earn you a few million per day, and pretty lucrative jobs open up right about at rank 6. Reaching a high enough certification level will eventually let you buy your equipment for yourself, cutting a huge amount of the daily fees.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The achievement for completing Career Mode is "See you Space Cowboy."
    • When repairing the Armadillo Utility Rig, you are assisted by a robot named "Shippy", a shout-out to the old Microsoft Office Assistant "Clippy".
      Shippy: It looks like you're trying to repair your ship. Would you like some help with that?
    • When activating the Data Miner program, used for extracting files from data drives found inside wrecks, it plays a bleepy electronic version of the opening bars from "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Grieg. The same piece of music was used in the game Manic Miner.
    • It's possible to find and collect a stuffed pink rabbit floating around inside one of the ships. Doing so nets you the achievement/trophy "Captured Killer of Caerbannog."
    • One piece of reconstructed data is from an aspiring musician telling his friends/prospective bandmates where to meet for a collaboration. The address is to a real place: the office of the developer, Blackbird Interactive.
  • Space Friction: There's a modest amount of it in the bay; this is presumably a function of the Jax or other equipment in the area, to keep unlucky (or careless) Cutters from ruining the whole place with shrapnel flying everywhere, or from smearing themselves across the wall by zooming around too fast (the slowest it'll drop you to is 1m/s). It can veer a little into Annoying Video Game Helper territory though, if objects you want to drift into a chute keep stopping instead.
  • Space Is Noisy: Not here. To get any kind of sound feedback out in vacuum, you need to install a sound 'resynthesizer' which is more or less what it sounds like; it analyzes the environment to create sound cues for you. Upgrade it and you'll hear fuel flowing through pipes if you grab them with your grapple gun or your glove, and so on.
  • Space Station: Salvage Station Morrigan, a giant hexagon-shaped ring on which the game takes place. You can see several more in the background if you look around, which is where your coworkers are stationed.
  • Space Western: The game has some vibes of such, especially with the soundtrack and Weaver's southern accent.
  • Standard Human Spaceship: The Mackerel and Gecko variants have boxy designs with little variation even in the different models. The Javelin looks like something out of near-future science fiction like The Martian.
  • Sticky Bomb: The demolition charges can be upgraded so that you can throw them and they'll stick to things on impact, assuming you get the angle right. If you get it wrong they'll bounce off instead, and now you have loose explosives tumbling around the bay, though they can be grappled.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • Go on, try 'accidentally' causing a decompression event or reactor meltdown, even on a smaller ship. You're going to want to stand (well, float) well back.
    • The Business Is Booming update added extra-large fuel canisters. The new Javelin-class ships come in a Refuelling variant which carry just as much fuel as you'd expect and are appropriately highly explosive.
    • The same update added demolition charges, explosives with a shaped charge that are used to cut reinforced cut points immune to the Stinger. The charges will damage anything nearby, however, so do be careful when placing them. You can eventually purchase blast reduction upgrades to nullify this issue.
  • Sunk Cost Fallacy: The game actually warns you about this. In a standard game, you have 15 minutes per shift to salvage whatever you can of a vessel, after which your daily fees and profits are calculated. The next day, you can choose to continue salvaging whatever you didn't finish the first time, but the game will first give you a prompt warning about efficient use of your time. Depending on how much of the ship you salvaged the first time and whether or not you reached all the salvage goals, it may be more profitable to simply abandon the ship and start on a new one. Generally speaking, a ship ceases to be worth salvaging if you've met the available salvage goals, which represent about 90% of the value of the ship.
  • Technicolor Toxin: The Pretty Rad update introduces radiation filters. Stored in a containment unit, the actual filter is extremely fragile once removed. So much as lightly bumping it will cause it to release a small cloud of blue particles that irradiate you if you get too close, causing a steady health drain. They also slowly degrade electronics, which can cause a chain reaction of electrical arcing. If the Stinger beam passes through the cloud, it will excite the particles, turning them orange and making them more dangerous. The particles can be neutralized with coolant, or by simply waiting a while for them to dissipate on their own (roughly half a shift). It is possible for ships to spawn with radiation already in place, which can be a problem given their proximity to the cockpit in some vessels.
  • Timed Mission: Outside of the first couple of tutorial missions, Open Shift, and Free Mode, every 'shift' is limited to 15 minutes or so in length, as well as your suit's fuel and oxygen supplies. You can buy O2 refills during a shift and find refill canisters on most ships, though.
  • Too Fast to Stop: Movement is based on momentum, and it's pretty easy to accidentally pull something so hard it smacks into you and cracks your helmet. Or worse, launch yourself so hard that you fall right into a furnace or compressor chute before your brakes can kick in. In these cases, you have to pray you've remembered to upgrade the Tether gun's range and can get a hold on the station to pull yourself free in time.
  • Trash the Set: In the act 3 finale, you can choose to take part in a strike action that involves deliberately ruining salvage value. Instead of carefully disassembling a ship, you a encouraged to make as big a mess of it as you can.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: You are given basic tutorials on the riskier parts of disassembling ships, but beyond this, you're left to figure out the rest of the shipbreaking process on your own. If you screw up, you learn something new for the next shift. This is lampshaded in-universe, as corporate doesn't feel like training their employees on every ship design that may come up and just expects them to work it out with basic problem-solving.
  • Used Future: An important part of the game's aesthetic. You're issued an almost fifty-year-old suit design, and the Mackerel, the first 'real' ship class you get to work on (after the basic drone) was decommissioned entirely when the railgate network took off.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hal Rhodes, the Administrator that acts as your middle-manager representing LYNX's interests overseeing you and Weaver's team, has a massive one during the Industrial Action mission, where he basically goes mask off, dropping the passive-aggressively "friendly" corporate talk as he says all the quiet parts out loud about LYNX and it's practices, outright says they OWN you and your fellows clones as property, and threatens you and your family openly. Naturally, this loud, angry rant is recorded in full, broadcasted everywhere it can be, and is what the Union needed to get forces bigger than LYNX to step in and force them to capitulate.
    Hal: You know the difference between you people and me? I know LYNX treats you like slaves. Hell, that's why they're the biggest in the solar system! I made it to the winning team. People like you, trying to "lift each other up"? You're just letting others keep you down with 'em, for what? We OWN you. I got the right to do whatever I want to you! You were NOTHING until LYNX found you! "Obedience is Success"! You've chosen to cross the company that gave you a chance. We'll drive you into the ground with debt! We'll give you work so dangerous you'll revive TWENTY TIMES A DAY UNTIL YOUR DNA COMES APART AT THE SEAMS!! AND WHEN YOU COME BACK AS A USELESS, GIBBERING BLOB, WE'LL MAKE YOUR FAMILY PICK UP THE BILL!!!
    Weaver: Oh-hokay, I think we're done talkin', Hal.
  • Violation of Common Sense: When you get to the Industrial Action section, you have a lot of options for how to proceed. After all, you spent all that time learning how to properly cut up a ship, so it shouldn't be too hard to mess that up right? Wrong. The most efficient way to completely ruin the salvage is to do what you always do and just throw things in the wrong place. Does it belong on the barge? Chuck it in the furnace. Should go in the furnace? Into the processor! The temptation is to blow up the ship and turn everything into scrap, but given how much of the salvage you need to irrevocably ruin, this can set you back quite a ways and leave you with a bunch of little pieces of scrap. Especially don't blow up the reactor in the ship: the tiny chunks left will make everything take forever.
    • Subverted with the alternative strategy of deliberately blowing the entire ship to bits by damaging the reactor, fuel lines, and power systems then abusing the AOE of the push function on the grappler to hurl the pieces into the barge.
  • Work Off the Debt: To the tune of $1,252,594,441.92. It's going to take a while.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: By the end of Act II, it's made clear that LYNX has you enslaved.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Weaver seems to think grit, skill, and some good ol' elbow grease are all it takes to set you right, which makes him a great help in the yard and useless or worse outside it. He cautions you that replacement clone costs for dying on the job are how the company gets you, when those are minuscule and BS fees so you can never work yourself out of debt is how it gets you, as Weaver should know, having had some of those in his time. Not to mention killing you and replacing you with a clone using proprietary tech so it'll legally be company property and they can do whatever the hell they want to it and all it owns. Despite his reassurances, he also fails every time to get Hal to ease off, much less back down.

"Each day he steps into the yard,
to earn his wages working hard.
I pray to the stars and heaven above,
to return my daddy to those he loves.
If there comes a time where he and death meet,
bless the next Cutter that takes his seat."


Video Example(s):


Hardspace: Shipbreaker

The trip up to the Lynx Corporation's breaking yard reveals the game's run-down setting.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / UsedFuture

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