Hardspace Shipbreaker: The Beginning

I love this game. I absolutely love it.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker puts you in the suit of a blue-collar salvager working to dismantle spaceships and reclaim their valuable elements. Working in low earth orbit, you can look down on the Earth you left behind to seek your future among the stars. Earth, at this point in time is kind of messed up. Global warming is a past event. The ice caps have melted and flooded many continents. The tropical rain forests are gone, turned into barren desert. The only habitable areas left are in the polar extremes. You left behind everything you knew in search of a better existence.

The game opens with you looking at a datapad, presumably in the cramped confines of your Earth habitat. A mess lies in front of you. The ambient soundtrack is one of cramped urban chaos. Through the walls of your apartment you hear scuffling, thumping, screaming, crying, sirens in the distance; everything you’d expect from an overpopulated and nightmarish city. It’s a moment that plays perfectly to your motivation to knowingly sign a horrible contract with Lynx Corporation.

It’s an absolutely ingenious way to set up a game about clawing your way out of debt to an evil corporation. Sure the game is about salvaging spaceships, but the fact that they set up why you’re doing it pulls the feel of the game together in a way that might not otherwise work. It explains why you’re starting from square zero, why you have to pay for your tools and the workspace, as well as how you can keep working after accidentally floating into the processor (which I did, embarrassingly early on).

The opening cinematic sets the tone for the game. It has the reason for leaving Earth, the new civilization in low orbit, what gets left behind, and how your new life looks. It’s just fantastic!

The little girl in the video is reciting a version of an old miner’s prayer:

Each day he steps into the yard
to earn his way just working hard
I pray to the stars and heaven above
to return my daddy to those he loves
If there comes a time when he and death meet
Bless the next cutter to take his seat

This is what happens when you accidentally process yourself…

The Cave

The Jedi let out a laugh as he realized there was a very good chance he would be eaten alive by a swarm of cave vermin on this odyssey of self. The Master hadn’t seen that one coming, our Jedi was certain of that.

There was more in the cave than blackness. The Jedi estimated he had been limping towards the exit for the past hour or so; since he fell. At least, he hoped he was heading toward the exit. He took a moment to rest and took a few deep breaths. When he did so, a dull pain stabbed his right side. His robes were damp with mud and at least a little blood. Willing the pain not to interfere with his thoughts, he tried to sense the area just ahead. He was not alone.

They had been following him for at least a half hour. Denizens of the cave had been drawn to the Jedi when he fell from the ancient structure that had been his objective. Though none of the creatures had yet shown any hostility, he could sense their numbers growing. The Jedi recalled his lessons in xenobiology about creatures that moved in packs. Since they hadn’t swarmed him immediately, they probably weren’t predatory. And yet, the fact that they kept pursing him signaled that they expected to gain something from the Jedi. Scavengers!

Either the herd of creatures would grow large enough that they were emboldened to swarm the Jedi and devour him, or they would wait for him to make a mistake and make their move then. The Jedi was running out of time.

Sighing, he raised his lightsaber above his head and flicked the switch. With a loud snap and a hiss, a blue glow washed over the area. Nothing in front, the Jedi turned around. From just beyond the reach of the light, dozens of eyes reflected the saber blade back at the Jedi.

They were getting closer. He didn’t know if the creatures were drawn to him or the light.

Turing back towards the exit, the Jedi deactivated his lightsaber and limped forward. One way or another, his day was going to end. He let out a bitter laugh when he took stock of the situation. His master had bid him travel to a strange planet in search of a Jedi temple. There had been no instruction to recover an artifact, contact a long lost civilization, or perform some heroic act. All the Master had instructed was that the Jedi “connect with his inward self”. Understanding oneself was the key to understanding others, or so he had been told.

The Jedi let out a laugh as he realized there was a very good chance he would be eaten alive by a swarm of cave vermin on this odyssey of self. The Master hadn’t seen that one coming, our Jedi was certain of that.

More time passed, and the Jedi shuffled onward. Getting used to the pain, he was able to spare more of his mind for observing his surroundings. The darkness wasn’t ominous, it was merely the absence of a light. He could feel gentle streams of water coursing through cracks and down the walls. Every now and then stalactites and stalagmites pierced through the horizontal surfaces, requiring the Jedi to change course. His path was a loose gravel, a sign that others had come before him and that this cave hadn’t been underwater in a long time.

As his footsteps crunched underneath him, he became aware of other sounds in the cave. There was a pattering coming from the floor around him. Almost like raindrops, but far too rhythmic. When he stopped, so did the sound. His legion of vermin friends was keeping up the pace. Though he could sense the life nearby, it was difficult to discern how close it was and how many were there.

It was time to risk another look around. Leaving the lightsaber at his side, he snapped the button and the cave lit up once again. They were closer, only a meter away, and there were more of them. A lot more. The Jedi slowly took stock of the situation. None of the creatures moved. The ugly quadrupeds were covered scraggly hair, boasted narrow mouths with a few pointy teeth, and bare tails. Large eyes stared unblinkingly and reflected the line of the lightsaber. A few of the closest creatures were about the size of the Jedi’s head. Even as the Jedi stared at them, they stood absolutely still.

The stillness was unsettling. Hair on the Jedi’s arms stood on end as he felt an energy pulse through the mass of creatures. He knew in his mind what was going to happen next but wanted to confirm it. The lightsaber shut off and the Jedi focused on listening. The rhythmic not-rain continued slowly.

He snapped the lightsaber on again, and confirmed that the creatures had advanced on him again. The closest sat just out of reach of his blade. Their next move would be to overwhelm their prey.

The Jedi crouched on his good side to be able to better reach his lightsaber to the floor. He took a deep breath, pushing all wayward thoughts to the back of his mind. Once more, the Jedi took a deep breath. Words from his master rolled through his mind repeatedly, “Victory is not gained through physical effort, but mindful execution.” Raising the saber in his left hand and angling it towards the ground, he saw what he must do in order to survive the onslaught. It would not be easy.

The lightsaber flickered off and back on again as the Jedi began to fight for his life.