Ship Graveyard Simulator review

We’ve seen half a dozen simulators arrive on consoles this past month. Because it’s hard to tell who the majority are aimed at, it seems that publishers are simply hedging bets on their titles becoming the next surprise success. PowerWash Simulator cleared 3 million sales recently, so you can see why developers are keen to try turning just about any career into a simulator, no matter how mundane.

Ship Graveyard Simulator is actually a little bit depressing. It’s set in a coastal shantytown and sees low-skill workers risking their lives to salvage precious metals from ships, with only basic tools and no PPE. There’s money to be made, this much is true, but the ramshackle village setting is still a little disheartening. In a weird way, it’s also enlightening – I imagine a lot of shipbreakers are poverty-stricken, forced to salvage whatever they can from the colossal ships ruining their coastline.

You arrive in this shantytown with a sledgehammer and a truck, setting up a small business conveniently located next to a 24/7 market dealer and a tool proprietor. There’s room nearby to expand, with a forge – used to create new, more desirable, alloys and compounds – and a rickety worker barracks soon introduced once a cashflow is established.

You’re free to search the small open world for scrap metals and other resources such as oil. This won’t generate much cash, however. The big money is in harvesting a ship for all its worth, but this requires a small outlay – ships are provided on a day-to-day basis, ordered via an old desktop computer. A day-to-night cycle is in place, with a small charge occurring every morning to cover the costs of whatever ship is currently docked. Workers can be hired too, although you don’t actually see them toiling away – they simply add resources to your stockpile.

Tools ‘level up’ through use, improving their efficiency, and locations such as the shop can be upgraded to hold more stock. Your character also amasses more inventory space over time, so the all-important sense of progression is present. It doesn’t take long to level up either, although it’s debatable how noticeable some of the perks and improvements are.

But while the basic outline of a game is present, a compelling gameplay loop is sorely lacking. You’re simply smashing up exhaust pipes, metal barrels, wooden pallets, and such with a sledgehammer before watching them unrealistically crumble (everything is seemingly made from a clay-like substance) and magically turn into either metal cubes or spools of wire….which then must be painstakingly collected. Once your inventory is full, it’s then a case of dashing back to the market dealer – either on foot or by truck – to cash in your spoils.

The only incentive to keep playing is the lure of being able to ‘order’ larger ships to dismantle, which in turn bring in more moolah. Presumably, the developers felt that the addition of new tools would help induce some much-needed variety, but again, the majority are slow and awkward to use. Oil spills must be mopped up, girders sawn through, and items such as electrical boxes dismantled using a blow torch. The most engaging aspect here is opening lockers and boxes via a mini-game, but even then, it’s a just lazy copy of Fallout 4’s lockpicking mechanic.

It’s also plagued by the usual problems found within low-budget simulators. Visually it’s unappealing, featuring pop-up within the environments and ghoulish-looking NPCs. Some textures are surprisingly detailed; others are blurry and stretched thin. We also noticed a few typos (“No enough skill points”) and the general UI is crude, although the text-based tutorials are reasonably helpful.

While the experience does feel a touch more robust than the recent Castle Renovator, it could also be argued that there wasn’t much here for the developers to break or mess up. Dismantle, sell, sleep, repeat – that’s Ship Graveyard Simulator in a nutshell. I’m not too sure what I was expecting going into this one, but it was certainly more than hitting stuff with a big hammer.

Games Incubator’s Ship Graveyard Simulator is out now on Xbox One. It first launched on PC in 2021.