Suitably set in India, Ship Graveyard Simulator 2 is a zen meditation experience that can be summed up in the Buddhist philosophy, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” You will spend many moments scrapping ships, many many moments. Do not think of the ships you have scrapped in the past, nor the ships you will scrap in the future; only the ship before you warrants your thoughts. Another relevant part of Buddhist philosophy is “Set your heart on
doing good scrapping ships. Do it over and over again and you will be filled with joy.” I can happily say that while my mind may now be shattered like an old ship that’s gone to the breakers, my heart is indeed filled with joy while playing this game.
The core gameplay loop of Ship Graveyard Simulator is standard for the genre – deconstruct ship to earn money to get better tools to deconstruct ships better and earn access to bigger and better ships to deconstruct. There are some bureaucratic tasks between this core loop to give persistence and help aid the progression, making it feel more like a career than a set of isolated tasks which is essential to making this genre work.
It can’t be escaped in games like this that what you’re doing is basically just chores. Whether it was literally just cleaning like in Viscera cleanup detail where you’d mop the floors (of blood and gore), sandblasting tanks in Tank Mechanic Simulator or hammering rivets in Ship Graveyard Simulator, it’s all just chores – and yet it can be engaging in a truly Zen-like way. There are enough varied tasks in the ship-breaking process that if you enjoy this genre, it’s not tedious. It is satisfying hammering out rivets then grinding down the framework between panels and blowtorching the conduits then trick-shotting the materials to your truck.
On top of the basic workflow, there are other optional or random tasks. You might need to call a crane in to lift heavier and more valuable equipment, there may be an electrical hazard you have to track down and disable before you continue, or gas pipes to shut off before you blow a huge hole in the ship greatly reducing the profit you’ll be able to get from it. Some of these have multiple ways to deal with them, for example, some doors need to be blown open with an explosive but you might be able to find a way around it by dismantling walls. A lot of it will boil down to a cost-benefit analysis, does the resource reward justify the time to perform a task or should you leave it unharvested and spend the time on more juicy rewards in a new ship to deconstruct.
A lot of the dismantling process plays out as a puzzle – a low-level puzzle where you decide the optimal way to dismantle the thing in front of you and the high-level puzzle where you decide in what order to focus your efforts for maximum profit. The comfortable thing is, there are no wrong answers here, just slower and messier ones that might be ideal, so you don’t have to bust your brains when you just want to sit back and zone out, but you’re still rewarded for thinking things through a little. I really enjoy the long-term payoff of dismantling the entire lower structure of a ship so that with a single tap it will all collapse in on itself, but I can also see the targeted hunting of valuables and rapidly cycling through ships being fun too.
Progression consists of upgrading the tools and some other capacities of the character like carry weight and the number of items picked up at once. When you go back to salvageing with better tools, you really start to chew through the ships which feels a lot more satisfying after the benchmark is set relatively slow at the start. The first upgrades are very cheap, make sure to get them asap! It’s also worth pointing out that while you upgrade your tools to work faster, tasks on larger ships take longer to complete so it’s not just making you faster, it’s countering the increased time required – 4 hammer swings instead of 1 for example. Upgrading your tools requires money and resources. Money comes from fulfilling contracts and selling salvage while resources come from salvage so there is a small juggling act there balancing what you sell and what you save for upgrading your tools. You also need enough money left to buy the next ship to deconstruct.
If achievements are your thing the game makes good use of the Steam achievements system which helps give that feeling of completion and lets you satisfyingly mark off ships as done. Seeing the bare hull of a ship also works for that however!
The game performs well on my system thanks to heavy use of dynamic scaling. The graphics are more than good enough for the genre, the sounds are adequate although the sound of depositing resources on your truck gets annoying fast. My primary technical problem with the game was a crash every couple of hours of play. Not the biggest problem since you can quick-save but it’s never pleasant having your “work” lost. The only other problem is the lack of the standard borderless fullscreen mode which should be in every game at this point, too many people multi-task on their computers to not include this basic option, and the lack of it can reduce the likelihood of wanting to fire it up as it just becomes more of a chore to deal with. Other than those the game performs well, I could maintain my desired 120 fps on max settings and the FoV slider was long enough to put a smile on Totalbiscuits face in the afterlife (and also helped prevent my nausea which I can get in this genre of games for some reason).
Simulator games are a genre that is surprisingly appealing, and the wide array of options probably allows you to find one that is more to your tastes. Personally, I love tanks and ships – I played a lot of Tank Mechanic Simulator, and I enjoyed my time with Ship Graveyard Simulator 2 too. The feel of walking inside these behemoths that show the might of our industrialized economies contrasts with the sad reality (if you anthropomorphise your ships) that they will all reach the end of their useful life and need to be put to rest, likely in the ignominious way of scrapping as very few warrant service as museum ships.
Ship Graveyard Simulator 2 is a solid and polished, but not groundbreaking, entry to the genre. I can easily recommend this game to fans of Simulators that think they’ll like the ship aesthetic. People new to the genre will find it very approachable and reasonably priced so it would also be a good introduction to the genre, especially if you’re nautically inclined. If you’re more likely to see this as a tedium simulator, then I doubt this is the genre for you.
This review utilised a key provided by Gameparic and Ship Graveyard Simulator 2 will launch on Steam on August 16, 2023.