Faster than Light is a game. FTL focuses on space exploration with a hardy amount of ship and crew customization. FTL was released in September however I just stumbled upon it during the Steam winter sale. Generally I'm not one for spaceship simulation but I decided to give it a try.
To start things off FTL has a very nice tutorial that teaches you all the basics while at the same time not making you feel like a baby. Within a matter of minutes you will find yourself diverting power from the engines to your ion cannon in a way that would make even William Shatner jealous. The concept is easy enough to grasp but once you start setting across the galaxy you quickly realize that space can be a very nasty place. In a nut shell you want your crew to pilot your ship across the galaxy with the ultimate goal of delivering a payload of data. To do this your crew must make it through 8 sectors to reach the end boss. Sectors are filled with beacons that you use to make your way to the jump gate that takes you to the next sector. Each waypoint can spawn a random encounter, ship or is some cases just a nice view. This is what makes the game fun, and frustrating.
While traversing across the galaxy resource management is vital to survival. I often buy all of the fuel at any store I find because you never know when the next time you will be able to fuel up. Also if your weapons are reliant upon missiles to do damage you must monitor your stock and ensure that you're always well supplied or carrying a backup weapon. Just as important as your inventory is your crew. Your crew members can die a number of ways, whether it be fighting invaders on you ship, trying to put out a fire or running out of oxygen due to life support failure. Once a member of your crew dies they do not come back. You can replace them at a station with a new crew member but there is no reviving in this game. I found that I became much more attached to my crew members once I started naming them after my pets. It's a lot like Xcom, when you lose a squad mate that has been with you since the beginning you can't help but yell at your monitor and hang you head in your hands. However unlike Xcom, there is no way to save your game and go back. You can only save your game to exit and then enter back in.
The real game play of FTL lies in the combat, which occurs on two fronts , in the ship and out of the ship. Power management is vital to your success because you will need to drain the power out of all unused systems to power shields, weapons and drones. Enemies can also teleport onto your ship and start destroying your systems. The only way to take care of this is to have your crew or a drone engage them from room to room. If not dealt with quickly your ship will be torn apart from the inside out ending in a swift defeat. Combat can be frantic at times. This is especially true when you are trying to target specific parts of an enemy ship to disable their shields or weapons, ordering your crew to different parts of your ship to get a boost to your weapon recharge, or to put out a fire in your life support control room all at the same time. To make things easier you can pause at anytime during combat by pressing the space key. From here you can transfer power from one area to another, train your weapons at the enemy ship and give out commands to crew members. Trying to play the game without pausing in the middle of battle almost feels like playing a very small version of Starcraft. With proper use of the pause function you will have enough time to deal with any situation.
What makes FTL so great is that at any given jump anything can happen. You might stumble across a ship that has run out of fuel and is hailing you for help only to teleport onto your ship once your defenses are down to try and kill your crew. In a different encounter that same troubled ship might reward you with weapons, parts, cash or even crew members in exchange for fuel. Choices are not always as simple as good or evil.
For example, upon arriving at one beacon there was a ship sending out a distress signal because they had run out of fuel, and were hopelessly drifting through space. Being the nice guy I am I decided to help out the drifting ship. However once I had let my guard down they teleported 4 armed grunts onto my ship to claim it as their own! At this point I had to take my entire crew off of their stations to fight off the invaders, all while trying to destroy the enemy ship. Every encounter is a dice roll and nothing is safe. Eventually I realized that I would not be able to maintain the paragon play style that I so normally default to. The game does a good job of getting you to try play styles that you are not accustomed to. Because when it comes down to the wire and you are an hour into the game, running on fumes and you see a peaceful ship, suddenly you start wondering what the odds are of finding supplies off of the wreckage left from the one sided battle.
Looking back on my experience with FTL it has a story telling quality to it that makes Skyrim come to mind. Don't get me wrong, FTL has almost no real story to it. I'm talking about the kind of story telling where each adventure is unique to the play through and so you can talk to your friends about your game and it be different enough from theirs where they are actually entertained. FTL delivers the type of game play where your war stories will stick with you. It's refreshing to play a game that gives you the freedom to do what you like without feeling as if you are just along for the ride. I may never beat FTL or even make it to the end boss but every time I crank up that game I know it's going to be something new.
I really, really like this game. FTL can run on just about any computer and it has a great replay value. With a price tag of just $10 this game is a steal. Whether you are a hardcore Sci-Fi fan or just a gamer looking for a new and interesting experience, FTL is worth your time and money.
See you next time Space Cowboy.
You can fine our Look at FTL video here
You can find out more about the game by here. http://www.ftlgame.com/