Looking for an easy to learn but rather cruelly unforgiving science fiction game packed with action and fear? FTL: Faster Than Light, science fiction indie game from developers Subset Games, might just be for you. It is a top-down, real time strategy game wherein the player controls the crew of a single spaceship, fleeing across many sectors to get important information to the Federation. All the while your meager ship is being chased down by the Rebels, far more powerful and better equipped than your fleeing vessel. As you travel through progressively more dangerous systems, you can spend parts to upgrade your ship's existing systems, purchase new ones, hire crew, or simply seek to expedite your journey to the Federation base to the tune of some really awesome music.
Where FTL thrives is in the often difficult to conquer concept: replay value. As has been noted by nearly every reviewer, most playthroughs of FTL will inevitably and invariably end the same way. The game uses a randomization system to ensure that no two playthroughs of FTL are the same, making each ship's attempted journey unique. There are plenty of different ships and ship variations to choose from as well, each with a different strength/weaknesses match-up. The race of the crew -- ranging from basic human to combat hardened Mantises to lumbering Rock people -- have their own strengths as well, building up specialties over time, and if they are killed it is akin to losing part of your offensive or defensive capability.
The makeup of your ship, what systems you have, and what crew you have manning them influences which threats turn your daring rescue of a civilian vessel into a slow death by asphyxiation while the scout returns to let the Rebel Fleet know just where to find your corpse.
If ten sectors of this battle for survival isn't enough, as soon as you get to the Federation they tell you to turn around and fight the excessively overpowered Rebel Flagship not once, not twice, but three times before you finally triumph. Even playing on Easy mode, FTL reminds players that this is not a fair galaxy.
FTL: Faster Than Light is a game of patience, of hoarding every bit of scrap you can, of trying to figure out the best style of play for you and then perfecting it. I think it serves as an excellent example of the old adage "easy to learn, difficult to master" with the accessibility of its gameplay combined with the steepness of its difficulty curve. With more the thirty hours clocked in the game, I have come close to beating it only twice. To close, here are the top ten things I have learned while playing FTL.
- BUY FUEL. THERE IS NOTHING MORE EMBARRASSING THAN EXPLORING A SECTOR ONLY TO HAVE TO WAIT, WITH YOUR DISTRESS BEACON BLINKING, FOR THE ENTIRE REBEL FLEET TO SHOW UP AND LAUGH MOCKINGLY AT YOUR PLIGHT.
- NEBULAS ARE SCARY AND HAVE A NEGATIVE RISK/RETURN RATIO.
- AVOID THE MANTIS HOMEWORLDS. JUST DON'T GO THERE. UNLESS YOU HAVE THE ADVANCED EDITION AND THE ALIENS WHO DON'T NEED OXYGEN AND YOU CAN JUST OPEN ALL THE DOORS AND RUN AROUND THE SHIP LIKE BENNY FUCKING HILL DON'T DO IT.
- ZOLTANS ARE NICE. I LIKE THEM THEY MAKE SURE MY OXYGEN DOESN'T LOSE POWER AND THEN NOT COME BACK ON BECAUSE I FORGET TO CLICK ON IT IN THE MIDDLE OF BATTLE.
- ROCK PEOPLE ARE SUPER FUNNY TO WATCH TRYING TO PUT OUT A FIRE.
- BEAM WEAPONS RULE BUT THEY CAN'T TAKE DOWN MORE THAN ONE SHIELD YOU MORON.
- YEAH YOU PROBABLY NEED OFFENSIVE DRONES THAT TAKE DOWN SHIELDS IDIOT.
- LOOK YOU DEFINITELY NEED TO TAKE THAT SHIELD DOWN.
- BEAM WEAPONS =/= EFFECTIVE SHIELD DESTROYERS.
- BUY THE BEST DOORS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE SO YOU CAN COWER BEHIND THEM WHEN YOU ARE INEVITABLY BOARDED AND CAN'T FIGHT THEM OFF WITH YOUR FLIMSY CREW OF HAPPY ZOLTANS.