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Review: FTL: Faster than Light for Windows, Mac, Linux

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Title: FTL: Faster Than Light
Price: $9.99
System(s): Windows (Also for Mac, Linux)
Release Date: September 14, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Subset Games (Subset Games)
ESRB Rating: N/A, I’d say Everyone 10+, just because it’s so difficult and players need a lot of patience and critical thinking skills.
Pros: Simple, yet detailed art. Tons of different scenarios. Lots of ships and ship layouts. Wide assortment of weapons. Plenty of different races. No two games play the same. Quite challenging, requiring you to always think before acting. Can be beaten in a single sitting. Oodles of replay value.
Cons: Ridiculously difficult, even on the Easy difficulty. No permanent save files, only temporary quick saves.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 94/100, A, * * * * out of 5

FTL: Faster Than Light makes me believe in Kickstarter games. That’s how Subset Games received the funds to create this roguelike space simulation. It went to the people with its demo and ideas, people believed in them and now FTL is a full game that’s even available on Steam. Not only is it a fantastic example of how Kickstarter can work to help a great game get made, but FTL: Faster Than Light is just an incredible and challenging simulation in general that somehow manages to never get old.

A single ship is key to galactic salvation.

The rebels are coming. Their one goal is to completely wipe out the Federation and take control of the galaxy. After that, no one really knows what will happen. Odds are, it’ll be apocalypse on a universal scale, since the rebels not only hate fellow Humans, but also don’t seem too fond of the Crystal, Engi, Mantis, Rockmen, Slugs or Zoltan.

There is one light of hope. It’s faint, but it’s there. A single Federation ship has obtained crucial data about the rebel flagship and its planned invasion. This ship has to make it through eight sectors to Federation space with the information, in the hopes that its insight and participation could turn the tide of battle.

The catch is, the story in FTL: Faster than Light is never the same. Each playthrough you could use different ships, have a different crew, visit different sectors, encounter different enemies and see different events. Even in the event that a situation does repeat, odds are your crew and ship configurations will never be the same, so you’ll have different means of handling the problem and a different results each time.

Space rocks fall, everybody dies.

Appearances are deceiving with FTL: Faster than Light. The FTL interface looks complicated, but it’s surprisingly simple. The bars along the bottom of the screen show the distribution of power among various systems, which can be modified to increase/decrease effectiveness. Other grids show equipped weapons and drones, which can then be clicked to charge or enable. If an enemy ship shows up, you tap the weapon, then the room to attack. Crew members can be assigned to stations, either to repair, protect or manage. FTL looks like a simulation, but is more similar to a strategic RPG as players must manage and upgrade their ship, take part in active battles against other ships and deal with assorted situations as they fly through various sectors on their way home. FTL has also been dubbed the rogue-like space opera, as it’s as difficult as a standard rogue-like game and only offers players one shot at reaching Federation space, but isn’t the typical RPG rogue-like people expect.

I would say that, in part, it’s this combination of various elements and depth that makes FTL: Faster than Light which makes the game so successful. There is so much being accomplished at once, in such an efficient and satisfying way, that players are constantly being presented with all kinds of challenges and options. There are limitless possibilities, yet they’re presented to players in such a way that someone making smart decisions can succeed and unlock extra ships which can then enhance further playthroughs.

The key to FTL is that success is always dangled just out of the player’s reach. It’s the classic carrot on the stick. You can visualize what must be done to succeed. After about three playthroughs, you understand what you should be doing. It’s all the extraneous details that make this near impossible until about your fourth or fifth playthrough, because there are so many different situations and fights that will occur and you must learn the most efficient means to deal with each of them. Rushing through early sectors will leave you unprepared for later ones. Different opponents require different attack strategies. Certain events must be handled in specific ways to unlock special outcomes.

In the meantime, you’re going to die. That’s an FTL fact. Death happens. Members of the crew and ships are very disposable. Occasionally it will be an “act of God” extinction event. More often than not, it will be your fault. Regardless, each death is a learning experience. It’s an important part of the general FTL experience and, while it does sting the first few times to see your ship go down in flames, after a while you become desensitized. The game, as a whole, offers a Kobayashi Maru scenario. You’re given a nearly impossible mission. Odds are, you won’t win and will learn something valuable as a result. On the off chance you do win, you feel a Captain Kirk-style triumph as you’re given the right to crown yourself king/queen of the universe. Also like the Kobayashi Maru scenario, fans have come up with a save game editor that won’t hand you victory, but will make it easier for you to come closer to a more positive outcome. So if you get FTL and can’t win, you can always attempt to cheat-the-system to make it even easier.

Basically, FTL gives you all the tools you need to rise or fall on your own merits. It’s up to the player to provide the patience and intelligence to master the game.

Fighting against the odds has never been so fulfilling.

I dream about FTL: Faster than Light. Not just the thoughts of an obsessed gamer, falling asleep considering new moves, attack strategies, weapons configurations and crew assignments. The moment my eyes close, I am Captain Jenni of the Angry Pigeon and my mind is giving live and detailed visuals to the descriptive skeleton of thoughts and ideas Subset Games provided in my most recent FTL playthrough. The game gets inside my head and I believe that’s the best indicator of its greatness. If a form of media or entertainment is truly great, it influences you at your core and provides an experience you not only won’t forget, but won’t abandon. I predict many busy afternoons for anyone who purchases FTL: Faster than Light, as well as nights filled with space opera dreams.

Site [FTL: Faster Than Light]

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