FTL: Faster Than Light Review
FTL arrives as one of the first of the Kickstarter boom generation of games, though admittedly it had something of an advantage over many other fan-funded titles on show.
Mainly that it already existed before the folks at Subset games asked for $10,000 to help finish it (and were given $200,000 instead).
But it’s here, it’s available, if you funded it you’ve had your copy for a couple of weeks now and if you didn’t fund it then: a) you poor fool, and b) buy it from Steam or GOG.com. Immediately.
Ostensibly a spaceship-management simulator, FTL sees players hurtling across a randomised galaxy in order to deliver the warning of an impending attack.
Along the way you will get into scrapes, encounters, meet strange new lifeforms and meekly go where some others have gone before. It might initially be ‘boldly’, but FTL will soon smack that confidence out of you.
This is a difficult game – but it’s one where you learn to embrace failure; where every cock-up on your part is a harsh lesson, and every hilariously imbalanced encounter a test of your fire-management and running away skills.
The meat of FTL is its ship-to-ship combat. Held in real time, players can pause the game at any point to issue orders when things are getting a bit too hectic to take in.
“Umm… guys – the room that lets us breathe is on fire…”
Pause, target their weapons with your multi-firing lasers, hope it’s enough to break through the shields, unpause, see what happens. (Pause, wonder how so many rooms caught fire without you noticing, unpause, realise automatic door control is offline, can’t shut the airlocks you opened, half the crew chokes to death.)
It’s doesn’t require deep strategy to defeat many opponents, just a mix of clever weapons use and paying attention to what you’re targeting. But just as you think things are going swimmingly, something will go wrong: then you panic.
Then you have to think. Then you’ll make mistakes. It’s exhilarating at its best, and it hits its best more often than you might think for a crowdfunded rogue-like indie game about spachships.
If you’ve an aversion to relying on chance, instead demanding specific mechanics are in place to ensure you have a fighting chance, you may get annoyed by FTL.
But then, that’s asking the game to be something it isn’t: inherently fair.
For every time we ended up with a quick-firing ion laser in the first sector, capable of decimating our opponent’s defences and allowing a relatively simple journey to the final boss (against which we inevitably died), we saw a run where two of our starting three crew were killed for no good reason and little more than the initial, weak laser was offered up as resistance to the countless aggressors encountered along the way.
But that’s the fun. That’s why it’s intense. That’s why FTL is – surprisingly – a game that fits firmly alongside other fist-pump-inducing titles.
The joy of spanking a 35-yard screamer into the top corner on PES 2013 is matched by the intense relief of asphyxiating those invading Mantis bastards while at the same time finally getting a direct missile hit to finish their ship off.
There’s no guarantee it’s going to happen; there’s no guarantee it isn’t going to happen, but whatever happens (or doesn’t) you’ll want to start over straight away and see what might (or might not) happen next time. FTL is a game about stories.
Upgrades are necessary and not-at-all plentiful. Plan ahead.
Everyone who plays it will have at least one interesting tale to tell – one yarn of the heroic engineer who managed, somehow, to repair the ship’s oxygen production system before the crew succumbed to a lack of air.
One tale of the lone human crewmember who single-handedly fought off two Mantis aggressors through clever use of the med-bay.
An anecdote of how they created an unstoppable war machine of a ship, tearing through any opponents that dared to face them before reaching the final sector, facing off against the last boss and immediately running out of missiles, rendering the entire plan of attack neutered, the ship’s ability to cause damage now gone.
That last one, particularly, hurts. For a few quid you can buy into all of these stories and more. FTL has proved itself worth far more than the $200,000 it raised on Kickstarter, and it’s something we’d be happy to pay a lot more than £7 for.
Get involved; spool ‘em up; watch your crew die horribly in a fire you should have noticed.