Notes before I begin
All images taken from my own attempts at playing this. Slightly bigger image size in this review so it's not all squashed up and impossible to see.
Any TL;DR posts will be reported and the poster will be hunted down by me with a spoon, talcum powder and many cacti.
"All crewmembers have died. Your ship will continue to drift for eternity. Or until looters destroy it." This is one of a few game over screens that you will become very familiar with during your first few attempts at playing Faster Than Light, a top down, real time strategy game from Subset Games. Easy to pick up and play but incredibly hard to master, FTL is a game that, despite crushing you and your best laid plans continuously for a long time, is wickedly addictive. That one more turn will turn into five, which may turn into another five after that.
The aim of FTL sounds very simple on paper. You take the role of a captain on a starship, whose crew has managed to intercept a data packet sent by a rebel fleet. However, the rebel fleet knows you have done this. So begins a cat and mouse game across several space sectors as you try to avoid the rebel fleet that's following you, various other forms of scum and villainy and other events such as solar flares and asteroid fields, to deliver this data packet to the Federation Fleet, alerting them of the danger they are in. And of course, as you travel through these sectors, you'll find yourself getting into some scrapes along the way as you visit the various waypoints on your way to the exit waypoint, be it through being attacked by a slaver ship or by trying to help some citizens who are being attacked by giant space spiders. These events are always random on each playthrough, so you'll very rarely get the same events happening to you twice in a row.
One of the calmer moments in FTL.
FTL isn't a very narrative driven game, instead relying on the gameplay to keep your attention. It does this by putting you in control of everything that's happening on your starship and all of its upgrades. You can upgrade everything from your shield and weapon systems, to your blast doors and O2 system. It's a simple enough system to upgrade, you use scrap gained from destroying enemy ships and helping out folks at distress beacons and pick what system you want to upgrade, as well as upgrading the power in your ship so you can use that upgrade as well. However, don't think you'll be able to get away by piling all your upgrades into weapons to get a head start. Every system your ship has is vital to keeping you alive and keeping your ship from being the world's biggest and expensive coffin. If your O2 system goes out, your crew will slowly suffocate. The blast door system gets taken out, fires spread easier and any enemies that have boarded you will be able to waltz on through to another system to destroy it with ease. The ships sensors get taken out, so you can't see what's happening on your own ship and so on.
Ship to ship combat in FTL is also simple to handle as well. After powering up your weapons, you simply click the weapon you want to use, click on the room you want it to target and it'll target that room. Repeat this process until the enemy is either dead or offering you a deal to spare them in exchange for some items. You do need to be careful though if you rely heavily on missiles weapons however. You have an ever decreasing missile count, so you have to use them sparingly to make sure you don't get caught short in a fight with a tougher enemy ship. You'll also have to keep an eye on your fuel as well as you will use some as you jump from beacon to beacon and can eventually run out if you're not careful, which will leave you drifting and allowing the rebels crucial time to catch up to you and ruin your day in a big way. This adds a nice strategy element to FTL; do you explore the sector, risking running out of fuel for finding new power-ups and weapons for your ship or do you flee to the exit of the sector as fast as you can? It adds a very nice element to every game of FTL as no play through will ever be the same.
The calm in the middle of the storm.
It's really hard to find a negative word to say about FTL, as it doesn't really have any glaring flaws to note, aside from how quickly it'll try to screw you over in some playthroughs. Yes, it can be unforgivably hard at times, especially when the AI decides to take out your ships O2 systems then proceed to board you, killing all but one of your crew members, leaving you in a mad scramble to keep that crew member alive whilst juggling his health and trying to repair the oxygen supply before he or she suffocates. However, the fact that you could suddenly be wiped out at any time, and indeed by anything, adds to the appeal of FTL to me. It makes things tense, keeping you on your toes just in case the next encounter is one that will try its hardest to ruin your day. Plus when you scrape through one of those encounters, you will feel like you are Gods gift to virtual space piloting. That is until you get taken out by the next ship you stumble across that just happens to take out your O2, weapons and shields straight away.
FTL is a game that I'd recommend to everyone, but with a hint of caution. I love it due to how easy it is to pick up, how it tries and makes you learn something new every time you play it and the difficulty curve the game has. But on the other hand, some people will play this a couple of times and have FTL become unending in its quest to ruin you, your ship and anything else it can when they touch it. You'll either love it or hate it, depending on your patience and perseverance. However, if you have the patience, perseverance and a couple of hours to kill, FTL will become your new addiction for a long time.
For those wondering, my playthrough I got these screens from ended when I was boarded and had my O2 taken out before I could react and get someone over there to repair it. Ah well, time to start again.
For notifications about future reviews, reviews being written, various other things or if you simply wish to fanboy over my work, visit my user group here.