Sunday, 2 December 2012

Review: FTL

Don your space-captains hat and hold onto the space-arms of your space-chair. FTL (Faster Than Light), created by Subset Games, puts you in charge of the last loyal federation ship in your home sector. Your mission is to elude the overwhelming rebel force and rendezvous with the remnant federation navy fleet. With rebel scum hot on your tail, your ship will face adversity every step of the way. Do you have what it takes, Space-Captain?

FTL is a self described space-rougelike game, with both procedural content and randomly generated events. FTL was released publicly in September after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Subset Games, a two man development team, leveraged Kickstarter to finalise and release FTL without financial difficulty. The Kickstarter campaign also helped advertise FTL, creating an amount of hype and expectation.

Unlike most roguelikes, FTL actually features a full tutorial, which I highly recommend new players complete. I also recommend starting your first game on easy, normal mode is actually FTL's hard difficulty. After the tutorial, players can pick a ship and sub model to command. New ship models are unlocked as players advanced through the game, or encounter special events. Ships feature different crews, weapons and abilities; your choice of ship effects your gameplay.

FTL's gameplay consists of the player jumping from system to system; encountering friendly, hostile or neutral ships and trying to survive the hell march to safety. Managing your ship and it's crew, upgrading ship systems, damage and repairs, battle strategy and navigation are all required skills for the aspiring space captain. At its heart, FTL is a game of choices: do you fight to the death or flee the encounter?

An interesting feature of FTL is its level of difficulty. Because of the random nature of FTL and the likelihood that a bad encounter may lead into an even worse encounter, players are often left dead in the water -or space. Generally speaking, most players have a mixture of good and bad encounters throughout their travels. Normal difficulty reduces the amount of scrap (in-game currency) and increases encounter strength. Playing FTL on easy, until you have a handle on the game, is not a shameful act.

FTL's music is wonderful and successfully sets the mood for the game. A mixture of calming space tunes, ambience and battle themes. More roguelikes should have badass soundtracks like FTL.

If you like hard games with great soundtracks, with no two playthroughs ever the same, than you will like FTL. FTL won't be everyone's cup of tea though, but considering its launch and continued success, I don't think being a niche game has hurt its popularity. A testament to the usefulness of the Kickstarter funding model and the ability of two people to create and release a game they're passsionate about.

FTL is currently available DRM free and on Steam through their site

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