Entirely by accident, I discovered a game called Faster Than Light (FTL) while I was making my weekly perusal through the library over at Great Old Games. Because I like spaceships and bright shiny stars, I was instantly intrigued. Without really taking the time to learn a whole lot about the game, I went ahead and made the purchase. At $9, I didn’t feel like I had to get much return on my investment. After having sunk roughly a billion hours into FTL since that purchase, I’ve subsequently learned that FTL was funded by Kickstarter (another rousing success story! Go Kickstarter!), is actually new, despite having been on Great Old Games, and there was some buzz before it came out that I literally can’t believe that I didn’t hear even a single whisper about. I guess I haven’t been reading enough blogs after all.
My embarrassment over this game being news to me is a side issue, however. I have played Faster Than Light. Extensively. Allow me to tell you how it is, so you can decide whether that daunting $9 price point is worth it for you.
It’s great! Go buy it!
Well, alright. Let’s start with the premise. FTL is a Roguelike that stars you as the commander of a lone Federation starship with vital intelligence on the Rebel armada which you need to hustle across seemingly the entire galaxy to return to the last Federation fleet before they’re stomped by the aforementioned Rebels. Going against space type, we’re not rooting for the Rebels this time, as they are brutal, corrupt, jerks. On your journey, your ship will pick up space scrap which is used as currency. You need as much of this currency as possible in order to upgrade your single cruiser’s capabilities (the possibilities for this are extensive, including eight main ship systems, three subsystems, up to four weapon slots and three drone slots, three ‘augmentation’ slots for special systems, and your crew itself which starts small but can be expanded and include powerful alien species. So yeah.) You will need to upgrade your systems if you want to survive the long trek to the Federation fleet, and even more so if you intend to successfully defeat the final boss located there.
Your advance across the galaxy is star by star across multiple ‘sectors’ of space, with the Rebel armada in pursuit all the while, seeking to bring you down before you can bring your vital information to the Federation. Each star contains a random event, which can range from absolutely nothing, to running laser gun battles in asteroid fields, nebulae, or near stars that are experiencing solar flares. Suffice to say, given the random generation and the large range of customization options, no trek across the stars is ever exactly the same. Add in the fact that the game ultimately features about twenty unique ships each with its own unique interior layout and a unique starting loadout (some of which are much stronger than others) and you have a game that you can sink a great deal of time into.
The primary things that you, as a player, will need to do include managing your crew (crew members can be assigned to ‘man’ your ship systems. They can also be moved around to repair damaged systems, fight shipboard fires, repair hull breaches, board enemy craft, or repel boarders against your own), battling enemy ships with your craft’s weapons, drones, and boarding parties, and purchasing new upgrades and equipment to create a load-out that you feel like can go the distance. Finding combinations of weapons and special systems that work well for you is a big part of the game, and the only way that you will ultimately be able to experience any success against the final boss – an extremely difficult encounter, particularly if you are not prepared for it.
The downside for some players will be the difficulty. Faster Than Light is not an easy game. Not by a long shot. For those unfamiliar with Roguelikes, runs of horrific luck leading to catastrophe and death are incorporated by design. It is not a “problem” with the game that you might encounter a series of random events with no way out that lead to your ship exploding in the very first sector, or right before your confrontation with the boss. Death is deadly. There aren’t save points, folks, you’re back to the start if you go down in flames. This is, again, by design. It is not a “problem”, but it could be a reason why you would prefer not to play the game. So if the difficulty thing doesn’t appeal to you – and I didn’t even mention a learning curve that’s somewhat difficult to quantify – Faster Than Light may not be entirely to your liking. Of course, you may end up addicted anyway, and end up on a spiral of increasing frustration. I don’t personally recommend that path, but it’s your mouse to break, as they say.
The graphics “look like a flash game” as I’ve been told, which I suppose is true enough, but the game has spot-on sound effects and an excellent environmental music score that provides exactly the right touch of ambiance while you play. I found the graphics adequate, if nothing to rave about, and there’s something charming about the presentation, which is reminiscent of older video games and tugs at my nostalgia strings in a way that I find appealing. I definitely find myself recommending the game, even freely acknowledging that it may not be for everyone. After all, what game is?
For those who are interested, you can acquire FTL off of its official website or on Steam. You can also purchase the DRM-free version on GOG, but this version is only available for Windows platforms. Regardless, of where you get it, the game will be $9 until the sale price ends, after which it will price out at a whopping $10. So, act now, or whatever.