The lights are on
You sit in your chair, wildly clicking your mouse. Your eyes dart from your starship's interior to the enemy ship's interior. Your lasers charge and you unleash a barrage from your pulse lasers. However, your efforts are in vein as your enemies shields recharge in the knick of time, rendering your attack useless. Suddenly your enemies weapons come to life, returning fire, striking hits on your weak shield and hull, warning lights blare and sirens go off. Fires erupt and you send you dispatch a crew member who WAS on your shield's console to put out the fire. BIG MISTAKE. Your shield doesn't recharge in time for the next salvo and your ship shudders under the wave of fire, you're loosing her. You desperately attempt to flush out the fire, killing a crew member due to venting the air, and from there it all goes bad. You pause the game, and click the restart button, not wanting to face your doom. This is just one of my many play throughs of Indie Game made sensation, FTL: Faster Than Light. FTL is probably one of the most challenging and rewarding games I've played this year making it worth ANYONE's time who is man enough to take a loss.
FTL started as a Kickstarter fueled Indie game that caught fire and momentum once it finally hit the digital shelves. When I heard of FTL, I wasn't really sure what it was, but being a tactical strategy gamer, I figured I had to give it a shot. Upfront, I will say that it was worth the $8 dollars I paid for it via Steam. In a world full of "follow me" or "push the button" or "you beat the bad guys in about 4 hours" style games, mainly FPS, FTL does what a very small percentage of games do today, make you loose. And this wis why I personally believe the team at Subset Games has created a masterpiece of a game.
FTL simply puts you in command of a basic spacecraft, a small crew, and gives you the responsibility of FTL (Faster Than Light) jumping across 8 different sectors to deliver "vital" data to aid the Federation in beating the Rebellion, a pretty straight forward story. While some might scoff at the lack of story, what FTL does pack is a deep engrossing gameplay that will keep you coming back for defeat after defeat, I promise you. FTL at heart is a strategy game, though some will refer to it as a 'rougelike'. There are 7 explorable sectors, the 8th being the final boss. Each sector contains beacons. You jump from beacon to beacon, running into enemy or friendly spaceships, stores, distress signals, or just empty voids. Nebulas, solar storms also pop up from time to time, creating there own unique challenges. You spend scrap, aka money, to upgrade your ship, buy crew or weapons, or get yourself out of potential messy situations. It is here where FTL spreads its wings. Every game is different. Every sector is different. This creates unlimited possibilities when you play, truly making, no forcing you, to adapt. You can be ousted on the 2nd sector sadly if you aren't careful.
FTL's basic ship layout graphics are almost "cute", but the battles that they depict are nothing but. Crew members suffocate, burn, punch and battle boarders. Ships crumble and explode under a hail of weapon fire and abuse. Never before have I been so attached to such simple graphics, and that is just how much FTL draws you in. You will pick your strategy, go for the shields, kill the supply of their oxygen, or take out their medbay, or ANY combination of the latter. FTL gives you a choice and you will adapt to your own offensive and defensive strategy. You will have to learn how each weapon changes your strategy. Decide whether or not to spend your hard earned scrap to upgrade your engine to dodge attacks, or maybe upgrade your shields so you can take more of a beating, maybe upgrade your ship's airlock doors so boarders have a tougher time getting through. The. Choice. Is. Yours. FTL single-handedly gives you a depth that I don't think I've seen in a game so far this year to be quite honest.
As the title suggests, perhaps FTL's most powerful weapon, no pun intended, is it's ability to force the gamer to think and adapt to the game, rather than adapt the game to the gamer. Think about it, and it'll make sense. In context, what works in one go-round in FTL may not work the next. You might get to the near-impossible boss one game, and get destroyed in the 1st sector the next. Every game is different, so the player must change their approach accordingly. Trust me, you will be playing a LOT of rounds of FTL. If you are lucky enough to survive to the 8th sector your first or second go round, you will discover that beating FTL will not be a breeze. It is a punishing experience that will consistently take any ego you have as a gamer and crush it. Play the game and you'll see what I mean. For those who do get the 1st time W, congrats you're in the 10% who probably have. What puts FTL over the top, in my opinion, is its way of making the gamer actually fear what lies ahead. It's a unique feeling I've rarely had while playing a video game, truly fantastic.
Sometimes, the game's difficulty curve is very frustrating and you'll go through 4 or 5 ships and realize, ok this is getting a little ridiculous. For this reason, I feel like FTL looses its lure, perhaps it is a little TOO difficult. Despite this strike, smoother gameplay could be enhanced with more hotkeys, though pausing the game at any moment with the SPACEBAR is nice. Also, unlocking ships is a huge chore that will often leave you scratching your head and wasting your time. In addition, the game doesn't give you any indication of how to unlock these new war-machines, which is discouraging. As you progress further in the game, you'll realize just how much these absent elements take their toll on the overall package.
FTL is a unique game. It has a lot of elements that gamers can get into, but also some new ones that most gamers don't know. In the end, this is where FTL succeeds. Taking a gamer high from his pedestal and throwing him on the ground in an explosion filled defeat and than doing it again, and again, and again is something you truly can't find in today's gaming world. Though graphics and gameplay suffer, the message as clear as the laser blasts that will tear through your poor little ship. FTL strives to challenge the player to his or her extreme limits, and when you succeed and get that victory, it will be one of the best rewards ever. I HIGHLY recommend FTL.
Great review. I hadn't heard of this game so it was interesting to read about it. Thanks for sharing.