FTL: Faster Than Light Review

There has been a lot of news floating around gaming communities urging people to give money to various kickstarter funds. This new type of funding has given the indie gaming scene a whole new lease of life and brought about the creating of games that may have otherwise never seen the light of day. FTL, it one such game, finding itself funded through kickstarter and eventually being released in September.

Along with games like Double Fine Adventures, FTL: Faster than Light is one of the first games released that proves the community funded video game can be a reality. FTL is a roguelike, a game of a genre not seen all too often these days. Deriving its name from the 1980 game ‘Rogue’, Roguelikes share common themes of randomly generated levels, a permanent game over state upon death and an overall gauntlet feeling to gameplay.

In  Faster than Light, players take control of the crew of a Federation starship racing against time to deliver a message to the fleet on the other side of the galaxy, avoiding getting caught or destroyed along the way. The galaxy is randomly generated every time a game is started so you‘ll have a different experience every time you start a game.

As you work through the galaxy you’ll find there are three types of space, civilian space; which is mainly peaceful, hostile space; which is filled with more enemy ships and nebulas; which are filled with natural anomaly such as electrical storms that interfere with your ship in some way or another.

The rooms of the ship are laid out in a grid, with the large rooms all dedicated to the different systems within the ship. There two types of systems, essential and non essential. Essential require power from the reactor and non essential systems don’t take power and work all the time. The more power that is diverted to a certain system, the better it works.

The trick comes in knowing where and when you need power. The important systems are the oxygen, shields and weapon systems are where you’ll be looking after, but depending on your strategy, powering the engines or the medbay might be a better use of your power.

The way games are laid out; each area of space has around 20 or so points of interest. Each one can contain any number of encounters ranging from pirate attacks to rescue missions that can result in all kinds of fun rewards. Every time you jump, the enemy fleet draws ever closer forcing you to decide between trying to squeeze some extra reward out of a sector before jumping to the next waypoint.

Because games are randomly generated, you can find different resources as you play; this can have a major hand in determining your play style and strategy for that particular game. If you salvage a powerful weapon from an enemy ship, you’ll want to invest the scrap metal you find in upgrading your reactor and weapons systems so that you can have more online at the same time.

Or, if you find a number of drone schematics, you can install a drone control sweet on your ship at one of the many stores and make use of the various interior and exterior drones you find and buy. Deploying a drone requires parts, which are harder to come by than fuel and missiles, meaning you’ll have to pick your moment when using them.

FTL isn’t completely about power management though, during ship to ship combat, it’s almost certain that you’ll need to manage your crew as well. Each ship starts with a number of crew that are at your disposal, you can order them around the ship at your leisure, and they’ll interact with what every room they’re currently in. Certain systems perform better when they are being manned by crew members, and the more the crew uses a system, the more productive they get at using it. Chances are though that they’ll be moving around a fair bit to combat the various hazards that can occur in battle. Fires, hull breaches, damaged systems and boarding parties will have you and your crew on your collective toes as you move people around and make use of the different crew member’s strengths and weaknesses.

As you play through the game and encounter different races and unlock different ships, you’ll find that each race also have different uses. Aside from humans, which are the standard race there a number of robotic, energy, insectoid and mineral based races that all provide significant advantages if used correctly, from double repair time to being fireproof to being hand to hand combat experts.

Speaking of hand to hand combat, if you’re lucky enough to chance upon any of the more battle ready crew members, you could invest in a teleporter, beaming your crew members aboard the enemy ship to take them down from the inside. This adds a completely new dynamic to play and makes the game something altogether different from what you were used to. Hell, you can even play non confrontational and boost the hell out of your shields and engines to make a quick get away whenever you run into trouble.

Graphically, the game is quite simple. You’ll spend nearly all your play time in a top-down cross section view of your ship, and the same of enemy ships when you encounter them. Despite this, the game conveys the action well and while dogfights aren’t exactly dynamic graphically, but you’re not going to care when desperately trying to repair your shields before you’re blown out of space. Traditionally, these types of games are seen with ascii graphics anyway, so be happy with these polished space ant farms.

The game is a lot of fun and if the ‘one more game’ mentality can get its claws into you, hours of your life will vanish before you even realise you’ve grown a wicked beard. As you progress through the game numerous times and do the various side quests you can encounter you can unlock more types of ship with different starting weapons and crew, helping with the game’s last ability or getting you started on a particular strategy you enjoy.

If I had to levy any sort of criticisms on the game I’d say that the music is a bit lacking, half of the time it just blends into the background and I just stopped noticing it. I’s also like to see some kind of endless mode in the game, As the game does have a defined end, I don’t often get to see the potential my ship could reach given more time. The addition of a mode to continue through the galaxy until you get bored would be a lot of fun.

The game is available to download from FTLgame.com for the bargain price of $10, it’s available for both PC and Mac and can be played on any busted ass old machine. If you want to spend somewhere between a few hours and a few centuries on a fairly addictive game I’d really recommend it. It’s a great indie game that shows we don’t need ‘the man’ to help produce our games, we can pay from them all ourselves.

Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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