April 27, 2013

Review: FTL

FTL, also known as “Faster than Light”, is a rogue-like (which will be explained later on) game based in space, and is developed by Subset games as their studio’s debut title. It was self-funded at first, but due to a lot of positive feedback it was Kickstarted, receiving 20 times its original pledge price.  It is controlled by the mouse and keyboard in both real-time and in pauses which can be activated by pressing the spacebar. The core concept of the game is to upgrade your ship and fly through different sectors, making jumps at FTL speeds into dangerous events that may prove fatal for your crew members. All of this is procedurally generated; there are no set events, making every playthrough feel different and new which is great and giving the game a large replay value.
Before getting into a detailed explanation of what FTL has to offer, I feel as though we should first have a brief overview of what the rogue-like genres have to offer, what they are, and why they’re different. They are a sub-genre of the RPG genre, differentiating themselves with randomized levels, turn-based movement, perma-death, and their brick-wall hard learning curve. With all this in mind, rogue-likes require multiple playthroughs to beat. The motto one must have when going into a rogue-like game is “Dying is fun, this game is bullshit.”

FTL features a save function which is rare for rogue-likes, however all saves are overwritten by accessing them, making save-scumming (continuously reloading save files) impossible. FTL is a very basic form of rogue-likes, making it very enjoyable for newcomers to the genre, while still letting the veterans have their soul-crushing fun.
In FTL, you play as a crew of Federation members with intelligence on how to stop the rebel fleet from destroying your base. With this in mind, you must scramble your way back to base, fighting pirates, rebels, and others who would seek to harm you and your crew. All the combat takes place in real time, but with a twist. At any given moment you can press spacebar to pause the combat and change your tactics. You can power up systems and power down others to better yourself in either combat or while just cruising. After battles you will gain scraps to enhance your ship and thus better yourself in any given situation.

The beginning screen.

In FTL, you must claw and kick your way all the way back to base while upgrading, repairing, and modifying your ship along the way. There are three different consumables in FTL which you must manage. Fuel is used to move your ship to make those Faster Than Light jumps to different areas. Missiles are used to fire at the opposition to kill them faster. Lastly there are drone parts, which are used in both combat and out of combat situations, such as repairing.

FTL is played from a top down perspective with your ship covering half the screen. In FTL, you will see the inside of your ship and be able to micro-manage (manage a smaller part of the big picture) your crew members, such as placing one on the shields to make it recharge faster. All of this will allow your crew members to increase in skill, allowing them to do their respective jobs better. You will need all the help you can get in FTL, and the three or so crew members you get at the beginning will not be enough. You can gather new members and integrate them into your ship to better improve your chances of survival. Each race in the FTL universe has a different ability, with humans being the only exception. You will have to learn each and every individual skill your crew has and use them to their fullest potential to survive the onslaught of hell and fire you and your crew will undergo.
Put out the fires, heal your buddy, hope to god no one dies.

FTL is event driven, meaning every time you make a Faster Than Light jump to a different area you will come into a different event, some for good, some for bad. All the areas of FTL and the events which take place are randomized and will not have the same outcome. If you ran into an event twice, one may grant you missiles, while another time it may kill a member of your crew.

FTL has an interesting art style, having sprites represent the individual crew members aboard your ship with a semi-static background staying with you at all times, allowing the game run smoothly on any system. All the while, it’s very atmospheric, truly making you feel like the lone spaceship dodging and running through star systems. The whole game takes place on your ship with no deviations, however the game makes up for this by making sure that all weapons and shields have particular sprites that show up, making it so that you feel as though your choices of weapons and upgrades really make a different.
You'll be seeing this a lot.

FTL is a great introduction to the rogue-like genre, applying many of the conventions used in typical games. However, it’s more user-friendly than most rogue-likes, making it great for beginners to the genre. The game is great, fun, and can be played in bit-sized pieces allowing you to truly appreciate the game for what it is. For only $9.99 on Steam you can get this great indie game, which will provide hours of fun and frustration at the same time. I highly recommend Faster Than Light, it’s a great experience that can be played multiple times without feeling like a retread of a previous save. Give FTL a try; you won’t regret it, minus the rage.

You can get FTL directly from the developer or on Steam.