By Luis Badillo – Staff Writer
Faster Than Light(FTL) is a strategy/role playing game/space simulator, developed by Sunset studios. FTL sets the player up as the captain of their very own starship, fully equipped with weapons, shields and a loyal crew. The task is to deliver data to the other side of the galaxy that may be vital to ending a galactic civil war. With the enemy armada hunting for the data the whole way, rogue artificial intelligences, friendly and hostile aliens, space pirates and slave traders or any other crisis typical to interstellar travel. Along these galactic errands, new crew members are picked up, hull damage is repaired and the ship can be upgraded.
This game is what is known as a rogue-like, a style of game that implements a “permadeath” mechanic. That means that once a ship is destroyed, the player has to start from scratch. This is where FTL’s true nature reveals itself, as the galaxy that is being explored will randomly rearrange at the restart of the journey. Though it typically takes about an hour and a half in play time to reach the end, a few players will have trouble getting past the first battle they encounter. This may sound frustrating, but FTL achieves the difficult by not framing death as a failure, but more as a learning experience. Since the galaxy is randomly populated once a player dies, each new play-through is an opportunity to see something completely new.
Each encounter presents countless possibilities and ways for the player to react. Each space battle is a volley of missiles and lasers each with a specific purpose. Will the player target the enemy’s shields with missiles to ensure victory by force? Or, perhaps disable the enemy’s weaponry, which can buy the player enough time to make a getaway. The enemy may also teleport aboard the player’s ship in the middle of a battle. In this case one can send a newly acquired alien Rockman crew member to defend the ship or use that defense robot that was purchased from a black market dealer. The player may open up the airlocks and allow the vacuum of space to fill the invaded room, resulting in the boarding party’s defeat via asphyxiation. After the enemy is defeated the player is rewarded. The earned scrap can be used as a currency to repair or upgrade the player’s ship, hire new alien crew members, purchase new weapons or even bribe potential enemies. No two encounters will ever play out exactly the same, the players have to be on their toes at all times and test their resolve as a captain.
Encounters usually do not last longer than five minutes, leading to a “just one more before I’m done” flow to the game. The player may boot up the game, knock out an encounter or two and before they know it, they have spent an hour exploring the cosmos.
Though the imagery being described here lends itself to epic space battles of which the likes would be depicted in Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica, the game has a more simplistic style. The view of the player’s ship is from a top-down perspective. The player watches from above as they click out the commands for their crew members, and direct which weapons fire at what, all the while managing power systems in the middle of a fight. Though the game’s 2D art style isn’t flashy, the characters, ship and environment designs are colorful and visually interesting. The simple style allows FTL to run smoothly on most laptops, including Macs. The occasionally frantic firefights, though chaotic are easily manageable with this art direction.
FTLisn’t for everyone. Its difficulty may frustrate some newer players; however the gameplay of FTL encourages experimentation. Discovering how to deal with each little crisis as one sees fit is genuinely rewarding. At the price of $10 on the game’s website, ftlgame.com, this is value that’s hard to beat. Even if FTL: Faster Than Light sounds a bit daunting, rest assured; if one allows themselves to play this game, it will take them out of this world.