FTL: Faster Than Light Review


I hadn't heard of Faster Than Light (FTL) until I was asked to review it. Had I been paying more attention to the Interwebs I would have realized that this was a little bit of a cult hit and one of the success stories to come out of Kickstarter. Legend has it that FTL was pretty close to being a completed game by the two-man development team at Subset Games. They decided to use Kickstarter to fund an additional $10,000 or so to finish up their labor of love. Funny thing is that they raised a whole lot more than they asked for and so they developed the sucker a little longer and released it late in 2012 for PCs. Was it money well spent? Short answer, yes. Longer answer ahead...

Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Star Trek...great science fiction each and every one of them. They also have created fantasies for many a young gamer of being in charge of a space ship. I mean how freaking cool would that be! Sounds romantic to be carrying secrets plans that can save your galaxy and being relied on to make quick decisions that could save or destroy your ship and her crew. In Faster Than Light you do get to be the captain of your own ship and it's a lot harder than Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds ever made it seem... well, okay, they both made it look pretty hairy at times I suppose and now I know why!

There is a story that holds FTL together and it has something to do with you having some plans that you need to get to the Federation that will help them defeat the rebel uprising. Whatever. What you need to know is that you have a ship and you don't want it to explode into little pieces as you fly around and there are a bunch of things out there that want to crush you. You cruise across different sectors in the game but the longer you stay in that sector to explore, fight other ships, or answer distress call the closer the enemy gets to catching up to you. Once the rebel fleet does catch you, game over ... so you'll need to pay attention to where they are and decide if it's worth helping answering that call for help.

Each sector in the game is filled with random events that can lead to a battle, getting some needed supplies, or nothing. It's the random nature that keeps things interesting. Gameplay is deceptively simple partly because of the very basic graphics. The majority of the game has you looking at an overhead view of your ship with the top cut off so that you can see the individual rooms to the ship on one side and the enemy ship on the other side of the screen. The rooms have icons that indicate what type of room they are; engine, medical, weapons, etc. These rooms can take damage during a fight but you also have some crew on board that you can order to go and fix up the place. Things get dicey once a couple of rooms have damage and you're forced to try to figure out how best to use your limited crew. This makes for a pretty tough game. You will lose a bunch of times and sometimes it will even fell unfair. Yet I kept going back and trying again. It's an addicting game.

You can command several different types of ships and, as you'd expect, each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes it's just a matter of personal preference. Battles are the main focus of the game. There are common attributes in each battle, like you need to use a certain weapon to take down the shields before you can target a specific area of the enemy ship, but each one feels different because of how the enemy ship will react and attack. Basically you have to keep alert. Resources are scarce and you need to manage how to best use them. Do you want to have more power for weapons or shields? Want to upgrade your reactor? Too bad, you don't have enough resources yet. These resources can come from scraps from a defeated ship or in one of the random encounters a ship may give you things for stopping to help.

I should have a clever sci-fi reference to close this review out with, but I can really only say that FTL is hard but fun...

Final Rating: 87%. Fulfill a sci-fi fantasy by becoming the Captain of your own starship! Don't expect great graphics, but do except to lose many hours to FTL and expect to lose your ship ... a lot.