Friday, December 14, 2012

A Slice Of: FTL

Faster Than Light (FTL) is equal parts space simulation, strategy game, and choose-your-own-adventure. However, beyond all of that FTL is indie done right. Subset Games, (FTL’s developers) were careful with their scope, created simple and clear mechanics, and sprinkled in enough general difficulty and diversity to keep the game feeling fresh long past the first play-through.

In FTL, players command a ship and its various systems, (such as shields, weapons, and oxygen) as well as a crew. Each ship system requires power to operate, and more power means a more effective system. Additionally, certain ship areas receive further improvements by having crew members manually operate them. Players can increase the amount of power available through what amounts to a talent-tree for your ship, and crew gradually become more effective at their assigned duties over time.

The objective of the game is to keep ahead of the rebel fleet nipping at your heels. This is done by using your ship’s FTL drive to jump between the beacons which are randomly strewn across each level. (Called “sectors”) Each jump results in a semi-random encounter, (except the last one, which leads to a boss fight) which can be anything from an ambush by slavers to a distress signal at a plague-stricken outpost. Each jump is like pulling a “Chance” card in Monopoly; sometimes it’s free money, but more often it’s a bit of a kick in the nuts.

Due to the high difficulty level, (which is compounded by FTL’s randomness) new players will undoubtedly flail around in the shallow end of the galaxy for a good bit. In fact, I still routinely fail in the early sectors due to back luck and/or my own incompetence. Luckily, the game handles failures very graciously. Load times are near instant, deaths are rarely “unfair,” and the early game is engaging enough that I never feel put off by re-playing it. After being force-fed a particularly large can of whoop-ass in other games such as DOTA or DayZ I often feel like I need a break, but in FTL I always happily click “restart” and try my luck again.

Subset has managed to combine a very simple set of mechanics into a compelling and worthwhile game. FTL is difficult enough to guarantee failure, but it is also fast and lighthearted enough to make the inevitable restarts feel like the start of a new adventure instead of the end of an old one.

If you're looking for something a bit different than "Modern Military Shooter: Brown Terrain 2" then I would strongly suggest you take a closer look at FTL. It's is most certainly worth your time, and at a modest $10 it’s really worth the price of admission as well.

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