FTL: Faster Than Light does a fantastic job of bringing together some of our favourite things. On the one hand, it's a fascinating take on roguelike game design. On the other, you're the captain of a starship, and you manage your crew, encounter strange creatures, fight aliens, make judgement calls, and deal with traders as you cross the galaxy with information important to your cause.
There's lots of classic sci-fi storytelling involved, and FTL does such a good because of the amount of variety it offers to a player during a typical run. Each sector that you pass through (and there are eight before the endgame kicks in) is filled with star systems, and you jump from system to system before moving on to the next sector. Each jump reveals a new scenario (including the odd one where there's nothing to see), and there's a decent selection on offer at launch, although after a few hours you will start seeing certain events popping up again.
Whether it's a battle with slavers or pirates, recruiting new shipmates or upgrading your ship, or deciding whether to help some random people out with their infestation of space spiders, FTL keeps throwing new and interesting decisions at you, and you're constantly thinking about what to do next, and how you might survive the next potential disaster. And there is always a disaster just around the corner, you can pretty much guarantee it.
A big part of the experience is ship building, and getting new parts that then allow you to change up your tactical approach to combat. For example, you might want to fire off lots of lasers and dominate your opponent with rapid-fire attacks, or you could go for a mix of lasers and missiles and target specific systems, or use a weapon that strips enemy shields and then send in drones to do the dirty work for you. There are lots of ways that you can upgrade your ship, and you can further enhance your overall effectiveness by recruiting and keeping key systems manned.
FTL is a roguelike, which means every death is the end of that run, and the next game has you starting from scratch. The decent length of a typical failed run ensures that you feel like you're getting a complete experience here, even when you bust. Permadeath is a serious word, certainly, but it only adds to the tension. Attachment to the crew grows stronger with every passing sector, and losing one of them can be a horrible ordeal if they've been with you since the start, especially if you named them something special. That said, we wouldn't have it any other way, simply because their fragility makes them precious, and we care about them even more as a result.
From a visual perspective, FTL boasts a simple yet charming aesthetic. There's admirable clarity in the design, and it's very easy to keep track of everything that's going on in your ship at any given moment. Some of it is clunky, granted, but there's a certain charm to the low-fi visuals. They could be better, certainly, but they're nothing if not functional. You can pause the action when you need to analyse a situation via the top-down view, and it's easy to direct key crew members to repair broken systems, and keeping on top of everything in the heat of battle really is the secret to success.
The story is delivered by text boxes that pop up whenever you land in a new system, and there's nothing in the way of voice acting or fancy effects. Much is left to your imagination, and it's probably a richer experience for it, as so much of it takes place in your head. While the effects are basic, the soundtrack helps set the scene perfectly, and it's one of our recent favourites thanks to the melodic tone that helps whisk you away into a world of your own imagination.
Overall we've had a fantastic time with FTL: Faster Than Light, but our affection for it can't mask the fact that it still feels a little lightweight in terms of content, and it could do with a handful of extra scenarios added to spice things up for those who have been playing for a long time. There's room for it to grow, then, but what's there at launch is certainly entertaining, and we're looking forward to seeing where Subset Games takes this in the future.
Loading next content