This is actually a bit of special Reader Review. BlueMaxima is a regular contributor of Reader Reviews for KOtaku Australia, but this time round he's actually gone and gotten himself an early copy of Faster Than Light! A much hyped indie game just released this week. This is BlueMaxima's full review.
Faster Than Light
Faster Than Light is every nerd’s dream. Ever since Star Trek made a generation of sci-fi fans dream of controlling their own starship through the endless reaches of space, games have tried to make us the captains, but none of them have really given a feeling like Star Trek -- manning systems, repairing hull breaches, venting oxygen, and other technobabble. Faster Than Light allows you to take minute control of your ship -- micromanagement galore -- and it is awesome.
FTL is mostly a roguelike game with elements of strategy mixed in -- you have resources like fuel and missiles to manage, a consistent healthbar and upgrades for your ship with the in-game currency “scrap”. A galaxy is randomly generated for you to cross every time you play the game -- you need to jump from node to node in order to reach the end of the sector and hit the next. Every node has a unique event. You could rescue someone, have one of your crew die, find a weapons stash or fall into battle, and the randomness can leave you powerful or weak as a kitten. You’re often given a choice on what you want to do: use mercenaries to delay your pursuers, or kill them? Try to save some poor souls on an exploding station or leave them to die? Sometimes even unique equipment can provide extra solutions. Half the fun of FTL is the unique experience you have every time you make a jump.
Every jump you make brings the rebels closer to you. They chase you from the beginning to the end of the game, always keeping you on a quick pace. Fall behind the slowly-advancing line and you will be torn apart by advanced ships. It never lets up and if you take a wrong turn and have to retreat into their line, you’re probably screwed, but a little bit of luck and skill and you can make it out. It’s heartpounding to escape their grasp before they have a chance to take you out.
The more you move forward in the galaxy the harder enemies get to take down. Eventually they’ll have advanced weaponry like ion cannons and teleporters to raid your ship, and you’re able to pick any of these up (for a price, by random chance or having your ship equipped with them from the start). Missiles pierce shields, so you can attempt to bring down their shields and fire lasers. You can circle drones around your enemies and fire your more powerful weapons at them when their shields are broken. Or you can warp a team on there and have them take down everything from the inside, just don’t blow up their ship while they’re in there. Combat is real time but there is a dedicated pause button so you can think out your moves. There are a lot of unique ways to approach combat in FTL.
This is supplemented by the several ships that you can start the game with (you start with one and unlock the rest) -- each one is equipped to a particular play style and race. Humans are bare-bones jack-of-all-trades. The Zoltan are technological energy beings that can power your systems. Rock are slow movers but they can take a punch and don’t get set on fire. Engis are gods at repairing and manning systems but don’t get them in a fight, meanwhile the Mantis are the absolute opposite. You can pick up crew along the way in the game through events or stores as well, so your crew can be multi-racial with their own benefits.
Ships are laid out on your screen on a 2D plane, with multiple connected rooms. Move a crew member into a room that contains a system such as shields and they’ll use it, giving a bonus to that system. Some systems require power from your reactor, which can be upgraded for more power. All your systems can be upgraded -- more shields, faster engines, more chances to dodge, even the ability to see inside your enemies ship for extra damage to their crew members. There’s stats and micromanagement galore, and your ship will never grow the same way in one game.
So your crew is mounted on weapons, engines and you get into combat. Your enemy has the same base systems you do, and you can target individual rooms on your enemy’s ship. So you can choose to disable their weapons so you can freely take them out, or you might need to disable their engines so they can’t run off and warn the rebels where you are, making you need to rush to the end of the sector. Shooting unoccupied rooms does more damage, and with different weapons such as ion cannons you can disable your enemies systems for a short time, or you can beam bombs on the enemy ship and kill off some of their crew. Some weapons can even target your own ship (so if you’ve picked up a pirate raid you can bomb yourself).
Your enemy has died and your ship has damaged systems, there’s a hull breach and fires everywhere. Your crew repairs systems and hull breaches but oxygen escapes from breaches, and your crew becomes hurt as too little oxygen drains health. You send them to the medbay but a fire is spreading in your oxygen system on the other side of the ship, and your door control system took too much damage during the fight, so you send a guy to repair it but the fire takes out your oxygen system. It’s a race against time as you open doors to space as lack of oxygen puts out fires, and your ship’s oxygen supply plummets as you repair it just in time, heal up your crewmembers and put them back on stations. If crewmembers die they’re gone for good, so taking care of your men is essential.
Not only are crews permadeath, your ship is. You hull hits zero and you’re done. A new galaxy is waiting right around the corner with plenty of sectors to explore and events to happen. You can reach the very end of the game and valiantly fight the final boss with massive weapons and shields, die in a blaze of glory, and then lose your entire crew to oxygen deprivation due to a solar flare causing a fire in the first sector. This is the main draw of the game -- anything can happen.
The music is great, and works perfectly with the atmosphere. Graphically the game is a barebones 2D game with not many special effects or standout areas, but thankfully this actually helps the game be more playable, since if it was too detailed or cluttered it would make the game hard to play. Sound effects are pretty basic, but stand out and are very useful at keeping a level head on the action.
You can be a captain of a starship. Those eight words should be enough to convince people to play this game. You control your crew, every individual system on your ship, you can kill everybody you come across or attempt to help everyone you can. You can upgrade your ship to be a missile-toting badass or a shielded tank. You can have crew of all races working together to make your ship as awesome as can be. You. Can be. A captain. Of a starship.
Faster Than Light is available on GoG.com and Steam for ten dollars.