Reader Review: Faster Than Light

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.


Comments

    While I love the idea of the game and I think it's well put together, it's incredibly frustrating how unforgiving it is, when most of your failures are going to be based on a run of bad luck, or one completely unwinnable encounter.

      As is similar to most roguelikes.

        Indeed. I'm not saying it isn't a fun game, but it's a struggle. By design it's something you run at over and over again until you get lucky. Sometimes strategy isn't enough.

      Aw, no option to turn off Iron Man mode for the gen y and z gamers? How ever will we enjoy a video game that is subjectively unfair?

      Yeah, it's as much about luck as skill - all the tactical genius in the world won't help if you never stumble across good weapons or just run out of supplies.

      I don't mind it, there's something interesting about the tension that never lets up.

        I think my worst yet was one I tweeted about, the last game I palyed before going to bed last night. I had just had a rough battle and lost my entire crew to fires and hull breaches. The last crew member set about repairing what he could and I jumped into the next sector, hoping to hit upon a store.

        Instead, four men beamed onto my ship and started destroying my engines. I opened the back doors to vent oxygen. Once they were done destroying my engines they pressed on, breaching my fully upgraded blast doors like they were tinfoil, again still venting oxygen all the time.

        They made it to the cockpit with 50% of their health still remaining despite having been exposed to vacuum for about two minutes, and killed my pilot: game over. My best run to date, but I felt rather robbed.

      I've played it for about 30hrs. I've found that the majority of your games will come down to skill. You will always have the odd game that will be decided by luck, but for the most part I've felt in control.
      When I first started playing I just had trouble getting scrap, now I can usually get what I need after an area or two.

      That said, I am still yet to beat the boss. I have gotten fairly close a couple of times though.

        I'd agree with this. The more you play the more your able to mitigate the random factors, even if you still get the occasional game where absolutely nothing goes right.

        I've only beaten the last boss once, on easy. It's a bit of a pain figuring out good strategies against it when you only get one shot at it every several hour play-through before having to slog through some of less interesting earlier stages again. There's probably guides out by now I could look up, but figuring it out myself is half the fun.

        My last game was with the zoltan ship which has 4 doors to vent at the back and 2 at the front. I dont think I had to really fight at all. At most have one of my guys take their last 10 hit points. Normal boarding parties (pirates may be different; not sure) will try and get to another room once they start asphyxiating so this is a good way to protect your systems from getting beat on or to lure them into the health bay where you can win a one on 3 fight. Still haven't managed to beat the boss with drones yet though -_-.

      It's just like real life!

      If you can't take the heat, stay out of the burning engineering compartment...

    Its so addictive, perfect review, sums up what makes FTL special very well. :)

    Such an awesome, addictive, brutal game. One of the best purchases I've made in a while. I can't count the amount of retries I've had where some i get far, some i don't - the luck factor! Oh the luck factor!

    I'm in love with the game, and I pretty much played it til my eyes bled on the weekend, but I only have one complaint: No endless mode. You beat the boss with each various ship, sure, unlock different achievements... But each boss-kill is a restart. You can't new game+ or roam afterwards.

    The game pushes you along at a specific pace, and that's the only pace there is. Varying by nebula is pretty insignifcant overall. Yes, it enhances tension, and sure, once you're almighty powerful there's no real risk in any encounters... But I would like to enjoy my all-powerful state a little longer, or have an option to vary the pacing.

    best game ive played this year

      massive call, but I agree

    I beat it last night in an Engi ship after almost a full weekend of trying. It was an orchestrated dance of power management, boarding parties, ion weapons and drones. The best part? I'm dying to get back in there and try something new!

    I bought the game yesterday evening and have already played for 9 hours! Just beat the game on easy mode... now onto normal...

    Cool, got this on the weekend at the recommendation of a mate, haven't had a chance to play it yet.

    If only this had a Star Trek stamp on it with Star Trek races and all that goes along with it. It really does sound like the Star Trek game I have been waiting for.. guess I'll grab this and just fill in the gaps with my own imagination etc

      You can name your ship The Enterprise, for a start. Then name one of your crew "Scotty" and send him to the engine room, etc.

    I came to Kotaku today hoping someone was praising this game. It seriously took up my entire weekend. I can't say enough about it. Even my wife got addicted by Saturday evening :)

    I'm not going to deny that the game is fun. I played it quite a bit over the weekend. Yelling about how I should "FIRE ALL WEAPONS!", and how the "Ensign should put out the fires in the medbay!". But I also think it would be awesome if they could change it to be like a 4X game. It has all the awesome mechanics, leveling, upgrading your ship etc. I'd love that.
    Then again. Its hella good as it is. Just be interesting to see how it goes. Also, Kickstarter works. Who knew hahah.

    I'm gonna give this a go when I get some time over the next few days.
    From the videos and review it sounds like a much more developed version of a board game called "galaxy trucker"

    Engi all the way.

    I love how unforgiving this game is. In one play through all seemed to be going my way. I had 6 crew members (mixed species) good weapons, 3 levels of shielding and a skilled core crew. (pilot, weapon tech, shield tech and mechanic/engineer). I had the money and found a store with a teleporter - the first time i'd been able to afford it. My first encounter I immediately beamed my mantis and rock over to the enemy ship only to realize to my horror that it was a drone ship without oxygen. My two crewmembers promptly died...

    That was my own stupid fault and my crew members payed for my mistake.

    In fact I've "lost" far more than I've won, but that has also made my one victory over the final boss (on easy) all the sweeter.

    I'm glad to be playing a game that you can't win just by playing it for a certain amount of time. It takes skill and a fair amount of luck, but that's the life of a starship captain.

    This is the game I have always dreamed about. Its like a mix of traveler rpg, all the startrek shows, firefly, and star wars all rolled in one. Spent so many hours playing and I cant get over that it was less then 10 dollers.

Join the discussion!