Review by PaperSpock
"You're the Captain Now!"
FTL is a game that will make you feel like the captain of a starship. I was instantly reminded of Star Trek and Firefly, two of my favorite sci-fi series as I played it. It's insanely difficult, but it's also as fun as it is hard.
I'll briefly touch upon plot and presentation before discussing what really makes this game shine. The music is decent, and becomes tense at appropriate times. This works to enhance the battle sequences. The graphics are largely sprite based, and look like they'd be right at home on the SNES. This makes battles much clearer, but stylistically, some may not like it. The plot of this game isn't particularly deep, but creates an amazing scenario for unique adventures to take place in. In short, the game's plot and presentation serve it well.
The gameplay is utterly fantastic! Essentially, you're trying to escape a rebel fleet of starships to get something important to your fleet. This is handled by jumping from jump point to jump point (usually near a planet). At each jump point, you'll either face a battle of some sort, a choose your own adventure style list of options (with definite ramifications), a merchant, or some combination of these. Some feel as if they were lifted from lost episodes of Firefly. For example, a distress signal leads you to a ship low on supplies--give it some in hopes of a reward, or save your resources for another time?
A large part of playing will be spent dealing with battles and their aftermath. Throughout the game, the starship is managed by redirecting power from one system to another, directing crew members to move from one room to another, and opening and shutting bays doors to let the air out (in case of a fire). The various systems are stored in the rooms within the ship, and having a crew member there to manage the system gives some bonus, and allows for quicker repairs. Battles involve delicately balancing your ship's crew and systems while simultaneously imbalancing enemy ships.
These battles lead to great moments, like a race between ships to see who can get their weapons back on line first, or a mad dash to repair the oxygen generator, while at the same time trying to put a fire out by opening bay doors. The more I play, the more I create compelling stories that emerge organically from the gameplay This is really what makes the game such a joy to play.
There are also added layers of resource management and RPG elements. Shield-ignoring missiles and fuel are in limited supply. Run out of missiles, and battles become much more difficult. Running out of fuel leaves the ship a sitting duck, hoping that the first passerby is friendly. The RPG elements involve upgrades. Ships have many possible upgrades; additional systems, different weapons, or an increased power supply, for example. Scraps from other ships can be used for those, or traded in for a variety of things, including new crew members, hull repairs, or fuel.
It should also be briefly mentioned that this game takes a bit of a roguelike approach--the maps and sequences of worlds are randomly generated so no two playthroughs will be alike, and there is permadeath. I think that having permanent death really adds to the steaks and makes it all the more enjoyable, but admittedly, this isn't for everyone.
Really though, this game is better experienced than read about, and at $10, it is amazing value. I highly recommend this game. Especially if you've always wanted to be the captain of a starship, you really should download this game today.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/19/12
Game Release: FTL: Faster Than Light (US, 09/14/12)
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