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The indie spaceship sim FTL: Faster Than Light, funded by Kickstarter, warps into action and sets its weapons to stun.

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Developer: Subset Games

Genre: Top down strategy, roguelike

Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux

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The indie title Faster Than Light, aka FTL, is a very accessible rogue-like space-sim game, with simple interface and design – yet deep and rewarding gameplay. In FTL you command an individual spaceship that is in the middle of fleeing from a pursuing “Rebel” fleet. You have an important message to deliver to the Federation, and will stop at nothing to get there. As you pass through the eight randomly generated sectors you will upgrade your ship, barter for supplies, flee from the Rebels or other aliens, defend helpless civilians (or attack them if you so wish), attack raiding pirates, and get ambushed by the various races of the FTL universe.

FTL is first and foremost a space-sim game. The difference is you don’t oversee a “fleet” of ships – but just a single ship. While commanding this ship you control every individual system aboard your spacecraft. Your ship has a “reactor” that has a limited supply of power. This power is then divvied up between all of the systems to keep the ship running – such as the engines, oxygen, shields, medi-bay, etc. As situations call for it, you can divert power from one system to another. This allows you to strengthen parts of your ship where you need it the most. For example, you might want to strengthen the shields, and take the medi-bay offline because no one is in need of medical attention. Or vice versa. Managing your ships systems is the bread and butter of the game (don’t worry you can pause the game with the spacebar and divert power during the interruption ). Is it absolutely vital to learn how to micro-manage your ship, while also navigating the dangers of space.

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Once you’ve have the management of your various systems nailed down, you can then focus on travelling through the eight sectors to reach your objective. Each sector is randomly generated with various “locations” to travel. Reaching your destination will not be a walk in the park, you will face random encounters along the way. Most encounters are straight up battles with an opposing ship, but some encounters are decisions about whether to “Help a stranded pirate ship, or blow him away.” Each decision gives a random reward that you won’t know ahead of time – my advice is to just follow your gut and hope for the best. When it comes to battling ships, I tend to engage every hostile ship I encounter instead of trying to flee. This tends to reap the most rewards, and helps you in upgrading your ship for the sectors ahead.

As you visit each location and acquire rewards from those encounters, you’ll receive “scrap”. Scrap is used to upgrade your ship’s systems, which (as you would imagine) allows players to procure better shields, weapons, engines, etc. You can also use scrap to purchase weapons, augmentations or crewmen at the random “Shops” you’ll find scattered throughout the journey. There is a bit of a balance in knowing when to spend your scrap on upgrades, or save it for a Shop that you “might” run into along the way (which of course, has randomized items/crewmen/augs for sale). You’ll learn this, and many other finer points of FTL as you play the game over and over again.

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Yes – you will play FTL over and over again – as that is the charm of the game. It is meant to be played over and over. FTL is rogue-like, which means you will most definitely die… many, many times. (FTR: A rogue-like game is a type of game that basically means you have one life, and when you die you have to start the game over again.) Some other developers tend to label this style of gameplay “hardcore” mode, or “perma-death” mode. FTL definitely does not shy away from pushing their players to the brink! However, because you know you only have one life, you better make it count. In the end, you will appreciate the challenge of FTL and will find it rewarding when you do complete it. Those daring escapes or way-too-close-for-comfort battles become extremely thrilling when you know the game and all your progress could be wiped at any minute! But here’s the best part about FTL being rogue-like: Every death is a new adventure. Since the game is 100% randomly generated, FTL offers a new adventure after each restart.

Within FTL there is an achievement system that unlocks new ship types or alternate layouts. It is also possible to unlock ships from completing certain random events found throughout the sectors. There is no way to “purchase” new ship types;  you have to earn them or find them. This feature gives you an incentive to keep playing and to even look forward to the next “restart” so you can try out your new ship. FTL is such a well-rounded game that even “death” can be a boon.

FTL is a stellar game that stands alone in a galaxy of other indie games. It has such a simple premise and yet extremely rewarding gameplay. I highly recommend picking up this game if you are interested in sci-fi or space simulation, or if you just want to try and exciting new game. It’s well worth your time (and believe me, it will eat up your time once you start playing; you just can’t stop.)

 

[one_half]Pros:

  • The game is only $10! You will get your money’s worth from FTL ten-fold.
  • Everything is randomly generated which creates unlimited replay ability
  • Roguelike experience in space! The permadeath nature of this game is what makes it rewarding.

[/one_half] [one_half_last] Cons:

  • Normal feels like a steep jump from the Easy difficulty. Should have a third difficulty option.
  • Some players may get frustrated with the redundancy of having to start over again and again
  • Because of the random nature of the game, sometimes you will just have horrible luck.

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