Last week a rather interesting little Steam title was brought to my attention called Faster Than Light. I know it’s not an unknown title, so I’m probably late to the party on it, but it looked sufficiently interesting to pick up for $9 and try out.
FTL is kind of like an interstellar Rogue-like, where you captain a ship instead of a dungeon explorer and explore sectors of space instead of underground caverns. It’s got some flavor of Star Trek, Firefly, and even Choose Your Own Adventure in it, although it strongly reminds me of another indie title called Infinite Adventures in Strange Space.
The goal is to make it to the end of your sector-hopping before you die or are captured by pursuing rebels. That keeps you always on the move, and chance are you’re going to die along the way. I still haven’t made it to the end.
But the hook of FTL is that it’s not about cool 3D spaceships duking it out, but instead a cutaway view of the inside of your ship where you order your crew around, adjust power levels, and take care of various situations. Combat is more or less on autopilot, so your decision making comes into play when you have to figure out what rooms are best left crewed and uncrewed, whether you should order someone to put out a fire or open up an airlock to suck out the O2, and what systems need to be repaired in what order. It’s the same kind of gameplay that I’m looking forward to experiencing with Star Command on the iPhone, if it ever comes out.
Because of the micromanaging, combat situations can get downright insane. You can choose to cut and run, but only if you have a pilot at the helm and the engine repaired and a certain amount of time passed for FTL calculations. I’ve been in battles where half of my ship was on fire and I was desperately trying to suck out all the air while bottling my crew up in a few remaining safe rooms. And there’s been more than one time that I’ve sent crew to their deaths because I absolutely needed a system back online — but it was in an airless or blazing room.
Probably the most interesting scenario was when my ship got boarded by three aliens who proceeded to run through rooms, take systems offline (including the sensors, which left me in the dark) — all while a major fire was raging. I couldn’t open doors because the intruders took those offline, so I had to bunch up my crew for a desperate firefight (which we eventually won), then have my three surviving members tag-team trips into oxygen-less rooms to restore systems so that I could open the airlock restore O2, and try to make it out of the sector alive. Which I did.
Many jumps give you choices which may have good and bad consequences, and I’ve learned that it’s prudent to stick around in a sector as long as possible (before the rebels catch up) in order to beef up your ship and try to find parts and fuel.
There’s no save and only one life per game, so when you die, it’s restart time. That makes every encounter twice as intense.
You can also gradually unlock additional ship types and extra options, although meeting the requirements for this are proving difficult. Nice to know they’re there, though.
Anyway, it gets a big thumbs up from me. A game lasts around 10 minutes or so, and every one is a different experience.
It’s not a flashy game, but dang if it isn’t involving — and a type of gameplay I’d love to see more of in MMOs. About the closest I can identify are some of the pirate games.