FTL: Just One More Jump…

FTL is a space exploration roguelike that does everything right. It's smooth, deceptively simple with its complexities made clear and easy to naturally fall into, and addictive as hell.

Kickstarter has been the genesis of a great many success stories.  FTL: Faster Than Light is one of the most dramatic of them, at least in the gaming world.  The game first popped up on Kickstarter asking for a modest sum of $10,000 to create a space exploration roguelike.  Within a day they had double their asked-for total and by the time it was done they had over $200,000.  They then proceeded to create a unique, clever, stylish, and absolutely fantastic game with that money.

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The basic gist

You are in command of a starship in the Federation.  Unfortunately, that’s not such a good thing, as the Federation just lost its war with the Rebels.  You have the secret to the Rebel’s strength, and you have to cross half a dozen sectors of space with those same Rebels in hot pursuit and win the battle at the end to save your relatively vaguely-defined faction.

What you do

To do this, you have three things you control directly.  You aim your ship’s weaponry in battle, direct your crew to various stations and trouble-spots within the ship, and allocate the power in your ship’s reactor to those same systems.  Enemy weapons-fire can damage or outright disable ship systems, including your oxygen, necessitating juggling your crew around the vessel to keep it functioning and fighting.

You start with just the basic ship (The Kestrel pictured above) which is actually a reliably well-rounded vessel, but accomplishing various tasks in the game will unlock other ships as well, including a ship based on each alien race’s theme (like the Mantis Cruiser which starts with the ability to board enemy ships or the Engie Cruiser with anti-ship drones), giving a great deal of replayability to a game model that already makes multiple playthroughs rewarding.

What happens to you

Each playthrough follows generally the same formula.  You jump from system to system, facing random encounters each time, to gather scrap and equipment to upgrade your ship in preparation for the final battle.  Over the course of your travels you’ll encounter everything from pirates to aliens to asteroid fields and rebel scouts hunting for you.

The variety of these random encounters keeps things fresh, and they have overall impact on your mission ranging from null to drastic, with a given random encounter having the potential to do anything from give you a new crewmember (or kill one of your current crew) to giving you a new weapon to pitting you against an enemy ship equipped with just what it needs to humble your proud cruiser.

What you need

You need fuel to make the FTL jumps needed to progress through the systems and sectors and depending on your ship’s equipment will also need missiles and drone parts for bombs and robotic weapons.  There are also extra ship systems that you don’t start with, but can find and unlock in shops as you progress, including a cloaking device, a crew transporter, and the controller for those drones.

All of this costs the same resource that you use to upgrade the ship itself, meaning that scrap (the ubiquitous all-important currency of the game) is always at a premium.

So how does it all mesh?

This game is addictive.  It’s really addictive.  If you’ve read a book and had the thought, “Just one more page…” then you’ve got an idea of how much time this game can eat up without you realizing it.

I was pleasantly optimistic about this game when it was gifted to me, but I wasn’t really terribly excited.  I figured I’d play it a bit, express some polite thanks to the person who got it for me, then forget about it except for maybe one playthrough every couple of weeks.

I then proceeded to play FTL for about three days solid, stopping only when I was too tired to click.

This game’s individual aspects all have intriguing elements, but the combination of them all is significantly more than the sum of their parts.  It is smooth, with each of the separate elements of the game flowing together so seemlessly that it’s actually sometimes hard to even notice how complex it all really is, but it is delightfully complicated with an almost embarrassingly simple interface.  Above all it is all kinds of fun.

The only real caveat I’d offer is that it is definitely a roguelike, despite the unique interface.  The only way to save in FTL also closes the game, so every single jump you make is literally life and death for your intrepid little digital crew.  If you don’t like potentially making one wrong move and costing yourself your entire ship, then do not apply.

BUT

If you do like the idea of exploring an often-hostile universe with nothing but your wits and whatever you’re able to scrounge together during your trek across the stars…

This is the game you’ve always wanted, so go boldly.


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Author
Wokendreamer
Writer, gamer, and generally hopeful beneath a veneer of cynicism.