FTL: Faster Than Light
VERDICT: Fresh gameplay that I don’t believe has been done before or as well. The replay value is off the charts with multiple ships, random events, and random galaxies. Believe the hype on this one. If you enjoy science fiction shows like Star Trek, you must buy this game immediately. FTL is a Modern Classic.
Above: Fantastic atmosphere. The dynamic music in the game is good, but it functions more as immersive atmosphere.
This game runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Linux version is native and requires no tweaking.
There is no multiplayer for this game. A damn shame.
FTL primarily uses the mouse, but the keyboard is used for the spacebar which pauses the game. Hotkeys of weapons and crew members are also used through the keyboard.
I experienced no problems with FTL. However, the user should be warned. The game may look simplistic, but it is heavily taxing the processor in the game. This game will not perform well on slower processors such as less than 2 Ghz. For Macs, I do not know what the minimum system requirements are. I would check before purchasing.
WHAT IS IT?
FTL: Faster Than Light is a starship simulator. There are two forms of gameplay intertwined.
The first is the tactical starship gameplay. It is real time but orders can be given while the game is paused. You tell which weapons to shoot and what parts of the enemy ship they should hit. Crew members can be moved around to fix damaged parts of the ship, stop intruders, or even teleport onto the enemy vessel to take out their crew. Doors can be opened to suck out oxygen to slow down intruders or remove fires.
The second is the strategic starship gameplay. You select which star you wish to warp to next. You choose what weapons and equipment to buy or sell. What upgrades do you spend money on for your ship? The long term strategy decisions determine your endgame.
This game is ‘roguelike’. What that means is that there are no continues. You may save your game to come back to later, but death is permanent. You are the starship captain that has vital information for the Federation. The Rebel fleet is chasing you and will conquer all systems. You must outrun them to the end. Once you arrive at the end, you are given a new task to destroy the Rebel Flagship as it slowly approaches the homeworld.
FTL is a game that doesn’t take long to pick up. The multiple ships, random events, and random galaxies give the game a fantastic replayibility. Even when people have unlocked everything and beaten the game, they still play it because this starship simulator gameplay hasn’t been done anywhere else.
No manual is included with this game. There is a tutorial mode that is useful and gets people up to speed fast.
The music of FTL is very distinct and gives the game personality.
Above: Exploration theme
Above: One of the several battle themes. Each galaxy has its own battle theme.
While FTL’s music is very nice, I sometimes to prefer something of a little stronger flavor. How often does this soundtrack match the game you’re playing?
There are many ships in FTL. Each one presents a different way to play the game.
The Kestral is what everyone starts off with. It is best used as a warship with powerful laser guns.
Above: The Kestrel
Each ship in FTL has two types (Kestrel A and Kestrel B are two separate types of ships). The type B Kestrel is shown below. For the rest of the list, only one type will be shown.
Above: Kestrel B. Why is it colored in rebel colors? Is it camouflage? The game does not say but allows your mind to wonder. I love this.
Above: The Man of War is the ship of slugs. Good for anti-bio and killing crew.
Above: The Engri ship resembles the Borg cube. This ship excels at using drones as its primary weapons and defensive capabilities.
Above: This is the stealth ship.
There are other forms of ships. There are cruisers, Mantis ships, Rockman ships, and the Crystal ship. There is more than enough.
FTL seems overwhelming at first but, soon, the player will wish there were MORE things he or she could do. Here is an overview:
CANNOT BE MANNED.
I list this first because without it, all your crew dies, and it is game over. When your oxygen system gets damaged or destroyed, repair it immediately! The oxygen will rapidly drop inside the ship. Rooms low in oxygen become pink and crew members get oxygen deprivation.
The Oxygen system can be upgraded that allows more oxygen to fill up the ship faster. This is useful in cases of hull breaches.
MANNED ENGINES INCREASE EVASION.
Engines make your ship go. If they are destroyed, you are a sitting duck!
Engines not only power up your warp drive, they give your ship evasion (something I didn’t realize until much later after playing). Evasion increases your dodge chance. Missiles go through shields so only evasion protects you from enemy missiles (unless you have a certain drone out).
Upgrading the engines increases the ship’s evasion.
MANNED WEAPONS REDUCES RECHARGE TIME. Always man your weapons.
Weapons system is straight forward. When it is damaged or destroyed, you can’t fire anything.
Upgrading the weapons allows more weapons to be powered simultaneously. However, more weapons means you need to upgrade your overall ship’s power as well.
MANNED SHIELDS INCREASES RECHARGE TIME. Always man your shields.
There are four levels of shields. You should be upgrading your shields as you journey along. Each level of shields reduces damage by four.
Medbay heals any crew member that enters it (but only three crew members may be healed at a time).
During intruder attacks, make your stand in the medbay. Your crew will be healed while the enemy is whittled away.
Upgrading the Medbay increases the rate of healing done.
The teleporter doesn’t come with the Kestral, however it comes with some ships. It can be purchased from a shop. The teleporter sends your crew members, who stand in the teleporting room, over to the enemy to destroy their crew. The teleporter can also be used on slave ships to steal a slave and turn it into a new crewman.
Unlike Star Trek, you can teleport through shields. Sacrilege, I know…
Upgrades to the teleporter reduces the recharge time.
Drones are little robots that can be programmed to do a task such as ‘attack enemy ship’ or ‘heal your ship’. Drones are permanently used as they cannot be recovered (unless you have a Drone Recovery Arm). Drone Control allows you to use drones. Destroying the enemy Drone Control turns off its drones.
Upgrades to the Drone Control allows more drones to be powered.
When cloaked, the enemy weapons cannot lock on or charge up to attack your ship. Your ship also gains 60% evasion.
A cloaked ship cannot be teleported on.
It pierces all shields and does one damage per room. A faster recharge is possible by upgrading it. Artillery Beams can only be installed on Federation cruisers.
MANNED PILOTING CHARGES WARP DRIVE AND ENABLES EVASION.
Be sure to man the pilot station at all times.
Upgrading adds auto-pilot which allows some evasion when unmanned.
Remote control of doors.
“That doesn’t sound as impressive as teleporters, drone control, or weapons!”
That may be true, but remote control of doors is very important. It allows you to vacuum a room to remove fire or intrudgers.
Can be upgraded to be fire resistant and armored to slow down intruders. Upgrading doors should be one of the first things you do.
Sensors reveal what is going on inside your ship. If sensors are down, you cannot see inside your ship (where your crew members are not at). Sensors always go down inside a nebula.
Upgrading sensors gives information about enemy ships such as where the crew is located.
There’s different races in FTL, and they have different abilities.
Cheap and possessing no talents whatsoever. I like the description of Humans which reads: “Humans are common and uninteresting.”
The only thing interesting about the Humans is that there are two genders, male and female. Apparently, the other races are only a single sex. This explains why there are problems in the galaxies.
Slugs are telepathic. They can see crew locations on enemy ships and into neighboring rooms on your ship even when sensors are down.
Zoltans also have less health than normal.
Slow, have a ton of health, and are immune to fire.
Mantis move faster than the other races. They also repair slower but deal double combat damage.
Repair speed is doubled but combat damage is halved.
Slow, high health, survive on less oxygen, and an activated ability called Lockdown. Lockdown coats a room with crystals that prevents anyone from leaving or entering.
WEAPONS AND DRONES
There are four types of weapons: missiles, lasers, beams, and bombs. Missiles use up one missile per use and ignore shields. Laser can deplete shields, but beams cannot. Beams, however, can hit multiple rooms. Bombs are teleported onto the enemy ship and ignore shields.
While those are different weapon types, all the different weapons are too numerous to list. There are different types of lasers, beams, and other nasty things you can buy or find.
It took me a while at first to figure out how drones worked. Drones are like satellites around a ship. In order to operate, they require a drone part, the Drone Control System, a drone schematic, and enough energy to power that drone schematic. The Engri ships all come with a Drone Control System. The various schematics have the drones be offensive and attack the enemy ship, be defensive and shoot down enemy missiles, or even constantly heal your ship. The drone is lost when you jump to another star system (unless you have the Drone Recovery Arm).
AN EXAMPLE OF A GAME
In the following, I will undergo a complete game of FTL: Faster Than Light. I have no idea what will happen.
Above: As we start, we will be taking the Kestrel since that is what most new people will use. My intrepid crew will be me, the Reader, and Shigeru Miyamoto who has decided to join us for this journey. The ship is christened the U.S.S. Post Console who will explore the Final Frontier of Gaming, discover new games, and boldly go where no one has gone before.
Above: Before we jump, I need to assign everyone to a station. This will improve performance and have the crew members ‘level up’ in skill. I stay on navigation, I put the Reader on shields, and I place Miyamoto on the weapons.
Above: The first jump arrived in a sector of someone asking for a toll. We reject the preposterous toll and the thug attacks the merry Post Console. We destroy him easily.
Above: In the next jump, the mighty starship Post Console warps in on a rebel starship who shouldn’t be there. The rebel starship begins to power up its warp drive to make an escape but Miyamoto launches a missile that destroys their engines. And then, we eradicate the rebel scum.
Above: The Post Console encounters a distress signal of a gaming ship saying a DRM ship is trying to not allow ownership of something they bought. We move in to intercept. With Miyamoto on the weapons and the Reader on the shields, we shatter the DRM rebel ship.
Above: Alas, the rebel fleet is beginning to make its death march across the stars. The Post Console has to keep on the move. Only certain death awaits in the growing red zone.
Above: As captain, I decided the Post Console needed an upgrade in the ship. We upgrade the Blast Doors which prevents fire from spreading as fast. Later, we’ll be upgrading the engine speed, the shields, and weapons array.
Above: Pirates attempt to bribe the Post Console. We don’t accept bribes.
Above: As we move closer to the next sector of space, we encounter a Mantis Scout that decides to get hostile. Apparently, Mr. Miyamoto is more hostile, and the Mantis Ship gets blown to smithereens.
Above: Answering another distress signal, we find one of the crew we saved so grateful he wishes to join us.
Above: After answering a distress signal, to our horror we discover the civilian ship’s crew were killed in the attack. We salvage what we can.
Above: The Post Console jumps to a point close to a flaring sun (this is what happens when you put Miyamoto in control of navigation!). Solar flares thrash the ship, destroying the engine and unleashing fires. Throughout this ordeal, a Rock Scout was assaulting us. The scout was destroyed and we hurried to jump away from the flares. The damage was significant. We’ll have to repair at the next jump point.
Above: We weren’t fast enough to catch a thieving pirate ship.
Above: Sympathizers give us supplies on our dangerous journey.
Above: When we warp to one system, we discover a dead rebel ship just hanging there. We take its map data and salvage what we can.
Above: An Engri Cube Ship hails us and asks for fuel. Since they are our allies, I give them the fuel. They give us some drone parts in return.
Above: A slug tests the mental capacities of Post Console’s captain. This is why you always read the text. The slug joins our crew.
Above: Another nebula, another sneak attack!
Above: This Mantis Scout put out a fake distress signal and lured us in. However, we were more than a match.
Above: Unfortunately, the rebel armada overwhelms us. We have to fight our way out! We get out… barely.
Above: Talk about cutting things close!
Above: We had discovered a stasis pod earlier. Now we arrive at a Zoltan research facility willing to fix it. The stasis pod unlocks a Crystalline crew member. He is the only one of his kind in this dimension.
Above: Trying to find the home of our new Crystal crew member, I hear it is in a Rock Controlled Sector. Luckily, there are two of them to choose from.
Above: In a very nasty fight next to solar flares, a direct missile impact collides in the weapons room creating a hull breach. Miyamoto flies out of the hole!
Above: We jump out of the solar flare with half systems destroyed, a hull breach, fires across the ship, and Shigeru Miyamoto killed. After taking out the pirate at this jump point, we take time to repair everything.
Above: In the second to last sector, the Mantis teleport onto my ship and try to take over the engine room. My entire crew takes trips back and forth from the med bay and manage to defeat the attackers.
Above: A lucky missile impact makes a hull breach in the weapons room killing our Crystal crew member. He was the only one of his kind.
Above: Due to some unlucky jumps, the Post Console ship had not seen a store to repair in some time. The hull is like eggshell at this point. When encountering a slug ship in a nebula promising to repair my ship, I took the chance. Then this screen comes up. The slugs were lying! Those bastards!
Above: The slug ship cloaks while the bomb they attached while ‘repairing’ my hull blew up. We didn’t have a chance. The Post Console was destroyed and all hands lost.
JUSTIFICATION OF THE SCORE
FTL: Faster Than Light has NOVEL gameplay. It actually presents something new. Most games do the same thing but with better graphics and indie games try to revisit older forms of gameplay. Starship simulators have always been around, but I have never seen one done like this or done this well. Whatever one says about FTL, the gameplay is fresh.
Let me tell you about a friend I know. I knew this guy for decades. I was the one who introduced him to Legend of Zelda on the original NES, and I remember his reaction to it. So when I introduced FTL to him, I was curious how he would react. He doesn’t like playing most games. But he LOVES FTL and cannot stop playing it. I can’t stop playing it either. When you’re playing, time just melts by. So yes, this game does have the same value as the gold colored cartridge Legend of Zelda. This is extremely high rating for a new game.
One of the best things FTL does is what it doesn’t do. FTL doesn’t try to tell a story. There is no characterization. We don’t get to discover where or not a crew member is in love with another crew member or the backstory on another crew member. None of that matters. Even the alien races are allowed for the player to fill in the details with their own imaginations. I like this. FTL reminds me of how games should be and how games once used to be. Today, games are towers of production all aiming at the Hollywood experience. Before, games were laboratories of design. When a game got the design right, a new genre was invented.
FTL is not just a new game, it is a new genre. This ‘crew of a vessel’ journey is something special. There are RPG elements, rogue-like elements, strategy elements, tactical elements, but FTL is not a rogue/strategy/tactical/RPG game. FTL is a FTL type game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other games come out with this gameplay but in other settings (such as a pirate ship on water or a fantasy themed airship in a mythological world).
FTL is a rare game when you wonder where the DLC or expansion packs are. This game could really use some. It is not because the game is incomplete, it is because of a hungering desire for MORE.
This game does have some flaws. The first one are the limited graphics. FTL’s graphics are very clean and never feels like an Indie game (where it uses 8-bit or something ridiculous). The starship simulation is not complete without a ‘Main Screen’. I want to SEE the enemy ship staring at me. An optional first person perspective for the captain would be welcome.
And speaking of the captain, why are the crew just the crew? How about some ranks? It would be neat to make someone the captain, someone the first officer, and down the ranks you go. There needs to be a Captain’s chair where, if the Captain sits, there is some bonus to ship operation.
The biggest problem, and its most controversial one, is the rogue-like gameplay. The game becomes annoying starting over every time you die. It would be interesting to level everything up and become ‘overpowered’. The rogue-like gameplay also makes it annoying to go for all the achievements to unlock all the ships. Why are the ships locked to begin with? FTL is fun to play even if you have beaten it and obtained all the achievements. Why lock anything?
Have you ever been watching a TV show (such as a sci-fi one) and, all of a sudden, a problem arises where the starship/base will blow up in minutes unless the hero succeeds? The Doomsday Clock gets turned on! This is done to add a sense of urgency to the show. Without any urgency, there wouldn’t be much drama. In the same way, I think the rebel armada was to serve that same job to create a sense of urgency and the rogue-like gameplay to make you scared of dying.
I believe the rogue-like gameplay is a failure. I am never scared of anything in FTL. There is no sense of urgency coming from the rebel armada, just a sense of annoyance. The rebel armada is no different than the timer in a Super Mario Brothers level.
I would like to see a Privateer or Freelancer model with this gameplay. You would have a shipyard, choose your ship, and go out there slowly exploring, getting stronger, all without the Groundhog Day syndrome of dying over and over again to the Rebel Armada or Rebel Flagship.
The rogue-like mode is OK. But there should be alternatives to the rogue-like mode. How about a free form mode? This is a golden opportunity for an expansion pack or sequel.
Ultimately, FTL is a very well made game that does everything nearly right and keeps you wanting to come back for more. This game sucks you in especially if you are a fan of Star Trek ship battles. You will end your turns screaming, “Mr. Worf fire!”
Above: FTL shows how every Star Trek licensed game failed.