Alarms are sounding loudly while the room is lit up red with the pulses of the alert. Smoke is rising, and the lieutenant is screaming what your orders are. “Captain, Captain?” You reply, “Full impulse! Hit them with everything we have!” As the smoke rises on the bridge, you look out upon the starship that could very well be the last thing you ever see. The ship flares up in a brilliant explosion as you roar past, and looking over your crew, you sit back down in the captain’s chair with a sigh of relief. “Previous heading helmsman….” This is what it is like to be in the captain’s chair of your very own starship in FTL: Faster than Light, an amazing space top-down strategy/rogue-like game. You take on the role of a captain/commander of a Federation (not Star Trek) ship bent on reaching your destination, where you must deliver vital information on the Rebel forces that are chasing you across the galaxy.
FTL: Faster Than Light is Beautiful in its Simplicity
FTL is an incredibly simple game to learn to play. After a brief 5-minute tutorial, you will have the hang of captaining a ship on the run. That said, this game is very challenging, even with its simplicity of it. The game is simple, manage your ship's systems while you do battle with other ships and deal with onboard intruders. Use the scraps and weapons you receive from battles to upgrade the systems of your ship in order to be more effective. Failure to do so in a strategic way will always lead to the demise of your ship and crew. The best way to be effective at captaining an FTL ship is to manage your resources well.
The game's combat system is simple. Keep your systems (medical bay, engine, weapons, sensors, shields, helm, oxygen, teleporter, stealth, and more) in the green...well, grey, using your crew's repair skill. It is HIGHLY recommended to pause the game as you make decisions and tell the crew what to do. You can also station crew members in each system to increase their abilities. For example, you can station crew members in the engine room to increase your evasion or in the weapons room to speed up how long it takes your weapons to charge. The choice is yours on how you will fight enemies.
It's so simple to understand and implement, but each enemy requires a different approach. Will you take out their weapon systems first or their shields? If you take out their shields first, they will still be able to attack you, but if you take down their weapons first, you will have time to deal with the rest. The combat decision is yours.
FTL: Faster Than Light - Story
The story is pretty simple, and it is very little to it. Jump system to system, trying to outrun the Rebel fleet with important intel for the Federation. Each system is different or controlled by a different faction, which is neat, because one system may have a lot of traders or opportunities to make easy scrap to upgrade, while others may be a battle at every turn. Each time you jump, you have a choice of two systems, with a short overview given for each in terms of whether they are: civilian, hostile, or nebula.
Nebulas blind your sensors, civilian systems have fewer battles, and hostile systems are almost full of battle. You can make your decision based on the aforementioned systems that you have done the most work on. Each battle will reward you will certain amounts of fuel, missiles, scrap, and sometimes weapons or add-ons. Scrap is the currency of the galaxy, used for upgrading ship systems, repairing your hull, buying fuel and missiles, augmentations, as well as weapons and more crew to man the ship. You can jump from planet to planet, completing quests and fighting enemies to collect more, but keep in mind the rebel fleet is approaching, and you can't spend much time in each system for long! The way everything meshes together to create a full game is fantastic.
FTL: Faster Than Light - Graphics
The art and graphics of the game are 2D, basic, and incredibly well done. Sure, everyone loves their “real” looking games like Assassin's Creed, Halo, and Call of Duty, but the simplicity of the art makes this game so much more fun. It's easy to tell what each system is, and the HUD is basic in how it shows your system. You can see your Hull Health, Shield Charge, how much power each system is using, as well as hull and shield charge for enemies. Each map of the system is a basic background with diamonds for different planets/locations.
Each planet is either “unexplored” and blank, “explored” and blue, in distress (quest), a shop, or an exit to the next system. Not much thinking is required, right? The artwork is PERFECT for the game that FTL is, and combined with the excellent music and sounds behind the game, it is all around a visually and aurally pleasing game. Had it been done in a 3D universe and ship, the game would likely have been too difficult and confusing. Keeping it simple is why this game is so good and so very addictive.
FTL: Faster Than Light - The Final Word
Without a doubt, FTL was one of my favorite games of 2012. It is simple, engaging, intense, and addictive. If it was on my phone...I'd never stop playing. In a way, it’s a simplified version of the game “Space Trader” that was on old Palm OS devices. With a perfectly formulated mix of combat, art, and strategy, the game will capture and hold your attention no matter how many times you die in the “Normal” game mode (which is SO hard, not joking). The customizability and choices are given to you on how you want to manage your crew, battles, and resources make the game different every time. Every time you press “Play” the game is different, with different systems, enemies, and weapon/augmentation drops at each click of the mouse. The game is so much fun that you may think you are a starship captain because you play so much.
This review was originally published on 10-14-2013. While care has been taken to update the piece to reflect our modern style guidelines, some of the information may be out of date. We've left pieces like this as they were to reflect the original authors' opinions, and for historical context.