by George Hyde, Volunteer
It’s safe to say that a great number of us grew up wanting to be a starship captain. Negotiating with fantastical creatures, researching strange new life forms, working through encounters with hostile space pirates — the life of the captain is a compelling one.
The opportunity to take the helm of your very own starship has arrived in the form of “FTL: Faster Than Light,” a game that encompasses all of the adventure, wonder and tension of space exploration without relying on massive production values.
“FTL” feels like a fusion of sci-fi adventures like “Mass Effect” or “Knights of the Old Republic” and short, permanent death games like “Pokemon Mystery Dungeon” and even “The Binding of Isaac.”
The player starts with a simple Federation spaceship with a crew of normal, boring humans and is tasked with leading a ship and its precious cargo to a rendezvous point several sectors away. This must be accomplished while on the run from the Rebel fleet, in a refreshing antagonistic role. Along the way, the ship will run into space pirates, strange new races to recruit, distress signals that need answering and exciting new life forms to research.
The gameplay is split into two styles. Players can roam the galaxy, meet new characters, shop, and strategize routes. However, when a hostile enemy ship approaches, the game shifts into a real-time strategy style of play, where the player must manage crew members, weapons, shields, drones, oxygen and other variables while the enemy ship also tries to manage the same issues. The system two-tone gameplay works well and is very engaging.
One of the best parts of this game is its preservation of the wonder and excitement that comes with true, great science fiction. It’s a universe where anything feels possible, for better or for worse.
The developers at Subset games have created a beautiful world in “FTL.” It’s one of the few games in recent memory that truly captures the imagination and scope of the science fiction genre.
However, as expected from a perma-death game, “FTL” is absolutely brutal. An average campaign will run about an hour. Getting to the end on a campaign is either very difficult or flat-out impossible, depending mostly on luck. It’s a bit frustrating, but since the games are short, it isn’t too bad, and it turns the game into a rather addicting experience.
Best of all, “FTL” is inexpensive. At $10, players get one of the most imaginative, intriguing sci-fi universes in gaming, as well as the wonderful, nostalgic feeling of being a starship captain. This is not a game to miss.
Game: “FTL: Faster Than Light”
Publisher: Subset Games
Release Date: Sept. 14, 2012
Genre: Real-Time Strategy