Sunday, September 16, 2012

Faster Than Light and Let's Play

You are the Captain, your ship has been recalled from mothballs; underpowered, undergunned, and with limited supplies you are on the run from an ever encroaching armada with information vital to the war. And yet you and the few officers you could scrape up into your crew are all that stands between victory and defeat. This is Faster Than Light.

If you want to watch my continuing adventures as Captain, I've included a Let's Play video to go along with this review. This is the first in the series so check out the channel as I upload the rest of the playthrough.

Faster Than Light or FTL is a space simulation by Subset Games, and the closest I think anyone has come to giving you the feel of actually commanding a starship in battle. Now it is definitely an indie game, funded by kickstarter in fact, and is defined by this fact. The graphics are pretty, but there's no 3D or photorealism, FTL is more reminiscent of X-Com than a modern space game(e.g. Star Trek Online or even Descent: Freespace). One of the great joys of these types of games is in customizing your ship, replacing weapons and upgrading systems, and FTL has a very clean and very intuitive method for that. But really, the core of being a Captain in the vein of Star Trek is being able to yell "More power to shields!" or "Divert power from Life Support to the Engines!" This is the game that lets you do that, without the dogfighting that is rather inherent in many of the other games of the genre. The music is again, reminiscent of games of yesteryear, but surprisingly well done.

The various weapon systems all have a unique feel, and there are vastly different strategies one can take, for instance focusing on missiles, or drones, or ion cannons, or even starting boarding actions, but all these must be weighed against their costs and weaknesses. You'll often find yourself weighing the options of upgrading various subsystems versus the possibility of needing the scrap for repairs or fuel down the line. And there's nothing more heartbreaking than having to make the decision on who to send to try and repair your life support systems while there's a hull breach. To lock them in to almost surely suffocate, or risk the whole crew by opening the airlocks and hoping they repair it before everyone dies.

-Intuitive Energy control and weapon system
-Really captures the feel of being the Captain of a Starship
-Lots of tactical options for how you want to play your ship
-You will become attached to your crew...and their inevitable heroic sacrifices
-Randomly generated universe means a different experience every time

-Not all of the tactical options are viable
-You probably won't live long enough to see all of them
-Crew positions are limited(if you have more than 4 crew, the rest are simply relegated to damage control/security)
-Limited events
-Randomly generated universe can screw you over

All in all it's an excellent game for the price, as long as one manages their expectations. The game is a roguelike, and one should expect to die, a lot. Do not expect it to be easy, death is death, and you'll be right back at the start if you encounter it.  It was an indie game and they accomplished what they set out to do, making for a very enjoyable product. But it feels like it could have been so much more, I couldn't help but think that with a basic trading module this could have become a wonderful sandbox game as well akin to Freelancer, or implemented more uses for large crews. And after a few playthroughs one gets used to the same sets of events to know what to avoid.

1 comment:

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