Mar 19, 2014

[Games] FTL: Faster Than Light (PC)

It's only this year that I finally got back onto a laptop that can decently handle games versus my old netbook. As much as that trusty little bugger served its purpose in terms of my blogging while traveling, it just couldn't cut the mustard when it came to games. And now that I have something that I can work with, I'm still playing catch-up with a lot of games that have been tied to my Steam account. The positive side of DRM.

One of the games that I had always been eager to play was FTL: Faster Than Light, which had the science fiction feel that excited the Star Trek geek in me. But at the same time, it was also somewhat infamous for for being brutally difficult - not that this is not a bad thing in itself. It really depends on your perspective on gaming in general.

But to be honest, there are few games as enjoyable as FTL despite how well they demonstrate why humans are an inferior race.

FTL: Faster Than Light is a real-time space simulation strategy game created by independent studio Subset Games. The game itself was designed by Justin Ma and Matthew Davis. The game was finally released thanks to a Kickstarter project run to raise enough funds to finish the game.

The game places you in command of a faster-than-light spaceship carrying information vital to the future of the Galactic Federation. The information is crucial to saving the Federation and your goal is to evade capture from Rebel forces long enough to deliver the information. You and your crew will need to navigate through each sector of space, survive Rebel forces, pirates and hostile aliens in order to get all the way go the Galactic Federation headquarters.

You start out with two possible ship designs and you'll then try to get as far as yo can with your little vessel. The ship covers multiple functions including engines, shields and weapons and you'll need to divert power as needed in order to keep your ship operational. Naturally you can upgrade your vessel using the scrap that you collect as currency, but that's a rather limited resource that will also go into buying new fuel and repairing your ship.

So yeah, the odds are rather stacked against you and finding you way across the various sectors is an amazing challenge. Even on easy mode you're more than likely to die halfway whether due to slavers invading your ship, asteroids pummeling you into space dust or even just being adrift in space without fuel.

Thus the game has that technical feel of running all aspects of a ship like a Star Trek captain. But it also has that sense of struggling to make ends meet with your ship feeling like its being held together by bubblegum and duct tape like on Firefly. And yeah, the whole running from a Rebel fleet aspect is sort of like a weird reverse Star Wars. Do I need to make any more pop culture comparisons here?

The graphics for the game are pretty simple and you view your ship from a strictly top-down perspective. You'll be able to order your crew to different rooms in order to augment your abilities and to repair damage done to your ship as well. You can vent oxygen to try to quickly kill fires but should your crew enter that room, they will eventually die of asphyxiation.

Even the variety of missions is pretty amazing. You can help civilians in need. You can pursue slavers and pirates. Or you can just transact with various space stations or independent merchants. And for that you'll use various weapons including energy weapons and missiles or even fully-automated drones. There are just so many ways that you can deal with all the challenges and it'll take you a while to get to a point where you figure out a strategy that might work.

And then you'll die. And then you'll try again. And again.

Okay, playing FTL: Faster Than Light may sound like an exercise in masochism, but I guarantee it's a fun game. If you're a fan of the science fiction genre or the tactical simulation sort of game, then you're going to enjoy this brilliantly-designed game. FTL gets a full 5 alien races out to kill you out of a possible 5. But since I'm a tad biased, it might be a 4 for the rest of you non-nerds.
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