Who wouldn’t want to captain their own starship and explore the majesty of space with your own crew? Imagine exploring an endless array of new worlds and people in your own X-Wing or USS Enterprise or NSEA Protector (OK, I’d be the one to choose the Protector). It sounds pretty cool, but being in charge of a ship is not always peaches and gravy. Sometimes you are thrust into impossible situations and have to deal with an onslaught of terror from every side until you either kill the enemy or die yourself. Thankfully, my friends and mortal enemies, there is a video game out there that sheds light on the real danger of starship piloting. It’s name is FTL: Faster Than Light and it will kick…your…butt.
FTL is a rogue-like game, meaning that it is hard to complete and everything is shuffled up after you die, where you have to take vital information for your Federation from one side of the galaxy to the other. This starship simulator is harder than anything and will push you down every time you think you gained a few steps in the right direction. You think you’re doing fine on your Torus after you defeat another Rebel ship with ease in the fifth area, but then something small goes wrong. One thing leads to another until three of your systems are on fire while what is left of your then 6 person crew is crying in the defunct Medbay surrounded by mantis people until the entire ship finally falls apart into nothingness.
FTL: Faster Than Light is challenging, yes, but is just so entertaining as well. Every time you fail you learn something that you can use on your next run. And no matter how many times you watch your crew get sucked into the coldness of space to die horrendous deaths, you can always start again and try different strategies with a new team that hasn’t yet cried for their mother as they get disintegrated by a horrific creature. This can be a simple as going down different paths on the star map, putting money into different systems or weapon types, or trying a completely new type of ship from an array of unique designs that can be unlocked after completing certain tasks. There is just so much to do and find that you will never be bored. Yes, you will come across similar situations a lot, but those can help you find a sense of calm when things get crazier in the later levels.
What also rocks about this game is how beautifully hectic the combat is. Every attack is so nerve-wracking since you don’t know what will and won’t hurt your ship the most. A perfect example of the awesome combat system is a situation I was in where I was had a drone to defend my ship from missiles, meteors and other physical threats. During one particular battle, the enemy ship launched an array of missiles my way. I was nervous since I thought that my drone could only deal with one of the projectiles at a time. What happened next was not what I hoped would happen but looked cool as hell. My drone, surprisingly, managed to take out some but not all of the missiles. Not only does this work gameplay wise so the single drone doesn’t become overpowered, but is just looks cool seeing a lone device struggling to shoot as many projectiles out of the sky before it collides with the ship, causing countless systems to be knocked out. It reminded me of the opening scene from the Star Trek reboot film when the Romulans are attacking and the USS Kelvin is firing everything to ensure that the missiles don’t hit (see above). The game made me feel like I was reliving the moment a summer blockbuster, which should be commended since it came by naturally in the game and did not require any type of scripted events or cutscenes.
If I had to make a complaint about the game, I just wish there was more to the story and narrative. There is plenty of background for the events, but none of it really sticks out. I know that I have to deliver plans as part of taking down the rebellion, but that doesn’t just pop into my head. If FTL ever has a sequel, they should definitely focus more on making the narrative hit players right in their emotional core. Imagine how hard it would be blow a ship up if the pilot had to beg about being able to see his family again or if a group of innocent combatants just started crying before the final volley of lasers land. Just look at Paper’s Please and you’ll get the idea of the type of emotion that could be pulled out from you from 2D sprites. Maybe with a better emotional center to the game, I wouldn’t deny every single beg of surrender that came my way. I guess I could also try being a more merciful captain but, naaaah, merciless slaughter all the way. All joking aside,a good narrative could really push this game up and make it a touch closer to perfect.
FTL: Faster Than Light is one hell of an experience. Pick it up when you can to fulfill your inner need to be a captain of a starship in a mentally draining yet enthralling universe. The game has a lot to it and it really isn’t too expensive if you buy it at the right time (*cough* Steam Sale *cough*). The gameplay is deep and the situations you get into are insane. Begin your journey for the Federation today with a computer or I Pad! (Side note: Keep the advanced options on. That’s where the real good stuff comes from.)
I’ve been Superguy and you’ve been awesome. Live long and prosper. Or don’t. It’s a free country.