As I watch my ship split into a thousand pieces for the twentieth time in the 24 hours I’ve racked up playing FTL, I wonder why I even bother to play this ridiculously hard-to-beat game. Then, as I subconsciously start up a new game, I remember; ‘Maybe this time I’ll finally beat the end-boss!’ ‘Maybe this time I’ll unlock a new ship…and then beat the end-boss with that one!’.
One of the defining features, which adds to the re-playability of this Roguelike-like space-based game, is its difficulty and (low) chance that maybe this time you’ll be able to muster up the gear, currency and strategy to beat the game.
FTL stands for ‘Faster Than Light’ – used to describe the speed at which a spaceship travels or ‘warps’ in order to cross space. The completely randomised gameplay is made up of a series of eight ‘sectors’ of the galaxy, which are made up of a path of individual ‘beacons’ to an exit that you must reach in order to progress to the next sector. Each ‘beacon’ contains a random event which could potentially help or hinder your progress, including; asteroid fields, distress calls, enemy ships and merchants. Just because you’ve experienced a certain event before, doesn’t mean you’ll be as lucky the next time; something which has rewarded your choice before may turn out badly!
Set in a time of intergalactic conflict, your ship contains vital data which will aid the Federation (the good guys) against the Rebels (the bad guys). This means that throughout the gameplay your ship is being pursued by an advancing Rebel army who are vastly more powerful than you. Therefore, the player has to balance their exploration of each sector in order to collect the most resources, while not hanging around long enough to be blown into spacedust. A choice of nine different ships (after you eventually unlock them) allows for a mixing up of gameplay and the ability to alter your tactics as each ship has it’s own specialised weapon or approach. Trust me when I say that you will not complete this game the first time you try; I’ve only completed it once myself on the ‘Easy’ difficulty! Practice your tactics, gather as much ‘scrap’ (money) as you can and pick the strategy of your ship which you think will work better for you!
From the outside, the game looks and plays fairly simply; upgrades are bought with scrap which you find and are paid in when helping out others. However, once you play the game a little, you come to realise the depth and strategy needed in order to succeed in this game. You can customise your ship with an array of different technologies: teleport your crewmembers over to the enemy ship for hand to hand combat, turn invisible with the cloaking device, or form an armada of remotely controlled drones. For me, it’s that want to better myself and beat this game that keeps me coming back to FTL.
Now for my personal rating. The graphics of the game are fairly basic, with a lot of repeated backdrops of planets being used again and again. The sound effects are also quite basic but serve their purpose with lasers, warning alarms and heart-beat sounds to draw your attention to particular moments which you may otherwise miss. The audio of the game is fantastic, immersive, and both ambient and upbeat depending on your situation. The gameplay can be repetitive after a while, but if you’re a perfectionist and love showing the game who’s boss, you’re going to love it.
For a fairly high ticket of £7 on Steam however, this game is fairly pricy for more casual gamers who may not enjoy doing the same thing over and over again just to be blasted to smithereens in space. I would generously give the game 4 stars overall, mainly for the high price, and would love to see some additional, hopefully free, content in the future!