08 October 2012

FTL (PC game review)

Remember the days of NES, games with 8-bit pixel graphics, great (and weird) electronic music and a total focus on the gameplay - oh and it was so hard that you evolved inhuman reflexes after doing something over and over again because you got killed all the time?

FTL is that game, except I think, a lot less frustrating than the worst of NES games (like Castlevania II: Simon's f**king Quest anyone?!).

The story is basically that you are a Federation ship tasked with bringing critical information about the Rebel fleet out to destroy the federation (nice change of roles for once). You have 7 solar systems to travel through to join up with your own Federation fleet, hand over the critical information and then try to take on the Rebel mothership - by yourself.

The game features several different types of ships, that are unlocked after repeated playthroughs depending on random encounters and achievements, each ship is pretty much specialized, some start out with a mixed species crew, some rely on stealth technology, other's on robots.

Each ship feels different enough to make it interesting to play through the campaign repeated times, and then you also have 2 designs of each ship type, each design different from the other.

With you ship you jump from node to node in each solar system, have random encounters, fight enemy ships of increasing difficulty, help space stations and stranded ships, travel through nebulas, fight near solar storms, get boarded by teleporting pirates, fight fire on your ship with crew and by opening air locks and manage the various ship systems which you upgrade on your journey by spending "scrap" the resource of this game. You start out with a weak ship, but will at the end of your journey (at least you better!) have maxed out shields, some droid helpers and weapons enough to destroy the enemy mothership.

It's a really simple game, but it is mindblowingly good. As I mentioned it is all about gameplay, and it is frustrating as hell at the beginning, it takes a couple of hours to learn how to play properly. You have to "farm" each area as much as possible so that you have scrap enough to upgrade your ship and buy weapons and additional systems for your ship. Depending on ship type, weapon types and what species your crew members are you can affect random encounters in various ways to your favor (or risk your ship and crew blindly in hopes of reward).

There are several factors that may see you dead before you reach the end destination. You may run out of fuel, fuel is bought in stores and claimed in random encounters - but it happens that you run out. In which case you have to rely on a emergency emitter and hope someone shows up to help you.

The other factor is the chasing rebel fleet that moves as a huge red wall of death behind you in each solar system. With each jump you take the rebel fleet gets closer to the exit of the solar system - should they reach the end then you have been outrun and failed your mission. Then there is the multitude of solar systems that range from friendly to hostile, but each having all kinds of scum trying to kill you in ship to ship battles.

Oh, and there is no save function, other than you can quit the game and save once in your current spot, but no save/load possibility. So if you lose crew or resources along the way - they are  gone forever!

And of course, once you reach the end, depending on whether you farmed each system enough to upgrade your ship, depending on whether you had the fortunate circumstances of positive random encounters granting you bonus equipment you may or may not succeed in taking down the enemy mothership - it's hard, even on "Easy". I've managed ONCE out of perhaps 16 games, of which I reached the end destination in perhaps 5 cases. Each time you start a new game the solar system is randomly generated as are all the space nodes and random events.

This game is really awesome, everyone who wants to play a game that can be beaten in something like 2 hours should give this game a try for the sake of the gameplay experience alone. It's refreshing to play a game that does not hold you by your hand, has giant arrows showing the way to your next objective and a forgiving save/load system and generous amounts of health power ups that have destroyed a whole generation of console gamers.

I want to thank the WWPD guys over at WWPD.net for mentioning the game on their podcast and talking about it on their forum, making me aware of this game. I got mine through the site  Good Old Games (GOG.com), it’s 10USD, well worth it.


  1. I was in on the kickstarter, and I love this game... a great way to kill 30 minutes or so.


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