FTL: Faster Than Light is the first of the recent Kickstarter-funded game craze to release. Way back in February, FTL ran a Kickstarter campaign that immediately exploded, resulting in the game reaching 200% funding in less than one day and ending up with 2005% of its required funding target of $10,000. A resounding success, then, but why did it do so well?
Well, that’s because it lets you manage a spaceship. All those dreams you’ve had about being Captain Kirk and ordering people around on a starship as you travel through space? Well, this game makes them come to life in all their pixelly, randomly-generated glory (you do dream in pixels, right?).[drop]You and your crew of three are the only survivors of a Federation force that was just wiped out by rebels. You have to get to the Federation base and warn them of the incoming threat. You do this by jumping between beacons with your ship and dealing with the random events you’re likely to find at each one as you make your way towards the exit to the next sector. If you spend too much time in a sector, the rebels will catch up and you’ll have a difficult fight on your hands, so you probably shouldn’t dawdle.
It’s not as simple as it sounds, of course. Described on the Kickstarter page as a “spaceship simulation roguelike-like”, permadeath and the usual roguelike mantra of “losing is fun” are very much in full force. When you’re unlucky enough to have your weapons taken down and have a few enemies boarding your ship you know you’re in serious trouble. Protecting the most vital systems whilst targeting theirs is the key to winning battles; it’s usually kill or be killed and FTL isn’t scared of destroying your oxygen supply and setting your cockpit on fire.
How do you fly a ship? Well, you need a crew member in the cockpit (we’ll get to what the rest of the crew should be doing soon) and fuel. Every time you jump to a beacon by selecting it on the star map, you use one unit of fuel; when you run out you have to sit around waiting for the rebels to catch up – if you’re lucky, a nice space-traveller will turn up and offer to give you some fuel in exchange for some scrap, or missiles, or drone parts.
Your other crew members should be manning the other important man-able systems, each of which will provide a different benefit – if you have someone in the shield room your shields will recover more quickly after being hit, whilst crew in the weapons room will charge the weapons more quickly and, as a result, shoot more often.
Speaking of weaponry, there’s a decent selection for you to stumble across throughout the game. Missile weapons ignore shields completely, but have limited ammunition that you can only replenish by buying or finding missiles whilst wandering around space.
Laser weaponry, however, can be used as much as you like, just wait for it to charge and fire it at a room on the enemy ship. It won’t go through shields though, so you’ll need a method to take down the shields first. The best way to take down a shield? Missiles or, should you find/buy some, ion weapons. When an ion weapon hits a shield, it disables that shield for a few seconds, allowing you to send anything through it.[drop2]A ship can have four layers of shield however, so you’ll need to take all the layers out to get through it. A missile will ignore all of those layers and, if you target it at their shield room, a hit will knock the shield out, or at least reduce the layers you need to get through. I love missiles.
Then again, if you’ve been relying on missiles to take shields out and then run out of missiles, you’re usually in trouble. I had to use a burst laser to take down a shield momentarily, then use a beam to slice through the opposing ship before it came back up. Surprisingly, I managed to survive. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t beat the final boss with the same tactic and was unable to find missiles anywhere. Such is life in FTL.
All this and, thanks to a randomly generated galaxy to explore, it just doesn’t get old. I’ve played six hours already and continue to stumble across new events, find weapons I haven’t seen before and I’m still yet to use a teleporter (used for sending some of your crew onto the enemy vessel to take it down from the inside).
There are nine ships in the game but you have to unlock eight of them. Some are pretty easy to unlock whilst others are very difficult. Each ship also has an alternate layout that is unlocked by completing two of three achievements, each of which are unique to each ship and very difficult. FTL is built to last, even though it didn’t really need it because you get to manage a spaceship.
I can’t recommend the game enough. I’ve had a blast playing and I’m yet to even finish the game. I do hope there will be more content in future, like some bigger ships with bigger crews, perhaps even more weapons and random events. DLC isn’t something I often call for and you must understand it is due to wanting more, rather than an initial lack of content. There is more than enough to keep you occupied (I plan on playing again as soon as I’m done writing), I just want there to be even more.
Faster Than Light will run on pretty much anything, though it’s reported to sometimes have trouble with integrated graphics cards on laptops (although it’s completely fine on mine). It will release in two days (Friday 14th September) for £6.99, $9.99 or €9.99 depending on where you live. You can get it from Steam or Good Old Games (it’s not available to pre-order on GOG so I can’t link to it right now) and, if I didn’t already say, it comes highly recommended. If there was a CPCG seal of approval, it would be stamped all over this page.