Space. The final frontier, as it were. In the world of science fiction, we all know the crux of space travel (unless your name is Jane) is having a trusty old faster than light drive aboard your mighty vessel. FTL: Faster Than Light strives to put you in the captains chair, handing you the keys to your very own ship to take command of the ship’s systems, weapons, and crew, and does an excellent job of doing it.
FTL is basically a rougelike in structure. When you first begin (after you play the very helpful tutorial), you will start by selecting your ship and crew. You only have one choice, “The Kestrel” to start your escapades in but, as you progress, you unlock more options. You then delve into the first in a series of scenarios while you traverse a small galaxy map, “pushing the stick” to jump the ship after each random encounter. These things range from full scale space battles to stranded or endangered ships.
You have a limited amount of power bars in your reactor you can use to power up different systems of your ship like shields, weapons, and engines. You can upgrade the various systems, including your main reactor, with the scrap metal, and other resources you collect along your journey. When you are mid-battle you can pause the action to reallocate power, select targets, and select crew to move to a new location. If you are looking for a nice new resource management game, this is an excellent choice.
The darkside of the gameplay though is the nature of its random encounter generation, some times you get into battles that are just plain infuriating, even on the easy mode. You can be cruising along and suddenly some Mantis Fighter that has 10 shields and boarding parties that just wreck your crew. The scale of the game could be better, but these unbalanced battles don’t detract from the overall appeal of this game very much.
The graphics in FTL are rather charming, not the most inventive or attractive on the market, but still easy on the eyes. It blends an array of more realistic looking spacescapes along with more cartoony ships and other gameplay elements, as well as having a more retro looking UI. Their could be more cohesion, but its thematically appropriate and rather well done. The “local” map and the sector plot map could be more appealing, perhaps having small planets and galaxy icons instead of diamonds and multicolored dots. The rest of the game is so well done that its such a small gripe, but its the small things that make a good game great, and a great game timeless. My only other comment would be that there could be a larger variety of backgrounds and such to make it feel more expansive in scope.
The soundtrack to FTL is two parts ambiance one part space orchestra. It is simple and elegant, and unobtrusive, but it still leaves something wanting. There are no real stand out tracks or anything real imaginative, but it does a solid job of providing the tone that it needs to. The same feeling transfers over into the sound effects, they are exactly what you expect, and do nothing to detract from the experience, but they are not what you will be playing this game for.
Overall the audio for the game is not bad, but you wont be missing much if you turn it off and turn up some of your own jams.
If you are looking for a cheep game that provides immense amounts of replay value then look no further. The random generation (even if problematic) and continual strategic maneuvers make this game an excellent choice for people wanting a fun alternative to your typical solitaire or mahjong quests, this ain’t no StarCraft. It’s a great time waster but the fact that it runs on a permadeath system and has no multiplayer (it is a rougelike after all) make it a solitary experience.
Faster The Light is a great game, with some really great game play, an easy to understand UI, and an acceptable soundtrack that does exactly what it promises to do, and not much more. Get ready to spend hours making your grand trek through the tiny corner of space that FTL: Faster Than Light will take you.