FTL (Faster Than Light)
“Scotty, I need more power to the shields!” If you’ve ever yearned for a good reason to scream this phrase at your computer monitor, then you’re in luck. FTL (Faster Than Light) is a “Spaceship Simulation Roguelike-like” created by Subset Games that tasks players with guiding a ship and its crew across the vast reaches of space. Along the way, they’ll encounter hazards that will test even the best of ship captains. With the right amount of skill and a little bit of luck, they will be able to make the journey successfully. Before we begin with the review, I’d like to thank Justin Ma, the artist and designer for FTL, for sending me a free review copy.
First, let’s get all of the technical stuff out of the way. The game only features single player, however the game generates new maps and worlds with every new game, allowing for almost unlimited replayability. Each new game will develop its own story, one in which the player will become engaged in from start to finish. New players to the game will be able to engage in a tutorial to help them learn the ropes, something I strongly recommend. There’s a good bit of micromanagement involved and it’s helpful to know what all of your options are before heading in to the main game. There’s also your usual options screen, along with a stats screen to give you an idea on how well you’ve fared in the past.
When starting a new game, you will be able to choose one of nine ships to take into the fray. It should be noted however that eight of those nine ships will be unavailable initially, but can be unlocked later on. Once you choose a ship, you’ll be able to customize both it and its crew by giving them names, among other things. After you set things up the way you like, you’ll be thrust into the main game and be assaulted by a lot of indicators. Don’t be scared off by the interface and the information, it’s actually not all that bad.
Your ship and its crew will be laid out in the middle of the screen. The ship itself is broken up into rooms, some of them containing the necessary control panels that access your systems. There’s a room for your shields and a room for your medical facilities, for example. Manning most of these rooms with your crew grants those respective systems a bonus. You’ll be able to see how power is distributed to said systems along the bottom of your screen. You’ll be able to manage your green power bars along those systems in the manner that suits your current situation best. You’ll see information about your ship’s status along the top of the screen such as hull strength, crew health, shield power, FTL readiness, and more.
The game starts you off in a system that is along the left side of the galaxy map. The main goal is to reach the system on the right side of the map that says, “Exit.” To sum it up, you’ll be jumping from system to system and sector to sector, encountering new and exciting challenges with every jump. Some encounters might pit you against a robot ship while another might make a shop available for you to buy weapons, drones, fuel, and other things. You never know what you’re getting into with each jump.
Combat turned out to be a lot of fun. You’ll be able to assign crew to various systems and perform damage control as parts of your ship take hits. Systems can go offline, hull breaches can occur, fires can start…pretty much anything that can ruin your day. At the same time, you can target specific rooms / systems on the enemy vessel, giving you the ability to play strategically and smart. One mechanic I had to get used to was the oxygen and fire relationship…you can actually open and close doors to your ship’s rooms, venting parts of your ship into open space to starve out fires. However, doing so depletes your oxygen supply, which is none to healthy for your crew. Speaking of crew health, sending them into hazardous rooms to repair systems or the ship itself will cause their health to deplete. Crew members can permanently die if you aren’t careful…losing just one can set you back farther than you think. Crew members can visit the medical bay to heal themselves. Oh yeah…and boarding parties…repelling those can be fairly entertaining. No worries, you’ll be able to pause the game during all of this so that you can get your bearings and issue orders.
In terms of average play time, a game can last anywhere from five minutes to over an hour, depending on how far you’re able to get. I’ve had unlucky situations where I jumped into my second sector and lost against a powerful robot ship. The next game, I spent a half hour exploring a whole bunch of different sectors and completing one challenge after the other. My favorite part of it all was the ability to assign power to different systems on a whim, and upgrade those systems the way I wanted. I often opted to improve on my shields so that I could dump more power into that system for tough battles. Increasing the amount of power you can distribute is also a necessity, as having all of these upgraded systems will do you no good if you have no power going to them.
Overall, I had a blast with FTL. Each game was new and exciting and unfolded in unexpected ways that kept me on the edge of my seat. The music is excellent as well, though I must admit I plop in Star Trek every so often in its stead and assault my ship’s crew with very bad impressions of Shatner-speak. I highly recommend FTL…it’s definately something that will keep me engrossed for a good, long while.
Interested parties can find it on Steam, GOG, and the FTL website (as of 9/14/12) for about $9.99 USD, though there will be a 10% discount for the very first week. FTL will be available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Final Verdict: 10/10
You can learn more about FTL by visiting the official website here:
You can order the soundtrack to FTL here:
Editor’s Note: Both Steam and GOG offer the soundtrack as well, check out their respective sites for their current deals and promotions.
On 9/18/12, I wrote a general tips and strategy article for this game. It can be found here:
You can view play sessions for this game here: