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FTL: Faster Than Light (Windows)

82
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.6
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Pixelspeech (954)
Written on  :  Oct 17, 2012
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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Summary

Not quite fast enough.

The Good

Plenty of customization

Quite challenging

Engaging tactical combat

Inventory management

Quite addicting

The Bad

Lack of resources

scenarios start repeating soon

Fire spreads way too fast

Progression is too rough.

The Bottom Line

Story

FTL takes place at an undetermined year somewhere in the future; space travel has been mastered already and several alien races have been discovered too. The Federation that rules over everything space is threatened by an emerging army of rebels. The players is appointed command over a ship and has to deliver vital information to the capital of the Federation before the enemy fleet arrives. This journey takes you through several galaxies with randomized features and population, you'll encounter people in need of help and interact with all sorts of alien species along the way.

It's a decent setup, but there is one severe handicap: there isn't enough content to effectively randomize the game. I think that in total there are 5 races, 8 types of galaxies and roughly thirty different events, this means that a second playthrough will almost certainly match the first one about 50% of the time. Compare that to Binding of Isaac, which has so many power-ups and so many items that each session feels different. Even after clocking over eighty hours with that game, I still find new combinations and play-styles. In FTL I started seeing the same scenarios over and over again; after a few hours of play I already knew each solution to each situation that I could run into and I had gotten so used to combat that experimentation was worthless after obtaining the right weapons.

After having played the latest Xcom, it also feels lazy not to give characters a degree of personality. The staff working at Xcom did a decent job at making the story feel somewhat alive. By comparison, FTL feels like you waging a war between menu-screens.

Gameplay

FTL is a very addicting game that has some amazingly satisfying combat. Your goal is to make it to the end of the galaxies by tactically deciding your next destination, this happens when you select the "Jump" button at the top of the screen. The map has a lot of ways you can go and each location can have a different event, however, you can't just check everything in one shot because the enemy fleets draws nearer with every turn. Each location gives you a few text-windows explaining what is going on down there, upon which you can react by selecting a dialogue-option. You'll unlock more options when you raise your skills.

When you engage in combat, you must direct your men to their individual positions and activate the ship's weapons. Weapons have to charge, so a good balance and timing can make a huge difference. When a weapon is ready to fire you must select it and then click on the specific sector of the enemy ship that you wish to assault. Allowing the player to pick off individual sections allows for a lot of tactical diversity, since you can destroy their air-pumps and deplete their oxygen, or maybe bomb their shields and then fire on their weapons. Your soldiers can also delve into combat themselves if either your or the enemy decides to board the enemy ship.

There are a few problems that sour the fun though, as is always the case. The most glaringly obvious is that fire spreads way too fast, regardless of whether you are suppressing it or not. If you can't get rid off fire by opening airlocks, then you might as well restart the game because you are screwed already. Shields also regenerate way too fast and are way too relevant in combat. If your weapons can't penetrate an enemy shield, then you pretty much have no chance at all. Fuel is also way too scarce, so even on easy I had several moments where I just barely made it to a store. These issues might seem minor, but they are real annoyances that shouldn't be too difficult to fix.

Presentation

I already mentioned that this game feels too much like you are constantly interacting with a menu before and I think the problem might lie in the boring presentation. You are pretty much staring at still images for most of the ride and not much ever happens: you click around a menu, see a short animation, get numerical feedback and that's it. The art is not very amazing either and it would have been entertaining to see drawings of the races we are interacting with, instead of just the minuscule sprites that we have now.

Replay-value

Despite of the lacking randomization mentioned earlier, I still feel that FTL is fairly replayable. The tight arcade action is very enjoyable and finding new parts to stick to your ship feels like seeing a son grow up after a while. It's however limited to maybe two weeks, after which the fun while gradually die out and you decide to let it rest for a few patches. The repeating scenarios are just a bit dull and when I mentioned in my Spore review that I wanted a more focused space-adventure, I didn't quite mean this. In many ways Spore's space-phase was even better than FTL, since it had more freedom and the difficulty was more appropriate.

Extras

You can get new designs for your ship by unlocking the in-game achievements, but I didn't unlock enough to know if it has a lot of impact to gameplay. If done right, then this feature might keep the game alive for a while longer, but the one ship I did unlock wasn't that spectacular.

Verdict

FTL is equally challenging and frustrating, but both of those qualities work towards making the game more addicting. You want to finish the story just once, you want to get good at it and you want to max out your crew. There are some major annoyances spread throughout the gameplay and the randomized content is not quite a success, but overall the premise is interesting and pretty well done.

The game doesn't quite justify the 10 euros price-tag for me though, especially since I paid half of that for much more substantial games. If you can pick it up in a sale though (Christmas sales incoming!!!), then this is a purchase you won't feel too bad about afterwards.