You are the captain of a ship in the Federation of Planets. The Federation is embroiled in a bitter war against a Rebel fleet that’s turned half the sector against the Federation. The Rebels have been able to best the Federation because it’s constantly able to harass its ships with drone ships that are cheap to produce and don’t require a crew. Your vessel is doing deep reconnaissance near the Rebels and intercept a data packet describing how the ships of the Rebel Fleet are dependent on its Flagship to function. Your goal is to outrun the Rebels and get this information to the Federation Headquarters. Unfortunately the Rebels are hot on your heels. Fly through asteroid fields, solar flaring suns, sensor-blocking nebulae, and many ships of various designs and ability that all want to turn your ship into scrap.
FTL was developed by Subset games with Justin Ma and Mathew Davis leading design — and when I say leading I think I mean that they are Subset games. Inspired by board games like the Battlestar Galactica board game and others where the players have to tactically manage power. They wanted to create an experience where, “the player feel like they were Captain Picard yelling at engineers to get the shields back online.”
The game was primarily funded by a 200,000$ Kickstarter campaign. By that point Subset had created the bones of the game but it didn’t have music, the best writing, or run very well. This Kickstarter money ensured that it would have all of those things. It was one of the first Kickstarter funded games and helped start the trend that videogames could be crowdfunded and succeed.
Years later Subset released a free, toggle-able, expansion pack called the Advance Edition. The Advanced Edition introduced a new race and several new systems to ships, making things more complex than ever.
Fun Fact: The Crystal race was a prize for one contributor to the Kickstarter campaign who donated a large sum of money.
FTL: Faster Than Light was released on September 14, 2012 and it’s Advanced Edition was released in 2014. It’s competition was Borderlands 2 (PC, XBox 360, PS3), World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (PC, Max), and Castle Crashers (PC).
I end up getting really attached to my crew. I usually don’t remember their names but I do remember That Mantis who killed three intruders or That Engi who’s kept my ship together through the worst that space can subject to it. I panic and pause when someone is near death, trying to figure out how to save them in time. That Engi is manning the shields and trying to keep them up while we’re under heavy fire. He’s been hit a few times by laser fire but he was able to get the shields up and running. I can see the missile pass through the shields, it’s heading for him. I pause and order him to the medical bay. He dashes for the door to avoid the blast but it’s too late. The explosion turns him into nano-particle paste and my chief engineer is dead. I pause again, shout, and wonder how I’ll manage without him.
You play as a Federation ship seemingly sitting in space — it’s doing evasive maneuvers it would just be difficult to express that on a 2-D plane– as it jumps between FTL beacons trying to reach the exit to every system. The Rebel fleet is hot on your heels and will overtake beacons as it flies across the star map — and these aren’t the chump scout ships these are the professional flotilla cruisers– it’s best to avoid them.
For the most part you’ll be fighting enemy ships and you do this by allocating power to your systems, aiming your weapons, and firing them. Your systems will be targeted by enemy ships and you can target an enemy ships’ systems like their shield or weapons –actually, I almost always aim at their shields and weapons. Your ships’ hull can take a beating but it can only be repaired at stores so minimizing the damage you take is important.
When you salvage blown up ships or as rewards for helping people you’ll get scrap. Scrap is used to upgrade your ship’s systems and you can trade it at stores if you can find one. You expend fuel when your ship jumps, missiles when you fire them, and drone parts when you activate drones from your drone bay.
So, you’ve been upgrading your ship. You’ve probably bought a few new weapons. You’ve got a fine crew who’ve stood by you since the beginning. When you get to the end you’ve got to face the Rebel Flagship in a three round all out space brawl. Good luck, you’ll need it.
This game has got so many mods. There’s mods for music, weapon design, that add more types of planets to background images, that ignore the rebel fleet plot, and all sorts of crazy things.
There are a lot of cross system quests that I thought were really fun. A few of them tickled my mystery gland very well. Certain actions can unlock additional ships with all sorts of weird strategies. I’m a sucker for unlockables and this game will give me a lolly if I can put crew members of 6 different races on my ship at once.
Speaking of unlockables and races. Stats of your ship and what crew members you have will allow you to unlock certain, sometimes secret, options for events. Dealing with food riots? Send in your rock man, their sticks and stones can’t hurt him. Negotiating with a dodgy captain? Have your slug read his emotions to figure out whether he’s on the level. Someone teleport onto your ship and hold someone hostage? Your mantis’ enhanced adrenaline and sharp incisors will ensure the hostage is safe.
When you were jumping to a beacon it was impossible to tell which beacons that one could reach, sometimes I would jump to a dead end and get utterly destroyed by the rebel fleet. Thankfully this was fixed in the Advanced Edition but it was so frustrating I wanted to talk about it anyway — What a quibble.
I fucking hate asteroid fields. Asteroids constantly bombard your ship and the enemy ship if there is one. It turns the combat into a DPS race but if the enemy gets some lucky shots on your systems while your shields are down then the incoming asteroids will ensure that you can’t get back on your feet.. The Stealth Cruiser doesn’t have shields to begin with so if it wanders into an asteroid field it’s gonna get pummeled and there’s little it can do about it.
FTL: Faster Than Light is a damn fine game. It’s punishing and brutal but I never felt like I hadn’t learned anything between playthroughs. I was able to use this applied knowledge to get further and further each time until I eventually beat it. As a rogue-like it’s susceptible to RNG screw but things are usually manageable. This game gets an enthusiastic recommendation.