By David Lins
In many sci-fi universes, space is far from empty. There are dangerous species and ships in every cluster. It’s not realistic, but it makes for an interesting story. FTL: Faster Than Light adds a new twist on it: randomness. After all, space is huge—there’s never telling what could be hiding behind that asteroid, or whether or not the distress signal is truly a call for help or a devious trap.
FTL is a rogue-like set in space. You command a cargo ship that must deliver data to the Federation fleet across the galaxy. You select a ship and crew and then set off into the glorious unknown. From there, you explore a brutal universe while evading Rebel ships and obtaining upgrades.
The goal of FTL is to put you in Captain Kirk’s chair. In every episode of Star Trek, the crew encountered something unknown, or ran into an enemy race. From there, the captain would bark orders at his crew, all of which could mean the difference between life and death. This is exactly the kind of feel that FTL delivers.
Every time you encounter an enemy ship, a choice presents itself. Many situations can be resolved peacefully, while others will require you to fight your way out or choose whether or not to defend innocents or allies. Others still will require you to route all power to the engines and make a quick getaway. Making the wrong call could lead to devastating consequences.
With a small reactor, your ship can only handle running so many things at once, but you have full control over those systems. You can divide power as you please, but be prepared to face the repercussions that come with those choices. Should you increase power on the sensors so that you can scope out your enemy, or is it more important to reinforce your ship’s doors so that intruders can’t just waltz right in?
Various shops around the galaxy will provide you with weapons, upgrades, fuel, and ammo. Some weapons are designed to take out enemy systems—you could disable enemy shields so that your lasers always get through, or disable their life support so that they must focus on surviving rather than fighting. You can also invade other ships and take out the crew, which risks crewmembers but allows you to collect more loot.
Throughout your experience in FTL, you will constantly make these decisions, just as a real (fictional) starship captain would. It creates an immersive, difficult experience that no other game in the genre has reached. It asks you simple questions—stock up on fuel, or purchase that shiny laser?—that are far more difficult to answer than the ones presented in games like Mass Effect. Your choices may not affect how your crewmembers feel about you, but their lives are in your hands.
The best part of FTL is that there are so few wrong answers. As long as you’ve found some upgrades, almost any run in the game can be a successful one. The final boss is a giant flagship that, no matter what, will always overpower you. It forces you to outsmart it, defeat it with your skill rather than your armory—just like Captain Kirk. It makes victory taste that much sweeter.
For all its simplicity and difficulty, FTL: Faster Than Light is not just the best crowdfunded sci-fi game I have ever played—it is the best sci-fi game I have ever played, period. It doesn’t waste your time with a stupidly complex narrative or crazy save-the-universe-sized goals. Instead, it thrusts you into the captain’s chair and says, “Well, son, there’s space—go explore it. Just be prepared to face the challenges along the way.”
It doesn’t tell you to control the smart commander—it tells you to be the smart commander. If you don’t, then the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space will not be kind to you.
Game : FTL: Faster Than Light
Developer : Subset Games
Platforms : PC / MAC / Linux
Price : Varies