Thursday, 1 January 2015

FTL: Faster Than Light - Steam

Faster Than Light: Failing To Live.

When my cousin suggested I play this game, and when I'd heard about it originally, I wasn't that impressed by the idea and scope, and if this is a lesson to go by, it's that I really should play more new ideas and new games coming up. Once someone mentioned Rogue-like however, I became intrigued by the game that is FTL: Faster Than Light.
Ah the good ship S.S Dickslap, may she carry us far on our mission!

The scope is simple enough, you get to pick a ship that's outfitted with various components and various crew members and you set sail through the cosmos in a race against time from the Rebel Fleet that is chasing you, while you're trying to get back to your home base and fight off the advancing war. In the meantime, because you're on the run and likely will NOT have enough fuel, you'll have to fight, kill, barter, trade, con and use various other means to navigate your way through the interstellar space zones, gathering resources and finally getting to the last destination, a huge war.
Where to go next? There's plenty of choice and option but each one could be dangerous

As once might guess, this sounds virtually impossible, and in true rogue like fashion, it is. In what feels a little more like Oregon Trail in Space than an actual Rogue-like, you'll be navigating through the stars and hopping from beacon to beacon using up fuel as you go. Run out of fuel and you'll have to put on your distress signal and wait a few turns, in which the Rebel Fleet can catch up to you. However you could also end up being picked off by pirates, other aliens or opportunist space faring people.

Fight time, see their ship, see your own, plan quickly an attack strategy and try to win.

To go with this, you also have to micro manage your ammo if you're using rockets (not so with lasers, that just requires power), your extra systems such as Oxygen (though not ALWAYS important if you're ONE species of space creature...), Cameras to scan your ship and others, engines to escape and evade attacks, shields to ... shield from attacks (though rockets go through most shields), your weapons systems to ensure you can counter-attack and various optional ones ranging from medibays, cloning vats, mind controllers (great for fucking up the enemy's crew), drones, hacking tools and more.

To the victor go the spoils.

While you start with very little, a bit of exploration later and you'll gather some scrap from various places and can use that to trade, buy new crew members that each have their own positives and negatives with them, new weapons, new systems and bonuses such as enhanced shields and such. In many places you may find distress calls which can be someone in need of help, or a trap set by pirates that will involve being engaged in a fight.

Are they refugees? Or are they in disguise? Choose carefully.

The events are staggering, ranging from helping out planets with infections, to losing your own crew to a virus that later reconstitutes itself as your former crew member with maxed out stats and wants to help (assuming you didn't kill the virus), meeting mad crews and having to duel them, being boarded by other crews and having to fight them off in hand to hand combat on your own ship WHILE fighting back with your weapons, even going so far as to board THEIR ship and wipe them out if you can. In some cases, your opponent may offer a surrender and you can either take it and their offer of resources with it, or wipe them out and take it all (if anything is left after the explosion). Other events include being too close to stars and having to contend with solar flares that set parts of your ship on fire.

Plan your route carefully, some zones are more treacherous than others.

There is a LOT of game beneath the surface but we're still faced with the Oregon Trail/Rogue like problem, in that you WILL die, a lot. For some this is a problem, for those brought up on the arcade days where you play and play and get a little better each time or try something new, they'll get the most from this kind of game. I'll openly confess that I've never beaten the original Rogue and have no idea if it's even possible, though THIS game can be beaten if you manage to get to the 8th zone and defeat the flag ship. Take into account that it's very unlikely that you will, if ever. But that doesn't mean the game is unenjoyable, it's just a sidestep away from those games that let players beat the game if they continue to plug away at the game and end up with a lovely plot based ending. This game will make you earn it.

The red line is where my beam will ruin their day.

The graphics are almost minimalist and yet there's a surprisingly good level of detail to them, the HUD isn't cluttered or confusion (unless you REALLY go overboard with the upgrades) and the layouts of other ships make it nice and clear to see where their shield generators are so you can hammer those then pick out the weapons systems or just laser the crew and set the place on fire. Everything is iconic in nature and contrasts well with the interesting backdrops of space, planets, stars and asteroid fields.

Systems repaired, ready to advance once again into the dark unknown.

As for the audio, FTL brings a rather calm and eclectic mix of music that never becomes overbearing or distracting and is the louder side of ambient to the game enough that you may catch yourself humming the occasional bars of music now and then. Laser blasts, rockets, explosions and beams never take away from the soft experience of the game that makes you rather away that this is more a management game than an action game.

Careful, some alien ships mate this way, you don't want in on it. I'm not joking.

There is a lot of strategy in this game, whether it's how you attack one ship and then how you attack another. Deciding whether to investigate a distress call or pass it by with dwindling fuel and low shields, who to hire and fire to get the most efficient crew that you can and many more different means of trying to fend off death and it's slow, inevitable approach. Failure is always an option and sometimes the only answer and that may put off a lot of players from giving this game a chance, personally, I wish I'd played it sooner.