FTL: Faster Than Light – Review

FTL

My engine room is on fire, a brave, lone engi- a cybernetic alien member of my crew- struggles to douse the flames. His two human crew mates are too busy trying to get my ship’s weapons back online to help. My shields are holding for the moment, absorbing most of the incoming fire from the pirate ship I’m fighting, but the odd laser burst finds its way through- one such burst crashes into the engine room, disabling the engines, igniting more fires and further injuring my already singed engi.

Even worse, two rockman pirates teleport onto my ship and head towards the engine room. Rockmen are essentially tanks- large lumbering humanoids made from…err..rock, rendering them immune to fire and possessing more health than any other species The engi has no choice but to retreat, he’s not a fighter and if he tried to take on the boarders, they’d soon be making balloon animals out of his intestines. He beats a swift retreat to the medical bay to heal. Luckily, I’ve upgraded my ship’s doors, so any intruders have to break through them to get about, slowing them down whilst my crew are unimpeded. I take the desperate measure of opening some exterior doors, effectively decompressing the engine room. Starved of oxygen, the fires go soon go out, but any lifeforms in the area starts to suffocate- like the two Rockmen. They soon break through the doors escaping the engine room into an adjoining corridor- which starts to bleed oxygen as it is also now open to the vacuum. I go to close the exterior doors but my control room has been disabled- evidently whilst I was distracted with the intruders, a stray shot from the enemy ship smashed into it. At least the other crew have managed to get enough power to my ships weapons to let me launch a missile at the pirate vessel. I target their shield generator and my missile streaks away. A Hit! Missiles bypass shields completely, so the warhead completely disables the shield generator, bringing the enemy shields down. I power down my missile launcher (the missiles are expensive) and divert the power to a couple of laser blasters, praying they’ll charge before the pirate can bring is shields back online. Meanwhile the Rockmen have broken though into my shield room and are attacking my generator. They bring it down just as my own lasers charge and I manage to disable the enemy ship’s weapons. The half dead rockmen, mostly suffocated, make the mistake of going for my medical bay, where my two human crew intercept them. The rockmen are in for a hiding, since the medical bay keeps healing my crew during the fight. The now fully healed engi has rushed to the door control room to repair it, which he does in no time- he might not be a fighter but no one else can repair as quick as him. I close the all the ship doors, thankful that my O2 generator is working fine- it’ll take a while but at least I can oxygenate those areas of my ship again, the engi makes his way back to the engine room to effect repairs. The two human crew are just milling around the medical bay, the intruders are long dead. I send one to man the weapon station, giving me weapon charge rate a modest bonus and complete repairs there, whilst the other makes his way to the helm, giving my ship a chance to dodge incoming fire. It doesn’t matter, because the pirate ship is just sitting in space, it’s weapons and shields disabled. The enemy shield icon changes to yellow- someone is repairing it, so I target it again with my lasers, quickly bringing it down again. A follow up volley finishes the vessel off, leaving me to repair the rest of my ship at leisure. I press the ‘jump’ button and ponder my next move. Two destinations are open to me, but the Rebel fleet, an armada I’m running from are closing in and I’m low on fuel. I decide to jump to the co-ordinates nearest the exit gate, where I find…

FTL

Any number of possibilities ranging from benign spacestations, plagues, giant space spiders, trading posts, slavers, empty space, rebel scouts, mercenaries, asteroid fields, ion storms and goodness knows what else. The game is based on the premise that you are given a ship, a starting crew and a message. You have to avoid the rebel fleet, ever creeping closer behind you and get to your commander. In between are scores of little stories, written in blood, elation, grim determination and outright glee. FTL is the epitome of old school gaming- risk assessment followed by crisis management. Juggle power, tech, fuel and lives as you try get across hostile space without letting the rebels catch you, but explore the galaxy enough to upgrade your ship’s systems, weapons and power, recruit new crew and even try for some tricky achievements to unlock new ships to fly in subsequent playthoughs. There’s a lot of randomisation in the game, ensuring each playthrough is it’s own unique story of desperation. Comparisons between this and the venerable Rogue are entirely justified. You can complete it within 2 hours easily and thankfully I was able to pause and issue orders whenever I liked, as you know a critical crutch for my ageing reflexes. FTL has a charm to it and well worth paying the pittance requested, a little of £5. A great little game, worthy of your attention and love.

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