Fire breaks out in the O2 room. Mohawk is sent to try to take control of the blaze before it spreads, leaving The Manchester’s weapons to take longer to recharge in between barrages aimed at the pirate ship that has attacked our limping vessel. But it is a necessary command, as not repairing the O2 may leave the crew in a dire situation if not repaired quickly.
In the meantime, Jonjo is sent to the drone control room, which has also taken a huge hit and needs fixing, otherwise the ship is reliant on its single cannon, which is only useful in conjunction with the currently inactive anti-ship drone. The attacks from the pirate ship will not stop and the hull is about to depleted. Frantically, Timmy, the pilot is quickly ordered to rush to the shield room, in the hope that some extra protection can be salvaged. However, all is in vain, as despite the crew’s valiant efforts, the pirate ship’s superior firepower pummels the ship into submission, ending our heroes’ race across the galaxy.
There is no need to continue this review by making obvious comparisons to Star Trek and Firefly, as there are many reviews out there that have already done so, and the creators open their own description of their game on their website by name checking these shows; these comparisons should give you an idea of the milieu this game excels at creating.
As the player, you are tasked with getting a vital piece of information from one side of the galaxy to the other, with a dangerous and relentless rebel fleet in pursuit of you at all times. Yes, you are the ‘bad guys’! Along the way you will need to gather resources and explore each system as thoroughly as possibly, upgrading your ship and buying and scavenging increasingly better weapons and equipment to aid you in your ever more difficult quest. You make the decision that will put your crew in danger, condemn them to their deaths or make heroes out of them.
Developed by a two man team based in China, FTL is as lo-fi as you can get in terms of graphical quality. Although it looks like an Amiga game, it does have a consistent art style that fits the sci-fi setting well and makes everything clear and easy to navigate for the player. The creators have said how board games have been a major influence, and the slow, turn based nature of the game play shows this clearly. Your ship has a set number of power bars, which you distribute to the various systems on you craft, such as weapons, shields, drones and engines. Each encounter is randomized and battle can be paused to allow you to think carefully about organising you power and crew. It runs in its own minimized window and each game takes roughly 20 -30minutes to play through, making it ideal to be played in short bursts. You will die, as this game is a rouge-like, and each game invariably ends in death, much like the fate of The Manchester above.
Scrap is the currency in the game, picked up from your various missions around the galaxy, and can be used to barter and trade with others you meet, or used to upgrade your ship. Do you upgrade your weapons to a slow but powerful beam or a fire weapon designed to spread panic on enemy ships. Or maybe you don’t want to upgrade a weapon and instead opt for a teleporter so you can board opposing craft and cause panic in a more up close and personal way? Do you need to upgrade you blast doors for extra protection from fire and boarding parties, or are you more interested in more power for your increasingly varied arsenal of cannons and lasers? There is a dizzying array of choice.
You can pick up, hire or even buy new crew members and there are a variety of races with differing abilities, such as the slug-like Engi, who are excellent technicians and engineers, and the Rockmen who are physically strong and impervious to fire. Once again there is a tremendous amount of depth in the choices you have and this, combined with the randomized nature of each galaxy and star system, means that each individual playthrough feels very different.
However, on repeated returns to the game, some of the missions tend to repeat and genuine surprises come fewer and further between. So the more you play it, the less variety you will see. Also, it’s hard. FTL is extremely punishing and there have been many random encounters that have felt very unbalanced in that there didn’t seem to be any way to prepare for it and the enemy was vastly overpowered. So much so this review is written from the perspective of a player who has never seen the final confrontation with the Rebel Mothership, a confrontation that is supposedly able to deliver a demoralising beat-down to most players who see it.
FTL is less about the destination and much more about the journey. It is a game that relies on the imagination of the player, and in doing so, harkens back to those moments in the greatest open-ended games on 8 and 16 bit computers, those that gave you a magical feeling of being transported to another world. FTL won’t be for everyone, but this is another 2012 indie gem that offers more atmosphere, unique moments and a greater replay factor than most AAA games this year.
MLG Rating: 9/10 Platform: PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Community Member CraigieH purchased a digital copy of FTL. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.