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IN SPAAACE: FTL: Faster Than Light

Oh dear. That doesn't look good...

I’m a fan of roguelikes in general, a good modern example of the classic dungeon crawler being Dungeons of Dredmor. FTL is a roguelike, IN SPAAAACE! It has the twist of your controlling a spaceship rather than a heroic person, and is extremely good.

The objective of FTL: Faster Than Light is to make your way through various sectors of space, and ultimately destroy the Rebel Mothership. You do this using your Faster Than Light drive, which allows you to make “jumps” from area to area. Each sector contains lots of areas, positioned on a map. At each jump you are presented with a dialogue, followed by a variety of situations:

  • A shop, where you can buy weapons, crew members, drones, fuel, missiles, etc
  • A fight with another ship (more later)
  • A difficult moral decision, which may result in the deaths of crewmates, access to a shop, a quest, another fight.

As you journey, you are chased by the Rebel Fleet, who sweep across the sector. It’s really not a good idea to be caught by them…

Anyway, moving on. One of the most important factors of FTL is the ship schematic. At each area, and during fights, you are presented with a view of your ship, showing all rooms, systems and crew members. You can manage your activated systems at the bottom of the screen, and fire weapons.

Systems include shields, engines, your FTL drive, weapons systems, oxygen supply, etc. As they are hit by enemy weapons, they become damaged or destroyed, and you must dispatch a crew member to go and repair them. Crew members also have health, and can be killed by weapons, fires or invading enemies… later on you can even acquire a crew teleporter and invade enemy ships with your army of praying mantises ‘wot you picked up from slave ships or by rescuing them from exploding space stations.

The best thing about playing FTL is that you feel like the commander of the U.S. Enterprise or other ship from Star Trek – battles frequently involve systems going down, frantic micro-management of your crew in order to fix the shields, kill the evil praying-mantises, put out the fires in the engine room, etc. It’s thrilling and the encounters enhance this Trek-like trip by giving you moral dilemmas, just as Spock, Kirk and others so frequently do in the series and films.

The game is well-balanced, difficult, entertaining and well-designed. I have few quibbles with it, apart from a few little things (such as the way weapons stop charging when enemies cloak)

9.5/10

FTL: Faster Than Light is developed by Subset Games (two guys and a hugely successful Kickstarter) and available on Steam for PC and Mac here.

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