Game Review: Faster Than Light

FTL, or Faster Than Light is a real time strategy PC game with one-on-one space combat. The product of indie developer Subset Games, FTL hands the player a spaceship, a crew, and a mission to traverse across several dangerous sectors of space to link up with and provide information to the Federation fleet while trying to stay one step ahead of the pursuing Rebel fleet.

The ship moves through space by using its faster-than-light jump drive to jump between beacons. Each jump uses up one unit of fuel. The player must try and get through enough sectors to catch up to the Federation fleet. At these beacons, players may find environmental hazards such as asteroid fields and nebulas, other ships that may be friendly or hostile, stores, citizens in distress, and a whole host of ways to interact with the universe. Combat between ships is one-on-one and is played out in real time, though players have the option of pausing and issuing commands to various ship systems and crew members before resuming gameplay. Victory in battle or successful negotiations can earn players ammunition, fuel, and/or scrap metal. The scrap functions as currency that players can use to buy better weapons, ship augmentations, and crew members at stores or to upgrade different parts of the ship. The ship can be upgraded any time in which it is not in danger, though some modifications or upgrades can only be purchased at stores or found in lucky encounters.

FTL encourages exploration, as taking the shortest route through each sector greatly limits the amount of scrap and thus the amount of upgrades players can get. However, if the ship takes too long to get through a sector, the Rebel fleet will catch up and make life very difficult for the player. The player loses if at any time the ship is destroyed, runs out of fuel, or the crew is killed. There is no option to return to the last save in FTL. Death is permanent and losing a ship means starting over. The game has eight different unlockable ships, besides the default starter, each with different stats and crews. The exploration capabilities are a lot of fun. Although the combat requires strategy, it is not hard to pick up, and the plethora of customization options for each ship gives players the chance to try out as many approaches as they want. Though it is a relatively simple concept, FTL is highly addictive, challenging, and engrossing. It has the potential to be a lot of fun for both casual and hardcore gamer fans alike.

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