FTL: Faster Than Light is a new indie release that you can pick up over at the developer’s website, Steam or GoG for around $10, and it is worth every penny. I backed it’s Kickstarter, and thanks to Arqade’s own James I had a chance to play the beta extensively before release.
FTL’s a highly polished indie gem of a game. It manages to mix many different elements from many different RPG and strategy genres into a cohesive game that pushes you with its difficulty while still remaining fun.
In FTL, you’re in command of a lone ship on the run. The odds are stacked against you, and there’s an ever-present threat of annihilation. You’ve got to stay one step ahead of the rebels, who are hot on your heels. However, each jump takes you further into hostile territory, so you’ve got to constantly search for opportunities to grow your power.
Most of the game takes place in the tactical view, where you see a top-down cross section of your ship. You can give your crew orders by moving them from room to room. They’ll automatically man battle stations or carry out repairs. In addition to managing your crew, you’ve got to carefully manage your reactor power. Diverting power to various systems can bolster your shields or give your engines more maneuverability. Finally, you’ve got to manage your offensive weaponry. Managing your offensive capability can mean the difference between life and death, so becoming adept at targeting and timing your weapons is crucial.
Every time you jump, you encounter an event. Sometimes you’ll encounter friendly Federation supporters who will resupply you or be willing to trade. More often, though, you’ll find yourself on the wrong side of a warship bristling with weaponry. Events don’t always play out the same way – even when you think you’re safe, things have a way of backfiring at the worst possible time.
What sectors you encounter is randomized, and you’ve got a branching path you can take through the possible sectors each time. Each unique race in the game also has their own sectors, with unique events and challenges. The slug race, for instance, lives almost entirely within a nebula, which obscures your sensors. Their mind-reading abilities and anti-bio beams are not to be underestimated.
While you start out with a skeleton crew manning your ship, along the way you can expand your roster. Some you can hire for a fee at friendly stations, while others you can rescue from slavers or derelict vessels. As they gain experience manning the various stations within the ship, they’ll give you more and more impressive bonuses when at their posts.
FTL manages to be simple enough to understand quickly, deep enough to reward coherent strategies and practice, and random enough to encourage replay. It’s got the “one more turn!” addictive quality of a top-tier strategy title while remaining challenging even for masters. Any fan of strategy games and roguelike RPGs should definitely check it out.