Frazier: "FTL: Faster Than Light" Review

The independently-developed spaceship simulator definitely lives up to the hype.

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  1. People have often dreamed of a game that has the feel of something like Star Trek. "Commander, decrease power to the weapons to increase power for shields and engines!" Things like this are actually possible in FTL. In fact the entire game revolves around them.
  2. In FTL, you are in command of a starship (only one type available at first, but more can be unlocked) with a goal of making it to the other end of the universe while being pursued by a rebel fleet. The idea behind the title, FTL (Faster Than Light), is the type of engines all the ships have. They are called "FTL drives", which are used for jumping from sector to sector in the reaches of deep space. Every game of FTL begins on a map, and the player just pick another sector to jump to. There will always be some kind of event at each sector, whether it's an enemy ship, friendly ship, a store, or even an asteroid field! The player must make a decision on what to do in each encounter. For instance, you might be informed that there is a rebel ship nearby that you have the option of sneaking past or just deploying your weapons and fighting it. Sometimes you get a look at the ship to see what it is armed with, but other times you do not. The decision whether to engage or not can be crucial, as it could get you killed if you choose incorrectly.
    Speaking of death in the game, FTL features permadeath. If all of your crew die or the ship's hull points reaches zero, then it is game over. You have to start all over from the beginning, with a new ship and crew. There is saving mid-game, however your save is immediately erased when you load it, to prevent save-state abuse.
    FTL has so much variety in events to see, and it only gets more difficult as you get to the later sectors in the game. In one of my experiences, I was doing extremely well, making it to about the fifth sector with seven crew members. Then the unthinkable happen: I ended up next to a sun which caused periodic fires on the ship while a cloaked enemy combat drone was shooting at me. My poor seven crew members could not keep up with putting the fires out to prevent system damage, so my ship was unarmed and decimated by the enemy. In this situation I had tried almost every tactic, from outright fighting, to putting as much power as I could into the engines to escape soon.
    This brings me to some of the game's issues though. There are times when it is flat-out unfair with the randomness, and some balance issues really need to be addressed. In the first sector in one game, I ended up fighting a ship that sent three Mantis crewmen to board my ship, while all I had was three humans. One of my crew was the pilot, which was the only way I had any chance of evading shots from the enemy ship, but I had to pull him out of the pilot seat to fight the boarders. Mantis crewmen also are doubly effective in combat, making this extremely difficult for my human team, especially when their first target was my medbay so my crew could not get healed. There was nothing I could do to save my crew in that situation, with fires erupting everywhere on the ship.
    A huge draw of FTL is that it will run on almost any computer. It was made for PC, Mac, and Linux. Due to the simplistic nature of the graphics, the hardware requirements are very low too, making it a great game to play on a laptop or netbook. I know I have certainly done this myself.
    FTL is a fantastic game at a great price of nine dollars. If you have ever dreamed of a spaceship combat simulation type of game, you owe it to yourself to pick this one up.
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