by Zee Salahuddin
reviewed on PC
There are seven races, the humans being the most uninteresting. The Engi excel in repairs, fixing broken systems at twice the speed, Mantis are bred for combat and cause more damage while moving significantly faster, Rockmen are resistant to disease and fire and boast additional health and Slugs are telepathic. Your crew gains skills in piloting, repairs, shields, weapons, depending on where you have them stationed. This happens automatically, with passive bonuses applied to your overall performance.
Much like the story, the races are one of the most under-developed aspects of the game. I get that this is a game about imagination. You are supposed to imagine a planetary expedition, a rescue mission aboard a space station or a nervous hunt through an asteroid field. But what I do not want to imagine is the back-story of these fantastic races that simply beg to be fleshed out further. It is frustrating to see every aspect of this world, as if through the tiniest pigeon-hole, knowing there could be so much more detail, and never seeing it. Bear in mind that this Kickstarted project received over $200,000 in funding, 20 times their initial goal of $10,000. So lack of resources was clearly not an issue.
The Audio Visual
You start off with the Kestral and can unlock several other ships as you progress through the game. Some unlocks are simple, like making it to sector 5 in one piece. Others are more complicated or even completely chance-based. Each ship model also has an alternative layout that can be unlocked via ship-specific achievements. Unlocking the second room layout for the Kestral requires you to complete two of three possible achievements such as having 6 crewmembers on-board, each from a different race. The ships look significantly different from one another, play different from one another, and the configurations add another layer of depth to the meta-game.
The game has a very distinct, early 90's retro vibe. It was never designed to be eye-candy so it is a little unfair to judge it along those lines. Imagination - as is the case in most other aspects of the game - is key here. The visuals manage to do the bare minimum expected but are enhanced by Ben Prunty's excellent, captivating soundtrack. The plus point here is that due to the very low graphical threshold, you can probably run this title without hiccups on the most aged hardware.
Some have criticized the title for being too random but I feel this is unwarranted. A typical game of FTL can be finished in anywhere between a few minutes to two hours, and then you start over again. The randomness is certainly a factor, but it is greatly mitigated by the game’s diversity in crew, equipment, and power allocation. Regardless of your preference, FTL is an unforgiving, uncompromising, bastard of a game and I love it for it.
That being said, there are a few issues. Crewmen ‘refuse’ to be selected. Often, commands to a crew member were ignored completely because my initial selection of the unit did not work. It is an odd bug in a game that seems to be all about precision and meticulous tradeoffs. The encounters, although fun, start to get a little repetitive after just a few hours of play. Finally, as mentioned earlier, a little too much is left to players to conjure up in their own imagination.
FTL makes you feel like the veritable starship captain. You manage everything on your deck, from crew and equipment, to reactor power and system allocation. Combat is intense and pulse-pounding, testing your resolve and forcing you to make harsh decisions, trading temporary gains for permanent setbacks and vice versa. The learning curve is masterfully crafted and eases you in with a tutorial, then a starter ship, and then a ship that completely changes everything you know about combat.
Never has the journey been more important than the destination in a video game. The destination is simply an after-thought, an end to a fun adventure, further diminishing its worth. The journey, and the encounters you have along the way are what make FTL so special. The first Kickstarted game to be released, FTL is a welcome addition to a forgotten sub-genre, in desperate need of some fresh air.
Superb combat, incredible RPG elements, solid soundtrack, instills a sense of palpable tension
Repetitive after a few hours, dicey crewmen selection, world should have been better fleshed out