Whether you’re an avid Star Wars fan or a hardcore Trekkie, it’s fair to say that we’ve all daydreamed about a specific sci-fi scenario at least one time in our lives. Case in point: how awesome would it be to step onto the bridge as Captain of your very own galactic space vessel, and boldly go where no man has gone before?
FTL: Faster Than Light not only takes this idea and runs with it, but it teleports onto your bridge, eviscerates your crew, and jumps to light-speed before you can say the words, “Live long, and prosper.” Seriously, it’s that awesome!
In essence, FTL’s an experience that replicates the unforgiving nature of space travel to such a successful degree that you’ll soon be proudly sporting your very own Starfleet uniform as you explore the cold expanse of space from the comfort of your living room. Seriously, I’ve got two official FTL uniforms that I wear with pride while playing — but I digress.
For those who are unfamiliar with the title, FTL is a roguelike spaceship role-playing sim that was developed by Subset Games — a two-man studio who were one of the first ever successful Kickstarter projects of all-time. Since its PC release back in 2012, FTL went on to launch on iOS in 2014, and it’s here, on iPad, that it’s arguably the best place to experience the game. Don’t get me wrong, though: it kicks ass on PC, too!
Unlike many other spaceship sims out there, FTL ardently emulates the feeling of overseeing and controlling your very own spaceship from the Captain’s command chair, as opposed to simply throwing you behind the turret of a Gunner’s cockpit.
In other words: you are in command of everything. From overseeing the power of all your core systems: shields, engines, oxygen, weapons, drones, and more; to micro-managing your loveable crew of intergalactic personnel; to exploring a vast, randomised universe consisting of eight different sectors — FTL truly has all the space-faring bases covered!
But what’s the actual mission objective in FTL? Well, the narrative setup is simple: you are the Captain of a Federation spaceship that has intercepted an important data packet from the nefarious rebels. Your goal is to navigate the infinite no-man’s land of space while outrunning a hostile rebel fleet that is hot on your tail in your bid to deliver the critical data to a friendly Federation space base eight sectors away.
Split-second thinking, careful resource management, and some good ol’ fashioned moxie are key to your ongoing survival. It doesn’t help that the majority of the galaxy is made up of hostile rebels and dastardly space pirates that want to wreak havoc on your diminutive spacecraft and scrap it for parts.
What’s truly amazing about FTL is that it’s phenomenally replayable. No run ever feels exactly the same thanks to some very smart gameplay design. The game’s implementation of roguelike, randomised elements help to keep players constantly on their toes.
Another testament to how brilliantly constructed FTL is this: it’s a game that actually feels super fun and satisfying when you lose. That’s right, you never ever really feel robbed, as the majority of losses are genuine learning experiences. Surprisingly, you’ll almost always walk away from a loss with a brand new idea, or some new intel that’ll come in handy for your next run.
Potentially, you can complete the title in just a couple of hours, but it’s a tough-as-nails experience even on easy mode. Every run culminates in a three-phased boss battle against the all-powerful Rebel Flagship and, seriously, this boss will destroy you. Like, a lot. Essentially, there are just so many neat twists and nuances to the real-time-with-pass gameplay, that it’s impressive how Subset Games’ debut constantly keeps surprising you even after 50+ hours of game time.
The biggest chunk of FTL’s moment-to-moment gameplay will be spent in very addictive ship-to-ship combat. Of course, a dizzying selection of burst lasers, beam weapons, as well as various types of missile are on offer, and these can be armed and then fired at your adversaries’ ships. But there are other viable strategic options at your disposal, too.
Enemy missiles always giving you grief? Perhaps purchase a defense drone to safeguard your ship’s fragile hull, or maybe a cloaking system to dodge projectiles at the last second. Not packing enough weaponry? Why not purchase a crew teleporter to beam a boarding party aboard enemies’ ships to lay waste to their systems from the inside. Are enemy crafts’ shields consistently impenetrable? You can always buy a hacking module that can latch onto your adversaries’ shield system, drain its power and leave them exposed so that your weapons can finish off the job.
Further still, your crew — who are made up of a possible eight distinct races, each with their own unique set of perks — can man individual systems and gift your ship unique bonuses like faster weapon reload speeds, a greater shield recharge rate, or increased evasion skills. Medbays can heal your gang of misfits when they’re injured, too, and your squad can be levelled up by accruing XP as well.
Additionally, ship augmentations can be purchased that gift your spacecraft with special abilities. For example, you fancy way quicker weapon reload speed? Go ahead and purchase a few Automated Re-Loaders. Forever running out of missiles? Maybe pick up a Missile Replicator which gives you a 50% chance to avoid using ammo when firing missile-based weapons. Need your shields to recharge faster? Why not purchase a Shield Charge Booster which improves your shields’ recharge speed by 15%.
And that’s all without mentioning ten unlockable ships, each with up to three unique unlockable layouts, which also carry some of their very own exclusive weapons, too. Long story short: there’s a ton of customisation in FTL that really helps to personalise the moment-to-moment strategy action. Seriously, the options are as seemingly endless as the never-ending vastness of space.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t namecheck Ben Prunty’s awesome soundtrack — it’s authentically one of the best video game scores in a video game, like, ever. Combine this with its effortlessly cool retro aesthetics and you really do have one of the finest games out there. No hyperbole: FTL is legit one of my personal favourites of all-time. No small feat.
Indeed, so many games aim to place you in the shoes of a cockpit gunner, but FTL’s major strength is how it satisfies a different sort of spaceship power fantasy. Instead, Subset Games’ masterpiece sees you stepping into the polished Starfleet boots of an all-powerful Captain, replete with your very own spaceship and crew. If you’ve ever fantasised about taking a seat in the prestigious Commander’s chair as, say, Han Solo or Jean-Luc Picard, then FTL: Faster Than Light is undoubtedly the strategy experience for you.
Set phasers to fun? Make it so.
FTL: Faster Than Light is available now on PC and iOS