Monday, October 15, 2012

Tech: FTL review

"FTL" is a sci-fi spaceship simulation game that puts you in command of a lone ship, on the run from the dangerous Rebel fleet. You travel from system to system, gathering supplies, scavenging weapons, and (very frequently) blowing your foes out of the stars:



Developed by Subset Games (with the help of nearly 10,000 enthusiastic backers on Kickstarter), playing "FTL" is a lot like being the captain in a "Star Trek" movie. It's not an action game - you don't fly your ship around directly or aim lasers at people. Instead, you decide where to allocate your ship's limited energy reserves, which weapons to fire, and where to send your crew when things start bursting into flame.



Don't be fooled by the cute, pixelated graphics - there's a lot of strategy here. At any given point in "FTL," you'll be faced with decisions for which there are usually no right answers. Say you come upon a powerful beam weapon that your reactor cannot currently support. Do you sell it for scrap, investing the money elsewhere on your ship, or do you spend the money upgrading your systems to accommodate it? "FTL" randomly generates the game world every time you play, which means there's never any way of predicting how your choice will play out.

At its best, the random nature of "FTL" generates those "you-had-to-be-there" moments that are the hallmark of classic games. You're locked in a tight battle with a superior ship, and you just manage to penetrate its shields with a volley of missiles, and then follow it up with a burst of laser fire that destroys it. You're in orbit around a massive active star, putting out the fires from solar flares while desperately repairing your engines to FTL jump away. You get boarded by alien invaders, losing your last crew member to their laser blasts. It's gripping stuff, especially for anyone who likes a good space opera.

The game's major flaw is that the moment-to-moment combat gets repetitive - for any given ship configuration, you'll quickly develop go-to strategies that you'll repeat every time you get into a fight. There also isn't that much content here - you'll see all the random scenarios and quests in a few playthroughs. For a $10 indie game, though, these are easy flaws to forgive.

Rating: 82/100

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