FTL: Faster Than Light review
FTL: Faster Than Light is a much more intimate affair than the average strategy game, putting you in command of a lone Federation star ship trying to make it across eight galactic sectors, hotly pursued by hostile rebel forces. You take hands-on control of a crew of up to eight human, alien and machine life forms, as well as every system in your ship, from weapons to sensors.
FTL looks and sounds like something you might have played on an Amiga in the ‘90s, thanks to its beautifully simple top-down view of your vessel and the chip-tune music and sound effects. These in particular sound great, but we found that music got repetitive after a few hours’ play time. Fortunately, you can turn off the soundtrack without disabling the effects.
This is particularly handy as you’ll want to keep playing for hours at a stretch. Whether we’d lost the ship to hull damage just one stage into the game or had our last crew member die in a fire just as we were about to win, we couldn’t resist returning to the hangar and setting off for another try. You’ll never play the same game twice and the skyrocketing difficulty level means you’re likely to fail more times than you’ll succeed, forced to watch the deaths of your crew members as your ship explodes for the umpteenth time. In the end, if you’re clever and lucky, you’ll get to see your ultimate victory against the rebel flagship. As you progress through different stages of the game, you’ll earn achievements and unlock new ships and parts. As each ship has a different combination of systems, they add even greater replay value.
Each galactic sector is made up of multiple short-range jump beacons and your goal in each sector is to make it intact to the long-range beacon that allows you to get to the next area. Every beacon is a possible encounter and each is generated randomly, in a manner that’s similar to dungeon crawling RPGs. You could find yourself facing hostile rebels or pirates, choosing whether or not to aid a friendly ship, searching abandoned space stations or making deals on alien trading posts.
The heart of the game is in its combat sequences, which take place in real time. You can pause them, giving yourself valuable breathing space while you target weapons and re-assign crew to carry out repairs or man critical systems, but the action is often surprisingly frantic, particularly if an enemy vessel is blasting you with multiple guns and attack drones as you wait helplessly for your weapons systems or cloaking device to recharge.
During combat, you’re presented with an overhead view of the enemy vessel, similar to the view of your own. How much information you get about what its crew is up to depends on how good your sensors are. Even if they’re not that good to start with, you can upgrade every system on your ship by upgrading, trading and salvaging parts or even entire systems, such as combat and repair drones and teleporters that allow you to board enemy vessels.
FLT’s modest system requirements mean that it’ll run on any computer capable of running Windows XP or above and it’s available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It’s as easy to use with a touchpad as with a mouse, will run on any display with a resolution of at least 1,280x720 and even works with many integrated graphics chipsets.
Almost most anyone can play FTL and we strongly suggest that everyone should. It’s easy to learn but deeply involving, and the randomly-generated universe ensures that you never play the same game twice. It wins a well-deserved Best Buy award and is one of the best things you could spend around £6 on.