It Must Stand for "For The Luv'a...!"

I had that review of Looper done for like a week before I finally managed to put it up. So what stopped me, huh? Well, there was some house painting, and Thanksgiving, but those are pretty temporary affairs when you get right down to it. No, if you really want to derail someone, and I mean just strip hours and hours and hours out of their day, you have to do more than just throw a holiday and some home renovations at them.

You have to show them FTL.

Ironically, none of your ships look anything like that.  Cover art, amirite?

FTL is a ten dollar game (actually $9.99) from Steam, a simple little resource management sim wrapped around a pretty basic space adventure. A Federation ship, carrying vital intelligence, has to traverse seven sectors of space to bring that information home, staying ahead of the advancing Rebel fleet. Each sector is made up of a random number of star systems, laid in out a random pattern, with your entry point on one side and the exit jump on the other. All you have to do is travel, from star to star, from entry to exit, and then jump away to do it all over again six more times.

But of course, it can't possibly be that easy.

Despite its apparently simplicity FTL is actually fiendishly difficult, primarily because there are just so many resources to manage. First you have your crew; you start with three, and can have up to eight. Do you want them to be excellent specialists, or decent generalists? Because your crew can be killed, by boarders, oxygen deprivation, fire of even just being in a room one too many missiles have hit. Then you have those systems your crew are working on; there are five (engines, shields, oxygen, weapons, piloting), all of which draw from your reactor, and three more (doors, sensors, autopilot) that work on their own. You can upgrade all of these systems, to varying degrees, and for every boost to the first five you also need to upgrade your reactor to produce more power. Then there are two more optional systems (drones, teleporter) you can pick up along the way. And you can have two different drones installed at a time (three on some ships). And there are three slots for ship augmentations, like faster-charging weapons or shields or jump engines. And you have three finite resources you have to keep an eye on, as well; fuel, which you consume one point of every time you jump, missiles, which can go clean through the shields that energy weapons have to batter down every time, and drones, which can provide a wealth of options. And then there's your scrap. Oh, the scrap.

If you want to upgrade a system, or your reactor, or purchase a new weapon, or hire more crew, or get more missiles or drones or fuel, you have to spend scrap. Everything you do, basically, costs you scrap. You will never have enough, unless you're doing especially well, at which point half the time the randomly generated stores won't give you anything worthwhile to spend it all on. FTL can be cruel, that way.

Ship on fire, key systems shot up, no missiles, section exposed to vacuum... Yup, that's FTL alright!

So, sounds a little overwhelming, right? Well, that doesn't even get into the events you'll roll up on your travels! Each time you jump to a new star, you'll encounter something new. A rebel ship? Pirates? Slavers? A drifting wreck? An asteroid storm? Solar flares? Distress calls? The game has an impressive library of random elements it can combine into an event, and many of them offer the player a choice. Interestingly, there's a sort of personal morality system at play. Do you accept surrender from your enemies, letting them live in exchange for sometimes-token offers, or do you slaughter them for their scrap and supplies? Are you a fearless pirate hunter, challenging them anytime you cross paths, or do you resort to piracy yourself when the opportunity arises? The game doesn't make any particular note of your choices, in terms of the reputation of your ship or the like, but it can be easy indeed to fall into the habit of constructing a persona for your ship's crew, and sticking to it as you advance. Will you uphold the ideals of the Federation, come what may? Or does survival trump all other concerns? It's completely up to you.

FTL is cheap, and simple to get started. It's a casual game, but definitely a solid one, if you like resource sim-style games. Be warned, though! Individual events are pretty short, a few seconds a moral choice, perhaps a couple of minutes for a particularly gruelling battle. As such, it's very easy to tell yourself you're going to play just one more, time and again, until you realize you meant to play 'just one more' ninety minutes ago. If you're the sort who's susceptible to its wiles, this game will most certainly eat your free time, one brief random encounter at a time.

And you'll love every minute of it!

Well.  Maybe not every minute.

No comments:

Post a Comment