Developer: Subset Games
Publisher: Subset Games
Platform: PC (GOG, Steam, Web)
ESRB: N/R (E10+ suggested)
Release Date: Out now
Have you ever wanted to play a real-time strategy/roguelike title with a space theme? If you“ve got such oddly specific tastes, then a new indie game has just arrived to fulfill that need. It“s called FTL: Faster Than Light, and it is an RTS and roguelike hybrid. It gives you control of a spaceship which must travel from one side of the galaxy to the other in order to stop some invading aliens. It“s also pretty hard - but is it too hard to be good?
Many of us consider ourselves fans of RPGs, but how many are also interested in the subgenre of roguelikes? A roguelike has various hallmarks of your standard RPG but then enforces rules like permanent death for characters. Sure, it“s one thing to play a hard game - but to play one where you“ve only got one life? It“s pretty tough, but also a lot of fun if you“re into it. In FTL you“ve definitely got that one life to deal with and that makes every second that much more tense. Every decision is more calculated.
Some gamers just won“t find the roguelike elements enjoyable, but for the rest of us it“s an incredibly thrilling game. Once you do die, which you will, you“re able to restart with your same ship or just return back to the dock to start a brand new journey. Of course, either way you“re going to have your ship back to its basic components and levels. Thankfully each journey has a score attached to it so even when you die you might find that you“ve made a brand new high score.
Enough about death though, let“s discuss how the game itself plays. Once you“ve selected your ship you head out into the galaxy. There are a handful of sectors and different paths you may take through your journey. The map marks which sectors are friendly, neutral, and hostile. Each sector mostly fits in with those statements although you“ll still come across rogue pirates and distress signals in each. No matter what, you“re never likely to stay in one sector for too long as ships are coming to track you down. If you“re lazing around for too long they will catch up to you and make your trip a whole lot more dangerous.
Exploring is useful as it helps you find distress signals, stores, and friendly people who are apt to give you items. Distress calls may find you fixing a broken ship component, sharing fuel, or fending off a hostile ship. Regardless of what you do there“s a tendency to be rewarded for exploring. This isn“t always the case though as sometimes you may answer a distress signal, pry open an old ship, and find that the angry alien inside has jumped into your ship to wreak havoc. The unpredictability is fun, although sometimes unfair.
The real meat of FTL comes from battles. These are typically stumbled upon, and can sometimes even be avoided. Regardless, once you“ve initiated a battle, it“s probably a good idea to go through with it. In order to fight, you“ve got to make use of the ship“s various weapons as well as manage power. Your ship has an upgradeable power supply and each bit of power is used to keep weapons systems (also upgradeable) online. At the start of the game you“ll probably be able to keep all your ship“s components powered up, but after buying new weapons or upgrades you“ll have to do more. Either way, once your weapons are ready you target where on the opponent“s ship to strike. Both ships have rooms that house the shield, weapons, drones, oxygen, and other systems. By targeting specific systems you can cause all kinds of trouble, such as targeting the oxygen system to make their shipmates run out of breathable air. There“s a fair bit of strategizing involved.
Of course, enemy ships can also target your systems right back. When an enemy breaks through your own shield, they will be able to shoot at specific things or simply shoot beams out to set fire to various rooms. Once you“ve been hit, you“ll find yourself scrambling to send the crew to repair items or clear out enemies and fire. Oftentimes it“s too hectic to take care of your own ship while trying to shoot the enemy in different ways, which is why there“s a handy pause function. While in pause mode you can still set orders but without the worry of something happening while you“re thinking.
It“s so important to have a crew to help you because they are the main way you“ll fix your ship parts. It“s possible to have augmentations to your ship or drones to take care of specific things, but the crew is often a big help. If your weapons system is targeted and gets hit, then you won“t even be able to use all your vast weaponry until it“s patched up. Similarly, if there are cracks in your ship from being hit, they will slowly suck the oxygen out of the room. Fires, too, are a huge issue which are best put out by crew or by simply opening up doors to the outside to suck out the oxygen yourself - just make sure the doors get closed again afterward!
For all the many ways a battle can go, it“s a shame that there aren“t more weapons and drones available to use. They are sometimes picked up while exploring or from a vendor, but overall there is only a handful. You“re also only able to equip a set amount depending on which ship you have. It would be cool to have the ability to load a ship to the brim with firepower, but this isn“t really a possibility. Although there are nine ships in all (and nine alternates), only one is unlocked at the start and there is no way to create your own from scratch. More weapon types are something that you“ll find yourself longing for after a bit of playing.
Graphically, the game is pretty attractive although it could have more done with it. The graphics themselves are done in a retro pixel sort of way but it“s a clean art style. The ships have distinct looks and are cool but beyond that there“s little to see. There are times in the game that random events will occur, and they may talk about all sorts of things happening, but you won“t get to see them. You“re just presented purely with text of things like an alien horse race showing your crew to some items, or slicing a crew member in half, or any other number of things. The plus is that there are many events you“ll see over the course of playing but the con is they“re things you must imagine in your minds eye. It just doesn“t seem like it would be that much work to put in a bit more effort visually.
Despite a lack of scope, FTL is a very fun game to play. It manages to be easy to understand but hard to win at. These are the kind of games that not everyone will love but some will find an addicting experience. It“s just so fun to try and complete the game over and over again. Death is only a small setback to starting fresh and getting further than before. If you are extremely lucky and skillful then the game can be beat in an hour. However, even if you do finish it, you“ll probably want to go back many more times over with new ships and strategies.
If you“re someone who finds enjoyment with RTS or roguelike games, then this is worth trying out. For those who like both genres, it is an instant buy. For $10, it manages to offer infinite replayability despite being somewhat limited in scope. FTL: Faster Than Light could be better with the addition of more content, but as it stands the game is already massively fun.
+ Massive replay value due to randomized worlds and variety of ships
+ Blends RTS and roguelike mechanics well
+ Clean, pleasant graphics
- Not enough weapon/drone type available
- No ship customization from the ground up
Overall Score: 8 (Out of 10)
Faster Than Light is an addictive blend of the RTS and roguelike genres that is bound to please gamers.