A nifty little 2D spaceship-based, decision-making, roguelike with a great deal of replayability.
The somewhat redundantly-titled ‘FTL: Faster Than Light’ is a fantastic application of a very simple gameplay mechanic: you are the valiant commander of a “Federation”-aligned space shuttle with the vital mission to supply important intelligence to the good Federation leaders at the opposite side of the galaxy then where you started from, and in doing so, help them ward off a dastardly rebellion from a menacing fleet of enemy spaceships which grows ever-closer.
Each individual game will typically last between forty-five minutes and an hour, but your experience might differ drastically depending on how quickly you deal with the story’s contemplative action. Gameplay consists of navigating your vessel through a number of ‘galactic sectors’ to the end goal, and each sector contains a number of scattered ‘navigational nodes’, and your ship moves to the end by jumping from adjacent nodes once per turn. The overwhelming majority of your turn-based moves will result in one of a very large number of random events fitting to the theme of whichever galactic sector you find yourself in at the time. When this occurs you have all the time in the world to carefully make a wise decision based on your experience, common sense and captain’s intuition.
Utility and weapon upgrades can be scavenged, bought or traded-for through the galaxy in aid of improving your ship before the dramatic final confrontation. The simple interface and easy-to-learn-hard-to-master two-click combat results in a difficulty curve that increases increasingly-fast the further you push through hostile encounters with rebel drone-ships, space-faring pirates, and the occasional bust-up with a merchant disgruntled with your refusal to buy at his inflated prices, in a way that typically remains steady with the amount of armament upgrades you’ll be packing by then, but as is the nature of randomly-generating variables can occasionally get unfairly overpowering quickly.
Under this well-designed gameplay lies a whole world of universe lore, intriguing secrets to discover, and a whole array of alternative vessels to command as a reward for meeting certain in-game reward criteria. After a short time spent in the cockpit of even the starting ship, you’ll soon find yourself enamoured with a universe of exotic species, compelling sub-narratives and some underlying elements which harken right back to the classic, slightly campier, era of Silver Age science-fiction. Supporting this game is an amazingly-strong community of gamers who love to push their limits in challenge runs, speedruns, and the like, by creating fantastic fan-art of the many unique alien creatures and the colossal space-vehicles featured, and most endearingly of all, by being all-to-ready to provide assistance and advice to any and all newcomers to the game.
While featuring no Steam Achievements, the in-game challenges and innate randomness of each experience will guarantee a great deal of longevity for even the most intense of wannabe space-commanders, and it still boasts an array of splendid Trading Cards, Badges, and Emoticons for anyone wanting to add a bit of neo-retro-style intergalactic pizzazz to their profile. FTL will weight lightly on your harddrive and Steam Wallet, but heavy on your mind.