FTL: Faster Than Light

Remember the devastation of trying to ford the river and watching your loved ones drown as a result? How about rationing food until everybody except for one had starved to death? Have you ever wanted to experience the same heart wrenching regret and morbid joy of Oregon Trail…but in space? Well, now you can! Thanks to the folks at Subset Games, you can live through your own Battlestar Galactica-type nightmare over and over again with FTL: Faster Than Light.

FTL: Faster Than Light is a PC game that was created by two men, Matthew Davis and Justin Ma, and was released in September of 2012 with a free expanded content update released in January of 2014. Though the game has been out for quite some time, it is still not a well known title. I only stumbled across it because some friends of mine picked it up during a Steam sale. FTL looked pretty interesting and was pretty cheap, so picking it up was a no-brainer. The game runs for about 10 dollars and, honestly, I have never had so much enjoyment out of such a cheap game.
FTL Faster Than Light
Most gamers have played Oregon Trail at some point in their lives or at least heard of it. Well, FTL plays very similarly, but with more depth. The concept of the game is that you are in control of a spaceship that belongs to “The Federation” and a large rebel fleet is on its way to attack the capitol. You have to race through various sectors of space, staying ahead of the rebel fleet, and jumping from planet to planet in order to maintain your supplies. You must maintain your fuel levels, hire or obtain new crew members, upgrade your ships various systems, fight enemy ships, and face different encounters that require an element of role-playing and decision making.

FTL MAPThe most amazing part about this game is it’s unforgiving nature which forces you to actually weigh out your decisions. When multiple ship compartments are on fire, do you vent out the oxygen and possibly lose a crew member fighting the fire in those sections or do you send all of your crew to help put out the fire and pray it doesn’t spread? That is just one of the many things you have to deal with. Pirates looking to teleport onto your ship and kill your crew, accidentally jumping into an asteroid field, deciding whether or not to respond to a distress beacon…the list is virtually endless. Not to mention, the game saves from the last point you played so all decisions are final. If Elnubnub, the ships high level pilot that you had since the beginning, dies, he is gone forever. What happens if all of the crew dies or the ship is destroyed? Well, it looks like you are gonna have to start a new game. As if to make things even more challenging, you select the difficulty setting of each new game, but even EASY mode is extremely difficult.

The combat system in the game is very simple to pick up, but complex enough to require your attention and active participation. At any point in the game you can pause using the space bar to think about your options, and allocate crew and weapon tasks that will begin once you resume playing.You also are able to target specific systems on enemy ships to cripple them in battle. Do they have a ridiculously powerful laser? Target their weapons system. Want to kill or distract their crew? Take out their oxygen system. Are they trying to jump away from the fight? Take out the engine. Your strategy is whatever you want it to be.
FTL is one of those games that cannot be won without the active participation and well thought out decision making of the player. You really feel like you are important to the game and shape the outcome. Every play-through is unique, every crew member special, and every ship different. FTL: Faster Than Light is on a level of its own and is one of those few and far between gems that reminds us of how truly artistic video games can be.