FTL: Faster Than Light Mac Review

FTL: Faster Than Light is the end product of one of the early Kickstarter success stories. The guys at Subset Games were aiming for $10,000 to bring their dream to life. The Kickstarter community gave them over $200,000, and it’s not hard to see why. The sci-fi fan in me has been longing for the day that a game such as this comes along, one that takes its inspiration from famous TV series such as Firefly and Star Trek – you take on the role of the Captain of a small Federation ship, and, having intercepted an enemy transmission, you need to get the data across the galaxy before the Rebel fleet catches up.

Being the fan that I am, I naturally had to name my ship and crew after Serenity first time around. This proved to be a mistake. It was time consuming, and heart breaking when my proud Serenity was destroyed early on in the game thanks to a complete lack of managerial skills on my part. And this was on easy mode. That’s not because it’s a hard game; rather, FTL is a challenging game that requires practice to get right. As a self-described “Roguelike-like,” it expects you to fail more often than not. But with each failure comes a lesson. To survive, it is vital to learn when to cut losses and flee a fight, and when to keep attacking the enemy into submission.

In the beginning, the ship you use is simple, but effective. Various in-game accomplishments unlock more ships and more layouts for these ships. Each one comes with a different base crew, weapons and attributes. Throughout the game, everything is upgradable. New weapons, ship enhancements and crew members can be found or bought in every sector, allowing for very different tactics to be used on each playthrough.

The space you’re flying through is procedurally generated, so no two play-throughs will operate the same way. There’s a map of different sectors, with a few different paths to take. In each sector, there are many beacons to jump to, with one of them being the exit. It’s up to you how much you see in each sector, with fuel constraints and the impending enemy fleet as hindrances that you must keep in mind. If they catch you, it’s a desperate battle in which you try to defend yourself long enough to jump away to safety.

In combat, there’s a large number of details requiring your attention. It’s up to you to decide which weapons to power up, when to fire, and when to charge engines and flee. If a vital system takes damage, you’ve got to send the crew to fix it. Fires can be a big problem and will spread rapidly if not dealt with. But do you send in the crew and potentially lose them, or open up the doors and evacuate all the oxygen, meaning the room will be uninhabitable for repairs temporarily? If you get boarded, the crew will have to drop everything and rush to stop the attackers, or you could use special weapons that can target your own ship, sustaining some damage but saving everyone on board.

FTL really captures that feeling of being on your own in the depths of space. At times, it can feel like everyone is out to get you. Every jump lands you in hot water, and every fight means spending more resources to win or escape. Tough decisions in this game don’t stop there. Trusting a distress beacon could lead to a trap. Fighting a slaver ship could kill everyone on board, including the slaves, so surely accepting their bribe is better? A heavily guarded depot could contain powerful weapons, but attacking it would be very risky. There are no easy choices, and it can be all too easy to forget that you have your own mission to take care of. The overwhelming immersion happens almost instantly.

Given all the things you have to manage, it would have been all too easy for FTL to look too complicated. An effective tutorial, and simple layout and art design help ease this, and I found that I quickly gained a working knowledge of the screen out of necessity.

FTL: Faster Than Light is the vision of gamers and sci-fi enthusiasts fully realised, and is fast becoming my most recommended game of the year. So go get it!

9 out of 10
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