Created by former 2K China employees Justin Ma and Matthew Davis, FTL: Faster Than Light is a space simulation at its core. What sets FTL apart from others in the genre is its abstracted playstyle; the game plays more like a strategy game or RPG than a flight simulator. The game was designed to recreate the experience of crew management in sci-fi shows like Star Trek and Firefly.
FTL follows the journey of a ship on a mission to determine the fate of the Galactic Federation. Players guide this ship through seven sectors, navigating from jump beacon to jump beacon to reach the exit at the end of the sector. Each sector could be made up of roughly 10 to 20 beacons. While balancing their resources (scrap, missiles and drone parts) players must clear the sector or risk being caught by the rebel fleet. This is not a game over, but instead a series of very difficult enemy encounters. On top of this, each jump beacon brings about a new encounter, be it a random enemy encounter, neutral mercenaries and traders, or even friendly Federation allies willing to lend a helping hand. Some of these encounters are puzzles, requiring the player to have certain races aboard their ship, choose a certain dialogue option, or use a specific weapon during a battle. In sector eight, players reach the Federation holdout, where they must defeat the attacking Rebel Flagship to win the game. This is a protracted, rule of three boss fight.
FTL is a roguelike with permadeath, and a poor decision or ill luck could mean the end of the ship and that particular run. There is no hard-save system, although players can suspend their current run and return to it later.
There are nine types of spaceships in FTL, each with their own style of gameplay. Only one ship, the Kestrel, is unlocked at the start, and the other ships are unlocked through special quests and events. Each ship has a fixed layout, although a different variant of that ship (with a slightly different layout, skin, and starting equipment) can be unlocked by achieving 2 of the 3 ship achievements.
The nine ships are:
- Kestrel Cruiser (The Kestrel / Red-Tail): A standard, if slightly old, ship with missiles and acceptable shields.
- Stealth Cruiser (The Nesasio / DA-SR 12): An agile ship that starts with a cloaking device, but lacks shields.
- Mantis Cruiser (The Gila Monster / The Basilisk): A Mantis ship that uses teleporters to board enemy ships.
- Engi Cruiser (The Torus / The Vortex): An Engi ship that focuses on drones and ion weapons.
- Federation Cruiser (The Osprey / Nisos): A bigger and more powerful version of the Kestrel, with an artillery beam.
- Slug Cruiser (Man of War / The Stormwalker): A Slug ship with the ability to automatically repair hull breaches.
- Rock Cruiser (Bulwark / Shivan): A Rockman ship with superior armor that can occasionally negate damage.
- Zoltan Cruiser (The Adjudicator / Noether): A Zoltan ship with a powerful shield that can only recharge with every jump.
- Crystal Cruiser (Bravais / Carnelian): A special ship crewed with Crystal aliens.
Systems and Subsystems
Every ship is comprised of a number of different systems and subsystems, each performing a different task in and out of combat. These systems require power (which is limited) to operate, and can be upgraded with scrap recovered over the course of the game. Upgrading a system increases its potential, but adds additional power requirements. Players can also purchase additional systems and subsystems at stores throughout the galaxy. A system can be disabled (partially or fully) through attacks, but can be repaired to full operation by crew members or repair drones. Finally, some systems can be manned by your crew for an additional bonus.
- Shields: Absorb incoming laser attacks and negate some beam damage. Can be manned.
- Engines: Dictates rate at which FTL recharges, and ship's dodge %. Can be manned.
- Oxygen: Refills O2 in case of fire or hull breach.
- Weapon control: Powers the ship's weapons. Can be manned.
- Drone control: Powers the ships offensive and defensive drones.
- Medbay: Heals your crew members.
- Cloaking: Go "invisible," increasing your dodge by 60%.
- Crew Teleporter: Can send crew to enemy ships to destroy systems or personnel.
- Piloting: Must be manned to execute FTL jump or dodge enemy attacks; autopilot upgrades allow a dodge bonus even when unpiloted.
- Sensors: Reveals information about enemy ships; upgrades allow the player to see how the enemy captain has distributed his ship's power.
- Door System: Slows the progress of boarders and halts spread of fire when upgraded.
- Reactor: Your pool of energy for all above systems and subsystems.
All ships have slots for a number of augmentations, and some ships come equipped with augmentations from the start (the Zoltan Cruiser and its Shield for example). Augmentations affect all aspects of the game, from what information is available about beacons in the sector, the amount of scrap you collect from ships, or simple offensive and defensive buffs. Some examples:
- Reverse Ion Field: Protects your ship from ion damage and gives a 20% chance to negate it entirely.
- Repair Arm: Repairs your hull whenever you collect scrap, at a cost of 15% scrap reduction.
- Scrap Recovery Arm: Increases all scrap drops by 10%, enables some "blue" event choices.
- Automated Reloader: Weapon cooldown is improved by 15%.
- Stealth Weapons: Weapons fired while cloaked no longer drains cloak energy.
- Weapon Pre-Igniter: Weapons ready to fire instantly when arriving at a beacon.
- Drone Recovery Arm: Deployed combat drones are recovered after the conclusion of combat, freeing the player from constantly needing to replenish their supply of drones.
- Engi Medi-Bot Dispersal: Medical nano-machines automatically heal crew, even when not in sickbay.
In FTL, players do not have direct piloting control of their ship. They instead control the individual systems and weapons of the ship, while directing the ship's crew to perform actions, like fighting fires, repairing hull breaches, and manning systems in the various rooms on board the ship. The player also has to balance the ship's limited power supply between the offensive and defensive systems. Combat is in real-time, but can be paused at any moment. There is no control of the ship's movement in combat, as both the player's and enemy's ship are displayed in static frames. Combat lasts until one side surrenders, escapes, or is destroyed.
Unless the player is equipped with specific augmentations, they will be unable to repair the hull of their ship without visiting a store or running into a special event, which gives combat a long game as well as the battle-to-battle scenarios.
There are many different types of weapons in FTL, each with a different balance of power consumption, reload time, and damage amount and type. Weapons start each encounter uncharged (unless the player has a special augmentation), and need to power up to fire. Some weapon types include:
- Bolt lasers: Basic weapon types that cannot go through shields, but can take out one level of shielding per hit.
- Beam lasers: Part of their damage is absorbed by shields, but they deal area damage in a line and never miss.
- Ion weapons: Do not deal damage, but drains a system of its power. They are especially good against shields.
- Missiles: Goes through shields and deal a lot of damage, but require missile ammunition to operate.
- Bombs: Similar to missiles, but perform more specialized tasks like setting the enemy ship (or the player's) on fire.
A ship can also carry drones, which require a drone system and drone parts to operate. Drones provide offensive or defensive bonuses until they are destroyed, power is lost, or the drone system is disabled. Drones can fulfill many different tasks like missile and boarding defense, hull and system repairs, and offensive operations. Most ships do not start with a drone system, but one can be purchased in a store.
There are seven different races of aliens in FTL, each with their own advantages and disadvantages (save for humans, who have none). Each ship starts with their own race (for example, humans aboard the Kestrel), but more can be found in encounters or hired in stores. All ships can only hold up to eight crew members.
The ship's crew manages the various systems on board, providing additional benefits to the systems they are working on, and helping to repair broken systems and fend off boarders. Doing these tasks will increase their skill levels in that particular task, and crew members can master a particular skill (up to two levels), making them very proficient in that task. Crew members can die and be permanently lost in random encounters. Generally, having a crew of mixed alien races will open up more encounter options.
- Repair rate doubled
- Combat damage halved
- Combat damage doubled
- 1.2x move speed
- Repair rate halved
- Immune to fire
- Movement speed halved
- Health increased to 150
- Reveals lifeforms without the need for sensors
- Provides power to the manned system
- Health reduced to 70
- Lockdown power
- Reduced suffocation damage
- Movement speed reduced by 20%
- Health increased to 125
Justin Ma and Matthew Davis claim that the idea for FTL came about when they both got sick from working on sports titles that their former employer, 2K China, was developing. Taking inspiration from television shows like Firefly and Star Trek and board games such as Red November and the Battlestar Galactica board game, Ma and Davis created a unique space game that drew much attention at IGF China 2011 where FTL won a finalist award. They received two honorable mentions at IGF 2012.
Following this modest success, the team launched a Kickstarter campaign that ended up meeting their conservative $10,000 goal in a matter of hours. Thanks to a well-received OnLive demo and massive positive response from fans, the FTL Kickstarter closed at over 2000% of the initial goal.
A beta version of the game was released via Steam for select Kickstarter backers on June 14, 2012 along with this FAQ. The game was released September 14th, 2012 on Steam and GOG.com, and players can buy a DRM-free version at the official website, which also comes with redeemable Steam keys.
PC System Requirements:
- OS: Windows XP / Windows Vista / Windows 7
- Processor: Intel 2.60GHz Core 2 Duo / AMD Athlon X2 2.7GHz
- Memory: 512MB
- Graphics: GeForceFX5200, RADEON 9500
- Hard Drive: 300MB
Mac System Requirements:
- OS: Mac OS X 10.5.8 or above
- Processor: Intel 2.0GHz
- Memory: 1GB
- Graphics: 1280x720 minimum resolution, OpenGL 2.0 Support, and recommended dedicated graphics card with 128MB of RAM
- Hard Drive: 175MB