Brief Note on FTL

Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

Played a lot of FTL. At the start I enjoyed it, I was unlocking things and running into impossible odds and dying like you're supposed to in games like this. But what's remarkable is how much luck plays a role in this game. Unlike a game like Spelunky, which has tons of random elements which become predictable when you see how they work and fit them together, FTL's randomness doesn't really calm down. Many games in, I'm still blindsided by an event that puts me in the middle of a battle with multiple drones plowing into my shields before I can even charge my weapons up, or puts me up against a ship with a shield level that my weapons just can't break through no matter what I do. So many of the basic encounters depend upon you finding a store that sells weapons, having the scrap to be able to buy one, and then having the scrap to upgrade the weapons generators in order to be able to cut through the slowly increasing level of shields from enemy ships. Some starting weapons loadouts are doomed to be obsolete after 1 or 2 sectors, meaning if you're not lucky enough to run into a weapon, you're pretty much fucked. That, and the end boss disobeys some of the rules you learn throughout the game. Maybe the roguelikes this game was styled after have bosses that do that? I don't know, I've never gotten to the end of a traditional roguelike. It doesn't feel as smooth as roguelikes I have played, though, whether or not you'd consider this to be a roguelike at all.

There's a lot to enjoy: the text choices, when not cheap, are fun and add a lot of atmosphere to what is a fairly static presentation. When luck is on your side, or you succeed despite your lack of luck, it feels like a triumph. And the miracles and good strategy that turns a possible defeat into a victory are rewarding, as well as the sense that you're actually PROUD of your crew for surviving, even if it was really just you telling them what to do.

I can't say I regret my purchase of FTL, but I feel like it needs finer tuning to allow for more ship configurations to at least make it a decent distance before being annihilated. If it was just difficulty I wouldn't even mention it, but it seems to be difficulty coupled with being randomly slapped upside the head, which for some folks isn't so pleasant. I still do play it now and again and once in a while I unlock something new, though many of these newer configurations seem more challenging to get right, and so many designs seem to suggest that moderation in all things (i.e. getting shields for the shieldless, etc) that you're sort of picking your own handicap a lot of the time. If I ever beat the game, I'll let you know.

Any questions you want to ask about the game, feel free. That includes players who are wondering about others' experiences.

#1 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

Played a lot of FTL. At the start I enjoyed it, I was unlocking things and running into impossible odds and dying like you're supposed to in games like this. But what's remarkable is how much luck plays a role in this game. Unlike a game like Spelunky, which has tons of random elements which become predictable when you see how they work and fit them together, FTL's randomness doesn't really calm down. Many games in, I'm still blindsided by an event that puts me in the middle of a battle with multiple drones plowing into my shields before I can even charge my weapons up, or puts me up against a ship with a shield level that my weapons just can't break through no matter what I do. So many of the basic encounters depend upon you finding a store that sells weapons, having the scrap to be able to buy one, and then having the scrap to upgrade the weapons generators in order to be able to cut through the slowly increasing level of shields from enemy ships. Some starting weapons loadouts are doomed to be obsolete after 1 or 2 sectors, meaning if you're not lucky enough to run into a weapon, you're pretty much fucked. That, and the end boss disobeys some of the rules you learn throughout the game. Maybe the roguelikes this game was styled after have bosses that do that? I don't know, I've never gotten to the end of a traditional roguelike. It doesn't feel as smooth as roguelikes I have played, though, whether or not you'd consider this to be a roguelike at all.

There's a lot to enjoy: the text choices, when not cheap, are fun and add a lot of atmosphere to what is a fairly static presentation. When luck is on your side, or you succeed despite your lack of luck, it feels like a triumph. And the miracles and good strategy that turns a possible defeat into a victory are rewarding, as well as the sense that you're actually PROUD of your crew for surviving, even if it was really just you telling them what to do.

I can't say I regret my purchase of FTL, but I feel like it needs finer tuning to allow for more ship configurations to at least make it a decent distance before being annihilated. If it was just difficulty I wouldn't even mention it, but it seems to be difficulty coupled with being randomly slapped upside the head, which for some folks isn't so pleasant. I still do play it now and again and once in a while I unlock something new, though many of these newer configurations seem more challenging to get right, and so many designs seem to suggest that moderation in all things (i.e. getting shields for the shieldless, etc) that you're sort of picking your own handicap a lot of the time. If I ever beat the game, I'll let you know.

Any questions you want to ask about the game, feel free. That includes players who are wondering about others' experiences.

#2 Posted by TruthTellah (9122 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: You haven't beat the game yet? Or do you mean you haven't collected all of the unlocks yet?

Fortunately, the developers are definitely still updating the game. I can understand your concerns, and I think they're reasonable for this kind of game. Each attempt is a lot more like an individual adventure and not a continuation of a repeated effort. So, sometimes your adventure is screwed and you're just straight out of luck. That's life. And that's sort of one of the interesting aspects of the game. You can certainly plan ahead and improve at its mechanics, but you're always at the mercy of the game. There's an unseen force guiding it all, and no matter how much control you have, you're still only succeeding when it allows you to succeed. That can be frustrating.

I think you have to find some way to be happy with the journey. Whether or not you beat that boss shouldn't have to decide whether a run is ultimately successful. If it happens, great, but if not, that's just how it goes. You know what I mean?

Anyway, I do look forward to them continuing to improve the game. I'd love to see them produce a mobile version of the game. It would be perfect for a handheld or tablet. Though, they'd probably have to give it a wider range of difficulty options. ha. :)

#3 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@TruthTellah: Sometimes it goes fine, even when fate's against me. I sorta smile bitterly and start up again. But I guess it feels that even a good effort is about equal as a bad one sometimes; I like games, in general at least, to reflect my input a bit more, rewarding me when I figure it out. Intellectually I get what you're saying, but I find in practice, given my reactions to some of the games of FTL I've played, that I like it when a game feels slightly more solid and figure-out-able than where it is right now. Like, even if I die a lot I feel like I'm going somewhere overall.

You're right it'd be good on a mobile platform, as long as the beam mechanics were fairly easy to get with your finger. Sometimes placing those is very very precise to get the best effect.

#4 Posted by TruthTellah (9122 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: Well, I'm not sure about your own experience, but for me, the overall success rate goes up as I figure out the game more and more. Success isn't necessarily beating the game. It's getting further than you last got. Getting to that next Sector or the next phase of the boss. Slowly mastering the unique ways to use each ship to your advantage. If you get good, you definitely won't win every time, but your success v win ratio generally goes up. At a certain point, you progress more than you don't, and each new ship is a different overall challenge. Each run itself is a unique challenge, but you can definitely improve at your overall strategies and general success.

I don't think the game is as consistent in reflecting your input, but again, that's sort of the life aspect of it. Even if you try hard, that doesn't mean you're always going to succeed at something. Fortunately, in FTL, you can give it another go as much as you want. That's what makes it a videogame over just an odd life simulator. ha. You learn more general lessons and tactics over specific things to do in certain situations. I do think those lessons are reflected in the game though. In a way, you keep getting better at life in FTL, but it's cumulative, not on each attempt. You get better at the general concepts, and the game rewards that. It isn't as direct feedback, but it's there.

Keep at it. If you haven't beat the boss yet, I'm sure you can. If you're hitting a bit of a wall, solicit help online with your specific ship build and attempted strategy. You trying to go stealth or maybe drone-heavy? Is boarding more your thing? Maybe killing the crew over destroying ships is your preferred method? There's so much you can do, and you can improve in all of it. If you need help, though, just ask around. I'm sure you'll get some helpful tips to get over the humps. :)

#5 Posted by NaDannMaGoGo (338 posts) -

I agree with OP

On easy I'm pretty certain you can win pretty much every time just by playing good. On normal however this game is so luck dependent that it feels more like trial and error. I do not get randomized challenges, I get randomized win or loss conditions for most events. I mean there are events where you can gain or lose crew members decided by a coin toss, that's just fucking stupid in my opinion.

Sometimes, you just happen to run low on fuel and you just cannot replenish it well enough and/or have to sacrifice so much for it, that you die anyways. Sometimes you just don't get any additional offensive capabilities required to go through e.g. the third or 4th sector. And so on, there's just a lot of it. More often than not it feels like it's out of your reach no matter how well you plan and play (granted, there isn't as much choice to be had in the first place).

This also leads to the issue that the game snowballs into both directions of winning or losing. If you have even slightly bad luck early on in normal you can often forget it already. Meanwhile getting great things early on provides an enormous bonus in the long run.

Thus, when I played the game 2 days ago I would immediately restart if shit didn't go well in sector 1, I mean why even bother? And when I realize I have to play a game like that I don't think that's very good game design and I just should let be.

#6 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@NaDannMaGoGo: You make a good point that you sometimes choose the way you lose. I've had situations where I had to choose between an upgrade, repair, or refuel. If I balance it out then I just die a bit more slowly. You also make a good point, one I keep forgetting, that there IS an easy mode, which I never tried, out of pride I guess.

I won't quite go so far as to say it's bad design, but it's not what it could be. The enjoyment I got out of it when things did go right told me that sometimes things are on target, but there seem to be just enough variables that it feels like things get snatched out of your hand in a way that doesn't feel that hot. I'm OK with a bit of suffering, and some of those near-misses have wound up being quite rewarding when I manage to survive, but I feel like it could be better.

@TruthTellah: Early on, my success rate did go up. I think my feeling is that it's plateaued, though. Like the upper bit of the parabola where it planes out and there's not much of an increase in survivability. I'd say one of the unlocked ships, the one with the special shield, increased my survivability quite a bit IF I manage to get extra crew and upgrade the weapons before the beam can't penetrate stuff anymore.

And yeah, there are tons of tactics. One of my best was combining boarding with stealth, actually. I think that was the furthest I got on the boss, until it jumped away with my boarders, killing them. The drone spam is a bit ridiculous-- I can't quite see how to get past that without cloaking, and even then the longest cloak doesn't last enough. I did make it to the stage after that, but by then I lacked the hull points, went to heal up, and lost because the ship outpaced me.

#7 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11748 posts) -

On easy, the game is such where I can get up to the boss no problem with most ships. On normal you are far more at the mercy of randomization and can get into situations where you simply cannot win. It's probably my biggest issue with FTL, other than the part where the boss is total BS. While you can get your way through something like Spelunky or The Binding of Isaac with raw skill, certain ships in this game are totally screwed unless they get better weapons before the end of section 2 (i.e. Stealth Ship, which also has the burden of not starting with any shields)

Online
#8 Posted by TruthTellah (9122 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure: haha. I should have asked that from the start. You're crazy to be going on Normal from the start. Easy is where you should start, get used to beating the boss and obtain each ship, including many of the alternates. The first ship is meh, but the alternate version of the first ship is nice. There is absolutely no shame in going Easy, as it might as well be "Normal" to Normal's "Hard".

Easy isn't -that- much easier, but it's enough that you should be able to beat the boss and get more of the ships before shifting back to Normal. The game is meant to be started on Easy and transitioned in Normal. Even Easy is tough to beat. So, if you've hit a plateau, I say go to Easy and keep enjoying the game.

#9 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@TruthTellah: It's funny, of all the ships I've unlocked I STILL haven't gotten the first ship's alt. You're probably right that unlocking stuff before normal at least gives you a better selection to choose from. I think I have... 4 ships total and 3 alts, at least on one of the computers it's installed in. I think the first ship is fine for what it is, you actually have all the basic systems in place. My pet upgrade is the interior doors, because I use them to flush out fires and asphyxiate invaders, so I feel if my first few encounters allow me at least that much then I'm a step ahead of the meat grinder.

@ArbitraryWater: I know I probably yammer about Spelunky too often but I feel like that game has spoiled me.

And yeah, the stealth ship is fine if you manage to dodge everything. Shields are way too expensive to be practical unless you get a massive scrap yield.

#10 Posted by Levius (1140 posts) -

I've found the Engi ship to be by far the most effective ship. You start with drones and weapons installed so you can adapt easily to what the game gives you, and the ion cannon will always be useful even up to the boss. To get past the drones you really have to have level four shields. But yeah, both times I beat the boss I got lucky with the weapons, the first time I got another ion cannon II (so any enemy you fight has no shields ever really), and the second time the game just handed me tonnes of weapons, including the glave beam, which just tears up the boss.

#11 Edited by BisonHero (6532 posts) -

@ahoodedfigure said:

@ArbitraryWater: I know I probably yammer about Spelunky too often but I feel like that game has spoiled me.

And yeah, the stealth ship is fine if you manage to dodge everything. Shields are way too expensive to be practical unless you get a massive scrap yield.

I think "manage to dodge everything" is what the designer intended with the stealth ship (where it's some sort of "rogue/thief" class that relies more on dodging than tanking damage), but no, he's wrong, the game just isn't playable without shields. They are absolutely worth the 150 scrap. If you don't get shields ASAP, if you encounter any asshole with a beam drone or even the crappiest of beam weapons, you will take like 8-15 damage that fight, guaranteed, because they cannot miss.

So you have to spend the first 2 sectors just saving up to 150 scrap and desperately visiting every shop you can until you find one selling shields, except also you'll have to repair damage effing constantly because 30% dodge rate means you still take damage 70% of the time, and sorry, 5 seconds of cloak really doesn't help you THAT much. It's stupid.

I'm still amazed that the stealth ship went through the entire beta without any buff at all, and even now, it continues to have the worst systems configuration (no shields is bullshit), it has the fewest weapon/drone slots possible, and its augmentations are fairly unimpressive. Maybe if it had 4 augmentation slots or just ANYTHING that actually gave it any edge over the other ships, I would care. But even if you make it to the final boss, you A) have less weapon/drone slots than most of the other ships, and B) probably ditched your starting weapons because they are some of the weakest starting weapons in the game (comparatively, many of the other ships have at least one weapon that continues to be useful even at the end of the game).

#12 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@BisonHero: I've been lucky once in a while with the stealth ship, but even putting a ton of scrap into stealth and engines only goes well with a good weapon and a pre-igniter or something. It dies early very often, and if I get far it only works up until the boss, where I'm pretty much guaranteed to die. At no point was I able to afford shields, but I'll definitely spring for that chance if I ever get it. Even the titanium shielding thing only allows systems to last some of the time. And yeah, even the wimpiest beam is a real killer. I dread any ship with drones, but that goes for just about anything, especially the boarding drone that causes a hole, runs around punching people, can't suffocate, AND is instantly replaced if you kill it, since as far as I know the enemy has ample, or maybe infinite, drone reserves.

@AmatureIdiot: The starter Engi ship is pretty good. I think I got far with that one before the Zoltan ship sorta dominated my replays. Like you say, you need weapons or a decent supply of drones. I was doing really well once until my drone reserves tanked and I was basically helpless, jumping away from encounter after encounter. The starter and the Zoltan have probably been my overall best, the starter because it's balanced, the Zoltan because it has an insane advantage that feels like stealth-plus at times.

#13 Posted by BisonHero (6532 posts) -
@ahoodedfigure Enemies have finite missiles and drones, even the last boss, but they have enough to mess you up. I'd ballpark missiles at 10-20 per ship, and drones at more like 5-10. If you have a defense drone orbiting your ship, it will shoot down boarding drones, assuming it doesn't get distracted by a missile at the same time. I've had fights with the final boss where I shot down the boarding drone enough times that he runs out, and then I just have to deal with the crazy drone wave. Defense drones are the best.
#14 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@BisonHero: Didn't know they did that. Another reason for me to stop avoiding drones half the time. I tend to think about offense first. Hell, maybe that's part of my problem :)

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