yellownumber5's FTL (PC) review

Your personal Sci-Fi Epic of the day.

For any sci-fi fan, FTL fills the currently void gap (as far as I know) of commanding your own ship and crew through the unknown void of space, and making each and every FTL jump a tense and dramatic one. The game resembles closest the Battlestar Galactica series, as you are pitched with running from the Rebels that are chasing you across the galaxy. Throw on top of that the managing of familiar sci-fi-trope type of ship systems, such as in Star Trek, and the unknown dread and wonder of aimless wandering that you'd get from Stargate Universe, FTL gives a well rounded and familiar sci-fi package, and does it well without having to wow you with flashy visuals and 3D models. In fact, its simplicity in graphical presentation are one of the many things that make the game work, for although this game doesn't heed to "less is more", it certainly realized that more does not necessarily mean better.

FTL is another "Rogue-like" game. Til I started playing this one I hadn't really thought about how popular this genre has been in recent times. The rogue-like scenario in FTL is that you have to get your ship across the galaxy to your friendly fleet without getting blown up. This leads to very tense scenarios, since the games is randomly generated with each playthrough, you do not know what you are going to encounter at each jump. Jumping from point to point could be filled with an uninteresting view of the void of space, to meeting goods traders, answering a distress call, or to a full on battle with a heavy cruiser in a stormy nebula. There are plenty more senarios that you can encounter, each one either giving or stealing away the precious resources that help you on your journey. This constant Roulette of scenarios keeps you on your toes. And knowing it is game over if you meet the wrong ship or make the wrong choice keeps you engaged. It is very easy for a rogue-like game to become frustrating with repeated defeat, but FTL's strengths will keep you coming back for dozens of playthroughs.

FTL's main strength is in its balance and execution. When it comes to commanding a ship, it makes sure to give you everything that you want, such as configuring weapons, powering systems, ordering crew members, targeting enemy ship systems, and it gives you the well designed GUI to keep an eye on all of this at once; it does very well at avoiding tedium, keeping away from fine tuning systems and routine maintenance. It also gives you plenty of variety of weapon types, auxiliary systems (like cloak, ect.), and crew types, but it doesn't overwhelm you with piking and choosing these all at once. Most weapons and other inventory is trickled out to you throughout each run of the game. Each playthrough usually offers the surprise of a new weapon type or ship system that you haven't run across in past plays. This makes each run unique. Even if you start with the same ship with its same default loadout, after halfway through your playthrough your ship will be completely different than it was last time, and you will be playing with an all new strategy testing out the effectiveness of a new ship system.

Another strength of FTL is the space combat, and is another example of the well-thought-out balance. FTL avoids maneuvering and target practice, and focuses mostly on ship and system damage and crew assignment. In combat, The two pictures of your ship and the enemy's are static on the screen. Although it would be fun to imagine one of your own battles played out in a glorious 3D rendering with special effects, it will really hold back and distract from why the combat system works so well, which is the ability to manage your ships system, order your crew, and surgically attack your enemy's ship. Combat realizes the tense moments one would see in Star Trek, when you order to take out the enemy's weapons or engines, or scramble to get your shields back up and watch your hull become critical. The strategy of combat gets more nuanced when you add in the different weapon types. You could have powerful lasers that cut a hull apart but not get past shields. You could have missiles that have specialized traits like starting fires. Or you could deploy drones that attack automatically or protect your ship. There are plenty of possibilities. Most however do start with taking down a ship's shield, which seems directly in agreement with how combat goes in most sci-fi shows that include some type of shield.

Now for the cons: Eventually FTL can start to feel repetitive. Sometimes, even with the breadth of material in this game, I can still feel I need more. Eventually you will run into the same type of mission or battle a few too many times. And sometimes the scenery seems too familiar. It feels lacking that there is no direct planetary exploration, most of that comes through narrative, and it is limited. I could use an expansion that added on new scenarios and scenery. There are a decent number of ships to acquire, and that would help the game, but to wait for the elements to coalesce for their prerequisites to unlock could take a while, if you don't majorly blow it once you get the chance. I have probably over 20 hrs and dozens of plays into the game and I have only managed to unlock the first two. So do I suck at it or did they actually make this part a little too hard? The repetitiveness, combined with the difficulty to earn extra ships can take the wind out of the game, but it will take a while for that to happen. This had me come back to edit this review and drop the game from 5 to 4 stars. I stopped playing it for a few days to play something else, and I just haven't had the urge to go back... yet anyway. The game still does fit perfectly for a quick needed distraction of time that I'm sure may come in handy on a rainy day. And if they ever do add more content or expand this game, I know I would be back for sure, but as of this writing there is no word of that.

Now to stop bitching about what the game doesn't do, which I generally consider bad form, for the game should be lauded for what it does, and how balanced and efficiently it executes its elements. All these parts of the game come together so well, that each play through is your mini-epic sci-fi storyline of the day.

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