By Sweep 39 Comments
Like everyone else on Twitter, I have been playing a fair amount of FTL lately.
I'm really enjoying the game, the variety of each adventure and discussing the different strategies and builds online. Despite the somewhat randomness of your path, there seems to be enough room to wriggle your way out of even the most desperate situations, creating a satisfying balance between luck and skill.
I haven't been feeling too great lately (It's either the flu or AIDS. It's probably not the AIDS.) so I'm actually kinda pleased that it's been pissing rain for the past 12 hours. Otherwise I would have felt like even more of a useless sack of shit for sitting inside and playing videogames all day. In between deleting spambots and playing Dota (718 hours logged and counting) I decided to boot up FTL for a quick meander through the galaxy.
I tend to pick the starting ship, as I value being able to target manually - an option that is unavailable to the drone-based ship. I named her the SS PAX, with crewmembers Sweep, Matt and Waffle, because reasons. And so off we went.
The first jump was to a distress beacon.
A scientific vessel was having some kind of trouble so I sent my crew over to investigate. Turns out it was some kind of space zombie outbreak that not only immediately infected one of my crew, but as I tried to bring him back onto my ship he turned violent and attacked me, along with several other zombies from the science ship. It was Sweep. I had died after a single jump. Not only had I died, by my animated corpse was now trying to eat Matt and Waffle.
Having killed myself without much trouble and fixed up the minor damage to my ship, I set Matt at the controls, Waffle in the engine room, and we shot off into space. There were a couple of standard pirate/rebel encounters which I won easily, until I reached the exit of Sector 1. The rebels were still far behind and I needed a third crewmember so I decided to search around for a shop, having stacked up some decent scrap. I had previously met a merchant who requested an escort to a further star and, seeing as it was within reach, and that I was due some luck, I shot past the exit to complete the quest.
It was a trap. Waffle died.
So then there was just Matt, with a whole ship all to himself. That was pretty depressing. The one consolation was that I still had a decent stockpile of fuel and missiles, so I could still fight my way out of any trouble that I found. I would just need to be careful. Into Sector 2 I popped.
Into nothing. Two jumps. Three. The fourth through a nebula. Still nothing but eerie silence at every stop. I encountered several ships who requested my assistance but those which I answered would always cause more problems than they solved. My hull strength dropped to 5 or 6 bars, my fuel rapidly depleted. I became jaded, ignoring distress calls, using the last of my scrap to buy miniscule amounts of fuel when I eventually hit a store. On several occasions I would arrive at a store with only 1 fuel remaining, and only enough scrap to buy 2 or 3 to keep me afloat. On top of this, the rebel fleet continued to push me forward further into harsher and more dangerous territories, and without the scrap and equipment that I had failed to find in the first two sectors, I was completely fucked. I knew I was fucked. Even the game seemed to know I was fucked, the music compounding the sense of hopelessness. But what can you do except keep going? So I kept going, limping desperately through space.
Despite the aforementioned fucked situation I remained optimistic.
Something good would happen, the game would throw a couple of friendly encounters my way, or some aliens would take pity and join my crew. I used the last of my fuel to jump to a random star. Not a distress beacon, no store, just a single unassuming dot in the nothingness of space.
It was an asteroid field. A rebel fighter launched itself at me and, setting my weapons to autofire, I dashed around the ship desperately trying to stay on top of the damage caused by the passing rocks. It took a while, but I won. The rebel ship was destroyed. It was only once I had repaired my scanners that I realised that my ship was on fire. I quickly opened the airlocks but it was too late - my life support had been destroyed and the room was ablaze. It was hopeless. I had to put out the fire before I could repair the system, but there wasn't enough oxygen left to let me do so.
It hit me harder than it should have done. There was no malice to it, just complete indifference to the actions I had set into motion, and that was somehow worse. I quit the game and felt slightly hollow. I have played FTL plenty of times and I had never been so entirely screwed over on any of my other attempts. It was sobering to think that, despite my best intentions and supposed skill, I had failed so miserably. I was also vaguely nervous that this streak of bad luck would somehow follow me out of the game and corrupt everything I touched for the rest of the day.
So I did what any sane adult would do: I drank 2 bottles of cider and watched cartoons. You know, Sunday shit. My FTL adventure left a lasting impression though, and it might be a while before I feel like returning for another attempt.
If you haven't played it yet.... well. You should probably go and do that. That game is pretty great.