A Fun, Challenging Throwback Game
In short, I had a lot of fun trying to beat FTL. I found the game to be a rewarding challenge where I constantly wanted to give it one more go after each death where I was oh-so-close to finally beating getting to the final world. Once I beat it a couple of times, I was done with it and likely won't go back (which I don't hold against the game). I don't know if I completely agree with how much everyone on Giant Bomb seemed to gush over this game, but I would encourage anyone to give it a try (the price was more than fair). Assuming you've read what this game is about, I'll summarize my high and low points below:
I primarily played the game on Easy, but found this game to strike that perfect balance where you die a lot, but always feel like you were in control of your own destiny. While the events are definitely random, you learn to appreciate and better respond to the risk/reward decisions based on your current situation, which is different in every game. The game is very transparent with its systems, so you always feel like you have a good grasp on how your weapons work, how your ship is designed to operate, what each race excels at, etc. I always appreciate that in strategy games as I love complex systems in games as long as I have enough information to learn and master them over time. Should you be so fortunate to make it to the last boss, you will likely get crushed your first attempt. By the time I beat the game, I can definitely say that I gave a hard-earned fist pump and knew that I accomplished something.
The Ship Variety
The game offers loads of ship varieties - based on the price, I was honestly surprised that there were so many and that they all played a little different. The developers make each ship excel in certain areas and the scarcity of resources forces you to mix/max. I really loved this as it made each play through different and I constantly wanted to try each new ship as I would unlock them. Everyone will have their favorites, but I thought this is a great instance of small tweaks adding a ton of replay value to what is otherwise a very similar experience every time through.
The Uncertainty and Player Engagement
While not quite as tense, this game reminded me much of Demon's Souls in the sense that I was always meticulous about choosing my actions and preparing before I jumped to the next world because death can come at any moment. I really enjoyed the constant tension during the ship battles coupled with the relief of getting to a store or safe area. The game does a great job of establishing a rhythm with the player that keeps you hooked.
Once You Figure this Game Out - The Fun Vanishes
It took me probably 30 attempts to beat the game for the first time. I then proceeded to beat the game with two different ships on the next 2 play throughs. This is a direct result of the fact that there is a specific loadout (not exact, but thematically similar) that you need to beat the game. While I'm sure it is not impossible to beat the game using other loadouts, I found it frustrating that the developers offered so many weapon and skill options only to have a narrow few of them actually be effective. Like I said above, the game is a lot of fun as you're discovering what works. After you crack the code (I won't spoil it, but lasers are pretty much necessary), the fun falls of a cliff.
Others seem to really enjoy the variety of the random events that you encounter at each move. I started clicking through them after about the second playthrough. I think the text is pretty much filler. While it doesn't detract from the game since there isn't much to click through, I certainly wouldn't count this as a "feature" that I enjoyed.
The Shield System
Bottom line - I think the developers dropped the ball here. The recharge rate of the shields turns all late game ship battles into a contest of whether one ship can put enough firepower to break through the other's shield. If neither ship can fire enough consecutive shots, the shields just recharge and you are locked in a stalemate. As I mentioned, the makes you focus almost exclusively on multishot weapons/drones to give you a chance to crack through the enemy shield reliably. It is honestly bad enough to break certain playstyles needed by some of the ships. I really think they should have made the recharge rate slower as it would allow more playstyles and lead to less frustration.