Recently Played: FTL (Faster Than Light)

I'm the Final Boss, can't step to this!
I'm the Final Boss, can't step to this!

Full disclosure, I don't know what to think of FTL. I go back and forth every time I boot up the game. So I might not sound very coherent here. It has found a very Dark Souls spot in my mind where sometimes it does really awesome things and other times it's punching you in the kidney and it doesn't even care. There are a lot of awesome stuff centering around spaceship management with main systems and moving your crew around, and then there's total space bullshit with fucking mantis men and solar flares. And fucking final bosses equipped with every single weapon system in the game blowing you up with one salvo and then cloaking just to rub it in your face.

I got angry enough where I turned to the internet to find modified files to break FTL's stupid face so I could finally beat the damn game. And I totally did beat the game (on EASY MODE) when I cheated, so I feel my experience is tainted in that regard. It's not like there's a awesome cut scene or quirky song to reward you at the end.

Recently Played: FTL (Faster Than the Speed of Death: The Game)

What a bunch of Space Bullshit!
What a bunch of Space Bullshit!

Sometimes I feel like Faster Than Light is a game designed so no one can win. Unlike the majority of video games, where scenarios and computer AI is made with the sole purpose to be overcome by player eventually, FTL is a gambling den with some of the worst house rules I've ever seen. Randomized anything is a dicey proposition to be sure, but this game sure likes to pile it on in savage, savage ways. The narrative conceit of the game places a time limit as a huge enemy armada is always right behind you ready to scoop up your motley ship and blow it to pieces at the first opportunity. You can stop and fight them if you want, but infinite re-enforcements mean you'll crumble eventually. That's on top of finite resources in the form of fuel, ammo, and scrap (money) which are critical to making it two steps out of the starting area. Then you have the dice rolls of your laser and missile shots deciding whether or not they hit their target.

And then there's your fragile ship and your equally fragile crew. Much like any technical piece of equipment in the real world, there are a million things that can go wrong at any given time. That's without pirates or rebels gunning for you across the galaxy. Randomly generated meteor showers, scanner scrambling nebulae, and fire starting solar flares can pop up anywhere. Everything is out to get you and sometimes it doesn't even have the decency of killing out outright. Sometimes they'll take out your oxygen systems so your entire crew suffocates. Or set your engine systems on fire and wait for the structural damage to take its toll. There are hundreds of ways to die in this game. The only thing in common from one demise to the next is just how fast it happens. FTL is a master of whiplash as one competently played game will end in ruin one jump later through no fault of your own. There's a ton of Space Bullshit out there and it's all coming for you.

At the Same Time... FTL is so Damn Cool

With all that said... it's such a cool game with everything else it does. It's got customization out the rear as you can name your doomed ship along with your equally doomed crew members. Provided you find or buy weapons once you start the game, you can switch them out along with automated drone systems. And depending on how your luck runs, there are a bunch of other ships to unlock with different room layouts along with new crews and weapons. You can juggle your systems to literally divert power to weapons or shields like any episode of Star Trek. Or one of my favorite things is when enemies invade my ship is opening the airlocks to suck the oxygen out of key rooms so they're left suffocating in space. You can do that to ship fires too. It always feels awesome. That shit never gets old. Not to mention the awesome soundtrack and the great look of the ships...

Space Bullshit still happens, even when you're cheating
Space Bullshit still happens, even when you're cheating

There's a point in FTL where I feel I'm fighting randomness so much I can't even enjoy the game. So after I found a dead end in space where I couldn't jump to any other map points (a dead end in space!) and got cornered by the Rebel Fleet after having an amazing run with the Engi Ship, I searched the internet and found a file I could easily switch out to eliminate the time pressure of the game. Well, technically it doesn't eliminate the Rebel Fleet, it just makes the Rebel Fleet so damn slow that they're not a factor anymore. It should go without saying that FTL is a completely different game when you can explore sectors at will. You can find a lot more stuff so building an awesome ship feels less of a game of chance. Not that it makes Easy Mode all that easy. You'll still die. A lot. That final boss will still chew you up and spit you out like nobody's business.

The Real FTL Starts Here

Screw the Stealth Ship! (Okay, fine. It's just hard to use)
Screw the Stealth Ship! (Okay, fine. It's just hard to use)

The only time I managed to beat FTL (on Easy Mode mind you) was by cheating so I could build a heavily shielded Engi Ship with lots of Drones. I've switched the files back and forth many times (depending on my mood), but it's a strong temptation just to leave the pursuing Rebel Fleet off. That's obviously not how FTL is supposed to play. I'm still really torn on the original FTL and the doppelganger FTL I created with modified files. The difficulty feels like real bullshit as EASY MODE is nowhere near easy, and I can't even imagine NORMAL MODE so it feels good to break this stupid game. I don't know how you would make it harder without just killing you at the first jump with five mantis men boarding your ship before you even have your door controls upgraded. Then there are stupid variables like when I was trying to do a run with the Stealth Ship to Sector 8 without hitting environmental dangers (one of the ship specific challenges) and then the game bottlenecked me in Sector 5 where the only way to get to the exit was to travel through an asteroid field. I quit out so hard you don't even know.

What a bunch of Space Bullshit. Fuck this game. I'll break all your dumb rules!

And then I play another round with a new ship and remember how much fun FTL is when it's not screwing you over a table. It can be pretty damn fun!

I don't know. FTL trades on so much randomness that I have a hard time deciding what part is the difficulty speaking and what part is actually just a bad hand. There's a lot of frustration mixed in with the awesome moments of using a laser beam to cut across a ship and set six rooms on fire, sending the enemy crew running around trying to fix things while I launch missiles at their weapon systems to leave them double screwed. That stuff is great. At some point I wish the mechanics in FTL was in a more traditional game where there was a story with a cast of characters and it didn't feel so unfairly brutal- but at the same time I feel like that would be selling this game short. Maybe I just want more games to rip off FTL so I might be able to beat something like this legitimately. Or at least have some true Easy Mode that's actually easy? Mantis men invaded my ship and destroyed my oxygen system so it's getting hard to process logic.

At the very least I hope I can reach some stage of acceptance concerning FTL.

18 Comments