Faster Than Light provides challenging experience

Spaceship micromanaging game features changing gameplay, high replay value

THE ADVANCED VERSION OF THE ENGI TORUS SHIP FACES OFF against a Zoltan energy bomber. The energy bombers are unique in that they have an extra shield that reduces the effectiveness of the standard ion weapons carried by the Engi ship in the early stages of the battle.

Imagine being the captain of a single spaceship, alone, under-manned, and with few resources, tasked with saving a federation. FTL: Faster Than Light can give you that kind of experience as you micromanage your cruiser through eight unfriendly zones and one near-impossible boss fight. You can think of yourself as Captain Kirk—if you add in a lot of fires, take out all of the alien sex, and put all of it in a solid background of crushing OCD.

FTL: Faster Than Light is both a short and very long experience, depending on how you look at it. On the one hand, each play of the game will cost you an hour to an hour and a half individually, but on the other it will take you dozens, perhaps scores of play-throughs to see the whole game. Try as you might, you will never defeat the boss on your first to at least tenth run through, but after you get more experience, unlock more cruisers, and get a better feel for the territory you cross, you can get closer and closer to winning the overall game.

I found it to be pretty fun; between trying to deal with slavers and figuring out whether to run away from distress beacons or answer the call for help out in the black, you have a lot of decisions to make about how you handle yourself. Dealing with boarding parties and putting out fires is fun, with a lot of different options possible through the whole game.

FTL is a great example of something many initially feared in the game industry, but has turned out alright in many cases—procedurally generated content. Every time you play the game, you go through a different stretch of the galaxy. Sometimes you have to go through eight sections of pirate held space in order to get to the end; sometimes it’s all just civilian space. Sometimes, you run across friendly space stations and ships that just give you money or an upgrade, and sometimes when you go to answer a distress call, you find yourself boarded and your oxygen cut off.

That mixed bag makes it worth replaying, and keeps it fresh enough to make your repeated play-throughs interesting. If you like space travel and feel like being Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Scotty all at once, buy this game. It’s cheap, plays in a window, and can be easily picked up and put down again. You can even play it discreetly in the back of a lecture if that’s what you’re into. Look into it, folks.