ONVG GOTY BFFL 2k12: FTL: Faster Than LightPosted by Mat on 11th December, 2012
Every day throughout December, we’re going to post an article about one of our favourite games that came out this year. Just like last year, there are some games that some of us loved and some of us didn’t, so be prepared for some angry comments in among the praise.
Today’s game: FTL: Faster Than Light
I never really sunk my teeth into this the way I have with other roguelikes this year, and I can’t tell if that’s because I’m not into the sci-fi theme or if I’m just not into the game’s mechanics. Combat is amazing and gives you some real “DIVERT ENERGY FROM SHIELDS FOR ONE LAST SHOT” moments, but the multiple choice random encounters are a little uninspired.
FTL took one part of the feel of captaining a ship and nailed it. It’s like being the engineer in Artemis, except with pause functionality so you get a chance to stop at have a think. It’s deep and interesting enough that you can spec your ship in crazy directions that give you a really personal ship type that you got to yourself. The system is really great for forcing you to think on your feet and to consider your limited options.
It’s definitely one of the most important releases this year, if only for being the first notable Kickstarter project to be funded and released. Who knows if the Kickstarter thing is going to keep working, but when fans and developers of niche games have a method of funding projects, that’s gotta be a good thing.
Tom is crazy. The goofy sci-fi setting made FTL one of the few roguelikes I’ve ever actually tolerated, let alone liked. Humans are boring, and this will be categorically proven when the space bugs and rock people invade Earth in their asymmetrical spaceships. Next to a race that provides power to whatever they touch, we’re fodder.
FTL is a story generator. The best moments happen organically during combat. Your resource management kicks in across 3 different fronts and eventually you have to make sacrifices on each one. Remember the time you had to turn off the oxygen until your crew nearly suffocated because you had to power up the engines to flee? Remember the time a drone smashed the door control system up and you couldn’t flush that fire out of the first aid room where half the crew were recovering? Remember the time you launched a missile into their weapons room, and a smile flashed across your face as you saw their doors opening and closing in a mad scramble to fix the hole you’d made in their hull?
Yes, maybe the fixed encounters are a little limited, but outside of those there’s plenty of room for flair and personal creativity, from the type of ship you use to the names of your crew members to the armaments you equip to the path you take. It’s impossible to play FTL the same way twice, not just because it has the scope, but because you’d never want to anyway.
I desperately want my entire crew to survive, but there’s just something so compelling about opening all the doors when we get boarded. It’s not a good plan at all, because the AI isn’t stupid, and they’ll pretty much just go into a room which isn’t being vented into space, cutting your crew off from vital areas of the ship. Nonetheless, whenever enemies teleport onto my ship, my first reaction is to open all the doors and rely on oxygen to do the work that my feeble crew can’t.
That’s part of the fun of FTL. I’ve established that I’m pretty bad at video games where you’re likely to die; I haven’t been able to take losing at a game since flipping a game of Mouse Trap at eight years old on Christmas day when my Uncle had the temerity to beat me. Tom is our resident ‘losing is fun’ correspondent, and I consider myself the ‘nothing is left-wing enough for me’ correspondent. We each have our roles, and I’m okay to stick with them.
FTL crosses that boundary, though, because it allows me to table-flip in interesting ways when I’m losing. Oh, you want my ship, you rebel scum? I hope you like the cold void of space, because that’s all you’ll get from me. Yeah.
Enemies will board your ship a lot. They’ll do it because it’s a fantastic idea. Your ship is a metal behemoth covered in energy shields that take the greatest works of science to penetrate, whereas your crew are mushy pieces of flesh that can barely throw a punch or take too many either.
Learn from your enemies. Buy a teleporter immediately. Fire enough bullets to distract their crew or take out their medical bay and let your mantis warriors tear through anyone foolish enough to test the USS Enter-Thighs. It’s essential practice for when you meet the Rebel Flagship, a vessel so fear inducing it’s known across the galaxy, but it’s piloted by muscle and sinew the same as you. All the armour in the ‘verse counts for nothing when it can be slipped past, and the best guns ever invented still don’t fire when they’re disassembled.
Or maybe don’t try that at all. Buy drones. Get ones that constantly zap at shields, buy ones that automatically fix hull breaches letting your crew do their damned jobs. This asteroid field isn’t going to avoid itself – we couldn’t afford the autopilot upgrade- and we need everyone at their stations to pull through.
No. Fuck it. What we need are more weapons; as many as the ship can hold. Where are we getting the power? Can we hire a Zoltan at the next station?
Beam weapons. Better shields. More Crew. Cloaking. Stronger doors. Quicker oxygen renewal. Ship-wide healing. Pick one. Try it out.