Ten dollars isn’t bad for a roguelike spaceship simulator RPG. Faster Than Light is a fun game, but sadly lacks the necessary qualities to cause an addiction. “Something fun on occasion that tapers off due to lack of measurable progress,” perhaps. Piloting a crew across a warzone of a galaxy, battling rebel ships, alien lifeforms, assisting scientists make repairs, exploring new planets, that sort of thing. It’s a text adventure with all the visuals focused on combat and area-by-area movement.
You begin with one ship, an old-but-refurbished Federation cruiser manned by three boring humans. Your goal is to deliver tactical information detailing the Mantis Rebel fleet to the Federation battlefront without dying horribly on the way. On the journey there, you must be wary of your hull, your fuel, your systems, and your power. By using scrap obtained from your enemies, you can upgrade your ship. Constantly running low on oxygen? Trouble keeping those shields up? Sensors not giving you enough information about the enemy ship? Upgrade.
Here’s an arbitrary list of very unpleasant things that can happen to you:
- Hull breach, which reduces oxygen in the afflicted room.
- Fire, which cripples systems and hurts crewmembers.
- Intruders, which kill crewmembers and destroy systems.
- Meteor fields, which batter the hull.
- Nebula ion storms, which reduce power by ½.
As a rule, don’t let all your crewmembers die, try not to let your hull get smashed, and don’t run out of fuel. If these things happen, it’s game over. This isn’t one of those “do you favors” space sims, I’ll have you know. Big beefy ships will drift up to you and request your crewmembers as slaves while pointing slug cannons at you. Pirates will sabotage your sensors and invade your ship en masse. Life in space sucks.
But what sucks more than anything is how unavailable the other ships are. In order to unlock anything, you have to complete some inane questline which entails hopping from beacon to beacon while desperately trying to avoid running out of fuel, dying to random peon ships with shield-piercing missiles, and making the wrong dialogue choice. A LOT can go wrong. And it will. Faster Than Light ain’t your friend.
Several things I forgot to mention: First, you are being pursued by a colossal Rebel fleet. If you linger too long in a sector, you’ll get blasted to bits by artillery toting cruisers. If you manage to survive ten hellish sectors of abuse and bad luck, you have to fight the Rebel Flagship. This piece of work is decked out with cloaking devices, six missiles, four layers of shields, and enough crewmembers to overpopulate Uranus. Yes, I went there.
My experience with Faster Then Light thus far has been entertaining but unrewarding. Most of the events that transpire throughout gameplay are chance-oriented. Will a repair shop be nearby? Will the next encounter be a burly A.I. ship? Is… that a star? Vwoosh, crackle crackle. You get the idea. The difficulty of obtaining ships is what irks me the most. As such, I recommend this game to people who are blessed with patience, determination, and no negative sentiments towards chance-based progression.
Erik Kain of Forbes basically thought the same thing I did about this. Random, difficult, and difficult. Nevertheless, I don’t think I’ll be tossing it aside just yet. The wiki has made some rather sexy promises to me involving system-powering crewmembers, and if I ever manage to survive long enough to get to the Zoltran homeworld… Right, well, whatever. Here’s the review link. Buy it, play it, lose, cry, play some more, cry some more: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/12/20/ftl-review-dying-faster-than-light-pc/