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zircon

FTL: Faster Than Light. An awesome space sim/roguelike for $10!

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FTL: Faster Than Light is one of the first games funded on Kickstarter that has since been published, and on Steam no less! This is essentially a 'realistic' sci-fi/space sim game with Roguelike elements. If I had to describe it in a sentence, it would be: the technology of Star Trek mixed with the feel of Nethack in a Firefly world, injected with some Oregon Trail. You make use of lasers, missiles, bombs, bio beams, drones, cloaking devices, teleporters and medical bays to survive, all the while conserving precious fuel and scrap metal. Upgrade your rag-tag ship and crew and persevere through impossible odds. Interested yet?!

Overview

You control a ship and a meager crew of 3-4 humans (or aliens). You have total control over each crewman (or woman) who move about within the ship. The goal of the game is fairly simple: escape from an ever-pursuing, invincible fleet of Rebel ships to deliver vital information to the last outpost of the Federation. To do this, you have to move through a total of seven sectors, eight if you count the final boss sector. The end goal is always the same, but the route and challenges you encounter vary every time.

The game takes place in real-time with frequent pauses. On the sector map, you plot a course to your next destination. Each "jump" uses one fuel, which is a highly limited commodity. At any given location, many random events can occur. You can receive resources from Federation sympathizers. You can be ambushed by a boarding party or enemy ship. You can haggle with slavers (or blow them up). You can discover technology. These events can typically be dealt with in many different ways, based on the resources you have available. More on this in a bit. Once you reach the exit point of a sector, you go to a higher-level map screen, similar to Star Fox, where you choose which branch of the galaxy you want to travel along next.

Combat

Of course, the central part of FTL is its combat. If you enjoy sci-fi battles and want tons of control, you're going to love this. Your ship has a number of systems and subsystems, from weapons, to shields, a medical bay, engines, nav control, sensors, life support, and even automated doors. ALL of these play an important role, and can be upgraded with Scrap you find through combat and events. In combat, your ship is pitted against a single enemy ship. Whoever gets blown up first loses (or has all their crew killed). As mentioned earlier, everything occurs in real-time. Your weapons take time to charge up, and can be aimed at any part of the enemy ship.

The possible tactics in FTL are limitless, and vary widely based on your preferred style and starting ship (there are something like 9 total ships you can unlock, with one variation per ship, for a total of 18 possible starting ships/crews). Of course, from the very beginning of the game you can customize your ship and crew by salvaging items, upgrading your ship's systems with Scrap, trading, and visiting stores.

Rather than describe every mechanic, here's an example of a possible battle situation:

In Sector 4, you encounter an enemy Mantis ship with medium shielding, heavy missile weaponry, and a teleporter. They immediately transport a boarding party on to your ship. Missiles and teleporters can go right through your shields. How can you deal with this situation? Well, first the invaders. You could do any or all of the following:

* Dispatch your own Mantis and Rockmen security team, who have innate racial combat bonuses and have gained experience in hand-to-hand combat, to fight the invaders.

* Open up the ship's airlocks near the room where the invaders landed, depleting it of oxygen and suffocating them (though, you'll need heavy-duty doors to prevent them from busting out). If they break through the doors, you can send your crew to the medbay to provide them with precious healing while the enemies suffocate. However, your unmanned systems will be vulnerable in the meantime!

* Deploy anti-personnel drones to fight the invaders.

* Use bomb weapons, which can be teleported through shields even on to your own ship, to attack the invaders from within.

How about the enemy ship?

* Laser weapons, which tend to fire bursts of weaker shots, can be used to drill through shields, leaving systems vulnerable. Weakened shields can thus allow for more powerful Beam weapons (normally ineffective vs. shields) to sweep their hull.

* Teleport your OWN boarding party on to their ship to disable their systems.

* Use shield-piercing missiles and bombs to disable their shield generator and use conventional weapons to cause massive damgae.

* Use fast-firing ion weapons, which do no hull damage but drain system energy, to strip them of defenses.

* See into their ship with your telepathic Slug crewman, or upgraded sensors, and attack with fire and bio weapons to kill their crew (granting extra salvage rewards!)

The list goes on. The fun of the game comes in the huge variety of challenging situations. It's pretty hard to just 'turtle' and win, unless you get extremely lucky with found technology and scrap. For example, pouring money into shields is all well and good, but a lucky missile can damage or destroy your shield generator. When systems are damaged, you must send crew to repair them. Hull breaches and fires can also occur; the former will drain oxygen from the room, while the latter cause hull and system damage if left unchecked. Dealing with fires is actually a lot of fun, as you learn to drain oxygen from rooms to starve the fires and prevent their spread.

Of course, it wouldn't be a "Roguelike-like" game without permadeath. If a crewman dies, they're gone forever. If your ship blows up, that's it. No saving/loading (you can save, but only when combined with quitting the game.) Even the Easy difficulty is challenging, and beating the game on Normal will definitely take you a number of tries as you learn the nuances of the game and combat. Replay value is also quite high, especially for a $10 game, as you unlock new ships and thus new ways of playing. For example, the Stealth ship starts out with a normally very expensive cloaking device and powerful engines, but no shielding whatsoever and weak weapons. The Engi Cruiser has no offensive weapons per se, relying on drones to inflict ship damage. The Zoltan Cruiser has an innate energy shield that can't be pierced or teleported through, and must be drained through brute force. However, its weaponry is sluggish and unwiedly, and it has a weak power supply (though its crewmen provide energy themselves!)

Anyway, I could write about this amazing game all day, but simply put - I highly recommend it. I used to play Roguelikes back in the days of DOS and Windows 95, along with adventure games such as Landing Party. FTL really feels like one of those games, with old-school difficulty, customization and fun.

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I picked FTL up on a whim when it first became available. No regrets. It's relatively quick to play (you can finish a complete run in a few hours), but there's so much replay value that you won't mind -- and the fact that you didn't just lose 12 hours of progress when you (inevitably) die keeps it from being too frustrating.

But yeah, it's a ton of fun. Let me put it this way: I bought it on a Friday after work, and by the time I went to bed Sunday, I'd logged 14 hours of playtime. (That you, Steam, for revealing the uncomfortable truths of our play times.) In that time, I only got to the final sector once (where I promptly died), but I never got frustrated or annoyed. The game is difficult, but it's fair.

Definitely worth $10.

Edit -- not yet mentioned (which is odd, considering) is the soundtrack, which is excellent. Very reminiscent of old school gaming without actually being chiptune-y. Lots of reoccurring themes running through most of the tracks, which makes it feel very cohesive while still allowing each song to be distinct, as well. You can listen on Bandcamp here, and buy a digital copy for just $5. That's definitely worth it, too.

Edited by Native Jovian

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Yeah but that adds to the charm! It's like an old-school adventure game.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a SUCKER for oldskool graphics. I just feel the styles are inconsistent across BG/sprites/UI and, when sprite art is employed, it's just not as good (authentic) as it could be.

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I insta-wishlisted this on Steam when it first came out, now I'm starting to think I probably should have just impulse-bought it! Thanks for the detailed writeup, I think I'm going to be all over this sooner rather than later!

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I think I got this on the day it came out on Steam?? Thereabouts, at least. Great game, great music, great rogue-like sense of SHIT I AM ABOUT TO DIE at all times. I still haven't beaten it after about 30 attempts, and I've only gotten to the final sector once D: What does this say about me?

zircon, you were into roguelikes back in the day? Which ones?

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Castle of the Winds was one of my very favorites as a kid. I also played a bunch of D&D universe games, including one in first-person that was definitely a dungeon crawler.

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Castle of the Winds was one of my very favorites as a kid. I also played a bunch of D&D universe games, including one in first-person that was definitely a dungeon crawler.
hell to the freaking yeah

OMG CASTLE OF THE WINDS. I *LOVED* that game. Well, both of them, really. I tried to download it recently, but it won't run on Windows 7. What is this shit.

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Haha, yes, it does.

I think my only complaint about the game is that missile weapons and certain beams tend to be really cumbersome, and not useful as the game goes on. Burst lasers are by far the best weapons followed by cheap missiles. So, if you don't find either by the last sector, I don't see how you can win. (I've beaten the game twice on Normal, once on Easy, and made it to stage 2 of the final boss fight on Normal a few more times.)

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What the literal fuck.

I have no idea how to beat stage 2 of the final boss. Missiles are worthless, and shooting 7 simultaneous lasers did only 1 damage per volley. Ion cannons, I guess??

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At least 6 lasers SHOULD do the job. I just beat the game again on Normal with the Kestrel, using the following loadout:

* Pike Beam (BIG damage, but only when shields are down - has to be carefully timed)

* Burst Laser II (starting weapon)

* Hull Smasher Laser II (similar to BLII but 2x damage to empty rooms, and charges slower)

* Artemis Missile (starting)

So my total laser damage was 6 simultaneous, and if I drained their shields I got another ~4 damage from the beam for free.

At least level 3 shields and a defense drone of your own is highly recommended. I managed to grab both Weapons Pre-Igniter (starts battles with weapons fully charged) plus the Automatic Weapons Reloader (-15% charge time on weapons). High level Engines is also a plus. A Cloaking Device REALLY helps if you can afford one, but that can be hard to do. If you've managed to get a lot of strong crew (Rockmen, Mantis) you can also beam people to the drone room and take it out that way.

Basically, my first volley or two against the rebel ship is always against their shields. You NEED to bring them down to at most 3, if not 1-2, so you can pound away with your subsequent volleys. Depending on your weapons you need to make sure you're synchronizing your shots properly, so all lasers fire at once. If you have beam weapons, you need to time those so they fire immediately after the lasers pierce through their shields. Normally I'm not a huge fan of beams, but the Pike/Glaive/Halbred are pretty damn strong and can cover a huge area on the enemy ship.

Some general strategies I've picked up, having now beaten the game 3x Normal, 1x Easy (all with the Kestrel A or Osprey A) -

* Spend as much time as possible exploring each sector, provided you have the fuel. Try not to dip below ~8 fuel. You need to build up scrap. In Sector 1-2, you can do MOST fights without losing much of anything, so take that advantage!

* If you can, buy a Scrap Recovery Arm early on (sector 3 or earlier, preferably sector 1).

* Try to have at least 4 crew at all times: 1 for piloting, 1 for weapons, 1 for engines, and 1 for shields. The shield crewman should be used for repairs/security first, followed by engines crewman. Any additional crew can be used for security and mobile repairs. Having at least one Engi is a good idea, and if you're a very power-hungry ship, a Zoltan is nice as well.

* Early on, try to save scrap so you can buy excellent augmentations or weapons if they appear. Prioritize Burst Laser I/II, Weapons Pre-Igniter, Scrap Recovery Arm (early), and Auto Weapons Reloader (if you have space). If you have a Cloak, Stealth Weapons is awesome. Long Range Sensors is not a bad idea either if you can afford it. I would skip the FTL Jammer, Anti-Ion Shield, Shield Recharging Device (or whatever). Oh, and if you're playing a drone-heavy ship like the Torus (Engi Cruiser), get a Drone Recovery Arm asap.

* Try not to buy Missiles and Drone Parts. They're expensive. DO keep your hull decently repaired (w/o going broke) early on, as it's cheaper to repair earlier than later. Conserve missiles by using them only at the start of the fight to disable weapons/shields, and then finish off with your laser.

* Shoot for level 2 shields by the end of sector 3, and level 3 shields by the end of sector 6. Engines should be upgraded accordingly.

* Level 2 doors are really useful for stopping fires and suffocating intruders. A cheap upgrade that is really effective!

* Weapons that cost 4 energy are generally too expensive to be worthwhile. A damaged weapon system can disable a huge part of your offense. It's better to have more weapons that cost less power, and fire more frequently. Hence why Burst Lasers and the Artemis are awesome.

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At least 6 lasers SHOULD do the job. I just beat the game again on Normal with the Kestrel, using the following loadout:

* Pike Beam (BIG damage, but only when shields are down - has to be carefully timed)

* Burst Laser II (starting weapon)

* Hull Smasher Laser II (similar to BLII but 2x damage to empty rooms, and charges slower)

* Artemis Missile (starting)

So my total laser damage was 6 simultaneous, and if I drained their shields I got another ~4 damage from the beam for free.

At least level 3 shields and a defense drone of your own is highly recommended. I managed to grab both Weapons Pre-Igniter (starts battles with weapons fully charged) plus the Automatic Weapons Reloader (-15% charge time on weapons). High level Engines is also a plus. A Cloaking Device REALLY helps if you can afford one, but that can be hard to do. If you've managed to get a lot of strong crew (Rockmen, Mantis) you can also beam people to the drone room and take it out that way.

Basically, my first volley or two against the rebel ship is always against their shields. You NEED to bring them down to at most 3, if not 1-2, so you can pound away with your subsequent volleys. Depending on your weapons you need to make sure you're synchronizing your shots properly, so all lasers fire at once. If you have beam weapons, you need to time those so they fire immediately after the lasers pierce through their shields. Normally I'm not a huge fan of beams, but the Pike/Glaive/Halbred are pretty damn strong and can cover a huge area on the enemy ship.

Some general strategies I've picked up, having now beaten the game 3x Normal, 1x Easy (all with the Kestrel A or Osprey A) -

* Spend as much time as possible exploring each sector, provided you have the fuel. Try not to dip below ~8 fuel. You need to build up scrap. In Sector 1-2, you can do MOST fights without losing much of anything, so take that advantage!

* If you can, buy a Scrap Recovery Arm early on (sector 3 or earlier, preferably sector 1).

* Try to have at least 4 crew at all times: 1 for piloting, 1 for weapons, 1 for engines, and 1 for shields. The shield crewman should be used for repairs/security first, followed by engines crewman. Any additional crew can be used for security and mobile repairs. Having at least one Engi is a good idea, and if you're a very power-hungry ship, a Zoltan is nice as well.

* Early on, try to save scrap so you can buy excellent augmentations or weapons if they appear. Prioritize Burst Laser I/II, Weapons Pre-Igniter, Scrap Recovery Arm (early), and Auto Weapons Reloader (if you have space). If you have a Cloak, Stealth Weapons is awesome. Long Range Sensors is not a bad idea either if you can afford it. I would skip the FTL Jammer, Anti-Ion Shield, Shield Recharging Device (or whatever). Oh, and if you're playing a drone-heavy ship like the Torus (Engi Cruiser), get a Drone Recovery Arm asap.

* Try not to buy Missiles and Drone Parts. They're expensive. DO keep your hull decently repaired (w/o going broke) early on, as it's cheaper to repair earlier than later. Conserve missiles by using them only at the start of the fight to disable weapons/shields, and then finish off with your laser.

* Shoot for level 2 shields by the end of sector 3, and level 3 shields by the end of sector 6. Engines should be upgraded accordingly.

* Level 2 doors are really useful for stopping fires and suffocating intruders. A cheap upgrade that is really effective!

* Weapons that cost 4 energy are generally too expensive to be worthwhile. A damaged weapon system can disable a huge part of your offense. It's better to have more weapons that cost less power, and fire more frequently. Hence why Burst Lasers and the Artemis are awesome.

All excellent advice... except, as the Kestrel, I already do every bit of that minus the scrap recovery arm and the crew teleporter :P I had a diverse crew of 8, all for free, by the final sector. The crew teleporter could have been the key. Nothing else seemed to work at the time.

I think perhaps I just got shafted with the RNG. I mean, I fired two simultaneous breach & hull missiles THREE times at the stage 2 final boss, and both were either shot down or missed each attempt :/ My defense drone just ate shit that whole time. I don't think it shot down a single missile. 7 simultaneous lasers did minimal damage. Ugh, the worst patty (meant to say "part" but I love this typo too much to correct it) is that my ship was untouchable up until that battle. I blazed through all the sectors just slicing and dicing bitches. Stage 1 of the final boss only managed to do 1 damage to my hull. adsl;fjawveo ifaj dsfkl

Ugh.

FTL has its mind-controlling, roguelike tentacles wrapped firmly around my brain. All I do is die in the most soul-sucking manners, but I keep coming back. God, I love roguelikes.

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Edit -- not yet mentioned (which is odd, considering) is the soundtrack, which is excellent. Very reminiscent of old school gaming without actually being chiptune-y. Lots of reoccurring themes running through most of the tracks, which makes it feel very cohesive while still allowing each song to be distinct, as well. You can listen on Bandcamp here, and buy a digital copy for just $5. That's definitely worth it, too.

Seconded. I only played for about two hours with my friend, but the thing that struck me most was the music. Really, really well done soundtrack.

As to the game, pretty darn good. I found myself wishing for a little bit more to do occasionally, but very tough and challenging, and I did actually feel like I was commanding a small starship.

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o_O

On my 2nd jump just now, I fought a pirate who bribed me for surrender with 6 fuel, 6 missiles, and 19 scrap.

AND SO I KILLED HIM.

(i didn't kill him)

Best 1st sector find ever or best 1st sector find ever? You be the judge.

edit: On the last jump in sector 1, I just got essentially the same surrender bargain. WHAT. I can't wait to see how badly I get shafted later in this game. Good things aren't supposed to happen in roguelikes. Granted, though, giant space spiders ate my shield guy halfway through the sector.

edit2: "Holy crap! A weapon is just floating in space!" Best encounter message ever. Also, this additional bit of good fortune has only heightened my fear of impending destruction.

edit3: Same old shit. I coasted all the way til the final area, then I ran into a really nasty auto-scout and teleported my pilot and shield mantis over to its shield room to soften it up a little. No one told me auto-scouts have 0% oxygen on board, what the fuck. They both died... jesus christ.

Edited by ectogemia

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So I've been enjoying this game more than anything else on the market. I love the snarkiness of it. I love the little quirks. I love the challenge.

IMO best game of 2012, hands down. And probably the last game I'll be getting for awhile, seeing as I'm getting married in March. :)

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I'm planning to get this, definitely a game up my alley. Nice detailed writeup there zircon!

--Eino

I did get it now, the recent 75% off sale was a steal. Just beat it on easy, crew teleporter for boarding the enemy vessels was a lot of fun. In the end I had the starting burst laser, a breaching teleport missile weapon, an ion teleport missile weapon and the 4-costing beam. The breach missile was pretty good for softening the enemy crew before boarding. Not sure how the boarding strategy works on normal, I'm kind of trying to resist playing more for now. Very much enjoying the soundtrack!

--Eino

Edited by evktalo

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