FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL: Faster Than Light

Hello again, galactic explorers. I’m Nick Michel, your guide to all things nerdy. Today, I’ll be talking about the spaceship-management-roguelike-crowdsourced-indie game, FTL: Faster  Than Light. And yes, I’ll explain all of the aforementioned terms.

Imagine: the Federation is on the brink of collapse. Rebels, employing vast drone fleets and espousing the unworthiness of the various alien races that have joined humanity among the stars, slowly but inexorably push toward the last remaining Federation base. The Federation’s fate rests in you—armed with a haphazardly retrofitted museum piece of a ship and racing against the oncoming Rebel fleet to deliver vital data to the Federation holdouts, all while dodging pirates, Rebel scouts, hostile aliens, evironmental hazards, and much, much more. This is FTL, a video game about managing your starship in a randomly generated galaxy as you attempt to survive the tumultuous galaxy, and perhaps even prevail for the Federation.

Your ship, on the left, and an enemy vessel, on the right.
Your ship, on the left, and an enemy vessel, on the right.

The game is played from a top-down view overlooking your starship. From this main screen, you can manage the power levels of your various systems (lower left corner), as well as juggle essential and non-essential systems to maximize your survivability. You can also direct your crew members—each of whom’s race boasts specialized skills—to improve efficiency, repair damage, and fight fires or boarders. To the right of the system’s power controls, you’ll find the controls for both weapons and drones, while the enemy ship sits above the drone controls. You can target specific parts of enemy vessels in an effort to render them inoperable, but be warned—they can do the same to you by, for example, setting your oxygen system on fire and causing your crew to suffocate, providing you with quite a harrowing experience.

Another aspect of the game worth mentioning: it’s damn difficult. You can play the game at two difficulty levels, Easy and Normal, but Normal killed me time and time again before I even passed sector 2 out of 8.  The game’s near impossibility stems mostly from FTL’s heritage as a roguelike—a role-playing-based genre of game (think Dungeons and Dragons)—in addition to its randomly generated levels and bounty of adversarial characters. Losing members of your crew, who you can name after real-life friends, repeatedly to giant alien spiders quickly teaches you to steer clear of the random events that often pop up in FTL (sorry, Jarrett).

In regards to FTL’s origins, two guys humbly developed the game—along with one who composed the quite pleasing music—rendering it an indie production through and through. Indeed, FTL became the first well-known game project funded primarily through Kickstarter, a website that allows individuals to invest in products they’d like to see produced in exchange for a copy of the finished item. Greater investments in a Kickstarter project result in greater rewards; high value donors to FTL, for example, had the game’s default crew members named after them.

Wonderful for both brief and more involved play sessions, FTL consistently offers fun and addictive gameplay. Considering its enjoyability, the potential for mods, and the cheap price of $10, I would highly recommend purchasing it. FTP is available via Steam for both PC and Mac.

On a separate topic, I’d like to take a few moments to discuss Non-Con, Vassar’s annual Sci-fi/Fantasy/general geekiness convention, which takes place this year from February 22 to 24. The convention will feature games of every shape and size, from video to board to tabletop role playing, all of which are available to try out for yourself. This year’s special guests will include a comedian, an author, and a Japanese band called The Asterplace. We will also host a wide variety of panels, events, and vendors. Admission is free for Vassar students, so be sure to stop by the College Center and check it out!

Until next time, may your preparations be easy.

Nick Michel is a Senior STS Major of Cushing. He doesn’t like spiders…

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