FTL: Faster Than Light Steam Review

Faster than Light is an awesome top down, real time strategy, star ship simulator. Its fun, challenging, diverse and random. There are some real difficulty spikes that lead me to believe that its a dead end and impossible to beat that specific random challenge. But that’s what random is. This is one of the only games that I sank time into and it was fun doing it.

You are tasked with traveling through the galaxy, visiting sectors along the way. Each sector is like a game map with several locations. When you enter a sector, you see all the locations as dots on your star map. From there you need to plot a course in your mind to the exit of the sector. Each one of the locations is a gamble, will they have an enemy ship? Maybe a friendly ship? Perhaps a quest that will ask you to visit a different location on the map. It is all random. There are ship upgrades that will let you see various things on the map like where hostile ships are or if its a dangerous location.

At its core, FTL is a real time strategy game with a pause.  For the most part you’ll be fighting other ships, one on one. This is where the real thrill comes in for me. A game of chess. Weapons will power over time and you can fire them one by one, or save up all your weapons to use them all at once. Its all point and click with a few hot keys. The combat feels relaxing, fun and engaging with some tense moments, like having to fight next to a sun, hoping the flames don’t burn your ship from the inside out, but its never stressful.

The ship’s hull is its health. Even if a crew constantly repairs everything you damage, they can’t repair the hull. . To get to the hull, you need to get through the shields. Torpedoes can go through the shield but cost you a torpedo. Beam weapons won’t affect the shield at all. Lasers will damage the shield, but unless the shield room itself gets damaged, the shields merely regenerate. There are ion weapons that temporarily disable rooms or shields. You can teleport over a party, but if the ship gets destroyed or escapes, your crew will be lost!  The teleporter has a cool down after its used. They’re stuck on the ship until the teleporter is ready again.

Each ship is different, even if it looks the same on the outside, the rooms and weapons are different. Most ships have bridges, engines, shields and weapons. There are other rooms like oxygen, medbays to heal, cloaking to ensure enemies can’t shoot you, teleporters to take a ship from the inside, oxygen, sensors, droid room and even a door mechanism room. Systems that all require power from the reactor. A free update for the game “advanced edition,” added so many new rooms with new tactics and strategies. A mind control room that you can mind control the enemy crew. Hacking that breaks a room on an enemy ship over and over again while locking the doors of the room to ensure no one can get in or out. A clone bay that revives crew when they’ve died.

The game forces you to mix up your strategies. Sometimes you’ll fly into a nebula that will drain your reactor power, so you’ll have to chose what you want active. How long can your crew survive without oxygen, because you need more power to your shields, engines or weapons? Its up to you and it feels so good to have the choice and the variety.

When you explore too leisurely visiting every location the fleet might catch up. You’re always being perused and the enemy fleet will progress like a wave to catch you. Their ships are overpowered. You can survive the first ship or two, but the ships will always be at your next location if you let their wave of progress overtake you. The only way to reset the wave is to exit the sector and visit a new sector. You can slow the progress of the wave by visiting locations in nebula and other things that can slow the wave. This ensures that you never feel overpowered, but it doesn’t hinder your exploration.

You have a limited crew and your ship has areas that get damaged, so you send the crew to repair those areas. If your engines get taken out you can’t move. If your oxygen room gets taken out everyone on your ship will die. Holes get punctured in your hull from breaching weapons that you need to fix. Fires that start will spread from room to room. You can either have your people extinguish them OR you can open up the exterior doors of your ship and suck out all the O2. Enemies can then take out your door controls where you can’t open or close your doors. These aren’t just tactics that enemies use against you, these are your own tactics. Everything is balanced. Ships are just as sturdy as yours unless you’re on easy difficulty.

You can purchase or find weapons from destroyed ships or in random events. The weapons have a lot of diversity. Missiles and bombs go through enemy shields. Lasers can damage shields and rooms. Various types of beams can’t damage shields, only rooms and crew. Ion weapons disable room systems. Shoot the shield to disable the shield temporarily. Shoot the engine room to disable their engines. Every weapon has a different recharge rate so you need to time your attacks. There are also robot drones that have weapons too and swarm around your ship or the enemies. There is a lot of play diversity and different strategies for every ship.

You’ll find plenty of alien races and learn how to deal with them all. Not just that, but you’ll have them aboard your ship. The slug race is slow, weak, but has the ability to perceive what is in the rooms around them or see in nebula, so you won’t need sensors. The Rockmen have a high defense, are fireproof, but slow. The mantis are great attackers, but can’t repair as efficiently. The Engi have double the repair speed but they only do half the damage in hand to hand combat. The Zoltan can power the room they’re in to spare power from your generator. The Crystal can lock down any room they’re in, don’t take as much damage from suffocation, but they move slightly slower. The Lanius will suck the oxygen from a room. Humans are the standard race that doesn’t have any perk.

You can hire new crew from stores, or pick them up along the way. There are slave ships that you can liberate or buy them from. Each member of your crew will gain experience on whatever they’re working on. So its better to have a dedicated engineer than someone that goes from shields, to engineering, to piloting the ship. Their repair skills will also increase as they repair things. So when you’re not in battle, it might be a good idea to have the entire crew help repair things.

The game feels like Star Trek, while still being its own unique property. Helping civilizations, taking down space pirates, saving the federation from the rebel scum. The graphics might be simple, but you see exactly what’s going on and you can even play it on some low tech systems. The music and sound design are excellent. The music is calming, spacy and enjoyable on its own.

Each game lasts about 3 or 4 hours. Playing through and accomplishing goals will unlock new ships and new interior configurations for ships that you have. Each ship plays different and incorporates different strategies, not to mention the crew is different. Some ships start with a cloaking device, long range sensors, but no shields. Others have a super weapon, that cuts through other ships when its fully powered, but has a poor configuration. Still some ships are completely drone operated with only minimal weapons. Every game is a new way to play.

There is a lot of strategy, depth and replay value to this game. Do you take out your enemy’s engine, shields, weapons or robotic drones first? There are random events that make new challenges. Its a wonderful game worth $10.

The game developer was nice enough to make a free update that adds even more content and replayability! The upgrades add a lot more quirky fun. Things like mind control, new weapons, a new race and new playable ships give you a lot of reason to return.

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