FTL: Advanced Edition Impressions: A Good Day to Die
We’re adrift in space and in serious trouble.
The Kestrel is half on fire again, and we’re under attack from a devious Slug ship. Most of the crew is hiding in the engine room, already suffering from grievous injuries. The best we can hope for is letting our auto-weapons chip away at the enemy vessel as we vent our air, hoping that’ll put out the fires. But already the end is upon us — we’re just not quite dead yet.
That’s because the slugs have fired their new hacking module at our oxygen system. Latched to the hull, the machine periodically takes over the system and drains oxygen out of the ship. Even if we manage to vent the fires, we’ll suffocate before we can repair the ship enough to fight off the slug threat.
And so it’s another death racked up in FTL: Faster Than Light. The unforgiving rogue-like about a ship venturing through randomly generated star systems, fighting attackers, gathering resources and fleeing a powerful armada that’s always just on its heels, remains just as lethal and difficult as ever.
But elements like the hacking system are new, part of the free update to FTL called the “Advanced Edition.” Developer Subset Games has expanded on the stock edition of FTL quite a bit with the new content — there’s a new alien race to deal with, a handful of new systems and upgrades you can get for your ship, and new encounters hidden throughout the galaxy. If there’s a way to describe it succinctly, it would be, “There’s more FTL.”
Of course, that’s very good news. Subset Games did an admirable job with balance in the original release of FTL, including lots of systems you can install on your ship or encounter among enemies’ that seriously change how you have to approach a situation. Having an ion cannon that can shut down your foes’ vital systems requires a different approach to battle than using a cloaking device to avoid incoming fire, and both are different than if you buy a teleporter and send boarding parties to wreak havoc among enemy crews. How you deal with all those things when they’re trained against you shifts the game quite a bit as well.
But the best part is that all those different possibilities don’t necessarily make any given situation insurmountable, nor does having any of them or any combination of them make you unstoppable. FTL is always difficult and the situation is always fluid. Adding to that formula could have potentially thrown off the scales, which could have broken the game to some degree. But it seems that despite throwing in a lot of new elements, Subset has managed to keep FTL just as exciting and dynamic, if not made it more so.
The new systems in particular really add a lot more strategic depth to the game. The hacking module mentioned above can be difficult to deal with under the right circumstances for players, but the system has its restraints, like any other — it can only fire at set intervals before it needs a long cooldown. It’s not enough to lay waste to a ship on its own, but only when used in concert with other strategies.
Other additions also change up gameplay. You can toss your traditional med bay, which heals crew members who stand in it while it’s receiving power from your ship’s reactor, in favor of the clone bay instead. It provides healing that doesn’t require anyone to be in the room (but only when you make jumps), and while it’s powered, it can clone your crew members, restoring them with some of their skills lost. Having a well-crewed ship is important especially late in the game, and the clone bay allows players to use their troops with a little more abandon than in the original version of the game.
There’s the new mind control system that lets you temporarily take control of enemies (and they your crew) and turn them against one another. The new metallic Lanius race that goes around in airless ships, and who you can sometimes slip past without awakening them from hibernation. The new scenarios in which you’ll have to make decisions about what risks to put your ship to and what rewards you need. All of it gives more content to the game and help to make it more engaging.
If there’s bad news to be had about FTL: Advanced Edition, it’s that none of these things fundamentally alter the game or make it a necessarily deeper experience than it was at launch. Sure, there are now more things to plan for and keep track of, which is great, and the game is more complete than it was. But beyond coming across characters who have inborn abilities and a number of interface improvements, it’s still pretty much the same game. It just has even more things that can kill you now.
To reiterate, however — that’s good news. It’s even better that the Advanced Edition is free to players who already purchased the game and included in its $9.99 asking price. There’s even more galaxy to explore now, more creatures to encounter, more decisions to make and more pirates to kill. FTL: Advanced Edition is a extensive add-on for a well-built game, and if you haven’t played it, you should.