FTL Review: Fleeing Certain Death Pretty Much Constantly

Each new time you run through the game, you’ll need to make decisions about how you increase the capabilities of your ship. Everything that happens on board is based on managing the power output of your generator. You’ll need to allocate resources to power your shields, your weapons, your oxygen system, your engines, and many of those systems get a boost if you have the crew to man their individual stations as well. Spending your money to upgrade them makes your ship more powerful, but you’ll have to really be careful about how you spend — every time you amp your shields, you’ll need to amp the reactor along with it in order to power your new upgrades.

You’ll also need to consider personnel. Four of your systems can be manned by crewmembers for bonuses to their performance, and there are several different races of creatures who you can bring aboard, including humans, the cyborg Engi, giant preying mantis guys, a race made out of rock, a group of telepathic slugs and a race that generates power that can be used in your systems. For the most part, you’ll come across them during random encounters or for helping out civilians in trouble, but you can also hire them. For the most part, though, it means you’ll get something of a random conglomeration — a ragtag crew of humans and aliens, thrust together by adventure.

If only it were as exciting as it sounds, FTL would probably hit a different level of awesome altogether. Though the experience has a lot of technical similarities to great science fiction like Galactica, Star Trek, Star Wars or Firefly, FTL lacks the charisma or style of any of them. It opts for a heavy emphasis on its strategy component and there’s really not a lot of flash. Your crew are merely names and attributes; your ship is merely a floating set of rooms; your enemies are merely targets until they blow apart. There’s a little bit of writing to go with each of your encounters, but it’s generally kind of bland — you might find yourself skipping to the last line, which usually informs you of any information that actually affects you.

So the stories FTL might tell have to be your stories. You have to make them up as you go along. You might have telepathic slugs running your engines and a cyborg tactical officer at the weapons controls, but that doesn’t mean anything. If they die when a section of the hull suffers explosive decompression and fire starts to spread through your ship, well — it’s just a problem to be solved, and carries no real emotional weight.

Of course, that’s a nitpick. It’d be nice if FTL were, well, more of a game than the game currently is. That would require it to be something other than it is, however, and it’s wishful thinking. I hope in the future that the game is expanded with additional content, but what’s here is a simply presented, complex RPG/strategy title that’s a lot of fun. It has a way of consuming your hours without you realizing it, and it packs a serious challenge. It’s also so affordable at $10 that there’s no reason not to fire up the FTL drives and explore the vastness of space.

Pros:

  • High degree of challenge
  • Engaging Rogue-like, ship-management gameplay
  • Captivating play that’ll keep you coming back
  • Gameplay is deep and involved, but not too hard to learn
  • Cool sci-fi atmosphere

Cons:

  • A bit bland in the personality department
  • Learning curve takes a bit to get used to
  • You will die — a lot

Final Score: 90/100


Follow Hornshaw and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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2 Comments on FTL Review: Fleeing Certain Death Pretty Much Constantly

Robert

On September 24, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Hey, when the oxygen system is down, the room is on fire, and your crew are dieing and you know you’ll lose one of those names that you have become really attached to, the games is anything but without personality… When I lost Liam and Schultze when my engines got hit by a missile, and was left with just Mason as my ships pilot until he finally took a hull laser directly and died, or when I lost Atreyu and Cassy on an exploding enemy ship…. I think this game has tons of personality

Phil Hornshaw

On September 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm

@Robert

It definitely gets intense, but think how much cooler it would be if your crew were actually distinct characters. That’s what I’m getting at.