Wednesday, October 3, 2012


So here's the game I've been playing for the past few weeks. I got it based on the recommendation from Penny Arcade, which is a webcomic that I enjoy on a regular basis. Usually I lack the console access, cash, or taste similarity to take them up on the games they play, but FTL was up for sale for about ten dollars, and seemed like a pretty fun game. Besides, they told me it was ludicrously hard, extremely enjoyable, and a spaceship game. I couldn't refuse.

In FTL you basically try and pilot a single ship through the maze of star systems ahead of an enemy fleet. Your goal is to make it past pirates, rebel ambushes, and other disasters in good enough shape to take on the monstrous enemy flagship at the end. The game gives you a limited amount of power  to run the systems on your ship, so you often have to make decisions on whether or not you want to charge one more laser cannon, divert more power to your shields, or keep your oxygen supply running. Not as easy a choice as you would think.

The fun doesn't stop there. As in most games, you have a limited amount of missiles and drones you can use, and the scrap the game uses as cash is always in short supply, but one of the most critical resources I've found has been the crew itself. You can hire more crew or gain them through special events, but you'll often find yourself losing crew to fires the enemy starts on your ship, breaches in the hull, enemy boarding parties, or just the old fashioned problem of taking one too many missiles to the face. If you're not careful, you can easily end up watching half your crew board an enemy vessel, be within seconds of capturing it--and then the laser cannon you left to fire automatically blows up the enemy ship with your guys still on it.

FTL is hard, or at least it is to me. It has two difficulty settings, Easy (haha, nope) and Normal (as in, death is pretty normal). I've occasionally managed to beat it on Easy. I still haven't even seen the final boss on Normal. Part of the difficulty comes from the challenges mentioned above, but the creators of the game throw in another twist. You can't save your game. Every playthrough is permanent, which means no hopping back to the last save point when you accidentally beam a raving, homicidal madman onto your ship. It does let you save if you need to stop mid-game, but you start right where you left off, and you can't ever go back. Worse, every playthrough is entirely unique. Every level is randomly generated, the consequences of each decision or the contents of each store are determined randomly, and the enemies are quite varied. The replay value is inexhaustible, but from another perspective, it can be incredibly frustrating to watch about half an hour's work go up in flames because the random pirate you fought happened to get you good with a fire bomb.

Then again, I like that sort of punishing gameplay (see Dwarf Fortress, Spelunky, and others) so I've been enjoying the crap out of it. Definitely worth the price, and I can see myself relaxing with this game for a long time yet. So there you go, that's my perspective on this one. See you around!

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