September 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

It’s probably something to do with my unhealthy fascination with Star Trek during my childhood, the prospect of captaining a fully-functioning star-ship always reduces me to a dribbling wreck of a geek. Artemis was a thing in my house a while back, until my increasingly garbled orders and over-stimulated monologues eventually started to disturb/scare my younger brothers.

None of them ever wanted to be “Captain”. I don’t blame them.   

Faster Than Light has given me my fantasy back. A top-down star-ship, manned by little crew members, all wrapped in the broken-glass beauty of the rogue-like, all mine. To order, to cajole, to swear at, and to have die repeatedly because they can’t run fast enough through a burning ship. But most importantly, it allows me to name the ship, the crew, the lot. It sounds like a silly thing to focus on, but it really does cement ownership of these little things, being able to name them after loved ones, hated ones, sci-fi characters and the like.

I previewed FTL during its little run on OnLive a while back for GameTwonk, and I loved it. It was short and sweet but damn – if this is the route indie games are destined to take, EA can make C&C free-2-play games all they like. I know where my cash will be going. The demo didn’t quite prepare me for the sheer difficulty of the full-fat FTL, though. This is a game that can and will kill your little ship in a heartbeat. I could go on about how this increases the excitement and makes it all the more rewarding, but to be brutally honest – it really just gives me the opportunity to  start again, only with the good ship “Starbug” and the cast of Red Dwarf this time. Next time, I’ll fill my ship with rappers and fly them into a sun…

The random nature of the game is simply sublime. Okay, you will  eventually have seen all the set-pieces and scenarios, but with a fresh ship each time, with wildly different setups, and a bunch of other ships to unlock through various (sometimes bloody hard) side-quests, it almost never feels old.

In fact, about the only issue I can throw at FTL, and this is just a personal moan, is the way it handles loot-awards. I’ve had games where I get to the final sector fully kitted out, and with a healthy crew-compliment. Other times, I limp in with my starter weapons and a drone I can’t use. This boils back to the random nature of Rogue-likes, but it can feel amazingly unfair at times. Upgrading your ship to four shield-pips, only to run into a shield-bypassing missile-flinging bad guy who then proceeds to mince you can feel pretty personal.

But then, if you don’t feel cheated, beaten, violated or pissed off at the end of a rogue-like, it’s not doing it’s job properly. Just look at The Binding of Isaac. FTL is seven quid on Steam, and I would suggest you buy it now. You won’t regret it.


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