Monday, August 17, 2015

FTL: Faster Than Light - 20/20 hours

What did I learn from playing Faster Than Light? I guess the biggest lesson is that commanding a spaceship on a desperate mission through hostile territory is a lot harder than it sounds. I never came closer to beating the flagship than the first first time I fought it. I did unlock a new spaceship, and it was pretty cool, but despite what felt like superior firepower, it also set me back on the learning curve.

Faster Than Light is a great game. Everything about it serves its premise, and though it does not have a great deal of lore (I never did figure out what those damned rebels were rebelling against), it does a fine job at worldbuilding. You really feel like this is a real spaceship, flying through real space, for real stakes. That this makes you inevitable defeat all the more heartbreaking is probably just an individual hang-up on my part.

This is probably another one of those games that could be a lifelong obsession. I searched online for some strategy advice and found a forum post that claimed a good player in a top-tier ship could win about 80 percent of the time. Presumably that's on normal mode, and hard mode will lower that percentage even more. (I know a casual player on easy mode in the starting ship can expect to win roughly 0% of the time, based on my personal observations).

I'm guessing that this give and take, where even a skilled player faces uncertainty and risk, could lay the groundwork for endless replayability. It's hard to get jaded about a game where careless play will definitely get you dead and even flawless play still has an element of risk.

That said, FTL is definitely not for me. Oh, I sometimes catch myself thinking about it, wondering "what if I did this instead of that," but I have to accept that I am a dilettante. My head is too easily turned by the newest shiny thing to come along (if it weren't, I'd have mastered Civilization V long ago). I simply don't have what it takes to master the intricacies of this game.

But that's kind of a bum note to end my time with FTL on. Really, except for those times when I was absolutely, soul-crushingly miserable, I enjoyed this game quite a lot. And the latter really did outnumber the former by quite a bit. Looking at my stats, I only actually died 24 times, which doesn't seem like all that much in the grand scheme of things. I'm sure that if I'd just kept at it, my first win would not have been too far away.

I guess this is just one of those games where the first 20 hours is practice. There's something admirable about the sort of craft that plans for the long-haul. It means FTL is a lot of value for the money, provided you can cope emotionally with seeing your plucky, multi-racial coalition of Federation explorers get obliterated by the inexplicably powerful Rebels again and again (seriously, given how much better equipped the opposition is, wouldn't it make more sense to call us the Rebels, because clearly they've got this galactic government thing sewn up pretty tight).

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