Friday, August 7, 2015

FTL: Faster Than Light - 5/20 hours

Faster Than Light has a pretty bare-bones plot. You work for an organization called the Federation, which has recently been having some trouble with a rebellion of ill-defined intent. You've acquired some information the Federation can use to fight the Rebels, and all you have to do is pilot your ship through eight sectors of ridiculously dangerous space while the Rebel Fleet dogs your steps.

Maybe I'm just being churlish, but I don't like the chase plot. To me, the joy of commanding a spaceship is in exploration and discovery, going to a new star system, meeting the natives, and doing menial chores for them for no particular reason.

I'm also finding this game difficult because I keep getting attached to my ship. As you complete missions for people and survive deadly encounters, you gather a resource called "scrap" which you can use to upgrade your ship, improving your systems and occasionally giving it all new powers. You can also recruit crew members from a number of distinct alien species.

As I've said before, one of the things I love most about video games is when they give you stewardship over some object in the setting and the power to improve it and the opportunity to watch it grow. It's a tendency that is making Faster Than Light my most heart-breaking roguelike experience to date.

That being said, I like almost everything else about this game. The ship and character designs are appealing, combat is simple, but deep - you're constantly having to make decisions about your resources and priorities that feel every bit as frantic and pragmatic as I'd expect real spaceship combat to be (or should I say, it's how I expect real fantastic spaceship combat to be - I'd imagine that real spaceship combat will take place at extreme ranges and be handled by computers at such high speeds that if you lost, you'd never even know it).

However, it feels like I'm at the low end of the learning curve. I'm playing on Easy mode and still getting my ass handed to me every time I go out. I expect the key is resource and risk management - you want to get involved in encounters in order to accumulate scrap, but you don't want to push it too far, or you'll have too much damage to survive the tougher, later encounters. It's the sort of balance that you have to feel your way through, and the only way to develop the right instincts is to see all th ways of doing it wrong.

But my ships are so pretty . . . why must I watch them be destroyed?

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