You all remember that game “Oregon Trail,” right? You get a family, you try to travel all the way across America to the promised land of Oregon, all the while trying to ration food and making sure that nobody died from dysentery. “FTL” is like that but with space pirates and giant space spiders. A Kickstarter game that was released in September of this year, I thought it would be a perfect choice for our first Indie Spotlight.
“FTL” is not a realistic looking game, nor is it a game that touts revolutionary gameplay. It has a simple idea, with simple graphics, that is absolutely fun. You pick a ship, name it and your crew then fly off to try and warn your fleet of the impending danger that is following you through the 8 space sectors in which you have to travel. Each map, randomly generated for every game that’s started, randomizes encounters available to you. Your ship might jump to a sector that is directly next to a sun and have to worry about solar flares lighting some of your cabins on fire. It might jump into a nebula that can play havoc with your sensors, making it difficult to tell if your ship is damaged during a fight. Whatever the case may be, there’s always something happening in “FTL.”
Battle encounters happen in real time, but they’re not fast twitch style fights and it’s even possible to pause everything while it’s happening. This helps since repairs may need to be made during the fight, and boarding parties might force you to rethink who is manning which station on the ship. At the end, the rewards are ammo, fuel, drone parts and scrap metal.
Scrap metal can be used to upgrade your ship. These upgrades can go into shields, getting more and more levels which make it harder for enemies to actually damage the hull integrity. Engine upgrades make it more difficult for enemies to hit you, and can even be used to evade encounters altogether or successfully navigate asteroid fields. More weapon power levels allow for more weapons to be active on a vessel during an encounter. Each system can be upgraded like this and they all have their benefits to surviving the dangerous trip.
Types of crew members help as well. Throughout the journey, it’s possible to get different species to join your crew from the various ones found throughout the sectors of space. Slugs have mental abilities that can show where enemies are on a ship and can help defuse situations with other aliens you might encounter. Engi, organic and artificial beings, are immune to certain sicknesses and might be able to help hack into artificial intelligences. There are more aliens, but you get the picture.
The reason I wanted to talk about “FTL” is because of how simply brilliant the game is. Not that it is so obviously brilliant, I mean that its simplicity makes it brilliant. It isn’t graphically intensive, its focus is not the visual but the easy to pick up and put down gameplay. “FTL” is great if you have some time to kill and you don’t want to get involved in something so deep that you’ll need half an hour to save, complete a quest and then quit. However, should you get into a groove of it, the game can capture a player for hours at a time, pushing them to try multiple playthroughs and to search for ways to unlock all of the ships available in the game.
There is enough meat to “FTL” to satisfy someone looking for a good game to play, but it also has such a light and casual feel to it that anyone looking to play a game can really turn it on and enjoy for a little while. Kudos to Subset Games for making such a fun little game. You can get it now on Steam should you desire, so check it out. This is a great example of a little indie game that did well. Take some notes from it and try to utilize that to your advantage.