FTL: Faster Than Light Review

Explore the stars, meet interesting aliens and die repeatedly. There is nothing flashy or complicated about FTL (Faster Than Light). You have a ship, a small crew and a simple mission: deliver vital intelligence to the federation before being caught and destroyed by the pursuing rebel fleet. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the graphics, this is the best way to exercise your inner Captain Kirk or Admiral Ackbar this year. 

FTL puts you in the captain's chair of the spaceship of your choosing. My missions saw me nearly exhaust the list of ships that fought during the Battle of Jutland - you can name your ship after something much less tough, like your cat. But come on, who wants to sacrifice their life for 'The Mittens'?

The game is played from a cutaway, top-down view, providing  you an overview of your ship's systems - engines, weapons, navigation - and your crew's location. At the beginning of your voyage a small crew and a puny armament are barely enough to defend yourself. In order to succeed both your ship and crew must improve.

Assigning a crew member to man a system makes them more effective at running that station as they gain experience. The same goes for fighting and making repairs. You will eventually have a crew that proficient at operating your ship, with dedicated specialists manning each station. Unless they all die in a fire, which is extremely likely.

Recruiting  additional crew members along your way provides a multitude of tactical options from a host of alien races. The Mantis are slow at repairs but excellent at tearing invaders limb from limb, Engi are useless in combat but excellent at repairs, Rock are fire retardant by move incredibly slowly, and Humans, well humans aren't particularly special. Depending on your crew you must adapt your strategy to fit their abilities.

Upgrades come in the form of scrap collected from destroyed enemy ships, stripped from abandoned space stations and anywhere else you can lay your desperate hands on. Balancing system upgrades, buying new armaments, and having enough cash on hand to repair your ship when you come across a store is tricky. This often comes down to luck, and the universe is not an especially generous arbiter. Focusing on a specific upgrade path pays rewards. There are numerous options for a viable spacecraft. Whether you choose to have a manoeuvrable ship with drones for protection or heavy shields and weapons, many play styles are catered to and well balanced.

You enter every system at one end and need to reach the FTL gate at the other, which begs the question why didn't they just put the entrance and exit gates beside each other? That would be no fun though, as you would miss out on the horrible surprises awaiting you at every corner. Each star you visit contains a random encounter. If you're lucky you will come across a store or friendly ship looking to assist or nothing at all. If you are unlucky it will be a hostile ship, asteroid field with hostile or exploding star with a hostile ship or some other terrifying combination of doom.  You need to be prepared for anything.

Combat plays a central role in FTL and being successful can mean the difference between saving the galaxy from the rebel scum and spectacular failure. On the one hand every encounter with an enemy ship has a the possibility of spelling your destruction, on the other fighting provides you with critical supplies and scrap. Balancing these considerations when jumping between systems is important. Taking on enemy ships often boils down to damage limitation. Your crew will be trying to man their station, repel invaders and put out fires. Each encounter is a struggle. Victory - even over the lowliest rebel scout - feels monumental.

You aren't given anything. If your ship explodes it's game over. There is no saving before a big decision, forcing you to think carefully about whether to repair your hull or take that extra missile launcher. It is punishingly difficult but every victory belongs to you.

Don't be part of the 47 percent, get out there and earn it.

FTL is available for PC & Mac

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