Knights VG: ‘FTL: Faster Than Light’ Review

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Knights VG: ‘FTL: Faster Than Light’ Review

Nolan Patton, Video Editor

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This review is special to me, because I’m taking a look at my favorite video game of all time (by the way, expect a little bit of bias in this review). FTL: Faster Than Light is a roguelike game that was released in 2012 for desktop computers, and a large update was released alongside an iPad port in 2013. It was developed almost entirely by the two-person team Subset Games, with the music being composed by Ben Prunty.

 

The game takes place in a galaxy torn by war, with the player taking the side of the losing Galactic Federation. The player must fly their ship across the galaxy and deliver crucial information to the remaining Federation fleet, being hunted all the way by the much more powerful Rebellion. Where other space games put the player in the pilot’s seat, tasking him with the job of zooming around in his little fighter and shooting up enemy ships, FTL uniquely has the player in the position of a captain controlling a large cruiser-class warship. As the captain, you order around your ship’s crew members, who in turn complete tasks such as piloting and firing weapons. You also must manage your ship’s power, as your limited amount of energy has to be carefully divided up between various systems that are vital to your ship’s survival. This makes the game a truly unique experience, as you have to focus on tactical strategizing and resource management rather than fast-paced action. Where most games put you in the cockpit of an X-Wing, FTL makes you feel like the captain of the Starship Enterprise, shouting at your crew to divert power to various systems and set all weapons to the enemy’s shields. Over the course of the game, the player’s ship flies through eight sectors of space, each sector containing many beacons, before reaching the intimidating final boss, which I will not spoil in this review. Every beacon and sector in the game is randomly generated from a pool of pre-written events and statistics, which means that every single playthrough is a new experience with widely varying challenges. As the game progresses, the player is able to upgrade their ship with new systems, new weapons, a better power generator, and more crew. However, the enemies also upscale in power with each new sector, so the challenge level stays consistent throughout. Also, in true roguelike fashion, if you lose the game, you have to restart from the very beginning with a newly-generated galaxy.

 

As I said before, FTL is my favorite game of all time, and I think that it’s fantastic. It’s a completely unique take on the futuristic space genre, and one that I personally find much more fun than the usual formats of either controlling one small fighter or an entire large fleet of ships. The strategy and management elements make the gameplay more engaging than any other spaceship game I’ve played. Normally I would find the lack of any checkpoints throughout the game to be extremely frustrating, but I think that FTL actually handles the mechanic very well. There is so much random generation in the game that each run truly feels unique, and a single playthrough only takes a couple hours to complete once you know the game well enough; dying without the ability to load a save point isn’t annoying at all because you can immediately jump right into a brand new run and have just as much fun as before. However, despite the random generation being one of the best parts about FTL, it’s also one of the few points about the game that I dislike. As with all games that rely heavily on random generation, there will always be moments in a playthrough that feel unfair, and like you were punished just for being unlucky rather than a lack of skill. However, I think that the short length of each run and the ease of jumping into a new playthrough make the frustration caused by unlucky generation to be almost negligible. My other point of contention with the game is the difficulty. I’ve only ever beaten FTL on easy mode, despite having played it for over 200 hours, because of its pretty extreme difficulty. The challenging nature of the game can sometimes add to the atmosphere of the experience, making each run feel like a nearly lost cause with only a slight chance of victory, and thereby making the experience of defeating the final boss feel extremely satisfying. However, I think the difficulty of the game is generally a little bit too punishing, even for a roguelike. Aside from these two things, I love pretty much everything else about the game. The graphics are charming, the writing ranges from decent to straight-up haunting, and the gameplay remains my favorite out of the space genre. The soundtrack of FTL is one of my favorite albums in general, and in my opinion the best video game soundtrack of all time (aside from maybe UNDERTALE’s). If you’re a fan of sci-fi games, and the sci-fi genre of media in general, I cannot recommend this game enough.

 

I give FTL: Faster Than Light a score of 9.5/10. It has a few flaws, and definitely isn’t for everyone, but it remains one of the best video games I’ve ever played.

 

 

Knights VG is a series of concise video game reviews, highlighting lesser-known games, no matter their age.

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