youtube-thumbnail-ftl 12 Nov

We at Elder-Geek believe things happen in cycles. Take for instance trends within game development: in the infancy of the industry, gamers could program their own games for their Commodore 64’s and Apple II’s. This tide of unregulated software contributed to the gaming crash of the mid 80’s, and gave rise to software licensing. The prohibitive cost of licensing and distribution subsequently raised the barrier to having a game published. But with the rise of mobile gaming platforms and digital distribution engines, that barrier came crashing down. The same spirit which drove the early pioneers of independent game development now drives a new generation to create, share, and inspire.

The two man team that is Subset Games harnessed that pioneer spirit to bring us Faster Than Light. It’s a prime example of an independent game which garnered not only support, but also funding, from its fans through a successful Kickstarter campaign. But the promises of an internet fundraising campaign don’t always translate to a quality product. Does Faster Than Light live up to the hype? In short, yeeeeeep.

Faster Than Light is Rogue in space. Navigating the galaxy map, you take your ship from one random encounter to the next. Some will involve combat with opposing ships. Some will pit you against life or death decisions for your crew and those you encounter. Along the way, you must outpace a pursuant rebel fleet bent on your destruction. At the end of your journey waits the colossal rebel flagship, and it falls to you to destroy the daunting vessel and quash the rebellion. Beware though, if your ship or your crew should fail, you will not get a second chance. Die, and you start again from the beginning.

Faster Than Light delivers a solid mix of role playing and strategy elements. You can upgrade your ship with weapons, crew members, and subsystems using the currency you earn over the course of your journey. By allocating power and crew members to your subsystems, you can rapidly shift your tactics in the middle of a fight. Does the enemy have tough shields? Try using a shield-breaching missile, or send a boarding party to go toe to toe with the enemy crew. Some of the ships in Faster Than Light yield themselves to specialization, and some to a well-rounded approach.

You can unlock new ships over the course of your mission, each with three in-game achievements associated with it. Completing those achievements will net you even more vessels to trek across the galaxy. Each new spacecraft brings with it a radically different approach to combat. These varied strategies, paired with the sheer randomness of the events which transpire over your journey, make for a high level of replayability.

Make no mistake, though: Faster Than Light is brutal. We can’t count how many times our ship was cruelly torn to shrapnel by the final boss, and our crew fatally subjected to fires or dispatched by borders. The game may be short – in fact, a single playthough will likely take you under two hours – but Faster Than Light will leave you wanting more. Beating the game is an accomplishment, and you will fail many, many times more than you will succeed in your mission. But that makes victory all the sweeter, and our desire to experiment with new tactics all that much keener.

We should also mention the modding community which has grown around the game. While we’re not going to go through those mods in this review, the developers at Subset Games have done a great job of supporting fans who wish to add on to the game.

One of the few gripes we can levy against Faster Than Light relates to the galaxy map. It isn’t clear exactly how far your ship can jump. Since the galaxies are randomly generated, your ship may have to cross large distances between points on the map. In such cases, your ship will magically be able to cross vast expanses of space, while in other instances it won’t be able to jump nearly as far. The inconsistency makes it difficult to plot your course.

All in all, Faster Than Light is a great buy as long as you’re interested in tinkering with new strategies, unlocking new ships, and attempting even harder difficulty modes. At first it may seem short, random, or unfair, but that really is part of the game’s appeal. You can coast along, confident in your ability to destroy the rebel flagship, only to have a key crew member killed by giant spiders in a random event. Faster Than Light is a cruel mistress, and we love her for it. At the low price of $10, we can recommend Faster Than Light to anyone who aims to misbehave in space.

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  • Name: FTL: Faster Than Light
  • Available on: PC, Mac OS, Linux
  • Developed by: Subset Games
  • Published by: Subset Games
  • Release Date: September 2012
  • Elder-Geek Score: 5 out of 5 / Worth Buying