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Daily Archives: September 21st, 2012

I own a heck of a lot of games, and as a result I tend to play only a very short amount of any random one before the next one comes along. While I would like to get over this and finish more of the games I own, in the meantime I have started Snap Judgement to make use of the impressions I get from the start of a game. I do believe that the start of a game is one of it’s most important parts, and if it doesn’t catch you, then even if the end of it is awesome, you’re not likely to continue on. Hopefully my comments and opinions will help someone on the fence about trying a game!

Amount Played for Review: ~5 hours
Platform: PC (Steam)

At a first glance, FTL is a kind of game that I probably wouldn’t like. Maybe using the term “roguelike” is a bit misleading, but the whole “superhard, random generated adventure” type of thing was not very appealing to me. Something about FTL just really agrees with me, though. Maybe it’s the space? Or maybe it’s the strategy.

But I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. In FTL you control a starship as you try to outrun a rebel army and deliver important intelligence to your HQ. Except you’re not controlling the ship, per-say, but you’re instead directing crewmen to various locations to repair damage or manage systems, and directing ship power to various things like shields and weapons.

And it’s really hard. As you progress through the various sectors, enemies hit harder and have more abilities, and you start to encounter random events that are more dangerous. And on top of all this, the forward wave of the rebel army is always advancing, taking over systems as they hunt for you to stop your journey.

All this pushes you forward into more danger, though it’s not fast enough that you can’t take some time to wander around a sector and grind out events and battles for money and gear. All of this you need if you want to make it to the end.

Battles are where the bulk of the strategy comes in. You can’t control your ship’s movement, and it’s seemingly inferring that you and your foe are moving around each other even if it doesn’t look like you are, because weapon fire always comes from random directions. During combat, you need to assign power to your weapons, up to the maximum amount of power your weapon systems can handle (all of this is upgradable). You then direct the weapons to fire at specific rooms on the enemy ship, which allows you to do things like focus on taking out enemy shield systems or life support.

As a result, there’s actually a number of ways you can defeat enemy ships. An easy strategy is to beat on their shield and weapon systems until they die, without dealing much damage to you. But by using various means, you can also do things like destroy the enemy’s life support systems and wait for them to suffocate, or send over an away team to kill the enemy crew. If you defeat an enemy ship without blowing it up, you can get more salvage from them, but many of the means to do so are much higher risk then just blasting it to pieces.

That combined with various crew races with different stats, and a large variety of unlockable ship types with different powers (such as one that starts with an ion gun that’s useful for taking down enemy systems without actually damaging them, or even just taking down shields easily, as well as a drone launcher that costs a resource, but is a very consistent source of damage; or another ship that doesn’t have shields, but instead comes with a stealth system and better sensors, thus having you want to avoid combat more) makes for a wide range of various tactics as you work your way to the end of space and your army’s base, hoping to deliver the intel before you get blown to pieces.

FTL is definitely a game for a patient man, as someone who goes in without thinking will find themselves looking at the game over screen often. But even in death you tend to learn more about the game, though some of it’s random events are TOO random; I would have liked it more if some of the events were more hard-coded, so that something that punished me one playthrough was fairly consistent at being dangerous, while something that rewarded me tended to do the same. I’ve had too many cases where I got burned bad doing something that worked before. But for some people, that’s part of the fun. For the rest of you, it may be the only annoyance in what’s otherwise a very solid game.