Review: Faster Than Light

Faster Than Light from indie game developers Subset Games is a rogue like game for the PC,  Mac and also Linux. So what’s a rogue like game I hear you ask… well in years gone by there has been many. Its classification is a sub-genre of role-playing games. It’s basically a game where all levels are randomized and you play by taking your turn then the computer AI takes theirs. One of the biggest factors is that when you die its a permanent death. From the early days rogue like games have normally had ASCII type graphics making them very simple looking and most would be set in a fantasy setting where you would travel around a huge dungeon killing trolls, orcs and dragons but not FTL – this really is a modern take on a very old sub-genre.

The graphics have been replaced with modern colourful graphics that are not like most rogue-like games; instead of ASCII characters you now have well draw space ships and planets to feast your eyes on. The interface is very simple and well designed which helps you navigate around the game when you are in battle or when you find a space station to dock with and spend some of your hard earned salvage. There are some nice graphical effects such as the shields that surround your ship, and to complement the graphics there is a great musical score that comes with the game which really helps you immerse yourself in the game. The music just sets the scene and brings what you are doing to life without overpowering the game which the wrong music can do. Sound effects are what you would expect from of game of this ilk – the rockets sound like rockets and the lasers and explosions sound just as you’d hope they would.

Gameplay is really simple to learn but will take you a while to master the interface, which as I said earlier is well designed which is a must for the action you will be partaking in while plotting your course through the universe. Movement around the galaxy is very simple, you are presented with a star map of the galaxy you are in, and then from that starting point you have about 3 or 4 different routes you can take. Once you know which way you want to go simple click the destination and you will warp there, if you are lucky you will not encounter any aliens in ships that want to blow you in to little tiny bits, if you do then the game slips into combat play which again is very well done.  You will be given an overview of the enemy ship and a top down view of yours with the crew inside it, you will then have to take turns shooting at each other. If you take damage you can then send one or more of your crew to go a repair that section of the ship. Let’s say for instance you get attacked and they target your weapons systems… if that do enough damage and take it into the red your weapons will not work until they are repaired. I really like this type of micro management, it really gets your blood racing when you are being attacked and have multiple systems down and then the enemy boards you as well. So while you are fighting them off you are trying to get your systems back up and running to defend the ship.

Better ring the Royal… (this joke c/o 1987)

As well as the micro-management of the crew you also have to micro manage the ship, you have to make sure you have enough power to power the weapons or you may have to start shutting down other systems to keep your weapons up and running or even the shields for that matter. But when you win your engagement you will rep the rewards in the form of salvage which will let you upgrade your ship and buy more crew and much more. However there are a few downsides to this style of game – no matter how far you get in this game and how powerful you become once you die that’s it, game over. With that in mind just be careful to pick your battle sensibly… if you warp into an area and find yourself outgunned the best thing to do is run and don’t look back.

Overall FTL is a great little game for those times when you just want to get on and play. It really is an age old recipe that still to this day works, and I for one love the fact that these style of games are on the come back.

Reviewed on PC

Operating system: Windows XP/2000/Vista/7, Intel Mac OSX 10.5.8+, or Linux (x86 or x64)
Processor: 2 GHz
Hard drive space: 175 MB
Video: OpenGL 2.0, minimum resolution of 1280×720, dedicated card recommended

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