FTL: Faster Than Light

The Basics
Game Name FTL: Faster Than Light
ESRB Rating – N/A
GenreStrategy Simulation
Educational Values – Strategic thinking, Patience, Persistence, Resource Management, Building Character
Platforms – Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux
Where to buyAmazon, or Steam, or directly from their website.
Would we buy it? – I’m not going to lie, I glossed over FTL when I first saw it. The graphics looked straight out of the early 90s and I usually do not go for this type of “indie” game. But boy was I wrong! Buy this game. Buy it immediately. Stop reading this review and buy the game and the soundtrack.

About the Game

FTL was created by a team of two developers who started a Kickstarter campaign asking for $10,000. They ended up with over $200,000, and boy did they use it. This game is not good, it is great. Playing FTL made me nostalgic for those classic games I loved in the late 80s (still some of the best games I have ever played) but it was definitely built with the sensibilities of the 21st century.

The game is played from a top down view of your space ship where you control all of the subsystems like, weapons, engines, and shields. You start out tasked to deliver an important mission to the Federation and you must get there before the Rebel fleet catches up to you. With that end goal in mind, you must traverse  five sectors filled with asteroids, solar flares, pirates, and more. Over time, you also accumulate ‘scrap’ which you use as game currency to upgrade your ship, purchase fuel, hire crew, etc. Throughout the game, you have to balance the limits of your reactor against your ongoing and immediate needs. After working your way through various star systems and sectors, you end up in the final sector pitted against the Rebel Flagship.

You are being boarded and under attack!

What the Game Teaches Us

Unlike most modern games, you cannot save your progress in FTL. You can save the game to walk away from it, but you cannot go back to a save point or checkpoint if something goes wrong. When your ship is destroyed, you start all over again. Just before I wrote this piece, I was playing a round that was going extremely well. Until an enemy ship started a fire on my ship and I lost two of my six crew. They are gone for good. It is not a long game to go through, so the death and restart is not devastating, just annoying. But persistence is the name of the game. The willingness to go through several ‘try-fail’ cycles prior to attaining your goal is key. But the feeling of accomplishment is worth it all in the end.

This aspect of the game is so important that my sister wrote a paragraph on it,”  it’s kind of refreshing that there’s still a game that has requires the player to be persistent and start all over, a bit more like most real-life situations. When we fail we usually start all over, though we have the experience of the lessons learned from the previous fail. Building character is an important part of education!” I could not agree with her more.

FTL marries up strategic, long-term thinking, and short-term reactions. The strategic map forces you to plot your trip across the sectors to stay ahead of the Rebel fleet that is pursuing you while making sure you do not run out of fuel, and gather the maximum number of resources. The upgrades to your ship help you in the tactical situations, but you have to decide if you want heavier weapons or stronger shields. And your reactor needs to be upgraded to support the additional strain in either case.

Choose your upgrades wisely. The game will not give you enough scrap for everything.

General Feelings on the Game

Some games are more difficult than others to review. FTL was one of the toughest. Not because it was hard to write about, but because it was hard to pull myself away from the game long enough to write this! The game is addictive and compelling. The real-time gameplay, and the strategic, turn-based decisions are equally as important and just as difficult. The game even has ethical dilemmas that can go either way for the gamer. For example, you have found a survival pod drifting alone in space, do you open it? Or jettison it into space? The alien inside might have gone insane and kill members of your crew, or it might offer to join you, and it is completely random either way.

While this review may have used more ‘jargon’ than others, the game is relatively straightforward. It also has a great tutorial which will get you out there in no time flat.

If there is one criticism I have with the game it is the difficulty. I have played this game for 26 hours and have never beaten the final boss. Half of the time, I do not even make it to the final boss. I love difficult games, but playing on the easiest setting and still getting my butt kicked all over the galaxy is a little disheartening. I can see some gamers giving up easily at the difficulty. Even with all of that I wholeheartedly recommend this game. If you like a challenge and the ability to open up the airlocks to help fight intruders, you are going to love FTL.

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Posted in Game Reviews
2 comments on “FTL: Faster Than Light
  1. Kevin Johnson says:

    One of the big strengths to this game is the normalcy of failure. Many times during playing FTL, I would think what did I do wrong, where did I create the beginning of my failure? I lost a game on the second planet when I fire wiped out my oxygen, medical bay, and I only had two crew members. Since failure is part of this game more than most, it encourages reflective thinking, a value many students, as well as adults, do not often exercise. Reflection is a valuable part of the learning process (many will argue the most important) but very much overlooked in the age of accuracy testing.

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