FTL: Faster Than Light is a roguelike spaceship management simulation in which you pilot a ship through space, managing its inner workings while you blow up other ships and earn resources to help you become a space champion. Wait. WAIT. COME BACK. I realize that’s a lot to take in, and you’re thinking that this really isn’t for you at all. Well you’re wrong, very wrong.
What begins as a daunting task, learning how FTL works isn’t as bad as it seems. While there are a lot of systems at play, they all flow together and are easy to grasp once you have a basic understanding of them.
You’re ship is the key gameplay element of FTL. There are multiple components that make up your ship, such as a Med Bay, Shields, Weapons, Engines, and much more. Each of these has multiple upgrade levels that can be increased by using the main currency of FTL, scrap. Choosing how to level up your ship and which components are most important to you is what makes the game so exciting to play over and over. You fight a wide variety of ships and come across so many new challenges; every time you play can end up being a vastly different experience than the time before.
The battles get frantic as you manage multiple systems at once. You have to choose where each weapon is going to attack the enemy ship, where your crew mates are going to be to help repair or boost your equipment, how to put out all the fires in your med bay, etc etc. Each layer of complexity stacks again and again until you’re managing a dozen systems at any given time. The thrill of everything happening at once even when a fight turns grim never stops being an exhilarating fight for survival. It’s incredibly satisfying to pull off an insane battle, but equally disappointing when it goes bad. And it will go bad. A lot.
You fly through space, and randomly encounter events along the way. Some of these are good, some of these are bad. It’s like a chance card in monopoly, except sometimes your crew is devoured by mantis men. If the odds swing in your favor though, things can turn out alright. You come across a planet of giant spiders and choose to send a man out to help? Maybe he’ll bring back a survivor to join your ship. Or maybe he’ll be viscously eaten and you’ll have to figure out how to survive in space with only one man left as you get pounded by asteroids (this outcome kind of sucks).
You will die and die and die in FTL. That’s kind of the point. Being a rougelike, it’s up to you to learn from your mistakes and figure out how to avoid each one of the thousand ways death can sneak up on you. Every single decision you make can be a fatal one, but it could also be the one that saves your life 20 minutes later.
FTL is a balancing act, you have to weigh the results of each choice you make.
You can spend a long time just trying to figure out how to squeeze out just a few more scrap to buy a new weapon in the store, and not realize that you never bought any door upgrades. As soon as you get boarded by foes, you may not have any way to retaliate. Choose a shiny new laser over repairing your hull? It won’t do you any good when you’re ship is floating through space in fifteen separate pieces.
FTL is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had with a game this year. Being infinitely replayable without becoming a chore is a wonderful achievement. Each round of FTL will only last about 30 minutes or an hour, but you can do it again and again and not get tired. I always wanted to head back in because I knew I could do better with a slightly different strategy, or maybe I would get lucky and end up with some better weapons, or maybe a shopkeeper would sell me a rare upgrade, etc etc. FTL always pulls you back in for one more round, and I’ll be happy to keep going back for a long time.