Most games set in space nowadays try to blow people away with awesome graphics, but such an approach is so common that it does more to bore than amaze its audience. Faster Than Light goes for the opposite approach, incorporating a more retro look to stand out. While it may look retro, this game is anything but anachronistic.
FTL is a spaceship simulator that puts you in the shoes of a Federation starship captain who is sent on a lengthy mission against the rebels. You and your crew go from sector to sector, hunting for pirates and rebels, as well as upgrading your ship along the way to stand a better chance against them. It’s a simple looking game that relies on the surprising depth of its gameplay to engage its audience. Unlike other space simulation games that puts you right in the ship like sausage jammed inside its casing, you have more of a view from the outside, and you get to make decisions that affect the flow of gameplay.
The visuals are quite simple, making use of 16-bit sprite art style that gives the game a retro feel. You play from a top-down perspective, and the interface is as simple as it can get while still providing lots of information. For beginners who aren’t very familiar with either strategy games or sci-fi, the gameplay may seem daunting. But with the comprehensive step-by-step tutorial mode, anyone can learn the game easily enough. Much of the gameplay is text-based though, so it does leave a lot to the imagination.
Controls are simple and intuitive, especially for gamers who have played real-time strategy games before. You can select your crew members with left clicks and move them to various parts of the ship with right clicks. They man and repair your primary and secondary systems, so it’s crucial to keep them alive. Since they play an integral part in combat, the strategy comes in moving them around and knowing which systems to man at any time during the battle as you’re trying to blow the enemy ship up. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself juggling and multitasking in the middle of battle, switching between repairing your ship and trying to blast the enemy ship to oblivion. In between encounters, you can do repairs and acquire upgrades from scrap that you pick up along the way.
While the random encounters is varied between being able to visit alien planets, picking up scrap from an abandoned space station, meeting up with wandering merchants, and of course enemy ships, the variety stops there. The hostiles range from the usual cannon fodder to ships more powerful than yours. The thing is that sometimes, it’s not obvious that you’re outgunned, so you’re gonna try to take out what seems like any other rebel ship, only to have several parts of your ship damaged and in flames, which can have you trying to repair them frantically while waiting for your weapons to recharge.
Soon enough, you realize that you can’t fight back at all and you’ll be staring at the FTL meter and waiting for it anxiously to refill so you can get out of there. If you do survive, you get to repair most of your ship, but you’ll still have your hull meter in the red. You then have to look for somewhere to get repairs, which could be anywhere. This means that a rather smooth run can easily turn sour as soon as you go up against something that you realize is actually way over your head only when it’s too late.
But for $10, you get quite a lot from this simple-looking game. If being a starship captain is your thing, then Faster Than Light is a game that will keep you entertained for a good while.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10