FTL Review (PC Game)
Well, seeing that my co-contributor has decided to brazenly post some of my stories already leaving me with little to write myself, I’ve decided to start this off with something a little special.
As my interests are greater than just writing, I have a tendency to peruse the digital landscape for some of my entertainment. As such, I thought I would start this off with a little review of a rare gem released last year.
And what better game to post on a blog called Out of my Mind than a game that is literally out of this world? First off, an FTL review!
FTL – also known as Faster Than Light – is a delightful pseudo-roguelike space faring, ship captaining game. That little genre title is a fancy way of saying that there’s not much to the actual game then you exploring a “dungeon” or “space sectors” in this regard and everything you really need and will use to win is found through your exploration.
The premise is simple, which is what I really like about it. You are one of the last remaining loyalists fleeing from the unstoppable forces of the rebel alliance as you try and deliver some crucial information to your leaders. It’s a cute little reversal and homage to Star Wars and kind of nice to take a perspective that isn’t from the scrappy little underdog. The rebels really feel more like a galactic empire, with their drones reaching the furthest flung space sectors and their fleets always nipping right at your heels (FTL engines) the entire journey through.
And while the story is light, I would have liked to see the designers play with that a little more. You’ll get the odd dialogue entry from the planets you visit about how they have no love for the rebels (especially when they are seen bullying around these little colonies) but I would have really liked for a narrative to be subtly woven through in these random exchanges. We could have seen colonies express why they never sided with the rebels. Perhaps we could get a few captains comment on where the fell on the conflict or even offer possible reasons why the conflict occurred. It’s not much, but it’s the sort of subtle storytelling that not only seems to be growing popular these days but also offer some extra form or replayability to the game.
As it stands, once you get to the end you have a rather unexpected boss fight and then… it’s done. There are a number of different styled ships you can acquire but since the game ends the same way every time I don’t know if I see the appeal for repeating just because of that. And, unlike other games in a similar style, your ship and crew are almost wholly determined by what you can scrap up through your exploration. Having these little story elements could encourage some people to try and seek out all the little events in order to understand the greater, global issue.
But I could only be saying this because I love stories. What really bothered me about the game, however, was a tonal shift. It’s made pretty clear that you’re being pursued by these scumbag rebels and your ultimate goal is to press through dangerous and treacherous space to reach the last friendly outpost. The game really seems focused on this journey – the crew that you assemble on the way and the tough decisions you make between them and how you’ll deal with the issues facing colonies and other ships you encounter. It’s got a very strong ‘flight to freedom’ vibe, so I was more than a little disappointed when I reached the end to realize not only is the journey pretty short (only about nine sector jumps in total) but then you’re inexplicably expected to face this enormous boss at the end. Needless to say, you die the first time and every playthrough after feels like you’re now preparing for this fight that you really don’t narratively have any expectation to face. I can understand the inclusion of the boss as a way to add difficulty to a game that would otherwise be too easy (if you just fled from every encounter and made a strict beeline to the end of each sector) but I really would have liked to see the challenge balanced better. Make the journey itself challenging, not some artificial encounter at the end.
All in all, I really enjoyed the game and it’s a strong showing for a little independent developer. And a lot of my criticism is probably unfair since the people making this are more game developers than writers. But, at the very least, I hope some of my complaints can highlight how important stories are to our entertainment and just how they can be included in a wide variety of ways. Really, we’ve been telling each other stories since the earliest recording of history and I don’t think all our fancy technology will ever replace the enjoyment of a good tale.
Anyway, for anyone who would actually care for a numbered rating but don’t want to be bothered with this rambling wall of text with little real “games journalism” information, this one’s for you:
8.5/10 successfully killed space spiders