FTL: Faster Than Light is a spaceship simulation real-time roguelike-like game that any fan of the genre should keep an eye on. You control the starship ‘Kestrel’, tasked with a crucial mission to save the federation. To survive hostile environments and deadly foes, you will need to balance power between systems, manage your crew, and customize your ship with a variety of upgrades. Its development hasn’t even reached beta yet, but already gamers are frothing at the mouth for this unique and promising space-battle sim.
Why this game is garnering so much appeal might be due to the fact that practically nothing else out on the market currently is like it. It appeals to my completionist nature and borderline OCD, as I’m the type of guy that just has to have the finest vessel and elite crew in the galaxy, visit every star system, vanquish every foe, and discover every easter egg. Managing every nuance of your ship and its crew in real-time is a blast, and while those not familiar with the style of mechanics used in the game may find it to be more like work than play on their first foray into the unknown, others who have endeavored to take on a game like Dwarf Fortress or Gratuitous Space Battles will appreciate the absolute control and strategical influence you have over the outcome of every encounter.
Even though you can pause the game at any time to plan your next attack, repair, or outright escape when you’re outgunned, as soon as you resume the game you’ll need to be on the lookout for damaged areas of your ship from a constant barrage of incoming enemy fire. Explosions, fires, computer viruses, and the complete destruction of key life-support systems are always a mere volley of enemy fire away from ending your flight prematurely, so you really need to use your ability to stop time and decide if it’s more important to open the airlock to put out that fire that’s keeping you from blasting the enemy with your laser cannons, or transfer all your remaining power to your shields to give you enough time so you can fire up your FTL drives and jump away from the threat. It’s intense in a great way.
The art and UI lend more to love about this title. It’s simple in the sense that nothing gets too confusing in the heat of a battle, but styled enough to keep you interested and want to see what’s lurking in that next star system and work toward that next upgrade. You’ll always know where your crew is, who needs a trip to the medical bay, when you need to open an airlock to put a fire out, or any number of other circumstances involving your continued attention in order to survive. Navigating your weapons and various systems is as easy as a few clicks, and you can move your crew around the ship with the familiar RTS mechanics of selecting a single unit and telling him where to go, or click+drag over multiple units if you need to get them doing something as a team.
With the title in an alpha-state there’s plenty of work and polishing yet to do, but already I’m excited and have thrown my support behind the developers, who by the way are a just a pair of guys working out of Shanghai. You can play the pre-beta demo via OnLive for the next two weeks as part of the service’s indie showcase, and regardless of how you feel about the service it’s worth it to check out not only this game, but the slew of other quality titles in the mix as well. The duo also began a kickstarter to fund further project development just yesterday, and have reached nearly four times their intended goal in just over 24 hours. Let that be an indicator of the interest this indie has gathered so far. As a bonus, backers who pledge $25 USD or more get access to the beta on top of a DRM-free copy of the game upon release for their choice of platform. That’s right, the game will be universally supported for Windows, OSX, and Linux, and there are rumors that a possible iPad port could happen as well.
If this is your kind of fun, or even if you’ve never played a roguelike or space-sim game and are even remotely interested, I urge you to play the demo, check out their website, and follow @ftlgame on twitter for more updates.