Okay, before this review begins, I’d like to say a few words directly. Dear Sony – please take note that when a customer is attempting to buy a game from your store, it would be nice to let them do so.
In doing this, you become richer, and I view you more favourably as I play Tokyo Jungle with a big smile on my face. Unfortunately, your confusingly designed and irritatingly expensive PSN Store decided not to do this. As such, I couldn’t review Tokyo Jungle and the world was a sadder place, because without sales of slightly obscure games, less of them are made and gaming becomes incrementally less interesting and varied. So screw you Sony, you creativity-stifling morons – I’m going to review an indie game I got two days ago. Take it away, FTL: Faster Than Light.
FTL is a strange blend of games and genres that can be described most simply as a real-time space strategy sandbox with RPG elements. Yes, it’s a mouthful, but nothing else truly does it justice. The player commands a small crew piloting a ship across a randomly generated galaxy using a Faster-Than-Light (or FTL) drive. Along the way, the crew encounter hostile aliens, friendly robots and must flee a vast rebel fleet hunting down the remnants of the Galactic Republic.
Despite the epic scope of the scenario, much of the game takes place either on the overworld map, from which the player can maneuver their ship around each solar system’s interconnected planets. Once they arrive at a destination, they are presented with options on what to do, from fighting rebel ships to trading with the locals or simply seeing the view. These sections are performed from a more close-up perspective and allow the crew to move around within the ship, where they carry out repairs, battle intruders, fight fires and man the different facilities (such as weapons, shields, light and engines) to boost their effectiveness.
It appears at first to be a complicated game, with a busy HUD and a strange combat interface that shows the enemy ship room by room, but once you grasp it it’s simple enough. Point the crew at a room and they’ll do whatever needs doing by themselves, leaving you free to set targets for your weapons, assign power and other important things.
A central goal is to advance as far as possible in the galaxy without your ship being destroyed, running out of fuel or having all the crew die. There are three types of solar system – civilian, which are light on combat and have plenty of stores and missions to undertake. There are also nebulae, which take away the ship’s monitors and shields, but slow down the advancing enemy fleet enough to allow for exploration and loot. Finally, there are hostile systems, which contain high rates of enemy encounters, few repair shops and a large risk of death, but also a potential to greatly upgrade the ship and make the later levels easier to deal with.
This level of choice can be somewhat overwhelming sometimes, and the graphics aren’t always so easy on the eye as to facilitate an easy play session. It has the EVE Online problem of being too cluttered, with not enough eye candy present to keep the player engaged. It’s the sort of game designed for number crunchers rather than those after a narrative experience, and while it does its job well, it’s not going to light the world on fire with any great moments because, simply put, randomly generated games can rarely truly have any.
Sound effects are in general quite fitting and the music works well with the theme, so there are no real complaints besides one that might be a bit of a nit pick but really is quite strange – the default volume for the game is set almost unbearably high, and our copy needed to be turned almost to off before it became feasible to play it without inadvertently rocking out to some space tunes.
FTL is a bold effort and interesting enough to hold your attention for a few hours, if only to see what the world will throw up against you this time through. It’s by no means perfect, with a steep learning curve and little in the way of ‘wow’ moments, but is definitely worth a play for its low cost. 8/10.