Who put this Roguelike in my Space Sim!?
You know it’s not everyday we see a game about spacecrafts, let alone a 2D game about spacecrafts….heck how often do we even see Roguelikes let alone this odd-mashup. It’s funny to see the often micro management focus of spaceship based has blended with the random nature of a roguelike. Kickstarter is a beauty isn’t it? Faster Than Light was one of the early games to get in on the Kickstarter craze, showing how the platform can find a audience for the seemingly most niche groups of customers.
You are the Federations last hope of winning a grueling war with a Rebel faction, you take the role of a spaceship captain with secret information on the Rebels flagship and it’s only weakness (Turns out that it’s you… you certified badass). As I mentioned previously Faster Than Light is a roguelike in space, you start with a basic ship with little protection and as you progress through the galaxy you hop from node to node trying to reach the end of each zone. Each node presents a opportunity to advance through the galaxy map and reach the end, each node also had a chance for a random event (Sometimes the events only happen in specific regions of space). Each time you advance to a new node the Rebel fleet is not far behind advancing across the map signified via a giant red looming circle closing in on your ship, this makes moving backwards a often discouraged task. Hitting as many nodes in a system is almost always to your benefit as you get more events to soup up your craft, also jumping to the next sector without proper preparation often leads to your doom as each sector not only increases the amount and quality of loot you find but also the difficulty and how decked out opposing ships will turn out. The Rebel fleet will always be hounding you and if you ever do happen to jump into that red circle due to taking a wrong turn you will be faced down by a often imposing ship that will obliterate you unless you are well decked out for that sector.
The random events make the bulk of how your game experience will play out, some are great helps such as finding a new crew member on a deserted planet or finding a weapon just floating in space (Score!). Other events aren’t as kind often having detrimental effects ranging from a few damage to your ship all the way to crew members being nixed from existence… literally. Many events have multiple outcomes loosely based on chance, and often have special (almost always rewarding) Blue options if you have the right crew member/weapon/robot/system on your ship. These events all take place in a text box, but despite the simple presentation often evoke a good sense of emotion ranging from excitement (Found a free weapon in space woot!) To utter terror (Slug cruiser disables you Oxygen system so you slowly suffocate during battle) with enough characterization in these text snippets to give you a good sense of how all the alien races interact with one another and glimpses into their culture and behaviors.
The other gameplay element that will dominate the rest of your time is ship to ship battle, the wonderous thing about Faster Than Light is that there is a multitude of ways you can take out a enemy cruiser, you can blow them up, suffocate them by destroying their O2 systems, roasting their crew alive with fire, disabling their system with EMPs, and the good old fashioned boarding to slaughter them all. Often destruction of your foe is your only course of action, lest you take the cowards way out and run away (This is not advised as you usually give up potential rewards). There is however the odd time the enemy crew will beg for their lives and offer you items in exchange (Often less than you would get for destroying them) but once in a while they will offer extremely expensive tech or weapons. Destroying a ship rewards you with scrap, you use scrap to power up your own systems from navigation (Evasion) to how much power you can pump into your weapons system to allow you to field more weapons at once, or purchasing items from shops.
The game from start to finish will run you about 2-3 hours depending on how you play it, but that is of course if you beat it. Full disclosure I died about 30 times before glimpsing the last section of the game and probably suffered around 100 more defeats before I even conquered the game. The game can be rather unforgiving at times, it’s a roguelike at heart and doesn’t care if you just lost 3 crewmembers to a bad fire the last jump, the next jump could very well be just as bad if not worse than the last, it can be rather jarring to get so far then get taken out by a series of unfortunate events and I must admit I myself had to put the game down and walk away at times. But despite the frustration the game always had a way of pulling me back in with it’s charm.
The game never feels dull over repeated playthrough and unlocking ships give even more options as to how you play the game (Personally my favorite ship is the mantis crusier with a 4 man teleporter) If this review has at all piqued your interests I highly suggest giving this title a try, often on sale on Steam it’s a cheap buy and you get more than your money’s worth from it. Faster Than Light deserves high praise and hopefully we see something from these developers in the near future!
If I may I’d also like to go on a bit of a tangent considering Kickstarter as it’s been the focus of much of my work as late.
It would be interesting if we could see the sales of the game outside of the Kickstarter campaign to see how well it is doing outside of it’s niche, game developers could take big notes from Kickstarter campaigns that the idea of a “Niche game that wouldn’t sell” may be a thing of the past, no longer can developers like Capcom try and flaunt all their marketing research that told them Resident Evil 6 would sell gangbusters and be received to critical acclaim. What would happen if they had pitched a idea to the fans and see how they reacted instead of just releasing the game into the wild, the customer feedback developers get from Kickstarter often helps form the game through the entire development process. What would games be like if a AAA Developer took a Kickstarter mentality of being extremely open and transparent through the development process instead of being a obstinate brick walls dripping information only to satiate the thirst fans have, yet continue to ignore the pleas of the very people who purchase the game and are the corner hinge of stability many of these developers cling too while still trying to tap that golden “Mass market appeal”. I’m not marketing whiz but I think the AAA devs would do well to (even if ever so slightly) listen to their fans and be more transparent in the development process…I guess it highlights the issue of people being able to tell if a game is crap long in advance, but that is a small part of a larger issue if your AAA studio starts to tank because people know ahead of time your game is bullocks.