Faster Than Light is one of those rare mix of game genres. RTS Spaceship combat, Rougelike and Simulation and just like a Vegemite sanga with cheese Faster Than Light is delicious. You take the role of the guiding hand for an intrepid crew of unlikely spacefaring heroes who are tasked with travelling as fast as they can light years away to warn the good guys about a literal army of rebels hell bent on taking control.
Unique, complex and challenging is what comes to mind when trying to articulate Faster Than Light to other people and that statement reflects my first experience booting up the game, which left me bewildered with the daunting amount of control given. Allow me to let me rattle off a few of the complexities players are tasked with managing on the journey. A space ship has a crew of people/aliens who can all learn, control and repair functions on the ship itself, they can also die and in many ways they are the life blood of the vessel adrift in space. While controlling the movements of your crew you also need to contend with oxygen levels for each room and ship, power management to important functions of your ship, enemy boarding parties, ship expansions, ammo, fuel and natural events. There is a tutorial that tries to alleviate the more complex interaction FTL offers however right now it is nothing more than a friendly tap on the space/alien bum before letting you out that space door. It should be safe to assume this will be worked on later given the current state of the games development.
The interactions of FTL do not stop at ship level management, once you have charged your Faster Than Light Drive, selected a course and made the jump you will be greeted with a random event. There might be a ship that is in distress, would you help them? How about a pirate or a slaver going to town on a smaller less equipped vessel, would you step in, use up your resources and become a hero of the people/aliens (just like good old Jayne)? Space is apparently not as empty as we first imagined as there is plenty of side activities available for those willing to explore.
Anyone familiar with the older generation CRPG's will feel right at home with the stress of combat in FTL. At any time players are welcome to pause the game to issue commands and manage power levels. This (thankfully) does not make the game any easier to complete with even the easiest difficulty throwing curve balls to the ill-prepared or overconfident. You will need to tread a fine line of gun-ho space blazing and premeditated ship expansions if you are to survive. The particulars of ship to ship combat offer some unique puzzles to overcome. A ship heavy with energy shields for example might seem like a daunting opposition, however equipped with the right tools and knowledge of how power systems work will silence those cocky pirates and ultimately bring a smirk of satisfaction to any players face.
Faster Than Light while really fun right now is still in beta, meaning there is a lot to change and a lot to come from this punchy little title. I personally have been awaiting this game with much anticipation and so far it has lived up to my self appointed (read extreme) expectations. As a fan of sci-fi in general it is great to see a game get the management of spaceships down right. This very much is a game to look out for sometime around August this year!