This indie gem just got way better. For free!
Kickstarter darling Faster Than Light, the critically-accalimed top-down spacefarer, has been recently upgraded with free new content and ported to iPad. So there's goes any excuse to put it off. [In fact, we didn't review the original game... which is blasphemy that we hope to correct here. ~Ed. Nick]
For those who’ve never played the game before, FTL is a game equal parts text adventure and ship-to-ship combat. You'll navigate your ship through sectors containing nebulae, merchants, and (most importantly) hostile ships. Winning duels against them means smartly distributing a limited amount of energy among a host of sci-fi staples: shields, blast doors, lasers, engines, and drones. At any time, you can pause the game to queue commands to your crew.
The tablet version is what this review is based on, and yeah, FTL on iPad is a natural fit. A few elements on your HUD will overlap, making the reworked layout feel a bit cramped at times. But overall, this version of the game trumps the experience on your computer.
Anyway, the bigger news here (for original fans of FTL especially) is the Advanced Edition’s extra content. The game before the update was already a deep experience with lots of possible builds for your ship, so new weapons and elements like hacking, cloning, and mind control make for a delicious number of ways you can kick more ass.
Take hacking, for instance, where you send a drone to clamp down on one of your enemy’s system rooms. It’ll lock down the doors, giving access to it, and at your discretion can shut the whole operation down for a few seconds at a time. Bringing shields down in this way right before sending a volley of lasers at another critical room (like weapons) is one of the many joys Subset Games effectively brings this time around.
Some of the new content is a bit more passive, though just as welcome. One new command allows you to make crew members “remember” their current location on the ship. Another has them head back to those very places. This is especially useful after the musical chairs of a tough fight, when everyone’s jumbled up and you want your engines specialist back in the engine room.
And here’s a small tweak with big implication—sensors and doors are now on the list of system rooms boosted by the presence of a crew member. On the Kestrel (that’s the default ship), the layout has shields and sensors next to each other. I found myself ping-ponging one of my crew between them depending on what I needed that instant. It means more pausing, more thinking. It means more beats and opportunities to stop everything and make the right call. It means a better game.
In fact, with all these great additions, one thing is more sorely missed than it was in the original: PvP. Of course, a game where both human parties can pause at will might test player’s patience (though making “pause juice” a limited commodity could solve that). This isn’t a complaint. It’s wishful thinking spurred by how awesome the Advanced’s Edition’s new content is, and by how many permutations it allows.
Oh, but here is a complaint: I can’t unlock a damn thing in this game. FTL is a difficult game, and I’m okay with putting a solid hour into a run that ends with failure. But it's also punishing between sessions. Your final score won't convert into currency to spend on unlocking alien ships for future runs. It's sad, because those ships do exist!
Playing as the Mantis, for instance, you'll start off without weapons (but with a crew teleporter and a few drones instead). Boarding enemy ships to defeat them from within is a high risk and reward strategy—so very different from the vanilla "shoot and shield" playstyle—and the Mantis ship embraces it from square one. Unfortunately, I've never had a crack at it, and the path to unlocking it isn't simple or even apparent.
I hope you fare better than I have. But let's not finish on a bad note, because for $10, you owe it to yourself to try Faster Than Light: Advanced Edition.