I’ve been playing a lot of this little game called FTL. It’s a spaceship simulation game, but not of the gratuitous space battle variety. Instead, players control one ship, its upgrades, and can delegate crew members to do stuff. It’s almost like being a project manager on a space ship. This may sound boring, but I’ve spent more than 50 hours on the game since it came out.
A typical session of gaming in FTL goes like this:
Jump to this unknown planet. Face a battle with a rebel/pirate/alien ship. Wait for my weapons to charge up. Direct the shield-penetrating weapon to hit the shield generator of the enemy ship. Direct my other weapons to hit their weapons bay so I can disable their weapons as quickly as possible. Hope that my ship dodges or my shield blocks the enemy’s volley of fire. Direct my weapons to take down their shield generator if the weapons go down. Keep hitting the weapons bay to make sure it goes down. Enemy ship finally explodes. Look at the scrap, missiles, fuel, or other items I scavenged from the enemy ship. See what I could upgrade my ship with now that I have extra scrap. Jump to another planet or a store where I can buy more upgrades. Rinse, repeat.
There’s a boss ship at the end, but I’ve only gotten to it twice and beaten it once. After getting clobbered by this boss ship the first time, I was extra prepared the second time, but it still surprised me when I beat it. On easy mode.
The game’s been called a rogue-like, which I sort of agree with and sort of don’t. It’s a rogue-like in that it’s easy to die suddenly even if I think I’m doing well. It’s a rogue-like in that death is a perma-death and I have to start all over from the beginning (protip: don’t get too attached to crew members because they’ll probably die in a roaring fire or slowly asphyxiate because you forgot to close a door to space). It’s a rogue-like in that sometimes you get really awesome weapons at random and sometimes you’ll get totally useless ones. But it’s not a rogue-like in that it’s turn based, or that you have to explore a multi-floor dungeon.
What I really like about the game is that it only takes an hour or two to play. That means I can start a game and in less than two hours, either die and have to start over, or get to the final boss. Most of the time, I die. But because I didn’t invest too many hours into that ship, it doesn’t feel as bad. For people who have a job and other hobbies, this is an awesome thing. I don’t feel like I have to spend too many long hours to “get into the zone” of playing the game. And because the game has a handy pause feature, it’s easy to just pause, save, and hop out if something comes up.
In this age of HD, hyper-real graphics and gazillion frames per second, it’s nice to see a game like FTL with its top-down, minimalist sprites and restrained soundtrack getting popular.