(Jeff made a good point, if I’m going to talk about how wildly fun a game is, I better give a more succinct reason for you to throw some money down and support.)
As I said in the last one, the story is basic. There’s a rebel fleet approaching home base and you need to race across the galaxy, powering up your ship, to warn them before the attack.
When (and if) you finally beat the game, you’re rewarded with a short paragraph saying how awesome you are and credits roll. Winning however, is not the important part, the fun comes from unlocking and exploring; it’s the proverbial “it’s the journey, not the destination.“
Overworld and Under-Overworld
The overworld looks a lot like Star Fox which is fitting given the space adventure aspect.
However the overworld is never the same as the locales are randomized. This adds to the replayability because it’s never the same game twice. You’re encouraged to explore different sectors anyway because different side-quests pop up and those lead to new ships.
If the overworld wasn’t diversified enough, there’s an under-overworld that’s also randomized. After you select a sector in the overworld, you go into a free-range map.
It’s highly unlikely you can get to all these destinations, but you’ll want to go to as many as humanly possible. Not every destination leads to a firefight, some are empty space… but others yield guns or floating scrap in space. Now the number of random events or missions is finite… but depending on your crew, ship, and equipment, a new element may be added.
For instance, you may be approached by a Mantis ship and you have two options: attack or run. However, let’s say (in this playthrough) you’ve recruited a Mantis crew member, well now there’s a third option: send your Mantis over to negotiate a deal. Or, let’s say this time, you’ve purchased a stealth upgrade to your ship, there may be a fourth option where you can disappear from their radar. All of these options can yield different results, so there’s never a dull moment!
Gameplay – Pausing is Everything
The gameplay actually hinges on the pause button… which is probably the first time in gaming history that the pause button has an in-game function. During a fight, any number of things can happen: your ship may be boarded by enemies, a star might give off a solar flare that causes fires on board, asteroids may pelt your ship ad naseum, your sensors may go dead, you may start off with a finite amount of energy to power the weapons, engine and shields, etc. All or one of these things may be happening at once. It can be overwhelming! So, what do you do? You pause. However, while the game is paused you can designate all your systems’ functions.
From the paused screen, you can determine what systems to power, what weapons to load, what doors to unlock or close. And it’s not like you’re cheating, you NEED to do this or you WILL die.
I can’t tell you how many close calls I’ve had after sending my crew onto the enemy ship. The pause function enables me to bring them back aboard my ship when they’re at the brink of death.
Plus, the pausing helps casual gamers (like myself) from being stressed out.
Gameplay – Where Random is Fun
You would think that, in a game that’s largely random, you’d be put in a lot of unfair situations, but all battles are a challenge and each sector is surprisingly balanced. Unless the enemy fleet is hot on your tails, you’re not going to fight ships with drones or multiple shields until the third or fourth sector.
Another reason the randomness adds to the experience is because it forces you to explore. I used to only use laser weapons and missiles… until I found a beam that caused fires. Although the beams cannot penetrate shields, you use them in combination with lasers (or sending your crew to attack the shields) and then use a beam.
Although I still haven’t worked around ion weapons, I’m not opposed to trying them, and depending on what weapons you use heavily determines where your scrap is going — scrap is what you use as currency. Even the stores you stop at are random, so you’re going to find new weapons and upgrades all the time. The one thing you cannot buy at shops is ships… and why is that important? It’s the primary reason I play.
When you unlock new ships, you automatically get different guns, crews and layouts. The first ship I unlocked was an Engi vessel and its weapons system was highly dependent on these ion canons that disable the functions of the enemy ship but don’t do any hull damage. It’s an entirely different strategy… plus, the Engi are good workmen (they can repair systems faster), but awful fighters (with less health and less damage), so chances are you either need to hire some fighters (I recommend the Mantis [Manti?]) or consider different strategies.
Meanwhile, the Nessario is a gorgeous ship (aesthetically) and comes with a stealth module… and no shields. So you either need to buy a shields system or upgrade that stealth mechanic so it’s not an issue.
All this said, even if a ship isn’t great, you only start off with the Type A model of each, so complete the achievements and you’ll unlock variants and, often times, more equipped versions of that ship. For instance, the Kestral (your starting ship) provides 3 crew and 2 weapons (laser and missile), but the Red-Tail (variant) gives you 4 crew (of varying races) and 4 lasers. Needless to say, these ships change the game.
In addition, the achievements add another level of replayability and complement the randomness since winning the game isn’t as important as playing — once again, the game literally achieves the “it’s the journey, not the destination,” cliche… but with FTL, it sets the bar, defines the idiom and it’s f***ing great!
For more iOS reviews, visit Derek Hobson’s Article Archive