By Craig Pearson on February 28th, 2012 at 2:30 pm.
Every fantasy you’ve ever had to reroute power to the shields exists in FTL. I know because I just pulled power from the sick-bay to boost my shields while I attempted to flee a hostile enemy scout. If you don’t have those fantasies yet, then soon it’ll be all you can think about. FTL’s random, rogue-like space-faring nastiness just got me into an unwinnable fight against an unmanned scout ship: if I destroyed it, it would automatically send out a distress signal to inform the rest fleet that I’d just Captain Mal-led him. So instead of going for a death blow, I had to stoke the shields and retaliate by hitting their weapons, keeping us both alive while my FTL drives powered up. No-one was hurt so far; the sick-bay was expendable. Recuperation would have to happen post-battle.
It’s such a simple concept: a crew of four are fleeing rebel scum, hoping to keep ahead of the vast fleet that wants them dead. The rebels are slowly engulfing the left of the map, with the ship aiming for the exit somewhere on the right. Each jump takes you into the unknowable, with system’s potentially being neutral, friendly, or antagonistic.
Every fight it forces you into is a battle to keep the ship’s system’s in check. You have shields, weapons, the jump drive, the bridge, sick-bay, scanners and the oxygen generator to worry about initially. You don’t need to know how to fix the engines, you just need a crew member, any crew member, near enough to make it so. Getting them in the right place is half the battle.
The minute the enemy starts firing, panic starts scrambling my synapse: I compose and place two crew in the middle section of the ship, in the weapons bay, so I can keep them near engine, O2 and weapons, and watch for the systems weakening. Oxygen is a big worry and an enemy missile has caused a fire in the scanners: without them I’m unable to see what’s going on internally and where the enemy’s weak spots are. I need them. While you don’t micromanage the ship, you do have control over the doors. I make sure all the crew are in sealed rooms and open a series of doors from the scanner room all the way to the ships hull, venting the fire into space.
That means I’ve lost a chunk of oxygen, but at least I can repair the scanner. One crew member is ordered through the now resealed middle section, and I pop another in O2 room, to ensure nothing bad happens.
All the while I’ve been charging missiles and energy beams, and I target the other ship’s sheilds and weapons. I’m glad I upgraded my o
wn sheilds: I added a few extra power bars in case of an emergency and with no-one hurt, I boost them by dropping power to sick bay just as my weapons are powered up. If this was Star Trek, the camera would do that wooshy thing to my face as I dramatically command “fire”. Burst in both targeted rooms. The automated little ship is crippled and I jump the hell out of there. Right into a solar flare.
So every leap away from the fleet is terrifying. One playthrough, I had no-one to fight for four jumps, another I lasted just two leaps before landing into the path of a rebel attacking an outpost: I was asked to help or flee. I fled, because on the previous jump I’d come up against a pirate slaver who stole one of my crew. Sorry, Jon.
If you fancy generating some jumps of your own, you can play it OnLive for the next fortnight. They’ve also just
announced filled a Kickstarter drive, which suggests the game will be complete in August.
5pm Edit: Have a trailer.