By Alec Meer on September 21st, 2012 at 9:00 pm.
Continuing my imperilled escapades in spaceship sim/roguelike FTL: Faster Than Light. With a crew named after cats I have know, I’ve survived the first sector but at the expense of 50% of my starship’s hull and I have no meaningful upgrades. No-one is dead, though. Repeat: no-one is dead. I’m going to keep on saying that, because it’s the only thing I’ve possibly got to brag about here.
We limp into the next sector, with half our hull in tatters and an air-sucking breach in an empty room that I’d only just noticed. Whoops. First priority is to find repairs, but there’s no sign of a store out there. So this is what they mean when they say online is killing retail. All we can do is jump into the unknown, again. Maybe this time there’ll be jelly and donuts instead of a heavily armed and murderous spaceship.
Oh look, it’s a heavily armed and murderous spaceship. Though, for a change, it’s taking a pop at someone other than me. There’s a civilian outpost being harrassed by a rebel ship, and they’re dead spacemeat unless some manner of intergalactic good samaritan intervenes.
Godammit, being a nice guy sucks. OK, OK! What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, right? Actually, in FTL that’s not at all true – what doesn’t kill me leaves me crippled, wounded, terrified and easy prey for the next passing bastard to pick off without raising a sweat. Fortunately, this turns out to be an easy fight, and one which results in two lots of scrap and fuel – one from the down rebel, one from the grateful outpost. My hull’s still got more holes in it than Alex Murphy but, as is now my mantra, at least everyone’s still alive.
Oh look, it’s another heavily armed and murderous spaceship. And this one also has the temerity to beam an invader straight into my medbay. A double-whammy from Tacky and Bonz sorts that out quickly enough, and once again the fight proves surprisingly easy – even though I still don’t have a proper gun. Its engine flashing blood-red, its shield generator near-permanently deactivated by my Ion Blast, the rebel ship begs for mercy, offering a few goodies if I’ll let it live.
I’m not always a nice guy, it transpires.
Asteroids! And that’s it. Waste of fuel, still not found a store to fix my hull. I am one grumpy starship captain right now.
A distress beacon? A trap? No, not a trap, just some poor lost schmoes who want protection as they head to their nearby destination. Where I come from, we call that a quest. So questin’ it is. Maybe we’ll find a shop on the way. My need to shop burns hotter than a thousand suns right now.
OH MY GOD IT’S A BLOODY SHOP AN ACTUAL BLOODY SHOP.
I should fix our hull – after all, it’s all I’ve been banging on about for the last seven jumps. But look at those goodies! Extra crew, new weapons, a teleporter… We will be crowned this galaxy’s kings. Or better than kings – gods.
Sigh. No, we’d better fix the hull. Boring. But we do have enough left over to buy a Shield Recharge augmentation. No, you don’t get a prize for working out what that does.
I need a gun. I really, really need a gun.
OK, let’s get these schmoes we’re escorting to their destination. There will almost certainly be a glorious reward for doing so. Maybe a gun!
That shield recharger comes good – our newly-restored hull only takes a couple of hits before the rebels pathetically offer surrender. Word to the wise: if you are inclined to surrender, you probably shouldn’t randomly attack whatever spacecraft you encounter, should you?
I kill them to teach them a lesson. Don’t look at me like that: It’s a moral statement, not cold-blooded execution. That, and I hope there’s a gun in the wreckage.
There is not a gun in the wreckage. Of course there isn’t. I might sound like I’m doing well here, but all the fights I’ve had in this sector are against weeny ships with only one level of shielding. If I encounter anything with less pitiful defences, I’m going to have an exceptionally hard time taking them down, as a lone attack drone is my only damage-dealing armament. PROPHETIC.
Another distress beacon. Well, even a grump like me doesn’t expect two traps in a row, so let’s give it a shot.
Ew, plague. I’m keeping the hell clear of that mess. Oh, wait, my Engi crew are apparently disease-immune. Off you go to this sick colony then, Bonz and Ripley. Bring back a gun or two, won’t you?
No gun. But they do bring back an auto-repair drone. Hooray! This is why you should always be kind to sick people. Go visit your local hospital right now and see if anyone needs a hand – you never know, they might reward you with some advance starship technology.
I’ve ended up out on a dead-end, so I jump back to the store. Our purse remains near-empty, so after staring longingly at the array of expensive weapons and crew, I buy a couple of fuel units for luck and move on. My expression looks a lot like this right now:
Only while wearing a spacesuit, probably.
Heavily armed, murderous spaceship, redux. This one’s weirdly apologetic about attacking me, however. Like us, it’s dependent on a drone for its attacks, so I target my Ion Blast at its drone control center. It doesn’t last long. Feel a bit sorry for it, to be honest. Then I feel grumpy again, because it doesn’t drop anything useful.
Rebels are pursuing a fleeing civilian ship. Once again, my moral compass gets the better of me, so I decide to intervene. What’s the worst that could happen, eh?
Pretty much what happened, that’s what.
This was a gruelling, near-fatal fight. As prophesied, we encounter a foe with two tiers of shield, which consistently manages to regenerate one level before my attack drone can let off the second shot necessary to damage its hull.
It’s a long, punishing war of attrition, the enemy’s Hull Beam meaning it’s able to dish out small amounts of ongoing damage while I pray for my drone to consistently target my rival’s shield generator rather than whatever part of the ship it bloody well feels like. It’s not long before I have to Christen my new repair drone, as I’ve got fires all over my ship, Bonz is halfway dead and my weapon room’s out of action. As I’m frantically fixing holes and putting out fires, my attack drone is nobbled. Once again I reach into our diminishing supply of drone parts to launch another, but my hull’s now taking a load of hits and, for the first time, we need to consider abject cowardice.
Thank grud, the second drone proves to have a few more smarts than its predecessor, and manages a direct hit on the enemy shield generator while its forcefield is down. This one lucky shot was all I needed, and from thereon in this fight becomes as perfunctory as the last three. But, once again, we’ve reached the exit point of a sector with half our hull shredded like so much Peking duck. We can’t go backwards without encountering the rebel fleet, we still don’t have a better gun, and steeper challenges lie ahead.
Fortunately, the civilians we rescue hail us with thanks – an offer to repair some hull damage. Phew! It’s not much, but it helps. My determination to be the saviour of universe remains intact.
This is it, then. Hauntingly familiar. On to the next sector. 75% hull, could be outgunned by a stoned moth, barely any ship upgrades, still only three crew.
But no-one’s dead. That’s what it’s about. I haven’t yet had to face the trauma of seeing a crew member named after one of my past or present pets die horribly. Whatever happens next, I’m calling this sector a win. Now, on to Zoltan space. I really, really hope they have guns there. Really, really cheap guns.
To be continued.