FTL: a game about managing a spaceship in an infinite galaxy

Graham Smith at

[embed width="610"]http://vimeo.com/30615601[/embed]

FTL is "a spaceship simulation real-time roguelike-like", according to its website. That's a fair description. You travel a galaxy as a spaceship, encountering random enemies, upgrading and maintaining your systems, re-routing power from life support to shields, and directing your crew to frantically put out fires. Every journey ends with your inevitable death, as your crew is killed from one calamity or another.

I've been playing an early build of the game, and it's amazing. When it comes out in the middle of next year, you should play it because it's amazing.

To convince you why you should start looking forward to FTL, I've written about my experience with the game below. Read on to find out why doors are important in space.

Everything was going great, till I flew too close to the sun.


 
You have no way of knowing what each new area of space is going to hold before you jump to it. You could warp to a star and be attacked by pirates, or find a distress call from a stranded madman.

I come out of warp and arrive next to a supergiant class M star. Solar flares from the star are going to regularly strike my ship, damaging my systems, a message tells me. If I don't get out of here quickly, I'll be destroyed.

My FTL drive needs to recharge after each jump, so I can't immediately warp away again. I need to survive long enough for the drive to recover. I also need to destroy the enemy currently attacking me.

It's a small droid ship, impervious to the sun's heat. I aim my lasers at its shields, take them down, and quickly blow up the ship with a missile to its engines. I'm lucky that it's a weak enemy, but it managed to hit me once, starting a fire in my engine room.

Each room within the ship represents a different system, and with the engines disabled, my FTL drive won't even begin to charge. I'm stranded above the supergiant star until I can get the engines back online, but the fire inside the room would kill my crew. It's often like this; a quick battle, easily won, followed by a panicked and desperate attempt to fix all the problems. Your spaceship always feels fragile; a real tin can, floating in space.

You don't need crew to open and close doors, and nothing puts out fires quicker than the vacuum of space. I remotely open two blast doors at the rear of my ship, extinguishing the fire instantly as all the oxygen is sucked from the rooms. If I can now get my crew members in there, they'll be able to quickly repair the engine

Which is when a solar flare hits me. The flares do general damage across the entire ship, and I'm now on fire in two empty rooms, weapons and... And the room that contains the systems for opening and closing doors remotely. My engines are no longer on fire, but the doors inside the engine room are still open. No crew member can go in there to fix the still-broken engine without suffocating.


 
I tell two crew members, Jack and Gracie, to scramble through burning rooms to reach the door subsystem. They're quick to repair it, and I got the doors closed. Just in time for another flare to hit.

Now more than half my ship is on fire. Shields are down, sickbay is burning, life support is down.

Shit. The life support system is what generates oxygen on your ship, and all the air is now slowly draining from every room. It also means that the oxygen was never fully replenished inside the engine room after I closed the doors. Going inside the engine room still means almost certain death.

I sent all three of my crewmembers in to the room anyway. Another solar flare would destroy the entire ship for sure, so there was no time to fix the life support and wait for the oxygen to replenish. We had nothing to lose.

Jack, Gracie, and pilot Kirby went inside and began to repair the engine. All of their health bars were ticking down from asphyxiation.

Jack died first, already hurt from the fires still spreading through the rest of the ship.

Gracie died next, just as my engine turned from red to orange. It was still only half fixed. "SOLAR FLARE IMMINENT" flashed on screen.

Kirby, my ship's pilot, was the last man standing. He'd avoided the flames by remaining on the bridge, and he got the engine operational again.

Another solar flare hit, and my ship exploded.

This is just one encounter, and it could have gone a dozen different ways. This is only the first playable build of the game, too, with lots more still to be added. FTL is due for release in the middle of 2012, and will cost between $5 and $10. Keep an eye on the official FTL site for more information.