5 March 2013

Addicted... (FTL)

It's rare, nowadays, that I fall into these sorts of obsessions but FTL has done it for me. 9 hours Sunday, 6 hours Monday and well, I've already started today... (okay, Steam clock is a bit broken but you get the picture!)

It's just so many levels of tick box feedback loop entertainment. Almost my ultimate operant conditioning chamber. I love it! It's hard... yes. But it has strict rules that it always follows. I never really got into the whole rogue scene (apart from a brief foray into Fatal Labrynth during my Game Gear days) mostly due to the graphics and partly due to the setting.

Although I love myself some fantasy tropes, for some reason rogue-likes never caught my attention beyond the first couple of dungeons. However, FTL fills the void that was dug with Flotilla. Flotilla was also a very good indie game and it took elements of rogue-likes as well as tactical and strategic gameplay, meshed them all into one semi-addictive bundle. Unfortunately for me, the game was ruined a bit because the first time I bought it I got it on XBLA, which meant it was tied to an ever-present internet connection and to this day none of my consoles have a permanent connection to the internet.

I just don't do console multiplayer for various reasons.

I got it again on Steam and the keyboard and mouse controls were far superior to the gamepad controls - especially for ship orientation which was semi-automated on the console. I still love it to this day but the addiction didn't last long because a single battle could take a long time and it felt like there wasn't much depth to the game outside of the tactics within individual battles. Though that's not a bad thing.

FTL distills these two essences into a 2D top-down version of essentially the same game but with added *oomph*. You still get the randomised systems, time limits and encounters but on top of that you get weapons, systems and abilities maintenance and even more tactical considerations.

Just for full disclosure, I've not been able to beat the game. You see, at least for me, the game isn't just about the journey - as Flotilla is - it's about confronting and beating that Rebel Flagship that's the whole purpose of your mission. There's no sudden game over - despite how good a game you're having - as there is in Flotilla. I've played on Easy and gotten to the "second end" a good few times now and on normal I managed to get to around sector 6 or 7. Like I said, it's a hard game.

But don't be put off. This is game is so much fun. Let me give you an example. I started a new easy game (after losing to the final boss) and began as I always do - searching through as many star systems as possible. The encounter is easy enough and, bolstered by this victory I proceed to a nearby jump beacon (aka encounter)... it turns out this is near a supernova and, well, I beat the enemy there but with my limited starting crew I struggle to control the fires. So I opened most of the airlock doors and let the vacuum take care of my problems. Smiling blissfully, I jump to the next encounter.

Unfortunately, the fire spreads to the next room and new fires are generated as I'm jumping due to the encounter's environmental effects. I warp into the next encounter with a small enemy vessel and proceed to beat that with my crew holed up in the front of the ship while busy repairing the shields. Unfortunately, the fire begins to spread and destroy the door control room. This room, as the name might suggest, is critical in allowing the player the ability to manually open and close doorways/airlocks.

At first I battle the fires in the adjoining medical bay they begin to spread to the room behind the cockpit/bridge. I bring my pilot back to help in the fire control but without any means to heal any of my crew I send the least hurt crew member to pilot the vessel and initiate the jump to the nearby encounter where a store/shop is present. The other two crewmates dive into the shield room to shelter from the flames while the other half of the ship is contentedly sitting in vacuum.

I purchase some things, while my ship continues to burn, only to realise that there's really no way for me to recover from this accident of fate. So, as the fire spreads as my ship orbits the space station that houses the store, I take a screenshot to commemorate the soon-to-be-deceased crew of the Shanghai Moon. May their souls fight the rebellion in the afterlife!

In retrospect, I'm lucky I managed to stop the fires in my engine room when I did - allowing me to progress via faster than light travel. I think I might dismiss my two injured colleagues. I, though, intend to go down with my ship....

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