PC gaming is my preferred form of downtime, but I understand that’s a luxury. I find that habit affordable only because I upgrade my own system. If I didn’t have the time or knowledge to do that it’s doubtful I’d be able to keep up with today’s graphically demanding games. And then there are the Mac and Linux gamers who, in most cases, are simply unable to play the newest titles.
That’s why a space game like FTL is refreshing. It will run on any modern hardware. And it is compatible with Windows, Mac or PC. The game is also available without DRM and is only $10. That might be enough to sell some readers already, but if not, here’s why it’s a must-have.
Difficult, But Fun
FTL’s premise is simple. You’re the (apparently incorporeal) captain of a Federation ship which has information crucial to defeating a rebel uprising. The rebels know this, and are in hot pursuit – but there are numerous sectors of dangerous space between you and the safety of Federation territory. Your mission, which you have no choice but to accept, is to survive long enough to deliver the information.
Each sector as numerous stars you must jump between to reach the next sector. Some stars contain traders, others contain civilian ships in need of aid and still others contain dangerous pirates or rebel scouts.
Blasting towards the Federation at maximum space would seem like the most prudent strategy. Ah, if only it were so easy. Your ship is small, your supplies limited and you have no chance of survival without exploring for better weapons, scrap and fuel. Even on easy (and I do recommend starting on easy) the game can be difficult and it’s only possible to win by expertly controlling your ship and your supplies.
This may sound frustrating, but it’s part of why FTL is enjoyable. Every new game creates a new randomly generated universe, so you never know what waits at the next turn. Will you run in to a trader that has an awesome new missile launcher? Or will you come across vicious pirates itching to board your ship? The only way to find out is by jumping to the next system. Losing is a bummer, but it’s also a chance to explore a new universe with a new ship and crew.
She Can’t Take Much More Of This, Captain!
Of course, losing wouldn’t be enjoyable if the game itself wasn’t fun. Fortunately, it is – immensely so. If you’ve ever had a desire to captain your own spaceship you should buy the game now. FTL will absolutely fulfill your fantasy.
All the sci-fi tropes and clichés are here. Ships are broken up into rooms, which are separated via airlocks, and some rooms have critical ship systems like engines and shields. You also have crew members with various skills who can man those systems. When everything goes well, it’s great. Your weapons guy cleverly dishes out the pain while your shield guy carefully modulates power to ensure the next enemy plasma beam doesn’t get through.
When things go wrong, it’s even better. Systems that go down need repair before they’ll function and they can be repaired in combat. You can imagine your engineering expert shouting “I need another 30 seconds, captain!” as he desperately tries to repair the broken engine so your ship can escape a dangerous solar flare.
You’ll also have to deal with borders who try to take over the ship. You can attempt to suffocate them by opening airlocks or engage in room-to-room combat. Crew members have to kill the enemy to make sure they don’t shut down critical systems, but they also need to be kept alive (if you lose all your crew you lose the game). It’s even possible to name the crew after your friends and family. It’s a sad day when your best friend, and expert pilot, is killed by invading mantis-men.
Space exploration and combat is exciting, yet it’s not all the game offers. FTL also throws in some persistence to keep players coming back for more. Even if you don’t win the game (which, as I said, you usually won’t) you can unlock new ships by progressing to a certain point or conquering in-game achievements.
There’s also a leveling system within each game that lets you customize your ship as you move through space. What to build a fast ship capable of jumping away from danger and evading enemy attacks? You can do that. Or perhaps you’d like to blast away trouble with a pair of missile launchers? That’s also an option. Every system on a ship can be upgraded to provide almost endless customization.
Did I Mention Your Computer Can Play It?
Here are the system requirements for FTL.
Operating system: Windows XP/2000/Vista/7, Intel Mac OSX 10.5.8+, or Linux (x86 or x86_64)
Processor: 2 GHz
RAM: 1 GB
Hard drive space: 175 MB
Video: OpenGL 2.0, minimum resolution of 1280×720, dedicated card recommended
That’s it. Unfortunately the resolution of 1280×720 makes it unsuitable for the smallest netbooks but the game is, otherwise, outlandishly easy to run. The graphics are great, but they’re all 2D, so there’s nothing here that will strain a computer built within the last five years. Even old laptops should be able to handle the game, which makes it a good choice for cash-strapped travelers.
DRM won’t hold you back, either. You can buy it DRM-free from GOG.com for $9.99 or from the FTL website for one cent more. You can only receive the Mac and Linux versions DRM-free if you buy direct from the developer.