I have, of course, heard of roguelikes and know vaguely what they are and how they play, but I never really gave them much thought or tried one. A while back when FTL came out I remember hearing about it and it was described as a roguelike in space. Still, I didn’t really care all that much. Some more time went by and I kept hearing about how much fun the game was and how it was like Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly, etc. Eventually I was curious enough to pick it up when it was on sale and since then I haven’t been able to put it down.
Basically, you are given a ship and number of crew and have to jump from system to system gathering resources, weapons, upgrades, additional crew, etc., all while trying to keep ahead of a Rebellion fleet that is creeping up on you all the time. Once you get to the last sector you make your last stand against the Rebel flagship. It seems pretty basic, but for some reason I’ve been doing it over and over and over again. You initially start out with only one ship option, which comes with a different loadout when you unlock some achievements.
Through different encounters you can unlock the use of different ships on your next game. What’s really cool is how each ship offers very different play style. The Engi (Machine people of some sort?) ship, for example, utilizes an ion cannon to disable ship systems and sends out drones to attack/defend. Other Ships might focus more on missles or lasers, or even boarding parties. You can really upgrade any ship to do these things but it’s really fun how you can start over a new game with a ship in a completely different configuration. That along with the randomized star maps, encounters, items, shops, etc, really adds to the replayability. Will you get encounter pirates who attack you, slavers who demand you send over your crew, or possibly helpful allies who provide you with a weapons upgrade?
I was actually really suprised by how much enjoyment I could get out of a game that didn’t really have too much going on visually. Not to imply that the visuals are bad in any way. The 2D visuals are actually very well done and pleasing to look at. It’s just you would expect to see a lot more going on with two starships going at it. Through the whole game you are essentially looking at your ship and its interior, along with any other ships you encounter. It may not seem like a whole lot is going on but there can actually be quite a few things that require your attention. For example, you are attacked by a Mantis ship and they beam over soldiers.
First you might need to pull some crew away from their stations to handle them, but also make sure you start targeting the enemy ship with your own weapons. But oh, what’s that? Their missile just breached your hull and now you’re venting atmosphere so you have to pull even more crew away to fix that, along with the fire that is rapidly spreading to the next room because you cheaped out on door upgrades. Now your crew handling the mantis troops are low on health so you have to pull them away to heal them up in the medbay, leaving the enemy soldiers on their own to sabotage your shield systems.
And remember, you are still trading fire with the Mantis ship, which is now easily carving you up since your shields are down. Oh, and you had to pull your pilot from the con in order to repair those systems, so now you are dead in the water with no evasion. And while all this is going on you are handling your system power usage and trying to decide if you can pull power from your weapons systems to power your med bay or if you can get away with diverting it from life support. It can get incredibly hectic, but luckily you can pause the game at any time to take a breath and give some commands.
Maybe FTL isn’t the game for everybody, but I think everybody should at least give it a try. You can easily lose hours to this game and still want more.