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Want to be the captain of your own starship? Play FTL!

Picture this: You're the captain of a starship, having just warped through space after narrowly avoiding a rebel fleet that wants you dead. You now find yourself face-to-face (or ship-to-ship) with an unknown alien vessel. They demand you surrender one of your crew in exchange for safe passage. To hell with that! You open fire, catching them off guard--but it isn't long before they return the favor. A laser shot blows a hole through your engine room, damaging the core and leaving you dead in the water. You send your chief engineer to repair the damage as you continue the battle.

Out of nowhere, the enemy beams two warriors onto your ship, who promptly slaughter your medical officer. They start to head towards life support, but thankfully can't get through your heavily reinforced blast doors. As any good captain would, you blow the airlock in that room, sending them back to their ship less alive than when they arrived. The battle is going badly, and a fire has broken out in the weapons bay, shutting down all power to the missiles. You see the end approaching, but that doesn't stop you from transferring all your ship's power to shields in the hopes that your chief engineer can get the weapons back online. As you see the final missile careening towards your bent and broken ship, you think back to the offer the aliens first made. Should you have just given them one of your crew and continued on safely? "Never!" you scream as your ship blows up around you. Today was a good day to die.

I grew up as an immense Star Wars fan, watching the movies every chance I could. My dad was heavily into Star Trek, and we had a friendly family feud over which was superior. As I grew up, I realized that there was clearly something to this Star Trek thing--and as a responsible nerd, I should educate myself. Every single episode of the original Star Trek series and The Next Generation are available on Netflix, so why the hell not. Faster Than Light arrived right around the time I had finished the Kirk era and was just beginning my love affair with TNG. I was entranced with how Picard handled his crew and managed being captain of a massive star ship.

My PC setup at home has dual monitors, so after work, you could normally find me glued to my seat with TNG on one screen and FTL on the other. I was living out my star ship captain fantasy as I watched what later became one of my favorite shows of all time. It was the perfect combination, and often I would find myself giving the same orders as Picard or trying to mimic what was happening in the show with my current game of FTL. I had achieved sci-fi nerd nirvana.

You're probably looking at the pictures posted here and saying "He can't possibly be talking about that game." Indeed I am. The top-down view of your ship gives you a perfect all-knowing perspective of everything that's going on with your vessel and crew. The simplified graphics add to FTL's overall charm, letting you play out extremely dramatic events in your head as you watch little crew members scurry all over your ship manning their posts. You can name your starship and customize the names of your crew. That makes it even more heartbreaking when your good friend Lucas gets trapped in a room ablaze with fire and perishes in a most gruesome fashion.

There's a layer of depth that isn't obvious right away. When you start allocating your ship's resources to the shields, then back to the teleporter to retrieve your boarding party team, then splitting the rest of the energy between life support and back to the weapons, things can get complicated. But when everything works out the way you planned, there's no greater satisfaction than watching your little space drama unfold. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be Captain Kirk or Picard, making strategic life-or-death choices in the heat of a space battle, you won't find a better game than FTL. It's addicting as hell, by the way. I've already logged over 80 hours and can't wait for the next opportunity to fire it up again. Engage!

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8 comments

  • Waldo - August 26, 2013 12:18 p.m.

    Love this game. Have sunk more than enough hours to get my 10 bucks worth. Nerd-vana is right though; I think you need to be a little bit of one to really get into this. Sometimes I just turn it on and listen to the music. Let's have a sequel please!
  • KishouTenpi - August 25, 2013 9:47 a.m.

    Getting the other ships is ruddy difficult but other than that it has absorbed a lot of my life
  • GoldenEagle1476 - August 25, 2013 9:25 a.m.

    I started playing this game not too long ago. Overall I really like it, but there's a few things I really dislike about it. The biggest one would probably be that the last boss is way too cheap and OP. Another problem I have is how the Rebel fleet is always chasing you: If there's ever a sequel to the game, I think it would be much better if you were allowed to go at your own pace; it can sometimes feel like a time trail. What's great about the game is the sense of being captain of your own ship and exploring the galaxy (universe?), not being pressured through the game. That might be what adds to the tension, but I think it definitley detracts from the experience.
  • punkamisto - August 26, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    There are mods that makes the game better and one in particular that removes the fleet and makes your journey...endless..not to mention the awesome spaceships made by the community. Just google it.
  • FireIceEarth - August 24, 2013 4:21 p.m.

    I've been playing for a while, but I can't get the Mantis or the Crystal ships! Very good addictive game with more strategy than is immediately apparent :)
  • MrPkhead - August 24, 2013 12:56 p.m.

    Bought this after seeing it in the Most Addictive Games piece. Now I'm having to break it to the friends I named the little guys after that I got them killed. Just one more quest marker. I'll be getting back to it now.
  • SDHoneymonster - August 24, 2013 12:04 p.m.

    Brilliant, brilliant game. Brutal, tense and rewarding. One of the great soundtracks too. Love that battle theme!

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