Packing more speed than electromagnetic radiation

There is a beauty in the simplicity of FTL: Faster Than Light.

It is a game where you can play with one hand. You can control the whole game with just the mouse assuming it comes with a middle mouse button, which is at least 90% of the computer mice available for sale nowadays.

The graphics are rather basic. The game file is a measly 192 MB on my hard drive. Just for comparison, another really simple game I like, Superflight, is 129 MB. And in that game, you do nothing but to glide around in a procedurally-generated environment with assets slightly simpler than Star Fox 64 (still love it though). FTL is so light on the processor, I could probably run the game off a Nokia N95 if I want. In fact, I probably used more processing power to write this article than to run the game (to be fair, I am using Chrome).

oh crap

With a game like this, I normally won’t expect anything more than a cookie clicker game or a cheap mobile port. But FTL has so much depth available that I sent close to a hundred ships to blow up in space in a desperate attempt to give the Rebels what for. And I am still going to send more. Every encounter has a chance to bring me one step closer to the end, either by sending me ahead or ending my run right there and then. Every new ship that I discovered by chance is a fresh new way to bring down the Rebels get myself killed.

There is something extremely addictive about venturing out again and again, rolling with the punches, trying to make the best out of what you got. Despite the procedurally-generated encounters and the RNG making it all but impossible to know what is going to happen in the next place you visit, it always feels as if it is possible to scrape through just one more encounter.

Well, until you die, that is.


In fact, now that I think of it, FTL is pretty much a digital single player D&D campaign in space. You get a basic premise (Rebels attacking, you need to send vital info to the Federation), you have a DM (the computer), your party members (not just the crew, the ship itself can be considered as one), and a story that gradually unfolds as you progress through the game. Sure, there isn’t an option to bring down the Rebel flagship through seduction by sending in your space bard, but I am pretty damn sure that there’s a mod for that. You can evenĀ give your own crew members a backstory, and get mildly annoyed at yourself for wasting your time doing so as they and their ship got blown up.

I suppose what I am getting at is that FTL is really, really good. Deep and engaging gameplay, really light on the processor, simple but pleasant artstyle that probably won’t look dated even a full century later when we get FTL technology IRL. I know this is a widely-shared opinion for a six-year-old game at the point of writing, but after an FTL binge, I really feel like I should give the game more praise for how good it is and how little it needed to do so. And so I did.


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