Kirk and Picard make it look so easy. Those guys lead crews of hundreds (or thousands) in their mutual goal of exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new civilizations. You, however, will have no such luck as you manage your small vessel with a crew of three or more, travelling from one end of the galaxy to the other with precious information on-board that the Federation (unrelated) wants. Of course, there’s a rebel force nibbling up the space behind your thrusters and your mission is in danger of failing at any moment. And it will fail. Over and over again.
FTL is all about ship management. You pick a ship design (chances are you’ll be stuck with the pictured one for quite a while!) and set out into the great abyss, hopping from star to star until you reach a sector’s long-range relay to hop to the next batch and start again. Each game is randomly generated, so you’ll find no fixed path to min-max toward and you’ll need to keep your eyes on everything at all times. Each new star will randomly grant you a quest, inform you of nearby distress signals, or feature some pirate scum to vanquish. Completing these side quests will grant you scrap and other materials that will help you, but beware that wave of rebel forces that are swallowing planets in your wake. You’ll even manage your ship’s power levels and can upgrade it as you go, that is, if you’re not spending that precious scrap repairing your broken hunk of junk or luring in a new crew member. It only takes one bad purchase to set you on the downward spiral, so be wary!
You’ll manage your ship room to room, some representing your ship’s subsystems. As you enter combat, they’ll get knocked offline and you’ll need to send your crew out to repair them like a lo-fi version of The Sims. Meanwhile, you’ll be ripping on your enemies in the same way, damaging and destroying their oxygen supplies, shield generators, and so forth. As you progress, you’ll find the struggle to maintain a stream of firepower at your enemy while making sure your ship can continue to deliver that deadly payload becomes an incredible feat of micromanagement. If foes manage to board your ship? Well, good luck.
FTL is an amazing concept; how many spaceship management strategy games are there? None, that’s how many. A game with Kickstarter origins, FTL is a game that’s easy to pick up and difficult to master (even on the game’s Easy setting!). Wisely, games rarely last more than ten to fifteen minutes to encourage you to fail fast and learn. Try to blow through the game too quickly and you’ll die. Trudge through the game trying to complete every side quest and you’ll also die. You’re the captain of the <insert name of ship here> and your crew needs you as much as you need them.
Just buy the game already.