FTL: Faster Than Light: Advanced Edition – Review
I was sitting at the bar when it happened, shot glass in hand, counting down the minutes until that ugly-as-hell Rockman returned with my dinner. I forget his name, but christ was he ugly. I’d rather sit in a Mantis prison with a rotting Slug than have to look at his mug again. Unfortunately, former starship captains and war heroes don’t have much to do except drink away their success and wait for the next big thing to occur. For some higher-up to turn around and go “Captain ToffChops, he who saved the Federation and brought peace to the universe. Someone dig up that old fossil. We need his help!”
Not this time though. Not for all the scrap on the Engi homeworld. I’d got my whiskey, I’d got my Rockman that looked like he’d just had a Zoltan shoved up his ass; I didn’t need no Federation and I didn’t need no fight. The fight to carry on living was enough of a battle for me. As if on cue, the bar doors burst open and a young human male ran towards me. He couldn’t have been more than eighteen years old. He raced over, waving a piece of paper, bellowing as loud as he could: “Are you Captain ToffChops? Sir, you have to come with me!”
“Former Captain ToffChops of the starship GamingLives XXXXXIIII,” I told him, eyeing the Federation insignia on his jacket. “I’m not going anywhere, sonny. I’m too fucking old and too fucking tired. The last war cost me more than I can put into words. My ship, my crew, my life. What’s this one going to cost me?”
The young man looked confused and handed me the piece of paper. “Nothing sir. It’s free”
Originally a well-received Kickstarter project by Subset Games, FTL: Faster Than Light was a runaway success when it was released at the tail end of 2012. It was highly praised for its gameplay and design, offering one of the most balanced procedurally generated, rogue-like experiences in modern gaming. It won countless awards and plaudits within the games industry, as well as having the developers recognised by non-gaming entities, such as Forbes.
In November 2013, Subset Games announced that FTL: Faster Than Light: Advanced Edition was under development and that it would be totally free to current owners of FTL. The fact that content is being made for this game, free of charge, is the first thing that should be given praise. In a time where gaming is worth loads (and I do mean loads) of money, no-one would have batted an eyelid if Subset Games had announced extra content for anything up to five pounds. Given that major developers thrash out countless pieces of DLC that, in my opinion, offers less than this expansion gives, it would not have looked out of place in the slightest.
Instead, current owners of FTL are given an update free of charge. Rather than sit and review the game in full again, I’m going to focus just on the new portions. If you’re new to FTL then I suggest you read my first review here and then return, in order to better comprehend what I’m going on about. You should also punch yourself in the face for not owning the game to begin with, but that’s beside the point.
The main aim of the game has not changed. You’re still a Federation Ship on the run from the Rebellion, holding vital information with regards to how you can win the war. You’re still going to struggle to complete your mission, you’re still going to be shaking your fist in fury as a stray missile knocks out your shields, and you’re still going to die plenty of times. I really mean plenty of times, too. Getting back into the swing of FTL was tough and I died on my second jump, thanks to no less than four guys teleporting onto my ship to fight my two Engis.
Thankfully, the tactical cogs in my mind started turning and a fresh start allowed me to get to grips with the game proper. For a free update Subset Games have dropped a planet-sized amount of content into this game. Perhaps the biggest impact has come from the new race, The Lanius. These guys are a very useful but, equally, very deadly and should not be left in a room with any friendly crew members, due to their ability to drain oxygen from rooms (which is down to their biological composition) – something that makes them a very handy offensive tool, as well as a good defensive one.
Naturally, a new race means a new ship. The Lanius Cruiser has been adapted so that it can support other races, given the Lanius immunity to suffocation, and it isn’t the only ship addition, with each of the current vessels getting a new ‘Type C’ layout, giving you a reason to go back and try all the old ships again, as you’ll need to reach Sector 8 in the ‘Type B’ layout in order to access the new ones. If you’re the sort of gamer looking to max everything you play then this should provide you with hours and hours of content.
Plenty of the new layouts include new ship systems and weapons, both of which are exciting additions – the systems in particular, dramatically shifting the way both you and the enemy fight. When you add in the fact that each system is so brilliantly balanced and not overpowered, you begin to appreciate just how carefully Subset Games have considered this content.
The Clone Bay is the first new addition I procured and I really didn’t like it at first. Any dead crew members get cloned at the Clone Bay for the cost of some skill they’ve achieved. It sounds like an easy trade off until you realise that you lose your Med Bay in place of your Clone Bay which, in itself, doesn’t seem that painful until you realise that you can no longer fight boarding parties in your Med Bay while you get a constant flow of healing points. The bonus of a Clone Bay is having a never-ending stream of bodies to throw at any situation, and makes the risk of losing crew aboard enemy ships less of danger. People can still die though; it’s a Clone Bay, not a miracle worker. Random events can still rob you of your crew and if the system is damaged or offline when someone dies, they’ll be nothing more than space dust. You’ll start to guard that Clone Bay just as you would guard your shields or weapons.
Who needs weapons when you can get the enemy soldiers to do all the fighting for you though? The new Mind Control system aims to do just that, turning the most devout enemy combatant to your will. The higher the upgraded the system is, the stronger it makes the people you control. While this sounds like a fairly powerful tactic, you still need to have fully upgraded sensors, the Slug race cannot be mind-controlled, and you can only take over one person at a time. While it feels like the weakest pick of the bunch in terms of new systems, it is probably one of the most fun to use. Mind-controlled enemies can be manipulated in the same way your men are, so you can take someone over, teleport them onto your ship and immediately trap them in a room and vent the atmosphere. They’ll just stand there and suffocate. It’s like The Sims in space, except you’re not drowning them in a swimming pool or setting them on fire. And you’re not slightly aroused either [Liar - Ed.].
Moving on from my necrophilic confessions, we have the final new system, which is probably the most useful: Hacking. Hacking has saved my life on more than one occasion and provides another route to fight the opposition (and also another avenue to defend against). The AI is not afraid to bust out their Hacking system when the situation calls for it, and the standard procedure of targeting shields and weapons is suddenly thrown into disarray when a drone latches onto my Oxygen system and starts draining it.
Depending on which system you target, Hacking can turn the tide of a battle in an instant. Teleport onto an enemy ship and then hack their Medbay so they get damaged instead of healed. Disable their shields and then hack their weapons to drain all their power. Alternatively, in what can only be described as the greatest troll move this game has to offer, start a fire aboard the enemy ship and then hack the Door system in order to trap each enemy combatant in the room they’re currently in. They’ll be helpless as the fire slowly eats its way through their ship.
Finally, one new sub-system has been introduced in the form of the Battery, which allows a boost of power to the sum of two extra power bars. Cue screams of “I’m givin’ her all she’s got, Captain!” as I initiate an extra surge of power to arm a plethora of new and powerful weapons. Subset Games haven’t just thrown in whatever dross they could just think up in an afternoon, though, the new weapons are pretty inventive, and they’ve actually kept the game balanced while making them enjoyable to try.
Take the Swarm, for example. It’s an ingenious missile-based weapon that requires you to make a choice. If you set it to fire straight away, it will fire one missile in about seven seconds, which is about average. However, by powering the weapon but not selecting a target, the launcher will ‘bank’ a missile every seven seconds, storing a maximum of three, meaning that in twenty-one seconds you can unleash merry hell on an unsuspecting enemy. Can you hold out for twenty-one seconds though?
The same sort of system has been replicated with Lasers, except you have two new types of weapons. Much like the Swarm, you can bank shots and then unleash up to five rounds with some of these beasts. Other systems have a ridiculously long cooldown time, but the more you use it the shorter it gets. So a weapon may start out with a horrendous cooldown time of sixteen seconds, but it may eventually end up being as little as two seconds. For some weapons, the opposite is true, meaning big and powerful ship-destroying artillery can fire time and time again, but each time racking up a longer cooldown period. Sounds fine… as long as those early shots hit, otherwise you’ll be caught with your pants down.
These are just a couple of the examples that can be found in FTL: Advanced Edition. To sit here and describe all the new weapons would take an entire article in itself and, as with the whole of FTL, finding these things out for yourself and taking the risk in trying them is half the fun. The other half of the fun to be had is in experiencing the rest of the content; this latest update provides more stories, more dialogue, more possibilities. In a game that was already impressive enough for its replay value, having even more content that expands on what you can get up to only adds more of what already makes FTL great.
The final piece of the puzzle is a little bit of spit and polish on certain existing areas. Considering aesthetics aren’t going to be a top priority for a developer when giving players a free update, they’ve found time to just touch up on a few points. The text is clearer, understanding exactly what you’re getting from a fight is now more straightforward, and everything has a pleasing ‘finish’ to it. It really is a minor point, but it was probably the first thing I noticed. That and the presence of a ‘Hard’ mode lurking in the corner of the ship selection screen. That bastard has just added a couple of hundreds hours to the replayability.Pros
- Free content that isn’t pointless fluff
- Setting a good example for how a developer should be treating their fans
- New ships, races and weapons - oh my!
- An even greater amount of replayability
- They haven’t confirmed FTL 2 yet
When I originally reviewed FTL back in 2012, I awarded it a 10/10 and our “Just Play It” award. The same still applies, as does the score. If you haven’t already played FTL, the Advanced Edition is the perfect time to fork out for it. The plethora of content on offer is, frankly, ridiculous, as is the amount of fun you’ll have trying to beat the game. I’ve never been a huge fan of ‘roguelike’ games, having grown up in an era when I never got to play them. FTL is a game I have played for the last two years. It is a game I’ll continue to play this year and will be playing for many, many years to come. Don’t question it, just play it. You won’t be disappointed.
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