FTL

 By Shamus Oct 1, 2012 206 comments

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In the past I’ve talked about my love for Starflight. To this day, I still habitually type the name as starflt, because that’s what the DOS executable was called. It’s what you had to type to run the game, back in the days when you had to do things like type words to make a computer do something. I’ve spent years thinking about how the design could be updated and improved. As luck would have it, FTL ends up looking a lot like that mental design document.

And yet, I can’t stand it. I really can’t.

Note that a lot of people love this game. Josh and Jarenth talked about it almost constantly, even while we were playing Guild Wars 2 together. If you’re susceptible to the particular charms of this game you ought to be able to enjoy a prolonged period of obsession like they did. I wanted to like it. The game is a labor of love by a two-person team with some seriously retro sensibilities. Normally that’s the short route to my heart.

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In FTL you command a ship. It has a floorplan where you can place systems. These systems can be upgraded. The game has flying around in space, shooting at other ships, and looting them. You jump from system to system in a branching path. At each system you have an encounter. Maybe you’ll face a pirate ship. Maybe someone wants to trade. Maybe someone needs a rescue. Maybe you’ll find salvage. Maybe the system is empty. Deal with the thing and move on. There’s no save / load system. This game flows more like your typical roguelike, where you’re making regular decisions and living with them. (Or, more than likely, not living with them.)

The problem is, FTL doesn’t have the strategic depth I’m looking for, because the gameplay is ruled by the random number generator. This isn’t Starflight, where you can roam around freely gathering resources and building up as you see fit. This isn’t like Civilization, where you’re choosing a particular methodology to overcome your foes. The closest comparison I can make is that it’s a bit like Oregon Trail in Space, where you’re guessing at what you’ll need and hoping nobody abruptly dies of dysentery this time. It’s Oregon Trail except longer, harder, and random-er, and you can’t control any of your starting conditions. Your initial ship configuration is completely fixed, and the only thing you can “customize” is renaming your doomed crew. If you play the game long enough you’ll unlock some options, but those are just other fixed-configuration craft.

You can make strategy-type decisions, but you’re not playing against a specific foe, you’re playing against a system of unpredictable encounters. Hm, do I buy more fuel or more missiles? You don’t know. Maybe the next three space-jumps will have you getting ganked by strong foes and you’ll really, really need those missiles to survive. Maybe you won’t have another chance at fuel for a long time, and if you don’t buy it now you’ll run out. You can’t see ahead so you don’t have the information for this to be a meaningful decision.

This frustration is compounded by the fact that you can’t backtrack very far. There are powerful ships chasing you, and it’s pretty much game over if they catch you.

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There just isn’t very much for a player to do here. Oh, the game keeps you busy, sure, but there aren’t nearly enough meaningful decisions to make. You can’t see jumps ahead of time, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find a shop, and there’s no guarantee that the shop will have what you’re interested in. If you’re struggling, you can’t linger in an area to gain more power. The only time you get to really do something decisive is when you’re choosing something arbitrary: Do I jump to this unknown system to the right, or the equally mysterious system to the left?

At one point I encountered an asteroid field where I could mine, but I didn’t have a mining laser. There hadn’t been any opportunity to equip one at any time in the past, either. If I had a mining laser, there would have been no reason not to use it. There wasn’t a decision to make here, this jump was simply a payoff for a choice I’d never been offered. And since you can’t backtrack, I couldn’t come back here later to take advantage of it. The same goes for running into stores that have items slightly out of your current price range.

The result is that I mostly felt like I was playing out a hand of solitaire, not a strategy game.

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Even the final boss seems to be designed to punish you for having the audacity to make choices. The end boss has a very specific set of attacks, which requires a specific build to counter. A build which worked fine for the first 99% of the game could be completely invalid at the end. You have to know the right build ahead of time, and you have to be lucky enough to have those components offered to you on your journey. And even if you know what to build and have the opportunity to build it, there still seems to be a lot of randomness in that final fight.

Now, I never reached the end of the game myself, but this thread paints a pretty clear picture. If you can read through the trolls and idiots and people saying, “You suck!”, you can see the mechanics of the final fight revolve around a super-boss with a couple of supremely devastating attacks. If those first couple of swings don’t connect, you have a chance. If you do get crippled in the opening salvo, it’s probably game over. I just can’t get behind a game where the outcome of two hours of play all hinge on a coin-flip like this.

Note that I’m basing my assumptions of luck on exchanges where one player says, “Using X really crippled him and I was able to win!”, while another player says, “The boss disabled X before I could even use it.”

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That final boss thread is really frustrating for me. Some people luck out, conclude it wasn’t that bad, and then strut around proclaiming their greatness. Other players might have really bad luck, and have several well-done play-throughs end in defeat. So you’ve got a group of really frustrated players versus a group of swaggering jackasses. And all of this ire should be aimed at the mechanics, rather than at each other.

In a situation like this, I usually put a game on “easy”. Except, I’d already done that. Everyone plays this game on easy. Even Josh, who likes to play Civilization games on deity level. Even the people arguing about the end boss in that thread admit to playing on easy. I honestly don’t know what “normal” is for. This is a game balanced for a very specific type of masochist.

Understand that I’ve played a lot of Nethack in my day. I don’t have a problem with a challenging game if I’m given the tools and choices to make a go at it. This is not hard in the way that Dwarf Fortress or Nethack are hard, where you can look back and see your mistakes. This is “beaches of Normandy” hard, where you can make all the right decisions and die anyway, because screw you, player.

I can see why some people like the game. It does create the feeling of uncertainty where “anything can happen next”. Your next jump might bring a boon! It might be an easy fight! It might be a ridiculously powerful foe that will end your game! There’s a certain tension in uncertainty, but to me this is like playing D&D with a Deck of Many Things. There is a little strategy here and lots of chaos. The best planning can still end in ruin. You can play like a clueless rube and still make it far. Your fate belongs to the random number generator.

This is not the game for me. On the other hand, it might be the game for you. It’s only $10 on Steam, so you might want to take a gamble on it. And if you’re not one for gambling? Then this probably isn’t the game for you, either.

EDIT: As Primogenitor pointed out below, you can get a DRM-free version from the webite, which even comes with a Steam unlock code so you can have the best of both worlds. (Ownership AND convenience.)


A Hundred!A Hundred!6206 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?


  1. X2Eliah says:

    The more I read about this game, the less it seems like about actual, you know, ‘ships flying in space’, and more about ‘manage these layouts and crews and upgrades’. Everybody focuses on the aspect of managing stuff – choosing loadouts, equipping this over that, getting that and that, and nobody talks about how battles are done, what the flying feels like (I honestly don’t even know IF IT HAS ANY FLYING AT ALL), is the gameplay just looking at that ship cabin layout screen or is there 2d/3d motion. NOBODY speaks about that. All the reviews assume I would magically know it, somehow.

    Seriously, even now the only things I absolutely know about FTL are the following: -It’s retro, -It’s insultingly unfair, -It’s hard, -It’s random, -It has a spaceship you put upgrades on, -It has mucking about with crews.

    That’s it. Replace “spaceship” with “football” and it easily fits as a description for any of the bloody football manager games.

    • Psithief says:

      It has no flying at all.

      Keep in mind, there are plenty of ‘let’s play FTL’ videos on sites like YouTube.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Yeah. Funny how I have to bother to watch some random dude/group play a game, instead of.. idk.. reading some reviews on it?

        Also, can I just say that not everybody even likes Let’s Plays?I mean, there are plenty of cooking shows on YouTube too. Doesn’t mean I have to go and watch them if I just want to bake a cake from a cookbook.

        • ThomasWa says:

          So you don’t want to view some random person’s video, but you are fine with reading a random person’s review of it? I don’t exactly see the difference there, except that the video gives a better impression of the game, simply due to being visual.
          Anyway, the Steam store has a trailer that shows the gameplay. There are probably also trailers on YT. But if you must have a written description, it’s essentially a board game (on your computer). You “fly” a spaceship in the sense that you give energy to the engines and put a crew-member on the bridge and in the engine room.

          • X2Eliah says:

            On the descrip: thank you, that’s all I wanted to read.

            On trailers & reading: I don’t “hunt out” the games. Normally, I see them mentioned on sites I tend to read regularly, like rps, or this blog, or so on. IF that then has interesting info, THEN I could go an see if it is on steam, if it has a trailer, etc.
            Like I said, all that I’ve read of FTL on sites that I frequent correlates to those things I listed out. Same on twitter, the only thing I saw discussed was how unfair the game was, no more. It honestly did not give me any incentive to go “oh hmm, this is really something I would probably buy, let me watch some videos on it!”.

            And yes, reading > watching a (LP) video, because of the following:
            - I can keep listening to music while reading.
            - I can do it everywhere instead of only at home / when I have my headphones.
            - I can read stuff on sites I know are good. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Shamus is a known quantity and not some random person.
            - No matter what, Under No Circumstances should it be legitimate to say “Uh, go find a let’s play” when all I want is basic, literally review-material information, in the comment section of a review. By its very nature, let’s plays are “somebody plays a videogame”. I don’t want to watch the videogame being played, I want to know about it. Tolerating stupid jokes for ten minutes while some clown gets beyond the start menu (no offense, but that is characteristic of MANY let’s plays I’ve seen) is not valuable information on any game.

            Trailers? Yeah. That would, in fact, work, but nowadays very few trailers bother to actually show the game’s gameplay. How was I to know this game’s trailer does show it? Like I said, it hasn’t been interesting enough to go out of my way and search for videos of it.

            Edit: To elaborate – I am not ragging on Shamus’ review. If anything, it’s the most complete one I’ve read so far. It just reminded me how everything else (and to some point this one as well) presupposes that I would have already played / become familiar with the game. Idk, to me that doesn’t seem to be the point of reviews. In-depth retrospective, sure. Feature article about so-and-so, sure. But as a review that should be a valid first introduction/information/is-it-any-good, it really shouldn’t rely on preexisting knowledge. So, yes, once more for the grognards – I’m not ragging on Shamus. What he wrote was informative and well laid-out. It just was missing a little bit of extra exposition, and “go watch a let’s play” is NOT a valid solution for that.

            • Peter H. Coffin says:

              See, the problem here is that you’re asking for a review but what you’re expressing you want is to see what the actual gameplay is like. (“and nobody talks about how battles are done, what the flying feels like (I honestly don’t even know IF IT HAS ANY FLYING AT ALL), is the gameplay just looking at that ship cabin layout screen or is there 2d/3d motion.”) You don’t get gameplay from most reviews. You don’t even get gameplay from most trailers. And when Psythief recommended going and checking out a couple “let’s play” videos, that’s exactly what they show you.

              • Abnaxis says:

                See, the problem here is that you’re asking for a review but what you’re expressing you want is to see what the actual gameplay is like.

                This statement strikes me as bordering on absurd.

                Isn’t the entire point of a review to objectively analyze the merits of a game? How do you do write a review properly without observing what the gameplay is like?

                • Keeshhound says:

                  The reviews observe gameplay and then comment on it; trying to discern gameplay from that can be a bit like being one of the unlucky bastards in Plato’s Cave who has to experience everything by looking at it’s distorted shadow on a cave wall. It’s much more straightforward to just walk outside (watch gameplay on youtube) and see for yourself.

                  • Abnaxis says:

                    True, it’s not a discredit to the reviewer if you don’t know all the details of the gameplay from the review alone, but you should at least know the type of game being reviewed by the time you’re done reading. I shouldn’t hit the end of a Half Life 2 review and wonder whether I’m reading about a shooter or a RTS. Likewise, I shouldn’t get to the end of a FTL review and wonder if I actually get to fly the stick of my ship or not.

                    In short, a review should consist of more information than “this game is too hard.” A brief overview of what type of gameplay to expect should be in there somewhere.

            • Stellar Duck says:

              If you read Rock, Paper, Shotgun, as you say, you might have stumbled over Jims 6 part diary of the game, Adam talking about the beta and plenty more.

        • Rilias says:

          The problem here is that the reviews talk about what is actually in the game.
          None of the things you are asking about are in it.
          It is essentially “just” looking at that cabin layout screen.
          Shamus’ screenshots actually cover about all of the relevant gameplay.

          • X2Eliah says:

            Fair point. In my defense, though, reviews should also mention omissions that would naturally belong, though. I’d say that in a game that’s supposedly about spaceships and faster-than-light flight, being able to actually fly the ship would be a big factor.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ok,you get a bunch of guys(depending on the ship you pick),and a bunch of different weapons and systems(depending on the ship you pick).There is no actual flying,you only pick the destination when your ftl engines are ready(which is automatic when there are no dangers where you are).If the system has something important,you get a text and a bunch of options(try to evade combat,fight,try diplomacy,give them fuel,pay the ransom,etc).

      The fights are about picking which weapons to use,and which defenses to use,while your opponent does the same.Your crew can boost your weapons and defenses,and get slowly better at it(so you need to keep them alive,and in one post).They can also repair the damage,and put out fires,or later even board the enemy ship and try to kill the other crew(which gives you more spoils in the end).

      You see your ship on the left,and the enemy ship on the right.On your ship you order your crew which room to occupy,and they will automatically do one of these things:
      Fight the invaders
      Put out fires if there arent any invaders
      Seal the hull breaches if there arent any fires
      Repair damaged systems if there arent any hull breaches
      Man the system if its fixed and allows for manning
      Stand around if nothing of the above.

      On the enemy ship you can target which rooms to shoot with your weapons,or if you have teleported someone there,order them which room to go to to fight in/destroy systems.

      You can pause at any moment to give specific orders to everyone,open doors to vent air and snuff fires,aim your weapons,engage stealth,etc.

      And thats about it,in a very,very brief nutshell.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Thank you. That is exactly what I wanted to know.

        • chiefnewo says:

          Perhaps in the future you can utilise Google and other tools to inform yourself instead of whining and begging other people to do your work for you.

          • Irridium says:

            Or he could ask here since lots of people here play it and would be able to tell him all he needs to know. Since a description like Daemian’s isn’t available through a simple Google search.

            • Shamus says:

              For the record, at the end of this long and oddly crabby thread: I’m not quite sure why everyone jumped on X2. I mean, we’re here to have a conversation about the game. Someone asking, “Tell me more about the gameplay” seems like a pretty good starting point.

            • Mephane says:

              The question whether there is some actual flying in FTL was already on my mind, I did only not ask because I have not been interested in it at all so far (and even less, heh, after Shamus’ description of its gameplay).

              In fact, a common problem with gaming news and reviews is that most of them, even though providing extensive coverage of the game, fail to mention what might be obvious to someone who has already played a particular game (or followed its development). They might talk about what the game does right, what it does wrong, but more often than not they neglect to mention some small but crucial bit of information.

              For example, the game Darksiders. I never finished it. No review told me about the fact that led to me abandoning it halfway through: the game is centered around health being the scarce resource. I often had to run around for half an hour, killing easy foes in an early zone (save and reload to make them respawn) in a metagame of filling up my health bar when it was fairly depleted yet no health chests etc. in sight. Eventually, I got to the point where the NPCs in those early areas where replaced by exactly the one’s which were giving me enough of a beating so that the regular health supply was not sufficient for me.

              I usually avoid games that do this, or if I am already stuck inside one that I actually like (beside this particular issue), resort to cheats (playing single player, mind you) for invulnerability etc. Of course most often the games most brutal with scarce health come without any sort of cheat of the like. As did Darksiders. Obviously, I have not been interested in the sequel at all any more since then.

              To get to the point: If it had been just mentioned in regular reviews (or at least those that I read) that the game does this, I could have avoided wasting my time with half a game, half a save+reload meta-game that was just not made for me. It has been common for games to provide either fully regenerating health or ample and technically unlimited supply of health replenishment (like GTA4′s cheap fast food) that this simple, apparently minor yet for some people game-breaking fact was not obvious beforehand.

              Okay, this was a rant, but it had to get out. The point is, I, too would have assumed FTL had actual flying (albeit 2D, not 3D) because until this comment thread, I had not known, either.

              • TSi says:

                About Darksiders, which I consider being a pretty good game (although it does have very little replayability unlike the second one). Did you ever try killing the crows and grabbing small enemies (human zombies)? It’s pretty much the easiest way to refill your health and killing crows becomes quite fast once you get the gun.
                Also, dying isn’t a penalty so you can commit suicide as soon as the game auto-saves making you restart at that point with a free health refill (i’m not sure, must check as i just finished Darksiders 2).
                Don’t forget to backtrack once in a while to collect forgotten chests and life shards. It makes life easier.

    • Ghost of Ruskgarn says:

      Most of it is managing where your weapons are shooting, what system your crew are manning, how much power is going to each system, and, very occasionally, what system you have.

      I like it, but Shamus is right. A version where you actully make descisions about where you go, for example of the space trading format, would be far more complelling. The way the game is designed there is almost no reason why one couldn’t do away with the sense of false choice and make it a linear sequence of random encounters.

    • Kdansky says:

      Matter of opinion: I think not having to “fly” around a space ship and instead focusing on crew interaction and hardware management makes more sense. When you look at Star Trek, the flying part is really boring and devoid of any strategy.

      • X2Eliah says:

        The most well-known spaceship games are not “Star Trek something something”, but Freespace, Freelancer, Elite, Descent, Wing Commander. Those had flying, and lots if it. Or, how about the oldest of the famous: Star Wars: tie fighter?

        Matter of opinion or not, as far as circa-90s gaming scene is concerned, no, flying is a big factor in games with&about spaceships. I’d say it still makes sense to see “oh this is a comeback of retro spaceship games” and ask “has it got flying in it”.

  2. Psithief says:

    I completely agree. It’s a game run and judged by RNG. To ***pull some numbers: 90% luck, 9% previous experience, 1% strategy.

    I managed to kill all the crew on the final ‘BOSS’ ship. What happened next? An AI took over and all the ship systems started auto-repairing themselves!

    At that point, I was doomed. Killing all the crew made it harder. This game does NOT reward you for any unusual strategy. No no, it punishes you for trying things.

    It really missed the mark of ‘fun’. Even when I win, I don’t feel like I won. Instead, I feel like the random number generator finally rolled enough numbers in my favour in a row. My input was minimal.

    At this point I think it’d be more fun to write an AI to pilot the ship and run it through hundreds of iterations. At least I’d be able to prove I’m improving my method.

    • Jarenth says:

      As a counterpoint: while that A.I. thing is the ultimate bullshit, killing all the crew does give you free reign to board the flagship and smash their shields and engines. I wouldn’t call it harder, per se: there is a definite advantage to be had in killing the crew.

      Of course, that only holds if you have a teleporter. If you don’t, then, well, screw you, player.

      • Stupidguy12 says:

        I think that while the AI thing has to be terribly frustrating, it also is somewhat reasonable that a flagship have something to cover the obvious weakness of having living beings piloting it. It’s shown with the automated scouts that the technology for such AI exists in the game’s universe. However, the one time I did beat the final boss (with lots of luck, of course) I only killed the crew in the isolated parts of the ship and then took out individual weapons. I attempted to board the main ship and kill them off that way, failing several times, before I gave up and just fired upon the crippled behemoth.

        While these points about there not always being an opportunity are somewhat valid due to the random nature of the game, I honestly can’t remember having a game in which I never saw a store selling weapons or systems. Other categories were more variable, but regardless those two options always have showed up at some point. Oftentimes, I just couldn’t afford their wares, but that was not the game’s fault. It’s simply random chance NOT being skewed in my favour, and therefore I have difficulty finding frustration towards the game.

        The whole problem with this AI is that it very clearly nudges you towards a specific way to defeat the final boss. It really isn’t feasible to get all ballistic and use missiles as your main offensive because they get shot down too quickly in the second stage, you can’t use beam weapons because then their shields will never buckle, and just spraying with lasers isn’t that effective because of the random dodge chance. There seem to only be a select few ways to beat the game with any given ship, and those choices become slimmer as the difficulty ramps up. Now, I haven’t tested ion weapons, but their lack of damage doesn’t seem like many ships can carry enough high-power ion weapons to down the shields and still have damaging weapons.

        The final boss is only so much of a problem because before this point, there are way more possible builds that are effective. If the boss were redone to have more in common with the other ships, than it would be more fair, but also remove a lot of the difficulty and therefore accomplishment.

    • Greg says:

      I have to disagree with that. The fight with the AI in control isn’t harder, just different. It’s the only time in the game you’ll fight a ship with atmosphere and no crew, you can afford to put one guy in each of several rooms and permadisable them, if you have three guys spare and disable it’s shields and both weapons you’ve already won.

      Previous experience does have a large role relative to strategy, but it doesn’t mean you can’t devise new strategies once you have the experience. I find that now I know how it works there’s a skill to trying to kill every crewmember on the final boss except one – something harder to do than killing them all indiscriminately. Then the ship doesn’t get the autorepair everywhere, but suffers from the reduced shield regen, weapon charge and evasion for not having anyone at those stations.

      • Mattias42 says:

        I like the game, even if it does feel far to random sometime, but the boss? I personally don’t care at all for the boss-fight.

        If you don’t have a teleporter, the cloak, the drone system, a defense drone, a boarding team and most of your ship upgraded you are hosed.

        If you have the things I just listed it becomes a boring slog and if not you die. It’s on such a level higher then all other foes in the game that it’s not only possible to be able to reach it, but not beat it, but with some configurations of ships it becomes likely. (All ships specializing in killing the opponents crew to simplify.)

        They should have made the thing a hidden optional super-boss or something or at least given players some alternative if they end up in a situation where they simply can’t win.

        A kamikaze run or something. “You will always be heroes of the federation!” Give actually beating the trice damned thing a score multiplier and bam, problem solved.

        • Greg says:

          I’ve beaten the boss on normal without a teleporter, without a cloak and without a drone system (which obviously means without a defence drone). Never without all three and rarely with only one of the three, but there are a lot of approaches that work, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the only approach that works is to have the perfect ship with fully upgraded everything.

          I agree it can become a boring slog sometimes though, if you’ve specialised in defence (have high engines, shields, cloak) and don’t have much offence (no boarders, poor weapons) it can take a long time to end the battle. That was a choice you actively make though, you could’ve had two extra burst IIs (6 extra shots a volley) for the cost of that final level of shields.

          I’m having trouble with your third paragraph. Did you mean to say that it’s possible to reach it without being able to beat it and that your chance of beating it goes up a lot with a boarding specialised crew? I’d agree it’s possible to reach it without being able to beat it, I saw an account of someone flying the stealth cruiser to sector eight without firing a single shot, obviously it didn’t go well when he got there. The boarding speciality isn’t needed, I’ve won a bunch of times without boarding it at all, you can still kill the guys in the isolated rooms (lets be honest, the one in the triple missile room, everyone kills him first) with regular firepower.

          Having played a while now I find the existing boss to be a bit easy, I’d like to find an optional hidden superboss. But I take your meaning, if there was a dialog at the start of sector 8 that gave a choice (Say: Kamikazee run in which your crew will definately die against a weak boss, score x0.8 Normal run against the boss, score x1, Save the lives of most of the fleet by charging solo at a megaboss, score x.2) would be an excellent addition to the game.

          • I’ve beaten the boss without all three.

            I found lots of burst lasers and a weapon system pre-igniter (conveniently at a time when I could afford them!) and so was able to max my shields and my firepower, and rip through the shields of even the boss in a single volley (meaning I could disable its shields, then split fire between shields and whichever weapon system was causing the most damage)

            I also had a couple of Engi crew running around repairing stuff (v. useful), and a single Rock crew member running (waddling) around putting out fires (v v useful).

            In the final phase of the boss fight, my ship (the original Kestrel; this was the first time I beat the boss) was badly damaged (I started out less than 50% hull, after the drone bit…), but I won, without a cloaking device, drone controller or a teleporter.

            I think there are probably quite a few builds with which you can defeat the boss – you just have to make sure you’re using the correct playstyle for whichever build you end up with (due to the RNG).

          • hborrgg says:

            I think this game could have done well with multiple endings, because really at the moment it starts off with a premise like oregon trail only to, at the end, force your wagon to fight that giant mechanical spider from wild wild west.

            What would have been nice is if you chose based on the condition of your ship to attack the flagship and potentially crush the rebellion once and for all (best ending, best score, etc.), or use your intel as leverage to negotiate a peace settlement, saving the federation if only just.

            • Alan says:

              I now demand a version of Oregon Trail where you fight a giant steampunk spider at the end!

              And to think the fools mocked me for spending all of money on ammunition!

          • Mattias42 says:

            A picture is supposed to say more then a thousand words so have two.

            A draw I suffered.

            The opposite, I had a completely upgraded ship and curb-stomped the bastard.

            But yes, my point was that it’s possible to reach the boss and not be able to do anything. That first screenshot was one of those situations, I simply couldn’t kill him and the same was true in reverse. Even if I had lucked out with my boarding party, the AI would have simply taken over and repaired its guns. Thus ending the stalemate in its favor.

            Perhaps it’s mostly a personal irritation of mine, but I dislike when games disallow a game-play element for the sake of “challenge”. In this case killing the crew. In every other fight in the game you get rewarded for leaving the ship intact, but for “drama” the last boss suddenly grows automation.

            The second show the end-result of a run that was the complete opposite for the sake of comparison. I got a scrap-arm as a bribe in my second fight and found a second in the first shop I visited. I had every subsystem maxed by sector six.

            I honestly however find the boss completely unnecessary and unfun. Wouldn’t it have made more sense if the info you have to get to the high-command were the rebels communication protocols or something?

            A game having though bosses is fine. A game that’s very random can also work. I simply find the two in combination irritating, but not enough to regret my purchase.

            *Edit*. Fixed the link and beaten. hborrgg said it better then me.

          • Ateius says:

            “That was a choice you actively make though, you could’ve had two extra burst IIs (6 extra shots a volley) for the cost of that final level of shields.”

            … if you find someplace selling Burst Lasers. I’ve played something like 20 games, and not once have I found a place that sold burst lasers. Despite this, I beat the boss on Easy (without a teleporter even), and on Normal I’ve gotten as far as the boss’s “third form”.

            I really like the game, personally. Sometimes the RNG can be fantastically unfair, which can be annoying, but I enjoy the rest of the game too much to let that alone put me off it. I just start again with a whole new galaxy (randomly seeded each time).

            That said, you can turn off the Rebel fleet if you want to explore at your leisure. I’ve done so in an attempt to grab the unlockable ships, all of which rely on (of course) stumbling over a randomly seeded event chain. It creates a much more relaxed atmosphere, although it utterly destroys game balance with the amount of resources you can hoover up.

            • Greg says:

              It was an example of what you could get with that sorta money, I could just have easily said “an attack I and attack II drone” which also clears shields quickly and easily or “an Ion II and a Halberd”. In the end what you do depends on what comes up that game, but I’ve never played a game where I didn’t get the option to buy something offensive at all and was forced to invest only in shields (If it happened a lot I’d just pilot the thing with the artillery beam and call it a day.

        • Alan says:

          Are you playing on Normal? I’m just on Easy, but I’ve never faced the boss with a teleporter, boarding team, or cloak, and I do regularly win. My wife is having a lot of success with a pure burst laser strategy (She can usually arrange 2x Burst Laser II and 2x Burst Laser I).

          That said, yeah, it’s still a repetitive slog. Although I suspect our slogs (which involve a lot of panicked running around extinguishing fires) are more exciting that yours. :-)

          • Mattias42 says:

            Easy, when I try normal I always run into a parade of missile launchers.

            Perhaps I chose the wrong words, but the gear I mentioned makes the boss much easier and less frustrating. Still fun-havers never lose, eh? :)

    • Trevel says:

      “Killing everyone” is not exactly an unusual strategy.

      “Killing everyone except one guy” is, and the game rewards you in spades for that one.

    • KMJX says:

      I’ll disagree. The previous experience with the particular game itself has a way higher say in how far you get than you describe here. i’d say it can influence about 20-25% of the chances to actually beat the game (on easy)

      Here’s some non spoilery advice :

      - explore as many pints in a system as you can. In the early levels it’s okay to get in the danger zone if you have learned how to manage your ship. Just remember that the danger zone gives 0 reward (0 fuel if you manage to destroy the enemy, -1 fuel if you have to flee)

      - Observe the speed at which the rebel fleet advances, and try to stay about 2 jumps ahead, so you can take short detours if necessary.

      - carefully check how the various jump nodes are distributed before plotting your overall course: there can be dead ends, and that’s usually not healthy

      - stockpile scrap, have about 150 ready at any time.

      - upgrade to at least 2 shield (4 power bars) asap.

      - upgrading the med bay once gives a lot of extra options.

      - you don’t really need to man the engines to jump. only the bridge. the engine recharges faster if manned, and you get a dodge bonus in fights.

      - which upgrades to get depends heavily on your ship, and how the RNG plays you. One more reason not to spend scrap unless you know you need to.

      - if you can avoid destroying the enemy ship, and kill the crew instead, it’ll usually be worth the trouble

      - in the later levels you might notice your accuracy going down. Destroying the bridge of a ship fixes this, and also prevents them from FTL jumping out of the fight when you have the upper hand

      - in the early levels on the Kestrel, don’t worry about taking down the enemy shields. go for the weapon systems and the bridge.

      - you wont be able to asphyxiate them by destroying their O2 generator before destroying them, unless you got breach bombs and lasers/beams that don’t do hull damage. If you can, DO IT!

      - SPOILER ALERT: The Mantis Cruiser layout 2 is awesome once you have 4+ crew to send over (2 mantis, 2 rock works like a charm if you learn how to rotate them in a room), but is really hard to start with.

      - choosing where to jump next is important to get a chance to unlock specific quest chains/ships. This goes both for jump nodes and sectors.

      - SPOILER ALERT: The final Boss is an exception to the “kill the crew” rule. It’s “kill the crew -1 member” on that one. It is no exception on the “disable the bridge and the weapons fast” rule. Disable the missile launcher first! ion and laser second!

      If the rebel fleet is all that prevents you from enjoying the game, try the slowdown mod proposed in the ftlgame.com forums.
      Yes. there are already mods for the game.

  3. Primogenitor says:

    Tsk, Shamus. Supporting Steam when there is a DRM-free and cross platform source available direct from the developers for the same price http://www.ftlgame.com/ (and that includes a Steam unlock code for easy (re-)download)

    Whatever happened to the anti-DRM Shamus from 2010? ;-)

    • Psithief says:

      Also http://www.gog.com/en/gamecard/faster_than_light
      Currently USD0.01 less!

      Shamus has already spoken on Steam. From what I remember he was basically saying “Steam provides so much extra as a platform and client that it basically offsets the DRM.”

      In general, I’d say Steam DRM is some of the least painful DRM out there.

    • psivamp says:

      That Shamus was absorbed by the-way-to-beat-piracy-is-to-provide-a-better-service Shamus — unless I’m remembering that argument from somewhere else and shoving words and over-long monikers on our host.

      Edit: Ninja’d.

      • Shamus says:

        Eh. More like “I accept Steam or I give up on AAA PC gaming forever”.

        I still maintain that I want ownership of my games. The FTL site is actually the best of both worlds – ownership and convenience. MY dream system is one where I buy a disc and it will always work forever, as long as I have a machine that can run it, without any online nonsense. Few games offer that. What Steam offers isn’t as good as what we got in (say) the late 90′s, which was ownership, but it’s SO much better than what we’re offered elsewhere.

        • ENC says:

          It IS a kickstarted game; this is the result of less than a year’s work so understandable they couldn’t raise enough to justify a print publish.

          It was also $9 for a while at release as well.

          The last boss is also just an extension of the ships you’ve been fighting before; Now has level 4 shields, more weapons than ever, a boarding crew, drones, the works.

          And honestly Shamus, the game being unable to predict what happens yet you’d bring out Nethack? Really? The game where you can just get one bad roll of the RNG and lose hours upon hours of work.

          FTL I only ever die because I got into a fight thinking I could win and got greedy, or I didn’t plan ahead accordingly.

          I’ve played the game for 10 hours yet already finished it once on normal in an engineer ship (considered pretty midrange of the 16), and I don’t typically play rogue-likes besides Dwarf Fortress (which I suck at), I suck at Nethack, I suck at GW2 (why I’ve put it on the backburner for a while), I really suck at Gratuitous Space Battles, yet the game never felt overly difficult.

          • Rilias says:

            Greed really gets me every single time.
            I board all ships if possible for the greater loot.
            I roam around essentially defeated ships for the combat XP in destroying systems.
            And eventually I die to some oversight or simple overextension because of these risks I take for slightly greater reward.

          • guy says:

            It’s totally possible to win something like 87% of games of Nethack. There are people who do that.

            I will admit to not being one of them. I actually never have beaten Nethack without blatantly cheating.

            • decius says:

              I haven’t beaten Angband DESPITE blatant cheating. The worst I ever did was create a class with +100 to all attributes, 1% experience gain, and starting equipment of 99 scrolls of *acquirement*.

          • Jakey says:

            Well, a while ago I was on the Steam forums for Binding of Isaac and in a thread about a guy wondering if he’s bad at the game and other general discussion, I came upon a single quote that somewhat defined rogue-likes for me ever since – ‘You’re looking at a game that’s sixty percent luck and forty percent skill, but at the end of the day, there’s only so many times you can fail before it stops being bad luck and becomes your own goddamn fault.’

            Frankly, I don’t know anything about Nethack specifically, but I do know that for all its supposedly unfair randomness there are people who are skilled enough at it to win it in consecutive streaks, the world record being something like 27. Yes, somewhere out there there is a Nethack pro who managed to tame this cruel unfair game twenty-seven times, back to back. Could you honestly say FTL can be beaten in ten or five consecutive runs using your skill alone?

            • Guy says:

              I don’t think Nethack is ever literally unwinnable. The Candlebram of Invocation always appears, as does the Book of the Dead, and I think at least seven wax candles are guaranteed. There’s always a wand of wishing, if you got RNG screwed on items, and getting an artifact weapon is deterministic once you have a co-aligned altar, and an altar of some alignment spawns in Minetown, though converting it is difficult and risky. Now, the RNG can make things difficult to the point where making the wrong move will kill you without warning, but if you knew how the rolls came up I think it would be possible to win every time.

              The thing is, in Nethack some very important things are fixed.

            • Cybron says:

              I got to 4 wins in a row.

              Then I jumped to Normal mode because I felt I was ready for the increased challenge. I wasn’t really, but hey, losing is fun.

          • Katesickle says:

            “And honestly Shamus, the game being unable to predict what happens yet you’d bring out Nethack? Really? The game where you can just get one bad roll of the RNG and lose hours upon hours of work.”

            Nethack IS predictable, though. Not completely, but enough that you can (and should!) use strategy. Certain monsters behave in certain ways, and appear with some predictability based on how deep you are, which branch you’re in, and what your character’s level is.

            And while the Random Number God can and does throw out rolls that seriously mess up your day, most of the time those will only kill you if you react stupidly. I’ve survived battles where I was HUGELY outnumbered (we’re talking multiple orcs, trolls, bugbears, a few zombies–there might have been a nymph involved, evil little wenches…) but because I had a good understanding of fighting strategy I was able to survive. (What killed me was my own stupidity–after the battle I picked up a corpse to eat without remembering that, hey, the only kobold in that fight had been a zombie.)

            Also, apparently unlike FTL, Nethack lets you backtrack as far as you want. You can stash items on different levels, revisit shops (and then have your pet rob them blind :D), retreat a few levels to rest after a hard fight, and so on.

            • Stranger says:

              . . . right, let’s look at Nethack and my experiences the last five times I played. For the sake of talking, I played all five as Human, Female, Valkyrie.

              - Started the game and made it into the Mines before entering an area with too many gnomes and an enemy which spawned behind me slowed me up enough to get plowed under.

              - Started the game, but couldn’t find enough food. A corpse I was trying to ration turned rotten and I wound up dying of sickness.

              - Someone mentioned dipping a sword could produce something cool. Tried it and lost the sword to rust, and could not find a replacement weapon. Orc splattered my brains.

              - Found an entrance to the vault by accident! Trapped in a vault with no actual way out except to starve to death.

              - Third step, I fell into a pit trap while searching for a door in the starting room, and landed on Level 4. Followed soon with death by ant.

              If this game is worse than Nethack, where I’ve never managed to feel like I had a fair shot at *all* . . .

              • Guy says:

                In order:

                I’d usually advise leveling before really pushing in to the mines if you aren’t a dwarf or gnome.

                #pray is your friend. Use when food poisoned

                You have to be lawful and at least level five. I’ve never entirely corroded my sword trying.

                A guard shows up to let you out, though he makes you drop all your gold.

                Okay, yeah, not much to do about that one.

                • Stranger says:

                  I’m not going to bemoan how it’s impossible, or how there’s never an answer to these problems. I’m saying “fair and balanced” is present in Nethack exactly as much as it was present in the source of that phrase to modern memebites.

                  Sure, there is an answer for every situation almost without fail. You can do a lot of things . . . I even admit in my last example the answer was “well don’t fall down the pit, stupid” as an answer. I could have taken the other direction around the wall to find the secret door out, and missed the pit entirely. So it was possible, I was just in the dark.

                  I can get behind that; one of my all-time favorite timewasters back in the Windows 3.1 era was “Castle of the Winds”, which was a much more forgiving Rogue-like game. (You could save your game and reload, you could save-scum entire levels before you set foot into them the first time, you could cheat like mad on older OS versions with a memory bug to roll over your Constitution stat . . .) I used to play the heck out of a game called “Tunnels of Doom” which was more unforgiving than that (it had a timer of turns before the object of your quest was destroyed, and it was entirely possible to not get there in time on Hard due to not finding the keys to the next level . . . or in simply getting too fast and not having enough gear/levels to deal with the next level).

                  So it’s not that I don’t like games which are hard based off the RNG’s mercy . . . but Nethack is really bad for me. I feel like . . . the above “Oregon Trail” comparison. Sure, it’s possible to succeed, and every successful Nethack player coyly will say “preparation and discretion are key” . . . but the game controls if you have the chance to get what you need.

                  The final word for now on my Nethack experiences? Food is such a limiting factor, and it’s pure luck if you can sustain yourself with it. I *have* managed to survive the mines to the dwarf city, but even with a spoiler wiki linked in another window I was at a loss what to do . . . except “not die”. The game isn’t fair far too often, with plenty of “gotcha” deaths which boil down to “you shouldn’t have risked that one thing this time…” until we get to “you shouldn’t risk anything until you are ‘strong enough’, but we won’t let you know if you’re there yet until you can succeed”.

                  That’s . . . not fun, for me, in a game with permadeath. I still boot up the game once in a while, but recently I’ve been much more interested in Guild Wars 2 (admittedly, an addiction of sorts) . . . but in “retro” style games? I’ve got Dungeons of Dredmor, Desktop Dungeons, and Etrian Odyssey 3 to tide me over ;)

                  • IFS says:

                    The character that I got the farthest into nethack with was a randomly generated chaotic gnome wizard, who sadly had a low enough intelligence that he could only cast force bolt and the minor healing spell that he started with. He was eventually forced to resort to cannabalism in the mines and still died of a combination of starvation and giant bats.

                    I think the second farthest was a monk who completed the boulder puzzle only to be trapped with an angry unicorn approaching down the hallway behind him and a room full of various deadly monsters in front, there was really no way out of that one.

                    In short I am terrible at nethack, I do think its fun but I still suck at it.

                  • Eschatos says:

                    Just a side note: It is actually quite easy to get 2/3 of the way through the game without being in danger of starvation at all. As long as you don’t piss off your god you can pray every few hundred turns, which is faster than you get hungry. You can literally survive permanently on prayer though obviously you’ll want to accumulate food so you can save prayers for true danger situations.

                  • Katesickle says:

                    Thing is, NONE of those issues you brought up are unpredictable or unavoidable. I could tell you exactly how you could have avoided each of those deaths, without any foreknowledge of the exact layout of your dungeon (knowledge about the game itself is necessary–Nethack is certainly a Guide Dang It style game). What you’ve listed aren’t so much “gotcha” deaths as “you played the game poorly” deaths (and please don’t take that as an insult–anyone who says they never played Nethack poorly is either a liar, or someone who’s never played at all). Nethack involves a LOT of strategy, and until you’ve learned the strategy the vertical learning curve is going to make it appear completely unbalanced, unfair, and unpredictable–but this appearance is not reality.

                    • Stranger says:

                      I can accept this interpretation, in all good graces. I still can say it feels completely unfair. (However it may appear, and whatever the reality is, does not really impact how it FEELS.)

                      It feels unfair because, as you put it . . . a lot of these things can be avoided if you know how. I realize that, on an intellectual level. I can stop and step back from the game and know they wouldn’t make the game impossible, just really hard. And I know people beat it with something other than “blind, dumb, unlimited luck”. There is a strategy, and there is a method to the madness.

                      But when you’re playing it, and after you wind up dying yet again from something you should be able to handle if you knew how . . . and there’s no way of really knowing how to handle it before hand, and it might take several times experimenting to figure out the answer? I could figure this all out, sure . . . if I kept a spiral-bound notebook nearby and charted all this stuff like I was doing the game design myself. I have better things to do with my time than (in essence) reverse-engineering a game just to play it.

                      This is why I refuse, utterly and completely, to touch Dwarf Fortress. Everyone I’ve talked to agrees it’s much harder than Nethack and the concept of that just kinda makes me run screaming the other direction.

                      I must be getting soft in my 30s, but I like my games now to not have a near cliff of a learning curve when I first boot them up. It could also be there are about a half-dozen games which also draw my attention and frustration with a game makes me think: “I could be playing something else right now, and having fun.”

                      Even if it’s working on my really haphazard tower to the sky in Minecraft.

              • swenson says:

                Shamus’ point was that Nethack is a game where you can look back and say “I should’ve thought ahead better here or not done X there, and next time I can do better.” See, for example, what you did wrong and could learn to do better for each of your examples:

                1. Your problem appears to be rushing into an area and monsters you weren’t prepared for without having an escape route ready. The Mines are notoriously difficult if you’re not a dwarf or gnome, so as a human you could’ve recognized this and realized you needed to prep more before entering them. You could have tried to acquire an escape item. While yes, sometimes the RNG just screws you, my point is there are still things you can do to minimize the risk.

                2. Did you pray? Did you kill your pet? (which will give you aggravate monster, but hey, you didn’t starve) Did you make attempts to preserve the food you found earlier and keep your hunger level at Satiated? (useful early in the game when food is scarce)

                3. Well, that’s your own fault. Exposing your only weapon to a corrosive agent (water, which usually causes rust) is a Bad Idea just begging for YASD.

                4. Wait for the guard. Drop all gold. Follow guard out. Alternately, try to get a digging implement as soon as possible and keep it on you. Alternately alternately, always search! Always always search for traps! Then you’re much less likely to run into the vault teleporter. (Other things to watch for: vault teleporters are always in closets with “ad aerarium” engraved in front of the door, although it may be eroded.)

                5. Just be glad the pit wasn’t full of spikes with instadeath poison on them. Now that one truly IS unfair! The serious answer, though, is search before you move. Paranoia is your very best friend.

                Now, does the game tell you any of this? No. Nethack is an evil, evil game, after all. But the point is that through experience, you can learn to avoid all of these deaths. It’s random, but you can learn, through painful experience, how to anticipate and avoid this randomness.

        • Aanok says:

          This is why GOG should be allowed to become the leader in digital distribution. Great prices, frequent sales, nice bonuses and, most importantly, no DRM. You download your installer and that’s it. You can even burn it to a CD, if you’re feeling nostalgic for plastic pieces, and it will work for as long as technologically viable.

        • I think that’s the deal we are all forced to make.

          Steam is DRM, but thankfully it’s relatively inoffensive.

  4. Wulfgar says:

    you just need to be aware that this is highscore game like icy tower/tetris/bejeweled/(…). it’s fine but it isn’t spaceship management/sim

    i hope “Star Command” will be more like strategy game ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBXT6-eYneo ) i don’t know why i when i see it it reminds me “theme hospital” .

  5. Erik says:

    Is it a coincidence that the games name is FTL which means For The Lose in internet language?

    Perhaps the purpose of the game is to be a big fat troll to their players :)

  6. PurePareidolia says:

    I had a similar experience – really enjoying trying to get through the early sectors, then hit the final boss and died almost instantly to the second form. No idea what I could’ve done, but what I thought was a hard won victory was in fact the first stage of being curb stomped by something I thought I crippled, but had plot armour all along.

    There was a lot of standard roguelike stuff but I felt less at the mercy of the RNG by being able to upgrade my ship. Unfortunately I’m beginning to suspect I’m completely wrong there because I’ve had more than one run lost because the ship I was trying to fight was numerically invincible to me. Often because I’d spent all my scrap on ship upgrades instead of new weapons.

  7. Alk says:

    I actually liked this game, thought it just became a bit samey after like 10 dead ships
    And then it managed to piss me off:
    I did not care much about the end boss and just tried to open different ships on different homeworlds (which are randomly generated on your way, now THAT frustrates me greatly). I might be that one guy who finished the boss on normal, although I admit lucking out a lot on that one. I killed him when had 2 hp left
    Now the frustrating point came with unlocking one of the ships. You see, it just shows how random this game really is: you have to find a capsule floating in space on one random encounter
    Then you have to find the Zoltan lab in a Zoltan system, which is also a random encounter
    And then you have to fly to Rock Homeworld and find your target, which is, you guessed it, completely random
    Now I got to the last stage like 3 times and my map just did not have this sector. Then when I found it, I did not get the chance to complete the other 2 stages of this quest
    That is just ridiculous and stupid.

    • GiantRaven says:

      In all fairness, the ship you describe is the secret ship so a labyrinthine method of unlocking it makes sense in a roundabout kind of way.

      It’s the other, regular ships with arbitrary convoluted methods of unlocking them that people should be complaining about.

      I still need the Rock, Mantis and Slug ships but never find myself in the position to do so.

      • Alk says:

        It comes down to the randomness of the sectors you get anyway. You get ships in the ones marked as “homeworlds”. The funny thing is that you can get, say, 4 of those on one run or don’t get any at all because you chose the wrong way. The game never tells you which sectors are ahead until you reach them
        If it did, it would make more sense with all of the unlocks in it
        As it is – they are frustrating and painful to reach. And the game falls flat because it really has no depth in anything (not to mention that you’ve seen all the random events it has to offer probably like 5 games in)

        I managed to get all of the ships except the secret one, but completionist in me died after I spent my whole day off trying to trigger a set of 6 (get the right sector – get the right star) events. It’d be fine if they just somehow depended on me, which they simply do not.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Actually,you can save the game.Its not elegant,its not easy,but it works for when you dont want to lose that specific ship youve spent quite a bit constructing.

    And there are strategies that plan for most future outcomes:
    Focus on fuel.
    Save resources for future shops.
    Save expendables for tough encounters.
    Maximize your crew.
    Dont jump into encounters that you dont have the specific crew for,like that damned fire,or those spiders,ugh!

    It kinda does get a bit easier later on when you unlock other ships that offer you sensors to know which systems to visit,or super shields that can protect you for quite a while.

    But yes,the last boss is pretty tough,and you do have to utilize all your systems in order to get him down:
    Teleport to disable his weapons in first batch,because his shields are too tough to get down quickly.
    Stealth to avoid his power surges in second batch,because those are next to impossible to avoid otherwise.
    Defense drones to survive the attack drones in third batch,because letting them roam your ship is really bad.

    Though the worst thing for the boss is that you still need some luck and have the repair spots in correct dots on the last map,or youre probably screwed.

    • William Newman says:

      You wrote “Teleport to disable his weapons in first batch,because his shields are too tough to get down quickly.”

      The boss’s shields are indeed strong. However, if you have been moderately lucky in finding good offensive items — such as burst laser II and/or ion bomb weapons, and preigniter and/or shoot-15%-faster augmentation — it is possible to burn through them fairly fast. In particular, ion bomb followed by burst laser II has a decent chance: you need to hit with ion bomb and then with 2/3 of the laser shots. That leaves you with two more weapons and 5 more energy to smash things up in that first volley. You can do a lot of damage to an unshielded opponent with two weapons and 5 energy! And hopefully one of those two weapons is another bursty laser, and you have at least one attack drone, so your mighty attack won’t be thwarted by a miss or two with the first two weapons.

      You can only do it this way if you find suitable gear, especially lasers, and sometimes you won’t. But I’ve defeated the boss many times on “Easy” (and once on “Normal”, yay) and usually I’ve found enough offensive gear to do it with an offense-heavy approach like this.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Of course,the things I wrote arent the only ways,but are the easiest to find.You will get equipment in almost every shop,and its not that expensive(75 for teleporter),and you really should maximize your crew,so having a boarding party is also common.Strong weapons are much more expensive,and burn through much energy.A boarding party with a teleporter will cost you only 155 scrap(more if you go for something better than humans),and one energy.More than enough for you to go in there and get those nasty weapons of his.

  9. konstributed says:

    I don’t think Shamus’ and most of the other commenters point is completely valid (saying that the RNG governs everything). Steam says I played FTL for around 13 hours now. Over these hours I got better in the game resulting in longer sessions/wins over the boss. I think that’s quite a good “proof” for skill and learning to play the game having an effect on the outcome. At the moment I’m at the point where I win on easy more often than die. As I’m not a good rogue-like player (with high-end losing-streaks in ToME, Dungeon Crawl etc) I would even say that FTL has better chances of “winning” than similar games.
    I also think that the choice of ship at the beginning of the game has a huge strategic value. Switching from the human standard ship to the “the-drones-do-everything”-ship you get quite fast changed my enjoyment of the game and capability to win drastically.
    Basically it comes down to play with possibilities, not deterministic choices, which in my part represents a different level of play. You have to make choices, you have the feeling of timepressure and be under stress (because permadeath), you don’t know exactly what the outcome will be but it will possibly not be fair. So in that regards it’s a bit like real life. :)
    I’m not saying everyone can/will enjoy this game. I just want to nudge people (Shamus!) to give it a second chance saying there is more control to it than may be obvious at first glance.

    Sorry bad englihs; here german.

  10. anaphysik says:

    Binding of Isaac is very similar in many of those regards – except that as an action game, you really *can* make up for bad luck with really skilled gameplay.

    • Yeah, exactly. BoI is just like classic Zelda: If you have perfect timing and reflexes, you can avoid death 99% of the time. If you come into an area with those goddamn worms and not enough damage, yeah, you’re screwed, but it’s not often that that happens. BoI also gets easier over time. Each new unlock makes the game easier the next time. And Cain and a few of the other alternate characters are broken as crap, making it very easy to do successful runs. I stopped playing since they added more stuff on top of Sheol, but ultimately the fact that it’s so much about skill makes it seem so much more fair. Plus you can just restart until you have a good first level.

      Moreover, there’s a lot of choices in Isaac you CAN anticipate. You know exactly when Mom, Mom’s Heart and Satan are coming. You know that there’s a tradeoff with Devil Rooms. If you do really well, you know you’ll probably get a Devil Room. If you have the right setup, you can pimp the slot machines.

  11. StranaMente says:

    This game is much more Binding of Isaac than else. It’s a roguelike with all the unfairness of the genre.
    There is some strategy involved, but it’s not the strategy of Civ or Starflight. This is a strategy of juggling limited resources in encounters with unknown outcome. Trying to play your strengths and outlive enemies.
    Do you shot the engine and reduce the ability to avoid the subsequent hits, shot the shields to secure more damage or shot the weapons to reduce retaliation? Do you prefer a fire bomb to kill the occupant of a ship or lasers to hit subsystems?
    Do you risk another jump before hitting the shop or not? Is it more important improving shields or weapons?
    It is definitely a game of chances, and a roguelike. It’s unfair, but it has some strategy in it, and the rush of excitement every time you manage to beat the odds in your favour and frustration when the opposite happens.

    I reckon that the game could’ve been improved, especially with the boss fight (since only few configurations work to win), but I mostly like it.

    Edit: the big problem with the boss fight is that until you have tried a few times you don’t know which configuration may work best, and only there you know if you painted yourself in a corner or not. But that is a fight so different from the others that may annihilate every expectation you built up until then.

    • anaphysik says:

      “This game is much more Binding of Isaac than else. It’s a roguelike with all the unfairness of the genre.”

      Bwahaha, I am like unto a ninja!

    • StranaMente says:

      I actually managed to win the boss 4 times, one in normal difficulty and the others in easy. And the last battle really depends on luck, not so much as luck in the single battle, but luck in having had the chance through the game to get all the right weapons and upgrades.

      Every time I won was with slightly different configurations of weapons/shield/subsystems, so there are several good ones and not just one. On the other hand, there are many bad ones for sure. Low level weapons should be swapped for better ones, but sometimes you don’t have the chance (by lacking scraps or missing the right shop) to buy it. That is unfair as much as a roguelike is unfair.
      Or you never met such a strong ship (usually the high shields are a real problem) and you fail because you never realized you needed something THAT powerful to overcome those problems.

  12. kikito says:

    Well, I have never played it on easy. Normal from the start. I can tell you I’m not a masochist – I have not gone to the dentist in 2 years.

    It’s just that death in certain kinds of videogames doesn’t hurt me.

    A useful note: The game is basically impossible if you don’t pause frequently (the space key). This little detail is not mentioned in the tutorial. So, there. You can issue orders while paused. The game feels much more like a roguelike that way. On realtime it’s impossible, at least for me.

    I have only managed to win once – after 48 hours of play, according to Steam.

    Getting to the end in one piece was much more difficult than beating the end boss in my experience.

    My current strategy involves delaying the rebel fleet as much as possible (nebulae, mercenaries) and “zig-zag” to get ot of a system in the last possible turn. Visit as many nodes as possible before visiting a shop. Use air to fight invaders and fire. Oh, and prioritize the adquisition of a crew teleporter – ideally on the first system – and mantis and/or rock crew. The revenues of killing a ship’s crew are highter than destroying it. I don’t think you can win the game in normal without that extra income. But my strategy might not be the best; after all, I’ve managed to beat the game only once.

    I wanted to win the game without spoilers, so I skipped all the mothership-related forums in purpose.

    Well, on my first (and so far, only) encounter with the mothership my boarding party disappeared on the first “magical jump” the mothership does. This was a big deal, since my strategy until then was based around it. I had no invisibility module, so I had to rely on engine, lasers, shields and robots. But I could win. I had a defense drone that I had to manually activate/deactivate when the enemy fired missiles. And I had to deviate energy to the engines and shields when lasers were fired.

    I don’t see it being that different from Nethack – or any other roguelike. If you enter a level filled with poisonous dragons and you have not found a way to resist poison, that’s it – you are dead. So you try again. But maybe this time you will find a pesky thunder lizard, and this time you were resistant to poison, but not to electrical attacks. So you die. And you try again. The random number generator is implacable. Your characters are supposed to be expendable. That’s how I understand roguelikes, at least. It’s not the goal – it’s the journey. The exercise. Dying is just part of the thing.

    I die a lot in FTL. My crew would suffocates because I forget to turn on the Oxygen on after a battle (it was breathing, or firing missiles). I’ve lost people to giant spiders (NEVER send your crew to fight them, it’s not worth the risk). And so on. It’s actually funny.

    I have unlocked only 4 ships – alas, none of them mantis or slugs.

    I want my 4 invading slugs. Badly.

    • Dirigible says:

      The Mantis Cruiser is one of the ones I unlocked first, and I have to say, it’s the easiest the game gets, because you start with an all-Mantis or near-all Mantis crew, and a teleporter. The early game can be handled by just leaving the ship, and the damage you take gets outweighed by the benefits of killing the crew. Later, you will need something to take out the medbays, but you’ve got a long time to get it.

      • Which again highlights the randomness of the game. I’ve been trying to get the Mantis ship for a while now… no luck.
        Boarding is pretty powerful. All my “good” runs have been with a Mantis boarding crew. This is further highlighted by the terrifying “boarding drone” attack vector. Madness.

    • fizmat says:

      I only play normal too /)
      Easy gets too easy pretty fast.

      Won exactly once, on a type-2 rock ship with heavy pierce, breach bomb II, fire bomb, fire beam and a teleporter.

      After a while total randomness evolves into risk management. What is the optimal amount of fuel to carry? How much you can delay repairing the hull (and use scrap on upgrades instead) before it gets too dangerous? What events are worth the risk? What will cost you more, a missile now, or the hull repairs later? It turns into economy analysis pretty fast. Managing risks with very suboptimal information.

      Yes, not all strategies are viable, sometimes you get screwed by the odds anyway, the final boss offers limited choice of strategy. But the choices are there. For example, you don’t need stealth to win, I never bought it on any ship yet. You can forgo drones if you have a way to kill his missile launcher fast and endure his boarding. What I discovered the hard way: you need some way to reliably damage its green shields besides the artillery beam. That was a fun fail, at least I got the Zoltan ship unlocked in that run.)

      I like upgrading the medbay early of all things. It’s “useless”, except several random events give you more crew. It’s these small choices that ultimately form a strategy.

      Also, you can actually micromanage the crew fights. It’s not intuitive, but you can have your guys change places, so they both continue hitting the enemy, while the healthy tanks the damage for the already hurt. Liberal use of spacebar is really essential to enjoying the game.

  13. Vegedus says:

    I definitely think there’s TOO much luck in the game, but I don’t agree that there is no strategy, no important decisions. 100 deaths in, I was still learning new stuff. Stuff like whether it’s worth it to linger in a system at the cost of fighting the rebels on your way out, which weapons work well together (which doesn’t guarantee you get to own both, but it still means that shopping around carries some choices), which kind of systems are worth visiting. None of that matters if the RNG screws you over, by, say, always killing of crewmembers in event, or pairing you up against ships you simply can’t kill (though the latter doesn’t happen much on easy), but there’s still strategy.

    Also, I’ve completed the game on normal. It requires a lot of luck, and I’m not convinced all the availiable ships have a reasonable shot at it, but it also requires that you know every facet of the game, that you know how to handle enemy encounters in the last zone, that you know how to counter the various phases of the last boss, that you know how to maximise the gain from your scrap spendings, and apply that knowledge. There’s some certain things you just have to get lucky at: You have to have a specific weapon set-up at the end, get some specific species of crewmembers, have to not run into a ship whoose shields you can’t punch through that disables your engines, and so on, but the rest is about using your experience with the game to minimise risk and optimise your game. After having already completed the game twice on easy, it took me some 50 tries to get complete normal (including times where I restarted, because I could tell I wasn’t gonna make it, which cuts down on time wasted a lot). About 10 of those were times were I screwed up, 39 were just bad luck, or rather, not good luck, but that 1 time I succeeded, felt freaking good.

    Edit: It’s notable, I think, to point out that the last boss isn’t much harder on normal than easy. Actually, I think it has exactly the same parameters. However, as you get less scrap on normal, you’re less likely to have all the upgrades and weapons you’d ideally want when facing it, and the enemy ships in the last couple sectors are MUCH tougher, making you more likely to die before reaching the boss.

  14. Vipermagi says:

    I like FTL a lot, but the final boss can jump to some dark forgotten place for all I care. Short games with a fair amount of variety (and some unfair variety) for just 10 bucks is fine value for me. It’s not a game I’ll play a lot of though, precisely because it’s just… kinda shallow.

    E; also, I initally only played on Normal. The biggest difference is the amount of Scrap you get. The rest doesn’t feel much different. Oh, sure, Auto-Assault bots have 1 layer of shield, but that’s easily solved..
    That said, I now prefer playing on Easy. Being able to buy stuff is fun :p

  15. Mersadeon says:

    Even though I don’t agree with you on everything, I can certainly see your point, Shamus. I guess I am that certain type of masochist – or, well, that certain type of person. I normally never get lucky with random number generators (or cards, or dice, or really anything relying on chance), so I don’t know if it is me having luck or my head working in the same, weird way that the game requires, but somehow I have become quite good at the game, to the point were I can kill the boss on about 60% of my playthroughs (on normal). I don’t know why I love this game – I am normally not one for super-randomly-hard games, but this just does the trick for me. I hope that you can enjoy it more once you played more of it, but I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t have fun with it.

  16. Jarenth says:

    Every time my name is in blue in a Shamus post, it makes my heart skip a little beat.

    It’s interesting how my stance on FTL has moved since the review I did on it. I started out saying pretty much what Shamus does, here: this game is random and I don’t like it. But somehow, there is an escalating skill level involved: later games do get easier, random-generated fuckery notwithstanding, and ‘not even getting to the boss’ is a rare occurrence now.

    I still mostly play to unlock new ships, though. I don’t even particularly care about defeating the final boss on any given run; I just want to get the right events or ship-specific achievements to get new toys to play with.

  17. guy says:

    It’s a roguelike that prevents you from backtracking? That’s pretty bad. I do not like the idea of a roguelike where you can’t back off and make preperations after encountering something you can’t beat.

    • Dirigible says:

      It’s a roguelike that prevents you from waiting things out, but there’s no high-loot encounters or anything which would cause you to absolutely require to beat anything specific mid-game.

      • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

        Unless you want to unlock ships, in which case you might want to stick around and visit every system in a sector if the random event isn’t triggered by any of the ones you’ve been to.

  18. Ebalosus says:

    I understand your position on the game, and find that the points you made against it correct. That said, I still enjoy the game because it’s close to the kind of game I like most: Space RPGs. Games like EV Nova, Freelancer, and the like are the kind of games I’m hoping with make some kind of resurgence. My fingers are crossed for 0x10c, but until then, I’ll be enjoying FTL, even with the omnipresent flaws you correctly noted.

  19. Greg says:

    I think that the luck element is dramatically overestimated by people who haven’t played the game much. My experience of the game has been that it took me a lot of games to get my first win and increasingly few games to get each subsequent win. I now play exclusively on normal and win about a third of games. There’s clearly a strong luck element and it’s definately possible to win or lose on luck, but I think the decisions you make strongly change the probability that you will do so, otherwise why would I see the pattern I have?

    But that’s just subjective experience of the game. Lets see if we can’t shift it outside of the realm of opinion. If the outcome of each game is principly determined by a random factor you’d expect no consistancy between games played by a particular player. So if a bunch of players played a set of games, took a break, then played a different set of games the random hypothesis would predict that player1set1 would be no more strongly related to player1set2 than any other players second set. The strategy hypothesis would predict a strong relationship.

    Now I can’t use existing played games because nobody was formally recording and memory is unreliable. Also there’s a bias in producing data when it agrees with a persons opinion. If you’re up for getting some evidence for whether the game is luck based or not rather than stating opinions, reply to this comment saying that you’re in. Then play two sets of three games and post the results here. Lets break results down by how far people got, if you die before the boss the sector you die in (1-8, 1 being the earliest sector) if you are killed by the boss the stage you are killed by (B1B2B3, B1 being the first stage of the boss) or if you won the fact that you did (W). So an outcome might look like: Set one B2 W B3 Set two W B2 7

    I’ll drop by in a week and if there’s enough data I’ll crunch the numbers and produce an actual result.

    Caveats:
    This is an informal study and nowhere near publication standard, it’ll only give a rough idea rather than anything precise, especially as some of the data will be fabricated by internet trolls.

    Everyone needs to play on the same difficulty, better make it easy since that’s the popular choice.

    Everyone needs to play the same ship, better make it the Kestrel-A since it’s the only one everyone is guaranteed to have unlocked.

    • Cybron says:

      Actually, you could collect data; your game records your number of games played and number of wins.

      The biasing factor would of course be what difficulty people play on.

      • Greg says:

        I’m not sure what I’d do with that data. Suppose I have an overall win/loss ratio for everyone, how does that let me get at whether the results are random or skill. If they’re random everyone will have different win/loss ratios, if they’re skill based everyone will have different win/loss ratios ;) I guess you could compare a players overall win/loss to their recent win/loss (though again that’s gathering more information) to see if getting better at the game is a thing that happens.

        I guess you could predict that the win/loss ratios would be normally distributed if the game is heavily RNG based since many random decisions are made each game and you’d expect them to average out someplace – wheras a skill based distribution would produce something else most likely. Then again the odds are that more skillful players became skillful by playing a lot, so that data will be somewhat polluted by all of those early runs people did while learning the game.

        • Aldowyn says:

          Actually if the results are random, the more games you see played the closer it should get to a number (the random chance of winning). If it’s skill, you should be able to see that the percentage is higher for those with more games played. In reality, it’s a combination, but you should definitely be able to tell if skill/experience is a significant factor.

          • Greg says:

            Well I agree that random outcomes would have the results tend to a particular value, I reckon that’d be the mean of the normal distribution I speculated would exist.

            I think correlating games played with win rate might not work out as well as you’d expect. You’d get an odd bump when the player kicked up the difficulty, also the style of player might make a big difference. One player might always fly what they think the best ship is. One might try for a win with every ship and explode the stealth cruiser a bajillion times. Some players might just be more talented at this sort of gameplay than others. Whether a player was in the habit of hitting restart after a bad start would make a big difference, since those all go down as losses. I doubt that even if the game was 100% skill based you’d find a very strong pattern of ‘games played’ relating to ‘win ratio’.

    • Alrenous says:

      I love projects like this, especially when I get to brag. Six games with Kestral-A on easy? I’ll probably win all of them, if I don’t quit out of boredom.

      My stats are ten victories, only one on easy, and 93 games. Of course including experiments and other intentional restarts. E.g., I only have two games on the Osprey and one is a win, both got to sector 8, both on normal, and I’ve unlocked the Osprey-B.

      That said, I will agree that the learning curve is harsh. I win because I know what I’m likely to encounter – there’s no way to react in time, or to suss out what the various rewards and penalties in events are likely to be.

      It is possible to make your shields impenetrable for most of the game…it is also possible to screw up and find enemy shields have become impenetrable, with little prior indication of when that will happen, and it is almost impossible to recover.

      Normal is balanced extremely finely – even a single mistake can doom a run. I once died because I spent on a teleporter instead of shields, with no other errors.

      On easy runs, I actually have the scrap to buy non-shield and non-weapon upgrades, which is fun. Running a Kestral-eAsy test now, and passed up a teleporter because I don’t like the style. Bonus, my shields got impenetrable a few jumps earlier.

    • Alrenous says:

      W W W

      Hope you don’t mind if I skip the second set. Played around with the fire beam for the first time. Had a run with double pike beams at one point, crossing the beams was fun.

      The artemis isn’t nearly as disappointing on easy. I don’t find missiles to be cost-effective, except the artemis…but on normal, if I need the artemis, I run out of missiles. However, on easy, I can just hold onto it until sector 8, use it when I happen to have the power.

  20. Artur CalDazar says:

    When I started playing I was terrible at this game, or so I thought.
    Learning that it was less “I suck” and more “the game is crazy unfair, with all the random chance the dice might as well be weighted against you”. Somehow the concept that I sucked make me enjoy the game more.

    I still love the game, but I don’t get why it’s so luck based.

    • Sagretti says:

      I think that if a game is just extremely difficult for non-rng reasons, you can at least feel like you’re learning and becoming a better player. When you find out that a huge amount of the difficulty is just getting screwed by the random number generator, you can’t even tell if your successes are because you’re doing better at the game, or because you caught a lucky break this time.

  21. Deadyawn says:

    Ah well, at least I feel a little less bad about not buying this now. I would’ve but extenuating circumstances (read: guild wars 2) have severely limited available time.

    I think I can skip yet another roguelike. They have seen somewhat of a resurgence lately.

  22. Skye says:

    There’s a way to disable the rebel fleet. That, more than anything, is what changed the game for me. Originally I liked the idea of the pursuit, then I wound up jumping into a dead end and had to backtrack- which of course meant playing tag with fleet ships. But once it was off, I found I enjoyed the game more. You still can’t jump back a sector, and ‘grinding’I is by no means safe- but now it’s like nethack where you can’t go up stairs, as apposed to nethack while running from an L. If you can then grab some long range sensors, or start to recognize different ship types, then you can start planning more. There’s still the RNG god, but then, I once found a liche three levels down in nethack.

    And take everything I say with a grain of salt- I’m one or those weird ‘losing is fun’ people.

  23. Sumanai (Asimech) says:

    “This is not hard in the way that Dwarf Fortress of Nethack are hard…”

    I take it that should be “or” instead of “of”.

    I may have written that on purpose so that I could repeat “of”, but I’m not telling.

    I’ve had a rant about FTL on Twitter, and my current stance is that FTL is like blackjack where you can’t count the cards and you have to win several rounds in a row. You have to show effort in order to have any chance, but it’s all wasted if luck dictates you lose.

    Buying anything in the game, from stores or through updates, is a gamble.
    Player: “I bet X will be useful later.”
    Game: “You need Y or you die.”
    Player: “I’m getting Y, so I won’t die like last time.”
    Game: “You need X or you die.”
    Player: “Okay, this time I’ll skim out on Z so I can afford both X and Y.”
    Game: “You need both Y and Z or you die.”
    Player: “Oh, for fuck’s sake.”

    • Pete says:

      How about

      Game: “You absolutely need M for this ship to be viable.”
      Player: “Okay, Ill save up for it.”
      Store 1: “Oh, sorry, we only carry engies and antipersonel drones.”
      Player: “Hmf. Okay, better luck next time.”
      Store 2: “My apologies good sir, it seems all I have left is a laser that cant penetrate shields and some long-ranged scanners.”
      Player: “But- okay, okay, next time.”
      Game: “What do you mean, next time? Here, pick between those two nebula sectors. Not that itll help, they both lead to a nebula storm encounter with a pirate with too many shields for you to punch through.”

      I eventually ended up downloading a save with all the ships unlocked, and managed to beat the boss with the Mantis cruiser. Wasnt very satisfying, though, since the game threw five bomb weapons at me in the first sector (presumably out of spite).

      • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

        I take it you’re thinking the Engie ship and missile weapons in particular?

        But yeah, that works too.

        Edit: Just to head off others who might want to nitpick: If it was the Engie ship you could’ve gotten a better Ion weapon to screw up more powerful shields, but it would still mean being under the power of the random BS of the drone, so it’s not that helpful. In fact you’re better of just starting a new run so you won’t have to rip out your hair watching the drone screw up.

  24. Alec W says:

    Shamus, I read this and was astonished you didn’t like the game, till I read your reasoning. It’s exactly how I felt on my first two playthroughs. In fact the first night I was playing I stayed up too late and ended up sending the developers a very embarrassing frustrated rant email about their stupid random game.

    However, having played much more now, I can conclusively say, with no disrespect intended:

    *You Are Very Very Wrong*

    This game is all about decisions. It’s remarkably deep strategically *and* tactically. It permits a large breadth of playstyles and builds. It’s just, well, the learning curve is pretty brutal. But dozens of games later, I am still finding whole new ways to play and win.

    I have finished the game several times on easy now, and just managed my third victory on Normal (each completion using a different ship). I am 100% confident I can complete the game using the starting ship configuration every single time I attempt it, as it starts with a very powerful layout that permits you to easily win all early fights.

    I can prove this somewhat objectively: My friend acquired the game too, and he came to much the same conclusion as you. But I was at his place over the weekend, and said “show me what you’re doing”. We ended up playing together like it was 1992 all over again, with me giving over-the-shoulder advice on combat tactics, timing and decisions but not touching the controls. He *crushed* the final boss on that play-through.

    Let me give you some idea on what you’re maybe missing out on.
    1) Most of the ‘randomness’ can be controlled.
    My friend complained “I get boarded when I have few crew and instantly lose”
    I said “try investing in upgraded blast doors – its cheap and lets you manage both fires and enemy boarders without manpower”
    …’ah that did solve it’.

    He said “sometimes my missiles hit and I win easily, but sometimes they miss him several times in a row and I die!”.
    I answered: “Did you know that if you take out *either* their helm control or the engines, their chance to evade your missiles goes down to 0? If your enemy is a very nimble ship like an AI drone, try taking down the helm first. Then your remaining shots will land 100%.”
    …Doing this he went from using 12 or 15 missiles on an enemy to using 4.

    Another point: Most of the ‘random events’ give you a choice not to participate. You can nearly always just leave or try to hide. If you have the special equipment required, there’s no chance of a bad thing happening. The game even lets you know this with special blue text. If you don’t have that equipment, don’t participate unless you can afford to gamble. Further, if a fight looks too hard, if you keep your engines and helm online you can just flee from it after a few seconds. You don’t have to engage, and sometimes doing so is foolish.

    2) There are very deep tactical decisions to make. The combat model is robust. Timing your attacks to fire in volleys to bypass enemy shields can turn you from totally ineffectual to lethal. Targeting the correct part of an enemy ship changes the outcome of an engagment significantly – every fight has different priorities – sometimes helm, sometimes shields, sometimes weapons, and sometimes drone control needs to be attacked first. Further, every weapon type has a different set of properties. Missiles bypass shields but can be shot down and are limited. Beams cannot be avoided but get blocked by shields. Bombs are nearly impossible to stop but don’t harm the enemy’s hull. Ion weapons do no damage but lay a stacking debuff that can shutdown entire ships. Lasers are free and quick but have to get through shields. And there are dozens of special weapons that do certain things, from causing hullbreaches to locking down rooms. All of these can be integrated into your strategy. Then there’s whole other strategies such as using fire and asphyxiation to kill the crew (which rewards you with better salvage), boarding the enemy ship with fighters, using cloak to avoid damage entirely…There are different racial bonuses, and there’s an experience / veterancy system for your crew, all of which can radically change how you play.
    This is far from exhaustive, just a tiny taste of what the game has.

    3) There are many viable playstyles. Some are harder than others, some require luck – but you can choose. I have for example beaten the boss using using several totally different strategies, for example:
    i) Raw power, powerful weapons that can beat him down.
    ii) Sending over battle-hardended boarders to kill his crew and destroy his ship from within.
    iii) Going pure defense, and letting the artillery cannon (which bypasses all shields) slowly kill him.
    iv) Using high cloaking and evasion to avoid all damage while using a large spread of ion weapons to disable his entire ship.

    Very, very few times have my death been caused by simple bad luck – nearly always by bad luck simply punishing bad decisions or play in earlier fights. Sometimes you get good luck, and can scrape through even after disaster.
    And sometimes you play well, and then luck doesn’t factor in at all.

    • Tse says:

      Hm, I fought the boss twice, first time he beat me, second time I ran out of time after the first 2 stages. I’ve come to the conclusion that a combination of drone defense and rockets should destroy him with little to no damage to my ship. I’m almost sure I can get him the third time.
      Also, it may be the easy difficulty, but I never had a problem with a hostile ship other than the boss. I just use an ion weapon and a laser, one on the shields, another on the weapons. I can reach the boss without firing a single missile. I’ve played 4 games, quit 2 of them when I lost several of my crew to random events. Come to think of it, I’ve never run away from a fight or been defeated by anything other than the boss, but again, I DO play easy mode.

    • David W says:

      “You are very very wrong”

      Really? I read Shamus as saying pretty much what you do, except with the addendum ‘and I didn’t like it’. How can he be wrong about that? He doesn’t say it’s objectively bad, just that it’s not what he’s looking for in a game.

      Anyway, I’m a fan of FTL myself, I just won’t try to claim it’s for everyone.

      • ooli says:

        All the point of Shamus is to say that the game is a RNG feast (THEN that he dont like that)
        He can be wrong on randomness.
        I did not play FTL, but Nethack can feel really random for the first playthrough. Then you learn, or read the wiki, and it make sense and you can devise some sort of needed survival steps to win (I never succeeded even with save scumming).
        So I can imagine FTL being less random than it seems.
        I mean, Tetris is a RNG feast, you can die waiting for that red long brick.. or you can put a L shaped in and live a little longer.

      • Cybron says:

        He said it’s not skill testing.

        That’s what’s wrong. Not “I don’t like it”.

  25. Tometzky says:

    Maybe Space, Pirates and Zombies (SPAZ), which is currently on Humble Bundle (but only for one more day) would be more to your tastes.

    - a space exploration game created by a two person company;
    - you fly a variety of ships (about 40 hulls), with a variety of configuration options;
    - you can always refit your ships (3 ship fleet) to another purpose, change a ship type at any time (even in combat as long as you can survive several seconds);
    - you can always go back to visited star systems;
    - there’s is a also plot;
    - and zombies!

  26. rayen says:

    The way i’ve interpreted FTL is it isn’t about the destination it’s about the journey. you beat the final boss? great, good for you, was it fun? not really. was getting there fun? yes. it isn’t about meaningful decisions, it’s about commanding a starship, flying through space and seeing how far you can get.

    I’ve clocked 12 hours on this game. i really like it. I’ve never really felt it was unfair. a little frustrating maybe, never unfair. In my head i’m not trying to change your opinion, personal taste is not up for debate, but looking over my argument and post here it looks like i am so i close with this. FTL is a simple game, it doesn’t have DRM so thumbs up there. I think holding lack of decision against it is bit unfair. This game isn’t Mass effect and never claimed to be (unlike ironically, mass effect). It’s a retro game. you just keep running to the right, until the end and then you fight the unbeatable end boss.

  27. Kevin says:

    I can see your point. I have been playing this a few times and after getting crushed a couple of times on Normal and decided I will try Easy until I can beat the Boss.

    Well I’ve been to the boss several times now and it’s pretty easy to get there (although time consuming) but the difficulty really ramps up for that fight. My strategy has been to hit as many nebulas as possible to slow the rebel fleet and earn more scrap in a sector. By the end I’m pretty powerful, but have just been beaten down each time. It’s kinda frustrating. It feels like the boss is not playing by the same rules.

    I find myself wishing there was a little less randomness to the whole thing. My last attempt I barely survived the second assault on the boss and the only way to a repair point was through a rebel controlled sector which ended in death.

    I’m still enjoying it, but I do wish there was more to it.

  28. Blovski says:

    Inevitably sounding braggy though I don’t mean to, I’ve been playing on Normal from the getgo, and I’ve won with three different ships, in different ways.

    The game is more about incremental learning than strategy per se – once you get used to what sort of things happen in certain sectors they become much easier and you can upgrade or prepare your ship to get more out of them (say, if you’re moving into Rock space). Similarly, rolling with the punches and making the best of what you’ve got gets a lot easier with time. Yes, you could get completely screwed by the RNG but every single time I’ve died on that game (except the first time I hit the boss, I spose)it’s because I messed up in some demonstrable way.

    As for meaningful choices – I think they are pretty much present at every level – on a basic level, whether to upgrade your oxygen so it can take a second hit before you have to fuss about it/can deactivate it to fuel other systems more easily, or to save that scrap for something more directly useful. Whether to take out an automated ship in an asteroid belt or just get out of the way, and then whether to jump damaged to a new sector for a chance at more resources or a previously visited one for safe recovery. On a deeper one, whether to go into a slug nebula or a zoltan sector when you’re a good boarding ship without much in the way of weapons – an experienced player would know that he’d probably get more at less risk out of the slug nebula because of the layout and crew of ships you’ll see in that one.

    I’m not a huge fan of the final boss, though once you know it’s coming you can almost always adapt your ship to take it out and there are a variety of ways to do so (there *isn’t* one right build and there’s no one thing that you *need* to deal with it) – the problem for me is more that the final sector is pretty terrible in terms of flavour/layout and that the boss breaks completely with the randomness of the game so far. I’d much rather see a procedurally boss with three randomly picked phases – a chance you could get a boss that you could blue text your way to victory over if you had say, level 3 medbays/sensors/crystal crewman and odd things like that, or you could just get a straight-up fighting one or an automated one with no oxygen for boarders but no repair capacity… ot one with a stress on boarding.

    The thing with the current boss, is that preparing towards it is really not too hard if you know what’s coming but rough if you don’t, and having it a bit weaker but more unpredictable might have been a better choice.

    Anyway – I appreciate the reasons for not liking it but I think you’re maybe laying too much emphasis on whether it acts like a strategy game or not. The main layer of the game is more the roguelike/improvising/getting better at rolling with the punches and making use of what you get (and this is really skill/experience-based rather than RNG based) rather than grand strategy/planning – and it helps that the combat system has astonishing depth but a really simple set of building blocks. There is room for improvement, definitely, in terms of having more variety in events and more flavour/ways you can influence/affect the rebel fleet and boss, but I think what’s there is a very good game.

  29. Woodthorn says:

    I- I play on normal… I don’t win, but I play on normal. To me the game is more about the journey, which fits quite nicely into a small break from other things.

  30. MaxDZ8 says:

    Ever played SPAZ? Appears to be quite similar, and you can try it by getting it from the Humble Indie Bundle. Again, MinMax games is a two-person team.
    Again, we have a randomly populated galaxy. Again, we have a difficulty level that appears to be completely bogus. So far I’ve played it on normal and I’ve been deadlocked. I was forced to leave a sector so I could find some more advanced weaponry but I couldn’t make my way in none of the others.
    I will try it again in the future in EASY. Try it.

  31. StashAugustine says:

    Just gonna throw this out there not having played any other rougelikes: has anyone ever tried to make a rougelike with a L4D- style AI Director? It’d be programmed to balance the game a little, make sure the quests are winnable, toss you the right kinds of uprgrades.

    • Keeshhound says:

      I doubt it; Roguelikes usually try to capitalize on their reputation for bullshit unfairness. The idea, as far as I can tell, is that if you can triumph over something so brutally unforgiving then you must be pretty awesome.

      That’s a cool idea though; as has been discussed before, a lot of genres would benefit from at least giving the option to have dynamically varying difficulty.

  32. N/A says:

    I played FTL. I even enjoyed it for a bit. But it very quickly reminded me why I LOATHE overly random gameplay.

  33. hborrgg says:

    I think you’ll have to toss me in the category of completely disagrees.
    1. Luck vs. Strategy = risk assessment (Which route will scout me the most possible sectors before moving on? Which upgrade has a higher chance of being useful right now? Holy ****, holy ****, look at all those missiles! Let’s aim for the weapons first). At some point that became vastly more interesting to me then those straightforward “Push these Buttons to win” puzzles. The whole alure of a heavily randomized game is that you don’t know everything, as opposed to a more traditional game like Half-Life where the very first play-through is interesting and everything after that turns into “Well of course you won, you knew where all the enemies were going to spawn!”
    2. Believe me, the difficulty is not nearly as bad as it looks. I’m still working on Normal but by now I’ve realized that easy has enough wiggle room for me to win almost every time I play it. The Boss similarly is actually pretty tame once you get the hang of it (additionally, I don’t know what you’re going on about when you say you don’t learn, Every time I’ve died at the boss even before beating it I knew exactly what I did wrong). In fact, what I’ve learned about normal mode is that if the boss becomes to easy for you, you can wander around sectors 7&8 untill you run into a randomly generated ship that is vastly more difficult then the boss will ever be (Occasionally even spawning with 5 shields!).
    3. Watching your perfect plans crash and burn before your eyes as your crew scrambles around trying to put out fires is part of the fun. :D

    This game does have one fundamental design flaw though, and it’s a trap that many games fall into. My termonology is failing me right now so I can’t remember the right phrase but FTL does too much of it. If you are doing well, the game rewards you with upgrades which will allow you to do even better, if you are doing poorly then you are punished to spend your upgrade money on repairs instead of upgrades which will cause you to start doing even worse. The end result is that the player experience varies far too radically from “it has become physically impossible, might as well ragequit” to “I am smashing everything in my path and getting tons of scrap, this is. . . exciting?” with only a tiny sweet spot of fun in between.
    At the moment I am still having fun with the game, but I can I can already see that it’s lifespan is quickly becoming far shorter than it could have been for the exact same reason I got sick of Mann vs Machine so quickly. You don’t win by respawning just in time to airblast the bomb bot away from the hole at the last possible minute, you win by preparing a perfect defense and slaughtering every single bot the moment they appear so you can recover the maximum amount of money for upgrades.

    —————–

    I actually did come up with a couple of suggestions and put them in the FTL forums, but they may have been drowned under the wave of “Thingamajig X is OP/UP” complaints.

    • guy says:

      Yeah, that feedback loop is a common… thing in games. It’s actually a feature in multiplayer, because it makes games shorter and also means the person who has been succeeding most of the game doesn’t flip the table on losing. But actually playing the part where the game spirals down to inevitable doom isn’t any fun; I usually quit multiplayer board games when someone’s secured a decisive advantage.

    • Cybron says:

      I’d call it ‘snowballing’. I agree that it can be a real problem with the game. I personally enjoy attempting to come back from the edge, but it still gets really annoying from time to time.

  34. Alan says:

    I think you’re running into one of FTL’s core problems: lack of traction, or at least the feeling of traction. I have no idea what convinced me to persevere past those first 20+ games. I didn’t feel like I was getting any better. Failure seemed random. It felt like I was shuffling a deck of cards and drawing until I drew the card labeled “You Lose!” It was incredibly demoralizing.

    But over time, I started making reliable progress deeper into the game. At first I chalked it up to finally getting lucky. But I the progress proved reliable. Then I got to the boss, but died almost immediately. The I got to him and defeated the first stage. Then I made it to him and defeated all of his stages, but just barely. Then I defeated him with more margin for error. I can now reach the boss about 80% of the time, and win a comfortable majority of the time. I was considering moving up to Normal.

    My wife sat down to play for the first time having watched me play a bunch. She made it to the boss and made a solid showing before dying. On Normal, because she hadn’t realized the game defaults to Normal. She fell back to Easy and was defeating the boss relatively quickly. This suggests not only can skill improve your odds, you can learn the skills you need watching someone else.

    Key things that I missed in my first batch of runs: Ignore the introductory text about this being a desperate race. Go as slowly as you can. Over all more encounters is beneficial to you. Don’t be nice; be as ruthless as you can. For example, I now attack mercenaries. I didn’t at first, since I had a “If you don’t mess with me, I won’t mess with you” policy. That sort of attitude will cost you in missed rewards. Avoid events that sound like they’ll risk crew; pretty much anything that talks about sending crew somewhere is probably a bad idea, especially in the early game. Beyond that, it’s learning to micromanage combat, and learning enough of the events to know which ones to risk and which to not.

    All that said, I’m actually done with FTL. My decisions, both in combat and events, feel like I’m on autopilot. I don’t feel like I’m seriously weighing tradeoffs or applying skill; I’m just roboticly applying rules I’ve developed. I have some desire to keep playing, but I’m never really enjoying myself. I’m reminded of my dabbling in some of the worst free-to-play games that are just high tech Skinner boxes.

    • Well said. I’ve had a similar experience. Skill really does matter, and making small mistakes can easily doom you. After a while, once you’re “good” at it, there’s really nowhere else to go.

      A space-exploration sandbox type game built on these ship battle mechanics would be a very interesting experience.

    • Sumanai (Asimech) says:

      That last bit is why I think I find FTL boring (whenever I don’t find it just irritating). What you want to do doesn’t change from run to run, because you can’t predict at all what might be coming this time that wouldn’t have been possible the previous ones, so every action becomes routine. There’s no reason to go for X instead of Y this time, because Y has always been the better choice overall.

      Curiously, this fits with my blackjack analogy even though I didn’t think about this at all while making it.

    • hborrgg says:

      I’m a little bit hesitant about throwing around the term “skinner box.”

      I think what makes FTL fun isn’t necessarily getting loot and leveling up, it’s getting to go on an awesome space adventure! There are loads of stories to be had, from your captain leading a party aboard a damaged slave ship to sacrificing a crew member in order to repair your O2 systems, however the game has real trouble bringing those stories the forefront and for every fun run you do you are going to have to play through a number of lame runs where the encounters are getting too easy or hopeless runs where you’ve already had a bit of bad luck and might as well give up (protip: no great space story ever ends with “And then the captain ragequit”).

      This isn’t as big a deal for someone with a lot of free time on their hands, but when someone is busy with a job, or schoolwork, or pretending to write a novel, or hurrying to churn out a review of that new indie game all the kids are going on about these days, and only has a short amount of spare time in which to boot up FTL and relax with an amazing space adventure, then it becomes problematic if only a quarter of the games you start actually go anywhere interesting.

  35. Adeon says:

    I did beat the game on normal one of my earlier runs (a feat i have not duplicated) but I suspect that I got really, really lucky.

  36. postinternetsyndrome says:

    The solitaire comparison is actually quite apt, but a lot of people like solitaire! I agree that the game lacks these things you mention, but I like it anyway. It’s more about playing the cards you are dealt and weighing risk vs reward. After a couple of playthroughs you learn what kind of payoff a certain choice of a certain random event might give you, but you also know that it can cost you a crew member. Do you roll the dice or do you just move on?

    It is a very limited game to be sure, offering a very limited type of experience. But within that small space it inhabits, I’d say it performs with excellence.

    It’s actually similar to The Binding of Isaac in many ways, though in TBoI you can compensate a bit for bad luck by simply being skilled. Recovering from a loss of a crewmember or unfortunate encounter with a solar flare can be tough, but is often doable.

    I would, however, definitely be in the market for a more open and strategic game using the same mechanics as this one, where you could design your ship yourself and roam the stars in search of fortune.

  37. Kornel Blaszczyk says:

    I beg to differ

    1. IMHO ;)
    2. Sorry for my terrible English

    I find my self to enjoy FTL greatly, here is why. Random nature of the game (and this is important step) makes me stop caring about frequent deaths, they don’t frustrate me (in FTL that is). If you are not able to switch your focus from “min maxing and getting to the end of the game as quickly as possible” or (this is for you Shamus ;) “exploring everything and moving on when i fill like it” to “enjoying the experience of playing (provided You enjoy the experience) and focusing on here and now instead of long term goals” then You won’t be able to enjoy the game. But if you are able to make this first important step then You are getting something unique in return. The fact that you are not able to come in prepared combined with permadeath makes every fight unique and tense. It is not bold adventure if you plan everything ahead and are able to “bring a gun to knife fight”. It is only bold adventure if you find yourself in a fight with battle drone with shields that you are not able to penetrate so you are forced to teleport away party to destroy your opponent’s shields only to discover that they are doomed to death because there is no air on automated drone (who would have guessed right ;) ) so they suffocate while bashing enemies shield system and you hope that it will be destroyed before your crew will get out of air and die. I won that fight but lost two crew members and was unable to win a playthrough but i don’t regret it. Almost every playthrough ends with a fight like this and is great. And frequent deaths…. well “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever”.

  38. I went into FTL expecting to like it, and then ended up absolutely loving it.

    But then I didn’t expect it to be Starflight revisited; if I had done, I’d have been more than a little disappointed!

    I think your calibration of expectations has irreversibly skewed your opinion, Shamus. I’m not trying to say “stop expecting it to be Starflight, because it isn’t, and you’ll suddenly love it”; you can’t do that.

    I’m saying because you expected (hoped) it would be something like Starflight, your hopes were dashed from the get-go. For you, this game will always be markedly inferior to the game it should have been. That’s the sort of thing a person can never let go of.

    (I do hope someone redoes a Starflight one day, though. We haven’t had anything since Star Control II…)

    Along similar lines, I sort of hope Carrier Command is really good (because I loved the original on the ZX Spectrum so much I was even willing to put up with the hour-long loading time (from tape!); but I haven’t looked much at the remake in case it is rubbish, because that will make me cry. Also it’s £30 which is ridiculous.

  39. Unbeliever says:

    Wow. Thanks, Shamus. I was actually considering getting this one, but after reading this, I don’t think I’d play it if it were free…

  40. Kevin says:

    I don’t know what to say I played it for about 10 hours and beat the game on normal twice. Once you know what stuff is good and what is worthless its really just a matter of getting two burst lasers.

    • N/A says:

      Sure. But then there’s the huge Fake Difficulty issue of FINDING two burst lasers – not getting screwed over by encounters long enough to either get miraculous drop or find a shop that stocks one, when you have enough scrap on hand to buy it.

  41. N/A says:

    It’s a shame, because the actual combat system of FTL is really enjoyable. There’s enough variables like weapons, crew types, crew skills and ship layout to keep things interesting, and aside from evasion there’s no random element. In principle, that’s really engaging for me – some kind of multiplayer with custom-made ships facing off against each other would be fantastic. Unfortunately, the gameplay surrounding that is loathsome to me.

    Ultimately, I don’t find luck-based gameplay enjoyable. Randomization has no intrinsic allure for me because it robs the impact from both victory and defeat; the outcome is decided as much by computer fiat as my own skill. What I really want is a system that can eliminate random elements while remaining complex enough to not be easily and conclusively ‘solved’. So, for example, something like a slower-paced Starcraft would be good. The Total War series is almost perfect; combat may be randomized on the individual level, but the probability curve evens out so thoroughly that battles are very dependant on player skill.

  42. A Different Dan says:

    Shamus are you aware of EV Nova?

    Not dependent on luck for the most part (at least not irrecoverably so), space flight, wonderfully well-developed story… Sounds like it’d be more your thing than FTL :)

    As for FTL, I’ve beaten the game on Normal the third time I played it. Haven’t beaten it since. Luck is a *massive* part of it — though I’m not helping my chances by using the Zoltan ship.

  43. Mark says:

    I’ve not played a lot of nethack, but is EVERY game winable?

    • guy says:

      Theoretically. That is, everything fundamentally necessary to complete the victory conditions will spawn, and a wand of wishing will also spawn. With proper use that comes out to 6 wishs + a scroll of charging, sufficient to gear up for the endgame run. I think there’s a guaranteed wand of digging, so Dig for Victory (bore straight to the wishes ASAP) would be possible even if a malevolent god made all the loot rolls come up empty.

  44. Sekundaari says:

    “I just can’t get behind a game where the outcome of two hours of play all hinge on a coin-flip like this.”

    I can see this would be appealing to some people.

  45. Blackbird71 says:

    I’ve had FTL recommended to me recently, however as a kid I absolutely despised Oregon Trail, and I would probably dislike FTL for all the reasons cited. So thanks for the heads up, Shamus!

    At best, this sounds like the sort of game I might end up messing around with if it were browser based, as I’d just play it a little while waiting for some other project to load, or working on something that requries minimal attention.

  46. Naota says:

    That final boss thread is really frustrating for me. Some people luck out, conclude it wasn’t that bad, and then strut around proclaiming their greatness. Other players might have really bad luck, and have several well-done play-throughs end in defeat. So you’ve got a group of really frustrated players versus a group of swaggering jackasses. And all of this ire should be aimed at the mechanics, rather than at each other.

    I hate situations like these. I really do. Even when the mechanics aren’t entirely random, it’s quite possible for an encounter with poorly-explained rules unrelated to the gameplay up until that point to end up like this, because making a choice with no information is effectively random (or if you’d prefer, the ability to make a “right” choice has nothing to do with deduction or thought – just guesswork coloured by the player’s personality).

    In my case it was Mass Effect 3′s reaper battle. Lacking any information or feedback I made all of the wrong choices first and had to slog through more than a dozen deaths without any indication of what I was doing wrong. A few people I’ve talked to beat the battle on their first or second try just by sheer chance, and can’t fathom how it was so hard for me to get by. They drew an ace on their first try, and it never occurred to them what it was like to pull all of the other 48 cards first due to sheer bad luck. It’s even more insidious, because repeated wrong choices in this encounter actually led you to wrong conclusions, making you more likely to fail on repeated attempts rather than less.

    Worst design philosophy. EVER.

    • anaphysik says:

      Speaking of horrible boss fights in ME3, those damn husks killed me numerous times, way before I even saw the famed hero Marauder Shields (OMG ACTUAL SPOILERS OMG: who is obviously a reanimated Nihlus).

      • Naota says:

        I think husks kill me from full health more often than anything else in the multiplayer. It’s not that they do a lot of damage or even that they knock you around with their attacks, but that stupid grab they do locks you into a canned animation that takes a small eternity to complete. You can be crouched behind cover one second and standing right up in the open, immobile, for the entire world to shoot the next.

        The whole point of fighting off a husk should be to get it away from you quickly, but instead we’re forced to watch an interminable cutscene of Shepard/whoever “being awesome” by struggling with it, throwing it down, and laboriously stomping it to death before straightening up again. Imagine if this is what happened every time you used the melee button in Left 4 Dead!

    • Irridium says:

      I had no clue what I was doing during that whole fight.

      On the sixth try (I think) I won. Somehow. Still feels like I got lucky, and didn’t actually “beat” anything.

      Horrible fight, that was.

  47. Wedge says:

    I enjoy FTL, but I find myself frustrated for the same reasons as you Shamus. You might be interested to know that there’s a mod that removes the time pressure element of the game. I haven’t gotten a chance to mess around with it yet, but hopefully it’ll open up the game for those of us who prefer a more strategic experience to a masochistic one :)

  48. Adalore says:

    I agree with all the points stated here. even though I do have fun I understand where you are coming from.

    Also if I had a space game thing, I would want slightly more complex ships (with crew rooms, and kitchen and ect) that are maybe up to three levels deep for players(decks I mean, AI can have the unmanageable huge ships.). And a more complex combat system, more than SHOOT SHIELDS, SHOOT WEAPON CONTROL.

    I like base management stuff that has crew stuff, I think it’s one reason why I liked Evil Genius (until not being able to control minions killed me.)

  49. Jeff says:

    I beat the boss on Normal because I got very, very lucky. Two Pegasus launchers (which fire 2 missiles at the cost of 1), Stealth Weapons, and the Weapon Pre-Igniter.

    I was flying the cruiser with the beam weapon, so I stupidly lost my 2-mantis boarding party. They had already killed the crew in the weapon pods during the first phase, so it wasn’t a huge loss.

    2 anti-boarding drones kept me safe, and the Pre-Igniter meant the moment the encounter started, I had missiles ready to cripple their weapon systems. Beat the game, though I almost died – lots of hull ruptures, fires, damaged systems…

  50. Sumanai (Asimech) says:

    People who like FTL and keep saying how it’s about the journey:

    It’s pretty clear that to some people (and to a good degree to me) the journey of multiple runs in FTL is basically being on an airplane for the first time on an eight hour business trip, budget seats, no stops, no entertainment except a boring sci-fi book, unable to sleep, all the windows are permanently shut and someone is hogging the bathroom. At the end of the trip all you get is an annoying meeting.

    The destination promises no pleasure and the journey can at best be described as boring, at worst torture, after the initial novelty.

    The fact that this seems to be the experience for some of those who say they’re good at the game I’m willing to bet that being able to enjoy the journey is not dependant on how well you understand the game, but rather simply telling of what you find enjoyable.

    I guess what I’m saying is that saying “it’s about the journey” is roughly like telling someone that they should like Pirates of the Caribbean movies because “it’s about pirates”. It’s kind of pointless. Like this comment.

    • hborrgg says:

      Fortunately, the journey gets much more exciting the moment you glance down the aisle and notice that the entire front of the plane is on fire as well as the fact that the passenger sitting next to you is currently being attacked by a giant preying mantis.

      • Sumanai says:

        Except the “mantis” is a guy in an obvious rubber suit and the fire is made of red strips of cloth tied to a fishing line that a couple of the airline workers are pulling back and forth all the while making annoying noises.

        And this is the sixth time this has happened, only the rubber suit has occasionally changed. There’s nothing surprising going on, and it lost its charm in the first hour.

        There’s nothing interesting or exceptional going on, it’s just pointless fluff hiding the fact that you’re on a boring flight to a place you don’t care to be.

        A paint job on a rusted car. A paper thin mattress on the floor. In a way better than nothing, but in another way worse and ultimately meaningless.

  51. Cybron says:

    Forewarning: I really like this game, so maybe I’m a bit biased. However, having logged 90+ hours on this game, I feel pretty confident in my ability to say that yes, there is skill in this game, without the bias of luck.

    I am confident in this because I am able to track my own progression through the game. I started the game on easy, because this is definitely not a game you start on normal. And I got my ass kicked. Repeatedly. I went through 40 something games without a win – in that stretch, I think I made it past the boss’s second form only once.

    However, during that time, I was not just mindlessly dying – it was a slow and painful process of learning from my mistakes. Somewhere around 45 games in, I had my first victory. The game started to click for me. From there, I continued to win the game at a ratio of about 2:1. Perhaps I am a statistical anomaly, but I am fairly confident that this cannot be chalked up to luck. I’ve since moved up to Normal, which is, as you say, very hard. But I’ve managed to make it through 3 times, and I am continuing to learn.

    Saying there is no skill or player choice in this game is very unfair. To start with, every single battle is skill testing! Making the right decision on what to take offline first and what to focus on can mean the difference between flawless victory and barely breaking even on rewards vs repair costs. Furthermore, events typically present you with the chance to take a calculated risk when blue options are not present. For instance, one particular event confronts you with a ship stuck in an asteroid field which asks you for help. You are given two options (presuming you don’t have the required triggers for the blue options) – shield their ship with yours, or leave them to their fate. If you choose to shield them, you will receive a scrap reward – however, you face a non-trivial chance of taking a good chunk of hull damage. Alternatively, if you choose to leave them to their fate, there is a chance they will survive and spitefully tell the rebels where you are, dramatically increasing the rebel’s next advance! This quandary requires you to know the possible outcomes and evaluate the odds in the context of your current situation.

    Finally, you have left out what is perhaps THE most important aspect of a successful run – resource management. Knowing when, how, and where to spend your scrap is absolutely vital to success. Upgrading your shields at the right time can mean navigating the rest of the sector damage free, which builds your scrap reserves. Spending frivolously can result in you missing out on a critical weapon or result in taking damage that could have been avoided. To say there’s no choice or skill there is ridiculous.

    The game is hard, no doubt. But in my opinion it’s not much harder (or possible easier) than, say, X-Com or any given rogue-like. There is RNG influence, and you will occasionally be faced with a ridiculously difficult scenario because of it, but this is not unusual for rogue-likes, which this game clearly emulates (giving rise to the ridiculous genre label rogue-like-like). In my opinion it’s not much more swingy than popular rogue-likes such as Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.

    You won’t win the game every time, and I suppose my acceptance of that fact makes me a bit of a masochist. But it’s still a very fun and skill intensive game which I don’t feel you’re giving a fair shake.

    • Shamus says:

      Just to be clear: I never said there was NO skill. I said that skill was often overshadowed by dice rolls. I can see the skills and strategies that grow as you learn the game. I just wish I could interact with those without so much random noise.

      • Cybron says:

        Well, I apologize for any over-reading I may be doing.

        However, I do think you’re either still overestimating the amount of randomness or we’re coming into this with very different expectations.

        I was sold on this game as a rogue-like (or a rogue-like-like, for the more pedantic folk among us). I am accustomed to a certain amount of randomness in such games. Nethack, DC:SS, and many others constantly present new and interesting challenges – which are often drastically unfair.

        I also think saying ‘skill is overshadowed by dice rolls’ is a misrepresentation. There are so many ways to beat the boss that encountering any one of them is a likely thing. Some ships even come with a way to beat the boss built in – the Federation cruiser, in particular.

        I think seeing through the random noise is part of the natural progression of skill. Eventually you start to see patterns emerge. Maybe it’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to throw at it timewise, I don’t know. The game is not terribly helpful in that it does not do a great job pointing out your mistakes. I think what’s much more helpful in this regard is your fellow players. I know that around the time I started drastically improving was when I started reading and sharing tips with other people and slowing aggregating a knowledge base from our collective knowledge. They can help you spot the patterns you’ve missed.

        For instance, unless you’ve done it frequently beforehand, it’s easy to miss how good upgrading your medbay to level 2 is. It gets you a ton of blue text to help you deal with situations which might otherwise be a huge gamble.

        Guess I’m just rambling. If you don’t like the game, that’s fine. I’m not about to get mad at someone I enjoy reading so much over one opinion. Just kinda disappoints because, as someone else said, you’re so damn right most of the time that I’m sure some people will never play the game because of it.

  52. Alec W says:

    Two points being missed:

    1) The GoG version is actually the best. You get the DRM free game, plus a safe place to download it from again if you lose it, and a bunch of cool extras like a soundtrack and developer art – all for the same price. The only thing you lose is the Steam key, which I don’t care much about. I try to minimise my Steam usage due to their ‘can shutdown your account and lock you out of your entire games library forever if you fail to agree to a suddenly changed Terms of Service’ thing. I still use Steam, but I try and spread my purchases around other vendors too.

    2) The only reason I’m perturbed with this article is that there are people posting here “oh I won’t get it then” because Shamus has an annoying habit of being very right most of the time.

    This isn’t one of those times.

    I can’t speak to taste of course, but the statement “The problem is, FTL doesn’t have the strategic depth I’m looking for, because the gameplay is ruled by the random number generator.” is *factually* incorrect.

    As I said, I can finish the game with the starting ship 100% of the time now. I can even do ridiculous challenges like completing the game with no shields or without taking hull damage before the boss! There are no pure diceroll deaths where you had no input (unless playing Stealth Ship A or Torus Type B – they are not intended for beginners).

    My suggestion to him is to use your games with the goal of unlocking even easier ships – which gives a secondary goal for each run, so even if you die you unlocked a new ship. In the process you will learn the skills required to make winning simple.

    • Shamus says:

      Either way, the game STILL doesn’t work for me. If there’s lovely strategic depth and fun and meaningful choices (as many people have pointed out) then it simply takes WAY too long for the game to unveil them. This feels like the discussion about the one Final Fantasy Game: You quit after 8 hours? Pfft. The game gets really good around hour 20. You just have to stick with it.

      Just reading the discussion of the end boss makes me want to avoid the game. I would feel very angry if I lost to that, and I would feel no joy at all if I won.

      • Alec W says:

        Oh, of course the game may not be for you. I find that surprising, given your background, but it’s certainly possible that it just doesn’t gel and I totally understand.

        Shamus I simply didn’t want people turned off what was one of the best gaming experiences (certainly the best ‘indie’ experience) I’d had all year because of an incorrect conclusion: That it’s an RNG game.

        I am just delighted to have an rpg-like experience without the part that every rpg can’t do right – the ‘endgame’. There’s no part where the game is badly tuned or you grind or anything else. It ends, neatly.
        Moreover, unlocking new ships and ship-kits with achievements filled my play time before I suddenly realised I had developed the skills required to actually finish the game, and this was a lot of fun. Playing with the Mantis-B ship that focuses on boarding is a totally different experience to playing with, say, the Missile-only Bulwark ship.

        I suggest giving it another go, because it’s such a potentially amazing ball of fun. It stopped me playing Borderlands and Battlefield cold.
        Try with a mind to exploiting the combat carefully to make it as tactical as possible and to unlock another ship that may suit you more, rather than winning. I didn’t ‘get’ the Kestrel starting ship till my third successful run – the Torus and the Zoltan ship were easier for me as a beginner, and you have to unlock them first.
        If those first 30 minutes of another game or ship don’t do it for you, then write it off by all means, but I suspect this game has the ability to really tickle you if you give it another chance.

      • Kernly says:

        The issue with the comparison to that final fantasy game is that, as I understand it, the FF game required you to slog through a bunch of mindless crap to get to ‘the good stuff.’ This game pretty much dumps you into the core gameplay right away.

        I think perhaps a reason why I enjoyed the game a lot more than you did is that I watched some let’s plays of the game before I started playing (they were what convinced me to buy the game) and so I had a basic idea of what was going on before I started. I still got crushed at first (the let’s players I watched at first were quite terrible at the game) but I came into the game brimming with ideas about how to play the game better than the people I watched.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Why not try one of the cheats then?To remove the pursuit perhaps.After all,that is how we learned the games in the old days when there were no saves(only cheats were then integrated in the game,and werent about changing the documentation of it).

      • hborrgg says:

        A lot of what Kernly said. In fact, screw both luck and skill, if need be you can get away with spamming the pause button every half-second and stratergize exactly how you want the next few milliseconds to play out. This is where a whole lot of the thinking and depth comes in as you perfectly time all of your volleys, crew movements, venting, medibay cycling for maximum effectiveness. You see that half-second between when a laser blast takes down an enemy shield bubble, and when it recharges? That’s when you are timing your beam to fire and do an absolute ton of damage.

        Ok though, I’ll admit it. Your situation doesn’t actually appear all that uncommon, I think those of us that apparently are doing well just struggle to comprehend why others aren’t. Your conclusion obviously is that the game is just too random and in truth there’s not much we can do to challenge that since we don’t actually know what the issue is. When you say “I hate being unlucky” we have no idea whether you actually are being unlucky and are missing 10 times in a row against an enemy ship that should only have a 5% dodge chance, or whether your ship is simply being turned into a fireball each time because you don’t bother to upgrade your doors (or one of the many many other major mistakes you could be making). If you opted to upload a video I’m sure many people would gladly tear it apart nit picking at every little thing you did wrong and I would provide helpful, constructive criticisms

        Maybe the big problem is experience and you need to play for 8 hours before you really start understanding what the heck is going on. Me and Kernly certainly didn’t do that. Before we even got the game we watched a little of it being played on youtube, I skimmed over the wiki to learn about the different weapons and ships etc. and both of us had plans formed for what we would do before our very first runs.

        Now maybe you have something against looking up external knowledge when you first pick up a game. Maybe you don’t want to feel like a bunch of trolls are telling you what to do (I can only read the first page of that thread, but from the looks of things in between all the idiot trolls are some people honestly giving helpful advice). But look, obviously you aren’t having fun and you feel hurt, and I feel hurt because I want you to get your ten dollars worth of enjoyment, and now you’re mad at the game but for alllll the wRONg rEASonssssss. . .
        *sniff*

        • Robyrt says:

          This is an area where you can really see the influence of top-shelf game designers. Demon’s Souls was a similar kind of “Just read the wiki before you play, it’ll be a piece of cake!” game, where the sequence of actions required to overcome the game’s natural difficulty and reach the higher-level content were trivial to implement but not at all obvious. This turned off a lot of people who were expecting the game to actually teach them how to play – you know, like virtually all games do.

          So the sequel, Dark Souls, provides a lot more player feedback. Enemies in directions you’re not supposed to go are not just high-level, they’re literally impossible to kill. New items are placed prominently in useful locations, not hidden in the back corner of the poison swamp. NPCs will remind you to use the more arcane game systems, just at the point where you first need them. There are still arcane secrets to find that reward the wiki readers, but the game will naturally teach you what it wants within the first couple deaths.

  53. A Gould says:

    I think it truly depends on what kind of game you want to play.

    FTL is in the genre of games I like to call “Oh My God I Am So Totally Screwed” – this is a genre shared by games like Nethack and Dwarf Fortress, but also board games like Elder Signs, Arkham Horror, Pandemic, and Scotland Yard.

    The point is that you can’t have a strategy, only tactics. You can never min/max or optimize or build a cheat-guide, because every game you have to rediscover what your options are, and what chances you’ll be given. You can’t learn where the special gizmo is, or which route is safe – and that’s the fun, I think. You can never, ever get confident or cocky, because you’ll jump ahead too fast, and become Totally Screwed. :)

    • Alec W says:

      This is not true. Without an overarching strategy it’s very, very hard to beat the final boss. Your ship has to do what it does very well, or you need to be good at everything due to luck.

      I don’t much like relying on luck so strategy it is.

      There are many different systems and mechanics that you will come across, and you need to figure out which ones fit in with your style. If you’re focused on boarding tactics, then a powerful BurstMkII laser, which is ‘the best weapon’ in the game, may actually be counterproductive, as it uses energy and may destroy a ship your men are on. Whereas a simple cloaking upgrade that lets you avoid some damage while you murder the enemy crew may be a much better use of your money and energy.

      Example: Do I spend precious money early on a Scrap Collector augment, which will pay for itself slowly over the course of the game and net me a decent profit, or use those precious early resources to get critical early upgrades that will prevent costly damage?

      • Cybron says:

        I believe what he’s saying is that in order to get maximum results, you have to be flexible with what strategy you are pursuing. You may be fond of laser spam (like I am), but you sure as hell cannot force the game to hand you a Burst Lasers Mk II every run. So instead, when the game offers you a teleporter, and you’ve found a pair of Mantis through events, you suddenly switch over to boarding, because that’s what you have to work at. Gotta be ready to work with what the game gives you and know how to use it to your best advantage.

        • A Gould says:

          I think I’d draw the distinction between strategy and tactics here – strategy is what you’re planning to do in the battle, tactics is what happens when you get there. :)

          FTL doesn’t focus much on strategy – you can pick a ship, and you can plan your general systems upgrade plan (which only requires you to get scrap, not particular parts). The bulk of the game is in tactics – how do you react to changing circumstances?

          That’s part of the appeal of the game for me – in today’s world of gamefaqs and optimized gameplay, it’s nice to have a game where I don’t have to worry that I’m doomed eight hours in because I put a point in the wrong skill. Each game is a fresh slate, and while experience will help point you in the right direction, there’s no way to do a perfect run. You just do the best you can with what you’re given.

          (Again, I’m a sucker for these sorts of games – I understand they wouldn’t be for everyone)

  54. Kernly says:

    The game has RNG, but I can guarantee that skill is a *huge* factor, and you can make informed decisions. I have beaten the game several times on normal. There certainly is room for improvement, though – there should be more rewards for targeting things besides weapons and shields. The videos on this guy’s channel should give lots of materiel about what skill there is to the game. Guy has like a 25% winrate and plays only normal.

    • Alec W says:

      I find there are reasons to target many different things.

      1) If you are using boarding tactics, taking out the medbay is close to the highest priority.
      2) If you are using limited resources like missiles and bombs, or you are in a dangerous situation like a Solar Flare, or the enemy ship is trying to escape, or it’s a highly maneuverable ship like a drone, taking out helm or engines is the most important priority, as it slows/prevents FTL, and brings evasion down to 0%.
      3) If the enemy ship has weak weapons but has drones hurting your shields, then drone control is the best target. Also if you are missile-reliant but he has defense drones.
      4) If you are trying to burn the enemy out or asphyxiate the crew for the salvage bonus, targeting O2 can be the way to go.
      5) Sometimes targeting a system that is far from other systems, especially with fire weapons, can spread the crew thin and let the fire get out of control (since the AI is bad at depressurising to deal with fire).
      6) Sometimes you want to cause extra hull damage quickly – targeting any system with low health like sensors or doors is the way to go, since bringing any system to red health causes an additional point of hull damage.

      Also, 25% is pretty bad using the more powerful ships. I’d say I can finish the game close to 100% with ships like Fed Cruiser, Kestral or Bulwark B. Ships like Stealth A or Eng B are of course more luck-dependent.

      • Kernly says:

        Well yes, there are reasons to target things besides shields and weapons – but the vast majority of the time your tactics will boil down to “Can I get through his shields reliably enough to take out his weapons? If yes go for weapons. If no go for shields, then go for weapons.” Obviously if you aren’t looking to kill the ship, but just want to kill the crew, the situation changes. Also for instance on the second phase of the boss you want to prioritize the drone bay, and there are lots of other exceptions to the general rule, but the general rule applies the vast majority of the time.

        I think some good changes would be that oxygen should run out a lot faster when the oxygen section is hit, and damaging engines should reduce the amount of power available. Perhaps weapons and shields should automatically have a 50% speed boost to repair. I think that would open up a lot of tactics that just aren’t viable when hitting weapons and shields is so incredibly strong.

  55. Duneyrr says:

    If you can get 5 computers and 5 geeky friends to play with you in the same room, you can get an Artemis setup! http://www.artemis.eochu.com/ it’s the closest thing to a starship bridge you are likely to get right now.

  56. X2Eliah says:

    One thing.

    Why is it that the “this game does have skill” arguments somehow, in this article’s comments, boil down to “I completed it n times and I am totally pro so it has skill”?

    Seriously. Nearly every comment trying to counter Shamus and say that this game is so very much about playerskill has at least 50% of its content being self-bragging and implied superiority/gaming-1337ness? Can we have objective arguments about why this game does require skill and isn’t based on RNG, without touching “I did this and that so and so times and I used much leet skillz and if you are as good as me you can totally win all the time, I can even train you up like I trained up my friends so they are leet too now!“.
    I am exaggerating a bit, yes, but only a bit.

    Honestly. What do you think you achieve with sayings like “I completed it 100% x times.”, “I can solve every situation the game throws at me with my mad skillz”, etc.? Do you think anyone else cares about how skillful you are at the game? Are you trying to say that Shamus isn’t skillful enough to be on your level, or that he hasn’t played enough to submit to the game’s constant F.U.-choices, or that he needs to take tips from you? What? What is it that you are trying to say by bragging about how many times you completed this or that?

    • Cybron says:

      Because the easiest way to counter the claim that ‘such and such is completely random’ is to point to non-random trends in data? It’s not bragging, it’s saying “But I know it’s not purely random due to personal experience. If it was, then how would one consistently finish well?”

      You’re taking claims to skill way too personally, when they are in fact central to counter the argument at hand – that the games are too random for skill to be a factor.

      • Kdansky says:

        Your argument disqualifies itself:

        “I know it is not random because of ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE”

        That’s not a valid argument!

        • cerapa says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but I havent heard any non-anecdotal evidence AT ALL. From any side. I dont even understand how you think people should provide facts about this thing.

          Win-Loss rates and personal testimonies are the only data we have. Deal with it.

          • Kdansky says:

            “I won” is anecdotal.
            “84% of games are won” is evidence.

            We only have the first, therefore we have no evidence to support the game being sensibly balanced. I don’t expect the players to offer data. People are just bragging, deal with it.

          • X2Eliah says:

            This is a small kickstarted project, yes? It supports mods, right? So people working with this game and it’s mod perhaps would know how it makes event decisions and what is the internal logic. How much of it relies on deterministic decisions, and how much includes x=rand(y). How large is the extent of buffering, of intentional helping to initially unlucky players, of conditionals in event spawns, of rubberbanding with pursuers, or loot drop rate adjusting.. All of that. How much is pure random and how much has player-reliant conditions.

            Alternatively, examine the set of events leading to a selected goal, and see how much of those events are player-dependant and how much are random-dependant. How many situations completely lock the player out of a solution – Z -, versus how many situations allow the player to achieve Z even if outcome of X was 1 instead of 2 or 3. Build a statistically valid evaluation of the importance, presence, and impact of randomness. If this sounds too complicated, then have an example:

            What is needed to unlock a.. say, Mantis spaceship?
            How many prerequisites are based on randomness?
            How many prerequisites can be substituted/obtained based on skill vs. based on rand(y)?
            That alone will show how much value player skill has in this game if you want to get that ship.

            Because Kdansky is spot-on, “I won” means absolutely squat. You could just have gotten lucky, for all we know. You won ten times? Maybe you are very very lucky with this game!

    • Alec W says:

      As Cybron said, the point isn’t ‘how awesome am i lol’ (though awesome I may well be), the point is, if I can win close to 100% of the time and someone else cannot, then obviously skill or experience or decisions or *something* is at work beyond simple chance.

      That doesn’t mean the game is for everyone, or that other people are stupid just for not having the time and patience to learn what is a tough little game, it just means that RNG is not the actual problem, so that *particular* criticism is invalid.

      A better tutorial, some tips for the boss, or an actually *easy* for beginners mode would definitely have helped stop a lot of people from putting the game down like Shamus.

  57. Hold on, I think I just got something, after nearly 200 comments. Is this a game where you have to fail many, many times in order to see the strategies that work? Isn’t that just a variation of the ‘do it again stupid’ gameplay that Shamus has lambasted several times in the past? If so, it’s hardly surprising that he doesn’t find it engaging.

    • Alec W says:

      This is an entirely fair point, I can’t defend the need to die repeatedly to learn the game because the tutorial is pretty inadequate (esp for the *#$#$#$ boss). In a different era, this game would have had a full manual as *well* as a tutorial, thus lessening the burden of the tutorial’s job to what it does – lets you jump in. Then when people complained about obscure mechanics, we could just go “RTFM man”.

      There is no manual that I know of, so this is a totally legitimate complaint.

      However, while I died many times to learn to win, I mitigated this by doing other things on the way – even if I was doomed, I’d try to get a ship achievement or unlock each playthrough, so I never felt I wasted my time. Since each playthrough takes only an hour or two, it wasn’t demoralising or frustrating to die for an unlock.

      There are other alternatives now – reading the wiki and FTLgame.com forums will teach strategies to win immediately without the learning curve, or installing the mods that reduce difficulty will have a similar effect, or downloading a profile that has ships unlocked.

    • Shamus says:

      That is a very interesting question.

      When I talk about DIAS, I’m usually talking about a fixed challenge that requires foreknowledge to overcome. (Once you take out the guards, more guys appear in door X, where you are likely standing. The trick is to take cover at Y before killing the guards, even though a first-time player would have NO REASON to do that.)

      Personally I wouldn’t want to lump FLT in with that, simply because that’s a really brain-dead approach to making something “hard” and I don’t think FTL is like that. However, both system have a lot of “learn through failure”. In GTA, you’re learning that the guys appear in door X. In FTL, you’re getting a feel for trends and probabilities so you know which way to bet, like in backjack.

      I think the GTA thing is far worse. After a few tries at a GTA mission, all you’ve learned is how to beat that one mission. At least in FTL you’re learning generalized things that can benefit in other situations.

      Having said that, I’m sure you’re right – I do have a limited tolerance for “learning through repeated failure”, which is probably why I never really enjoyed my time with FTL. When a 20 minute game ends in failure and I don’t see what I could have done wrong, I do not feel compelled to throw three more hours into it. Some people see the failure as a challenge. I see a lot of frustration and hassle that MIGHT pay off as fun with several more hours of play. I might take that gamble is a game has really delighted me to this point, but FTL’s fixed-build ship, coin-flip navigation, and gotcha final boss do not scratch my gaming itch.

  58. Alec W says:

    If anyone else is having trouble, here is the simplest way to win the game summed up handily:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WYhve33s9o

    I’m not saying there isn’t *any* ‘RNG’…

  59. Kdansky says:

    The saddest thing is how easy (even at a very late stage) this would be to fix.

    Instead of giving you a choice between two vague (to the point of completely unknown) places to jump to next, put in a preview! Randomly generate half a dozen events, then let the player choose which one to go for, with clear explanation like this:

    A: Shop
    B: Station under attack by a Scout drone
    C: Rebel combat ship
    D: Asteroid field

    That way, a good player can make a meaningful decision, while a newbie will just have to guess and experiment, and try to master the game, which is the *whole point of a game* to begin with.

    In short: Don’t have a meaningless choice BEFORE a random result. Have a meaningful choice AFTER the randomness!

    And on a similar topic: Give the player clear hints as to what the last boss will be able to do (by using the same mechanics on normal enemies earlier AND dropping hints throughout the game).

    • hborrgg says:

      You can see adjacent shops and distress beacons before jumping. Environmental dangers and possible ship locations can be identified by either using a long-range scanner (actually comes standard on the stealth ships) or with certain events that will provide you with a map of the sector.

    • krellen says:

      They do that, but unfortunately it only comes in the form of a ship upgrade (some ships start with the Long Range Sensors, others have to find/buy them.)

      • Kdansky says:

        Which tells me one thing very clearly: The designers didn’t understand this idea at all. They just thought it would be neat to have a bit of information, but didn’t grasp the actual consequences!

        If this was an FPS, they would have made “strafing” and crosshairs upgrades instead of basic controls.

        • rrgg says:

          I think they understand it a bit better than you do.

          If every ship started with long range scanners by default then players just wouldn’t ever go into environmental hazards like asteroid fields. It’s the random events such as accidentally wandering too close to a star or jumping into a plasma storm that help keep players on their toes and keep the game interesting. The stealth ships are both given scanners to start with due to their lack of shields, but all of the others shouldn’t really have much trouble adapting.

  60. Xodion says:

    I have to say I’m surprised to hear that you didn’t like it, although I think I can understand your reasoning that it is too similar to a game you want to play but too different to enjoy. My own experience of FTL doesn’t appear to me to be totally meaningless, though, as opposed to Dredmor which I did give up because I felt it relied too heavily on luck for me to do anything meaningful (only 1 build out of ~40 got past floor 3, and retrying that build still didn’t get me past floor 3).

    People have mentioned the various things you learn as you play more which help you play better – for example, in my first few games I would tear away across the sectors as fast as possible, so the rebels wouldn’t be able to catch me. This made sense to me from the premise, as they are trying to catch you so I figured the game would intentionally try to slow me down. This inevitably meant I died horribly by sector 3 or 4. After talking to a friend about it I tried going, exploring as much as possible without being caught, and this improved my chances of survival greatly. In another game I was invaded by mantises, who tore my ship apart as I didn’t have blast doors – next game I upgraded to them immediately, it saved my ship multiple times and I advanced further than ever before.

    I think my point is that the learning curve is hard to see, and you have to learn from your own mistakes as the game will not give you much advice – in my first and only game to reach the final sector I lost because I explored too much as I misunderstood what the game was telling me, and I didn’t even get to fight the boss never mind lose! (What happened: I thought I had to get back to the Fed base before the flagship did, and was one jump away when the game ended. I assume now that the flagship has some super-range weapons and I have to fight it before they get in reach, Death Star-style?). This can be very frustrating and I will not begrudge anyone who wants to stop playing because of this, as it could almost certainly be improved, but I am happy to learn this way, it feels more like I earned that piece of advice or strategy rather than being told what to do.

    I am concerned about the final boss, as there are lots of threads getting stupid on both sides about how fair or easy it is and should be, but I will wait until I fight it to pass judgement. There do seem to be many tactics that work if you focus on them, and the different ships are designed to help you concentrate on different sets of tactics (though yes, unlocking them is a pain). I’m currently experimenting with offensive boarding for the first time, after my previous focus on ions & drones using the Engi A ship that was quite successful, and I want to try using beams at some point in the future (possibly with ion weapons again as beams can’t penetrate shields).

    Overall, the game could definitely be improved. A properly-balanced explore mode would be great, maybe as some kind of free-roam mode instead of the ‘campaign’ of escaping the rebels, but they are so hard to balance and keep interesting, and you usually end up going back and forth along the trade route that earns you the most until you have bought everything. I do like it just as it stands, though – I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time every time I do a run, I feel like I’m learning and improving every time, even if that lesson is ‘pay more attention to your crew’s health’ or ‘don’t forget to switch off autofire when you send a boarding party’. There’s also a thread on the FTL forum dedicated to the silly things you did that got you killed, which is encouraging in that you see that nobody is perfect and that in making a mistake you are not a failure, just a human being (as hard as that is for us to accept!).

    I won’t say ‘you must try it again’, it’s obviously your choice, but I believe that you are missing on out a great experience in not playing it.

  61. You can save and load. I hit [ESC] and a menu pops up with an option to “Save and Quit”

    Surely this in’t a mac only thing?

  62. Lachlan the Mad says:

    My main character is an Asura, and they unquestionably have the strongest story options for the first 20 levels of any race (I went for Dynamics and the VAL-A golem). Still flawed, mostly because it trusts you to know more about the NPCs than you actually do (“Oh, councillor X is the villain? I have no friggin’ idea who they are.”) My award for Best Moral Choice of the game goes to the choice you make at the end of the first Dynamics storyline; one of your krewe has been trapped inside a golem, and you have to choose whether to free her or put her boyfriend inside another golem so they can be together.

    Zojja, their hero, is also a pretty good character, because she exemplifies the childlike mad scientist attitude of the race (“There’s great equipment here, and more importantly, it’s not mine, so I don’t care if it gets destroyed!”). However, she does occasionally suffer from contradictory behaviour; most noticeably, she was pretty determined to see Destiny’s Edge get back together just before the “middle school argument” quest that Shamus mentioned, but she immediately snaps and claims that coming was a horrible idea once she actually sees her former team members.

  63. Dreadjaws says:

    This is probably not the place to complain about this, but I hate the new Steam community. I never use it. I’ll stick to the regular forums until they die or I do.

  64. Timothy says:

    Finally! Someone that agrees with me! ;)
    I never seemed to hear a bad thing about FTL. It’s not a bad game so that’s reasonable enough, o’course. But it’s definitely not what I was hoping for. Gimme a Starflight, Elite or what have you any day of the week over this.

    Good on ya’, Shamus.

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