After the gold rush of Kickstarter immediately following Double Fine Adventure receiving a cantankerous ass-load of funding, many critics have reared their heads to comment on the lack of successful end products which have emerged on the crowdfunding platform. Indeed, people voting with their wallets that they think an idea is cool is yet to fully yield fertile crops in most cases.
So it’s with some pride that I’m able to wholeheartedly recommend the Kickstarted indie game come-to-life Faster Than Light.
Faster Than Light (or FTL) is a strategy game, which represents the reason why people love the indie sector. It was funded by enthusiasts, for starters, but moreover it experiments with its genre in a way you’d be unlikely to see in a major title.
There are, of course, good reasons why this is the case. Indie games with smaller budgets like FTL are usually centred around just one game mechanic, and are therefore free to morph it in any way they wish.
What FTL does is gives you a top-down perspective view of the rooms of a starship and asks you to move crew members around into various sections of the ship to, for instance, man the guns, repair the engines or pilot the ship. Alongside this is your enemy ship, with a similar layout of its various rooms and systems, and you’re given the specific choice of where to attack. This gives you the option to target its weapons systems first if it’s particularly powerful, its engines if it’s trying to flee, or its transporter room if you think it’s got a formidable crew which might beam aboard and play some fisticuffs.
(As a primary game mechanic, it’s somewhat refreshing to be have to describe it in an entire paragraph rather than a simple acronym.)
If anyone’s played Lightspeed, an old Microprose PC game from the 90s, the larger scale objective is somewhat reminiscent. You’ll purchase fuel, fighter drones and missiles, assorted upgrades for your ship and of course, awesome new weapons systems. You’ll do this while travelling through alien space fighting pirates, escaping an impending rebellion and getting lost in foggy nebulas.
Each game takes anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes. You have to make your way from the starting sector to the other side of the galaxy to warn the Federation fleet of an incoming attack. This is your sole objective, but one which you likely won’t accomplish with any degree of ease.
A handy parallel for FTL would be last year’s incredible competitive action-strategy title Frozen Synapse.
Both titles revel in their unique twist on an established genre. When we think of strategy games, we’re thinking primarily of RTS, TBS or MOBA games, but the recent swath of indie titles being rejuvenated by the likes of iPhone, Kickstarter and Steam are ill-contented to be satisfied with the staples.
Where this whole trend could lead, much to gamers’ delight, is into a new wave of tried and tested game mechanics. While the smaller indie titles like FTL may be simple affairs and just create one game mechanic, the proof that this mechanic exists and can work will seep their way into titles which have larger budgets, more diverse sets of features and more compelling stories.
In the mean time, there are hours and hours which can be sapped away in this little indie gem.
There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of managing to open just the correct blast doors to get a dire blown out the airlock while perfectly aiming a shot to take out the enemies’ warhead systems and barely getting out alive.
It’s a stunningly engaging experience which tests your ability to multi-task better than most other strategy titles, and is only a few bucks. More than that, it’s one of the fine examples of indie games taking a step in the right direction.
By Leigh Harris