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FTL: Faster Than Light

Entry updated 19 December 2017. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (2012). Subset Games. Platforms: Win, Mac, Lin, iOS.

FTL: Faster Than Light is a Roguelike videogame in which the player pilots a rebel spacecraft, The Kestrel, through a number of galaxies in order to deliver vital information to a Galactic Federation that lies eight sectors away.

The game is a top-down strategy and management resource game (in "top-down" games, the player looks directly down on the action of the game in cross-section). The player gradually accumulates money and other items to upgrade their Starship by plotting a route across each star chart or level and succeeding in the random encounters that occur each time they arrive at a location after a Faster Than Light or FTL jump (see Space Flight). Upgrades are gained by succeeding at encounters and spending credits to improve various aspects of the ship, as well as by responding quickly to events by diverting or moving resources and power to the right place. They must also manage their route in order to stay ahead of the pursuing rebel fleet. More ships become available for the player to choose from as the game progresses, although they will only ever navigate one ship through the game. As with many roguelike games, a defeat will result in "permadeath", whereby the player loses all of their assets and progress, and must begin the game afresh.

In design and in terms of starting narrative, The Kestrel bears a marked visual similarity to the Rebel Blockade Runner upon which Princess Leia begins Star Wars (1977), although the various encounters that follow focus more on ideas of salvage, combat with other ships and evading or confronting hostile forces such as the encroaching rebels or other pirates and mercenaries. The narrative is also reversed; the allied rebels are the enemy, and the Galactic Federation are the heroes struggling for survival. The game has also been compared to Board Games such as Galaxy Trucker (2007) and Cosmic Encounter (1977).

FTL: Faster Than Light was initially self-funded, and then became a project on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Partly due to strong early reviews, attention from well known games developers and personalities, and because the game already had a playable demonstration online, FTL raised $200,000, twenty times more than the asked-for amount. On release, the game again received strong reviews, in particular from YouTube presenters and the online gaming press who supported the game and allowed it to be disseminated widely throughout groups of gamers.

An expansion; FTL Advanced Edition was released in 2014, providing new ships, events and gameplay elements. [EMS]

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