REVIEW / FTL: Faster Than Light (iOS)


2015.02.09 update: This game made our Top 5 mobile games of 2014 list!

Set your phasers to stun! FTL: Faster Than Light (FTL), the roguelike, space-exploring, strategy game by Subset Games is now available on iOS. FTL came out to major personal computers (PCs) last year and was met with positive reception that prompted the two-man team, Justin Ma and Matthew Davis, to improve the game and release it on the small screen. The iOS version of FTL is more than just a port of the PC version; the game is completely redesigned for touch control optimization. However, FTL is currently limited to iPad 2 or later generations running iOS 6.0, with plans to bring it to Android tablets with not current support for smartphones. The decision to limit FTL to tablets is for a good reason: there is no possible way to fully enjoy FTL with touch capabilities on a smaller device.



Along with the full PC version of the game, the expansion, FTL: Advanced Edition, is also included with the iOS version. The expansion includes a new ship and race called the Lanius, 10 new ship layouts, 4 new systems and subsystems, 11 new ship augmentations, more than 15 new weapons and drones as well as new music. The sizable boost in content is really just a small incentive to an already deep unchanged strategy game. FTL puts you in command of a small spaceship tasked with delivering vital military information needed to save the remaining Federation faction.

The ship must travel as quickly as it can to the Federation headquarters with limited supplies before it gets caught by the opposing faction or destroyed by the harsh space environments. Time is of the essence; not only do you have limited resources with fuel and ammunition, but you need to stay one step ahead of the enemy. To do so, you must collect resources as you go to improve your ship’s ability to survive and reach the end goal. Like a typical roguelike game, initial options for ship types and augmentations are limited, but the game does reassure you that after completing a number of achievements, more options will unlock. However, before even beginning a new game, if you are a new player or not sure how the PC controls translate into touch controls, it is definitely recommended that you go through the tutorial; there is a slight learning curve.


There are many paths to the end goal.


FTL is like a time management game on steroids. At certain points in the game, you will be in charge of managing the crew’s health, fixing the ship’s interior, and controlling the ship’s weapons while being attacked by an enemy ship and/or getting bombarded by small asteroids. Like a typical roguelike game, the game over screen will become very familiar if you do not prepare well or make the wrong choices. Death is permanent, whether it occurs crawling through a dungeon or floating through the inky abyss of space. This means that any crew members who perish in combat are gone forver, as is your ship if you take too much damage.

Between battles,  you are in command of where the ship will travel and the choices made while traveling. The map is randomly generated, making every game a new experience. There are many options to get to the end of a sector, and each one is a random occurrence of unlikely events. In one instance, a seemingly friendly ship offered a small variety of ship parts for a price in one sector. After declining the offer due to the lack of funds, the friendly ship attacked and a battle ensued. The friendly ship claimed that it was not nice to waste people’s time.


Choices taken on random encounters like this can be a blessing or a curse.


Upgrading the ship requires collecting ship parts (the game’s currency) and traveling to a store in the sector. Most of the time, ship upgrades do come in the form of a random encounter based on the player’s choices. For example, a successful search of a ship wreckage in one sector netted a weapon and an alien crew member. But running into an abandoned vessel, a Federation sympathizer, or a spacefaring merchant is the exception the the norm. Most of your encounters are going to battles with enemy vessels, and this is where the game shines.

The main goal of ship battles is to chip down the enemy’s hull meter, or health bar, by using various weapons like missiles, lasers, and drones. Although the winning conditions seem to be an easy concept, the battlefield pits you with more than just a simple gunfight. Critical and strategic thinking is necessary when damages can cause a massive chain reaction. A simple missile hit in the hull can damage the ship and cause a fire, which can be extinguished by sending a crew member to make repairs or by opening the ship’s doors. A crew member extinguishing the fire causes his/her health to decline faster than opening a ship’s doors, but opening the doors causes oxygen levels to deplete, causing all crew members’ health to decline in the long run. Battles can easily get hectic when chain reactions like these happen, resulting in a game that’s over in a blink of an eye. This is where the game definitely earns it place among the roguelike gaming elite.


Managing the crew, making repairs, and fighting the enemy all at the same time.


FTL is probably one of the most detailed space games for the iOS, and its roguelike concept is very enjoyable. Every new game is a new adventure, and death seems to lurk at any jump into a sector. The combination of strategy, critical thinking, and time management skills will be tested to the limits. For those who own the PC version of FTL and want to carry around the equally-awesome game for a tablet, you  should definitely pick this up. For anyone who wants a challenge and is interested in space battles, you should definitely give this a try. Just be prepared not to set the phasers to stun and fight to the death…a lot.


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