Is there a place more precarious to humankind than the far reaches of space? Not only does the fatal lack of atmosphere preclude respiratory and auditory function, but it also necessitates the use of rudimentary, prone-to-failure technologies to prevent us from being exposed to the fatal nothing that’s out there. If you don’t want your blood to boil, freeze, and have your head explode, you’d best make sure that your technological umbilical cord is in full working order. Not only have millions of years of evolving on Earth made Homosapien bodies woefully ill-suited for spacefaring, but there are also the social considerations. Space is infinitely vast, and filled with indigenous creatures who don’t share our social constructs, so you’re always one faux pas away from having your head mounted on a space-mantle, or your atoms scrambled and reconstituted into space-fuel.
It is for precisely these reasons that spacefaring is the greatest, most intrepid adventure available to humankind, and there has been no game that’s done a better job of capturing this knife-edge tension than 2012’s Faster Than Light. Not even 1.5 years since the original’s release, developer Subset Games are back with a free expansion to the PC/Mac original, and an iPad port that brings the same grand adventures to the smaller screen.
If you’re new to FTL, this enhanced edition is absolutely every bit as masterful at capturing your imagination, taxing your noggin, and breaking your heart as the original that Rituro reviewed back in December 2012. Uniquely, this isn’t a hermetically sealed-off expansion campaign, but a revised version that increases the variety of weapons, ships, alien races and encounters available, tweaks the difficulty, and addresses minor issues with the user interface.
Some great enhancements to an already great game!
The mission is the same as before – you’re the last hope of a regime that’s in the throes of widespread rebel uprising, and you’re racing across the galaxy, one faster-than-light jump at a time ahead of a chasing fleet. Along the way you encounter other vessels manned by alien races, some friendly, some hostile, and others neutral that you ultimately decide if you want to goad into a fight.
Where FTL was always a game about choice and game-play consequence (bitter, bitter consequences), the advaned edition greatly boosts the number of choices at your disposal. The arsenals on offer are now greatly expanded – there are weapons that grant significant bonuses when you wait to fire them, hacking modules that can temporarily disable and lock the doors to vital rooms, and mind-control beams that place enemies under your spell for a limited duration. Thanks to the new cloning bay, it’s viable to forego trips to the med-bay, since your fallen crew-mates can just be replaced with exact replicas (except for some experience loss, depending on your setup).
Of course, what’s most thrilling about this enhanced edition is that you’re most likely to encounter these new features as a victim of them. For instance, the first time I heard the “sabotage” alarm go off and realized my pilot was suddenly unloading his pistol into the flight deck, I panicked, as I was practically and emotionally unequipped for such an event. The sheer variety on offer has generated a huge amount of new strategies, and ways to counter those strategies, and scraping your way through the first time you encounter something new and scary is incredibly satisfying.
Great consideration placed into the UI design for the iPad.
The iPad proves a very comfortable way to play – there are some minor concessions, but everything is clearly very thoughtfully considered. All of the important interactive elements are finger-friendly, and layers of additional functions are accessible in intuitive places. The game auto-pauses when you’re aiming weapons, or issuing squad orders; and to compensate for the squashed aspect ratio, the slight-zoom focus can be toggled between the player and enemy ship. There are other nips and tucks to the interface, such as the map screen now showing what points are accessible from where (no more space cul-de-sacs!), and brilliantly, an option to save workstations so you can quickly re-organize after an all-hands-on-deck emergency. The soundtrack has been padded out with music that perfectly slots in with the existing tracklist, and masterfully amplifies the feelings of isolation and desperate heroism that FTL’s game-play conveys.
What FTL Advanced Edition does is take the core experience, and makes it feel as vast and filled with possibility as the theatre in which it’s set. After grinding away for hours, struggling through multiple failed existences in the most hostile reaches of deep space, I encountered a few repeat situations, but the outcomes continued to surprise and delight.
For $10, this game will make you feel like a spacefaring badass in a world that will challenge you in thrilling and unexpected ways. Buy it now, and thank us later.