PC gaming is very unique in the type of games it cultivates. The games are, for the most part, more casual than their console counterparts. On the PC you see a lot more puzzle platformers, building sims, and Roguelikes. Now this brings up an important question: what exactly is a Roguelike?
The name “Roguelike” comes from a game released in 1980 called Rogue. Rogue was a relatively simple game about making your way to the bottom of a dungeon, retrieving treasure and returning to the surface. It was much more interesting because it implemented procedural generation as well as a permadeath system. The game had no graphics and was represented by numbers, letters, and symbols. It stands as the grandfather of all Roguelikes. A Roguelike is, by definition, a RPG which most often features level randomization and permanent death, and the combination of these features alter the RPG genre into something entirely different. In most RPGs there is a deep focus on story and characterization. Roguelikes take away from the well-thought out story and the characterization and insert a level of deep challenge and replayability while keeping the core mechanics of RPGs. Most RPGs deal with character development through the player’s choice of equipment, letting them become a warrior, ranger, wizard, etc., but in Roguelikes this development is supplanted by picking up items which are randomly spawned in no particular order. In a game like Binding of Isaac, a fine example of a Roguelike, your progression, and your potential strength is entirely determined by random chance and encounter. Along with the permadeath feature, the characters lose all depth and one playthrough will often blur into another. But on the other hand, when playthroughs last less than 30 minutes because you die and are sent back to the beginning, the game gains an enormous amount of replayability, which is a Roguelike’s strength.
Today I’d like to share with you a very unique and very fun Roguelike by the name of FTL: Faster Than Light. The title refers to a type of stardrive called a Faster Than Light drive, which allows you to travel faster than light. You play as the captain of a Federation ship delivering valuable information across several sectors of space to the Federation HQ, fighting your way there through pirates, rebels, and automated drones.
Before each session you are allowed to pick a ship, name it what you want, and then customize your crew. Initially you start off with only one ship and one layout for the ship, but as you complete different achievements and events in game you can unlock others.
The game world is divided into multiple sectors. Each sector is divided into various star systems where you stop along the way. At each you are presented with a random event, though most can be categorized in one or two ways. You either jump immediately into a fight, or you are given a choice as to whether or not to visit a distress beacon, which most of the time means a fight. The fighting entails targeting a system of an enemy ship and launching an all-out assault on it until it breaks down.
This game is not a dog-fighting simulator, but a resource manager where you reroute power and your crew to aid the fight. On your way towards your goal you will come across countless merchants and be given countless chances to upgrade your ship in its power capacity as well as weapons and subsystems.
Though FTL is fun, it definitely has its weak points. For one the difficulty can be very frustrating, even on easy mode, I can honestly say that in the many times I’ve played through FTL I’ve only ever reached the final level once and I have never beaten the final boss. Another frustrating point is how difficult it can be to unlock the other ships. In FTL there is little to no sense of progress in between the many deaths besides the unlocking of new ships and new layouts. Since it is difficult to unlock the other ships you often go on thinking that you’ve made no progress in the game and even when you do it’s such small progress that it often goes overlooked in the long run.
Despite this you will never find another game like FTL. You will play it and you will have fun for countless hours as you roleplay as your favorite Star Wars/Trek/Gate/etc. captain/crew. You will find yourself playing some rounds as the safe runner, avoiding conflicts, while other times you’ll be a fearless daredevil looking danger straight in the eye as you fight your way across the galaxy. If you do plan on picking this up you can find it for $9.99 on Steam, though if you’re lucky you’ll catch it on the Humble Indie Bundle for $3 or $4. Live Long and Prosper.