How much is there to say about FTL at this point? If you already own it you already know how great it is. Being a fan of it, you would also know that the Advanced Edition is absolutely free to those who already own the main game. So it’s hard to really put a score to FTL and its… expansion? I guess it is an expansion. So this review will be an overview of FTL as a whole, and what Advanced Edition content adds to it.
In FTL, the goal is to pilot a space ship through eight sectors to save the federation from the ever pursuing Rebellion, leading up to a fight with the monster Rebel Flagship. You can play a variety of ships, all with different strengths, weaknesses and strategies. Along the way, you’ll encounter ships to fight, stores to trade with and upgrade your ship, and other encounters that may help or hinder your quest.
In addition to that, you also have to manage your crew and the systems they are manning. Manning a system grants bonuses to their effectiveness. For example, manning the engine grants a higher chance to dodge incoming fire, which is very useful. Not having a pilot manning the piloting system without auto-pilot brings your dodge chance to zero, effectively guaranteeing that you’ll get hit by enemy fire. Systems that are hit by enemy fire may stop working, and may also hurt the crew inside the room depending on the weapon.
FTL is a really interesting hybrid of Real Time Strategy, and almost turn based considering the encouraged ability to pause the action and input everything you want to do instantaneously. Get hit by a missile, pause, send your crew to repair the hull breach and get the oxygen working again. Enemies teleported on board? Pause, open the doors to outside space and suffocate them! All while trying to take down the enemy ship, or just get the hell outta there with a Faster Then Light jump when your engines charge. There’s a lot to think about, with many different ways to solve problems, and it’s always exciting.
So what does the Advanced edition add? I consider it an addition catering towards the already well versed in FTL. The game is made harder, both by adding a much requested hard mode, and with the new gameplay mechanics, scenarios, and weapons. Hard mode makes the currency ‘scrap’ harder to come by, as well as making the AI smarter and more considered when trying to destroy you. Even on easy, Advanced edition is way harder than normal FTL. After a couple of tries and getting an extremely lucky run, I barely beat the end boss. I have yet to beat the game on either normal or hard, and I’ve put a good 90 hours into normal FTL. I’m not sure if this means I suck or not.
What really makes Advanced Edition so much harder than the normal game is the new mechanics specifically designed to ruin your day. A Mind Control system can turn one of your crew against you for a limited time. They will destroy systems and attack your other crew. It’s a real pain in the ass,especially if they are a pilot, because then your dodge chance is zero and then, oh no, a missile has torn off my face, game over. To combat this, you also can also equip ships with a cloning bay instead of a medical bay, which while it’s operational will automatically clone crew when they die, albeit with a statistics penalty to that crew member.
Another new mechanic is a hacking system, which you can use to take over an enemy’s systems. For example, you could hack the weapons sub-system so they can’t use their weapons for a short period of time. It also locks the doors leading to the room, so enemy crew can’t get in to fix it. Trust me, there is nothing more soul crushing than getting your oxygen hacked on the final fight, and watching your crew slowly suffocate, nothing.
Along with new weapons and ship layouts for existing ships, there is a new race playable called the Lanius. The quirk with these guys is that they take all the oxygen out of the room they’re standing in. If all doors are open on a ship, they will steal all the oxygen. In addition, they do not take damage from lack of oxygen, so they can be fantastic units for suppression of enemy crew if used properly. Smaller changes include being able to man doors and sensors sub-systems for an automatic boost of their effectiveness.
A normal game of FTL is usually pretty nerve racking. Fighting a well equipped ship can have you up shit creek in a matter of seconds. In a way, the advanced edition just adds more tension and more elements to deal with. The tense and exciting nature of FTL is what makes it so special.
The good news is that you can play without the Advanced Edition content if you’re new, then turn it on once you’ve got a hang of things.This, combined with small UI and general fixes have made FTL easy to learn and understand, but hard to master.
This update wouldn’t be complete without some minor graphical updates and an awesome new soundtrack. Ben Prunty has shown his prowess with engaging ambient music, but Advanced Edition has some more trance sounding heart pumpers added to the usual ambience. It still fades seamlessly between the two, and I think the more energetic soundtrack will be something people appreciate if they aren’t crapping themselves trying to put out fires or something.