Monday, October 15, 2012

Random Thoughts from an FTL addict

The only fair fight in the game

Much has been made  of the way FTL: Faster than Light brings old school unfairness back into gameplay. You can find yourself hopelessly outclassed on the very first jump of the game.  You might be surprised then to discover that I have come to the conclusion that the final boss fight, despite being an order of magnitude more difficult than any encounter which precedes it is the only fair fight in the game. It is very difficult without a doubt but it is also brutally fair because it is utterly predictable. I have only managed to overcome the boss four times (twice on easy, twice on normal) but I now know the fight and I know exactly what to expect and how to prepare for it. If I get as far as the boss I now know that failure will be because my ship is not prepared or because I make some error in play and that in my opinion is fair. The real unfairness comes from the random encounters at lower levels that can undermine any promising campaign or perhaps the unfairest games of all  are those where lady luck allow you to limp along to the eighth and final level but denies you the vital upgrades needed to make a serious attempt on the boss.

On replayability
 Having played literally hundreds of games of FTL I am proof of its re-playability. At first re-playability comes from the sheer challenge of getting to and overcoming the boss. Once the boss is defeated however there are still many achievements to collect and lots of new ships to unlock. The new ships, which have widely differing starting abilities, can really add variety to the first few levels of the game. Unfortunately these various ships have for the most part access to the same upgrades so that by the time you get to the final level one fully upgraded ship looks much like any other. This is compounded by the predictability of the boss fight and the fact that certain strategies work better than others. On any serious boss run I find myself prioritising certain upgrades from the very start of the game and that quickly dissipates any starting variety.

The length of time a game takes
When I started playing FTL games lasted from a couple of minutes to a maximum of one hour which mitigated somewhat the crushing disappointment of my inevitable defeats. Now however, having learned more about the game, I find myself playing much more slowly. I pause the game constantly to plan every move. My shots, for example, are timed to hit the instant my opponents shields fall. Such micromanagement is essential for overcoming the hardest fights but greatly extends the duration of a game. A serious boss run is likely to take three hours or more.

On addiction
I don't normally do grind in games. I tend to get bored fairly quickly and move on once the game play becomes repetitive. Nevertheless I have been playing FTL compulsively for several weeks and I have sunk more time into the game than I am comfortable with.  I am not sure what secret sauce this game has that hooked me so but but time has come to stop playing, at least for a while.


Anonymous said...

The term addict would be a euphemism here me thinks.

Given that boredom sets in and you can't be bothered with it any longer is solid proof of it just being obsessive in nature. Progression feeds our obsessive tendencies.

Hehe, t'was a little bored meself and clicked on an old link in the bookmarks ... Solbright here :)

mbp said...

Yes it is just a euphemism, I don't it is possible to become addicted to video games in the clinical sense. The urge to play "just one more level" does get very compelling though at times.

Anonymous said...

I don't it is possible to become addicted to video games in the clinical sense.
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