Version Reviewed: 1.5.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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A year and a half after its critically-acclaimed PC/Mac release, FTL: Faster Than Light makes the jump to iPad. However, this isn’t an inferior late-to-the-party port. Subset Games has just released a free update for the original, dubbed FTL Advanced Edition, that gives players a slew of new options. Why does this matter? Well, the iPad port also has all of those new tweaks under the hood. And what a package it is.
A bit of backstory. FTL is a strange hybrid of a thing: one part RTS, one part sim, two parts Roguelike, all white-knuckle frustration. Players control the crew of a Federation ship trying to deliver a vital data payload to their home sector. As they jump from sector to sector, a fleet of Rebel ships dogs their heels, sweeping across the galaxy like a swarm of locusts. Along the way, players will have to fight hostile ships, respond to random events, and generally scrounge for supplies to keep themselves operational long enough to get home.
The Roguelike backbone of FTL comes in the form of the randomly-generated map of sectors and the constant threat of crew permadeath. While the latter is somewhat alleviated in the Advanced Edition by the addition of a new Clone Bay add-on that allows dead crew members to be revived (with a penalty to acquired skills), this is still almost assuredly a suicide mission.
One noteworthy Advanced Edition update is that crew can now be assigned to particular workstations, with only one button tap required to send everybody back to their posts. This is an invaluable time saver after barely surviving a huge battle that may find the crew scrambling all over the ship to quell fires, repel boarders, and patch damaged systems. It may sound like a silly thing to get excited over, but veteran FTL players will likely be equally pleased.
The iPad’s tap-and-swipe based interface is its biggest boon to the game. During hectic moments on PC, trying to select/command tiny crew with a mouse pointer was always frustrating. Here, giving them orders is far easier. Need to blow the airlocks to kill a fire? Just tap the airlock control and sweep a finger across the doors that need opening. There is a control learning curve for returning vets, but once it's overcome players will find their command efficiency far greater and more intuitive than it ever was with a mouse and keyboard.
Make no mistake, even on Easy FTL is no cakewalk. But that’s where the excitement has always been found. Can I make it one more sector this time? What happens if I try this weapon configuration? I spent close to twenty hours with the original on PC and several more on the iPad version. That may not sound like much, but when the average game only lasts around 5-15 minutes that’s 80 to 100+ games under my belt. With this, I feel totally confident in saying that the iPad is, without reservation, THE platform for FTL.