Gameplay: You play in a top down view of your ship as you jump to different star systems to warn your Federation of a Rebel invasion fleet. From here you control your crew to man stations, you fire weapons, repair systems, manage power output, defend against boarding parties, and can even have boarding parties of your own.
If you like games where the majority of the events are determine by the RNG, you'll love FTL.
Resources, rewards, events, maps, enemy encounters, shop location, shop items for sale are all determined by the RNG. After playing for 34 hours I have determined that very little is left up to player control.
You may have a run where you get tons of resources and upgrades gifted to you, or where you're left a pauper scrounging for scrap to repair your ship. Standard fair if you've played Binding of Isaac.
The biggest issue I have with this game is that it takes control away from the player.
Binding of Isaac you took direct control of Isaac and had to aim your shot manually.
Combat in FTL is largely turn-based where you sit around waiting for your weapons to charge.
After that you target a system on the enemy ship and fire. It's up the RNG whether your shot will hit or miss. If you have transporters you can get guarenteed shots by porting crewman into their cockpit to attack their pilot so there is a way to mitigate this.
But the word is "IF"
If you had the scrap, if you found the shop, if the item in question was for sale.
That is the one thing that every "strategy guide" fails to mention is that all encounters, loot, etc is determined by the game.
Many fanboys fans of the game will argue it's skill based rather than luck.
Please don't be fooled.
Every strategy I've seen on FTL fails to mention that pulling it off is contingent on HAVING the right gear for it. If the game doesn't give it to you during an encounter or for sale in a shop, you can't do it.
Other useful "protips" include not repairing your ship to full health, juggling power between systems rather than spending money to upgrade your reactor to save money for future upgrades.
Both those "strategies" are going under the assumption that you will run across a mission that will result in free hull repairs, or free system upgrades. (Which can happen)
CAN happen doesn't mean it will. If you happen to run into an enemy ship that gets a few lucky shots it could kill you. What they're doing is playing the odds, but a card-counter can still lose.
Many times you will be asked to answer choices. "You come to a planet with starving refugees, what do you do?"
1. Land and distribute food.
2. Leave them alone.
3. (Transporters) Use your transporters to beam down food.
Option 1 could result in a positive outcome with a reward. Or a negative outcome where you take damage, or even a crewman dies.
Option 2: Nothing ventured nothing gained.
Option 3: Which is only available to the user if he has the appropriate item, in this case the transporter systems.
These choices have enormously high stakes and it only takes a few bad outcomes to completely kill your run. There is no way to plan for them as you have no idea when one will occur or if you will have what is required for a guarenteed safe completion. You could have the transporters and have 4 instances occur where it helped you in these events, or never see one in the entire play through. It's all random.
This would be like walking into a room in Binding of Isaac being asked to open one of two chests and having your character insta-die because you didn't have the Relic when you opened it.
Fanboy: "B-b-but you don't have to pick an option! Often times you can just choose not to help."
Me: "You're right, but we're talking about skill v.s. luck. Just because you decided not to risk anything doesn't mean it was the right choice or that you were skillful because your gamble paid off."
Fanboy: "huff, huff, but blue options!"
Me: "Only available if you have the right gear, and you can't know what you'll need and when as I just explained above."
Boarding parties are practically non-negotiable, but suck because you can't single target enemies which is a pain, and I've had many instances with a boarder getting confused due to terrible AI. During a 2v2 fight I had one of my guys (Steve) attack his oppenent once, then attack the one that was already engaged with my 2nd boarder (Bob). Steve: Attack my opponent, attack Bob's, attack mine, attack bob's. This went on until Steve died because he failed to do enough damage to his opponent with every other shot going to the other guy who happened to be a Rockman (bonus HP/tank).
You can't choose where ship systems are installed to. On the very first ship you get, if you install transporters, it will be put in a 2 square room (meaning only 2 people can be tranported over at a time) while a 4 square room is reserved for the cloaking device. Room size doesn't affect the price of the item. A 2 square transporter is the same price as a 4 square transporter. But this will change when you get a new ship layout by putting in hours and hours of playtime and having it just randomly "drop."
The carrot and stick and you
FTL's most impressive accomplishment is the psychology based around it.
The gameplay is tedious and repetive, but addictive. This is accomplished by rewarding the player at random intervals with scrap, weapons, new crewman. Sometimes just for jumping into a system.
By bestowing these rewards upon the player, it encourages the player to continue pumping in hours of their life into the game. If you're having a good run you're motivated by greed and a sense of empowerment. "I want more weapons more scrap, give me MOAR!! I am invincible! HAHAHA!"
If you're having a bad run you're motivated by hope and desperation. "Just have to make it to a shop to repair. I can do it. Maybe this system...no...maybe the next system."
The point being to get the player to get sooo close to victory or even die based on bad luck.
"Omg I was soooo close. One more, just one more run."
"That encounter was b.s. I'm gonna run it back."
Regardless of whether you're having the most amazing run ever, the final boss can still curb-stomp you into the dirt with just a few well placed shots.
I had one fight where the Rebel Flagship couldn't hit the broad side of a barn and every shot that did connect would hit systemless rooms.
On the other hand I had encounters where I couldn't hit the Rebel Flagship to save my life and everyone of their shots seemed to hit just the right system at just the right moment.
There are intances where the boss fight will rage on and it feels like you're both on equal ground, or somethings his first volley will cripple every system you have and you'll die in mere minutes.
FTL is a game where you can do everything right and still lose.
That's not a game. Not a good game anyway.
In FTL you win or lose based on the randomness of the enemy AI and everything that followed before that.
It's not skill when you defeat an opponent who spent the entire fight teleporting bombs into systemless rooms.
And it's not a lack of skill if you lost because you all your shots missed thanks to the RNG.
It's luck, plain and simple.
If this review keeps one person from buying this travesty I've done my job.
FTL is more roulette than space simulator. Avoid.