If you haven’t played the recent indie hit Faster Than Light, or better known as FTL, you really should check it out. Combining the classic space exploration one would expect from a Star Trek series with the combat frequency of a Star Wars game, FTL is at times relaxing and then very intense. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that with this game under their belt, Subset Games could craft the one space game that perfectly captures a custom voyage of our own digital USS Enterprise.
Star Trek fan or not, it can be easy to get lost within FTL’s hidden strategic roots. At first glance, the game seems light-hearted and simple. However, you’re constantly reminded of the opposite as an entire fleet of star ships attempts to stop your travels. This is when you realize that just cruising throughout the galaxy is not as easy as you may think. There are plenty of dangers out there and there just never seems to be enough missiles.
So while FTL can be a very engaging game if you let it be, Subset Games can go even further than this with a sequel. Players have already fallen for the style and gameplay. Now the devs can play hook, line, and sinker with the following features that FTL 2 needs.
10. A Main Character
In FTL you’re only given a chance to name your initial crew. After that, whoever you pick up is whoever the game wants them to be. I’m fine with keeping the crew as anonymous as the first game. However, we should be given a main character; a captain. Our captain would be whatever race our ship is but let us customize him or her and give a name. This way, the game feels a bit more personal the longer we last as we get attached to not only the ship’s crew but its captain, as well.
The captain, our main character, would have a lot of responsibilities which tie into some of my later features. Some of which would really benefit from a skill system. Maybe a leveling system in which we can add points to things like tactics, repair, melee, firearms, defense, diplomacy, etc. We could build our own specific captain to our liking. Since Subset is so big on shows like Star Trek, maybe we could make our own Picard and go for the sweet talker with an eye for tactics and knowledge. Or perhaps our own Kirk with an aptitude for melee fighting and firearms.
9. A Mission of Peace and Exploration
FTL has so much potential but it was almost impossible to fully realize due to the mission at hand and an entire fleet hot on your tail. In FTL 2, there should be no initial chase or war. Have the ship out representing the Federation or just a species looking to explore the galaxy. This lets players feel at ease and actually enjoy everything the game has to offer. As much as I enjoy FTL, from the start you need to be on your toes and ready to face annihilation at every jump. While the prospect of danger in space never truly fades, at least let us feel a sense of exploration and uncertainty in every jump instead of near death.
8. An Open Galaxy
FTL only allows us to move forward. After all, with the fleet quick in pursuit, it would be foolish to head backwards. You can travel forward or backwards while in a system but when the galaxy chart comes up, it is forward or bust.
FLT 2 should be an open galaxy that allows for jumps within sectors just like the first game but also inter-sector jumps that bring up the galaxy chart without having to hit the exit point. This should cost a lot of fuel but having the option would be nice, especially if there are quests that require you to hit a certain point in the galaxy quickly.
Having an open galaxy with random events just like in FTL would open up replay value to unknown levels. Plus, it would really enhance the game’s enjoyment and allow players to truly enjoy every feature of the game and every random event.
7. More Mission Variety
Missions in FTL are pretty random and actually kind of rare. Some will ask you to drop off some tech, pick something up, rescue someone, or stop an attack. These can either be in the same space sector or a surrounding one. Either way, it is limited and way too random for the way this game is. I’ve ran into problems where my quest target was engulfed by the Rebel fleet and just way too dangerous to complete.
Even though quests in FTL are random, they are also sort of boring. There needs to be more variety in them. It always seems like you get the quest, head to the location, fight something, end quest.
How can quests be better? Well, how about with some of the next features mixed up in them?
As captain of a star ship, negotiations are something you need to be great at. There will come a time when you are face with a terrible situation and unless you can talk your way out of it, the weapons are going to be loaded and you’ll start seeing photon torpedoes flying about. Give the shields some rest and let the captain speak. Open hailing frequencies! On screen! All that jazz.
When faced with a bad situation like a pirate ship, planetary disputes, neutral zone infractions, or whatever else you can think of, give us a chance to resolve it without conflict. Of course, if the level system I talked about before was added, you would need plenty of diplomacy to help you our here.
Negotiations could go smoothly, give you extra rewards, or make matters worse. Maybe they could even lead to…
5. Player-Driven War
With the ability to negotiation or go wherever you want in the galaxy, there will always be a time when you come face-to-face with a naturally evil species or space conquerors. If negotiation is out of the question or just fails, then war or permanent restriction from a sector may happen.
With war, unless you can stymie the battle before it gets big enough, the whole sector may become engulfed in war and make travels in that part of the galaxy rough. Either way, the player will have to try and stop this war and that could lead to things like a neutral zone, temporary cease-fire, peace treaty, or a breakout of even more fighting.
4. Surface Missions and Visits
Shore leave is something everyone on a space ship can’t wait for. It normally involved a peaceful time in which members of a ship can relax, train, shop, or receive intel or new missions. Let us head down to some surfaces for missions or shore leaves. Missions can involve a small map in which an away team have to carry out a goal and then transport out of them. While shore leaves allow our crew to do what I mentioned just before. This adds a fun dynamic to the game as well as a change of scenery from just stars, nebulas, rocks, and planets.
Right now I never send an away team down to a planet. Just about 90% of the time, someone dies or I end up getting the ship hurt in some way. Having actual surface missions allows me to see the danger ahead of time and either proceed or beam out of them in favor of safety.
Our captain obviously has a lot to do during our voyage. The more you do and the more recognition you get in the galaxy should give him or her a promotion. That way our main character will get crew perks, new titles, unlock more captain configurations like hairdos, colors, races, etc., and more goodies. The unlockables that Faster Than Light 2 has, the better.
Say you find a planet that has great resources like fuel, arms, or scrap. We should be able to send a probe down to begin a colonization of the planet in which the Federation or your species sends a team down there to begin harvesting. Your ship will reap the benefits but also take on new responsibilities. The colony may need help in defense or need materials to keep harvesting doing on. This will add new quests and even more to do thanks to the random chance your colony may get attacked.
1. Keep Permadeath
Permadeath can be demanding to some players but if you’re looking for a very intense and personal experinece in Faster Than Light 2, than keeping this feature is a must. When your main character reaches a high rank with great crew perks, you’re going to want to keep that character safe. In turn, that means you want to keep the ship and her crew safe, too. You have a sense of that during long play sessions in FTL now but when you create and mold your captain from scratch, it gets a bit more personal.
When you have a designated away team that has worked together on surfaces or on other ships for quite some time and then one of them dies or gets captured, it should mean something to you.
An example of this would be how the recent XCOM game handles squad death. All of their perks and what they add to your squad goes away with them and you’ll feel a void. They may have been a great sniper that had your back during many combat missions but now they are gone and you need to be extra careful. It is consequences like this that permadeath has in a game. FTL 2 would benefit from keeping it around greatly.
What would you like to see in Faster Than Light 2? Let us know in the comments below.