I know we don't usually do 'Vidyo Gaims' around here, but Steve and I have been playing this so much we'd have nothing else to write about anyway!
The name of the game is FTL: Faster Than Light. You can find their website here.
It is tough to describe the game in terms of standard video game genres. It is a Real-Time (yes, you can pause it - thank the stars), Tactical, Space Adventure game that plays like a board game you never knew you wanted. You command a 'Freighter' or 'Corvette' sized ship, with 3-8 crew members, fighting & questing your way through 8 sectors of increasingly treacherous space. It is brilliant in its simplistic, yet random design and you will play a completely different game every time you fire it up. In common sci-fi parlance, it's Firefly/Serenity scale with Star Trek themes.
Oh, and it's only $10.
The 'plot' of the game is pretty straight forward - no real spoilers to be had here. There is a galactic civil war between the Federation and the Rebels, and a massive Rebel fleet is on it's way destroy an unprepared Federation fleet. You are a Federation captain and you have just discovered the Rebel fleet. Your job is to take your ship and fly through several sectors of space to reach the Federation fleet and alert them before it's too late. When you arrive at the final sector and alert the Federation fleet, the first wave of Rebels arrive right behind you. The only hope for the Federation is to have you find and destroy the Rebel flagship before the rest of the Rebel fleet arrives.
Okay, so that last line is kind of a spoiler, but you'll be glad I told you because that flagship is not to be taken lightly.
While the plot is very simple, it provides the game with a sense of urgency and allows the game to build the mechanics pushing you towards that eventual destination - even if you're not ready for it.
You start each game session by selecting your ship, and optionally naming your ship and crew members. Initially, you have only one ship design and layout to choose from. Through in-game quests and achievements, you can unlock 8 additional ships and 1 alternate layout for each of those ships, giving you 18 variations on the same starting point. Each layout/ship comes with a completely different 'floor plan' for your ship and a different set of crew, weapons, and ship systems.
|Your Starting Ship: The Kestrel|
For instance, the Stealth Ship begins with a cloak system, but no shields; the Engi Ship starts with weak weapons, but additional Drone Control slots; and the Variant Mantis ship starts with no weapons, but has a Teleporter and Boarding Drones.
All of these systems can and will be upgraded via the collection of Scrap, the main 'currency' in the game. You are also required to power all of these systems via a Reactor on the ship that is also upgradable. All systems and reactors have a fixed limit to how much they can be upgraded, and your reactor is not capable of powering all systems at full power all the time. The more you upgrade a system, the more it costs for the next upgrade.
|What? No Marshmallows?|
There are also a variety of events that can cut power to certain systems, reduce total reactor power, and even crew members that provide an extra bar of power to whatever room they are in!
There are 6 races of crew available, with the most common being human (who have no special abilities). You can acquire or start with Mantis, Rockmen, Slugs, Engi (sentient robots), and Zoltans (those energy guys) - all of which have their own advantages and disadvantages, allowing them to fit into specialized crew roles.
Some of your systems (Helm, Weapons, Shields, and Engines) can also be 'crewed', which improves their functionality. Your crew members also gain experience with each of those systems, along with Repair and Hand-to-Hand combat, increasing their ability to manage those systems as they gain experience.
Your starting ship and crew are about the only things fixed in the game, as all 8 sectors of space you travel through are randomly generated each time you play. Technically, 18 sectors are randomly generated to create a webbed path for you to 'choose your own fate' (much like the old Star Fox games) and each of the sectors are classified as friendly, hostile, or 'unexplored nebula'. Each sector consists of 20-30 jump points that you travel to and from to reach the exit of the sector and then jump to the next.
|A typical fight against a pirate vessel.|
|Doom da Doom Doom Doom. Doomy Doomy Doom.....|
|Okay, maybe not always superior for everyone.|
In addition to the random nature of the game, you also have the Rebel fleet which is hot on your tail the entire game. In each system, the Rebel fleet moves across the map, pushing you towards the exit jump point. It's statistically impossible to visit every point in each sector - in fact, you'll probably only be able to hit half of them before you have to jump out. If you do get caught by those rebels, you'll be forced to fight a particularly powerful ship - and even if you destroy it, you earn no scrap for it (no time to collect it, you've gotta run!).
|I'll see you in Hell!|
|Now why didn't I think of that....|
You'll just have to play it yourself to find out. Did I mention it was only $10? And that you can buy it right here?