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'FTL: Faster than Light' iPad review: explore space at warp speed (iOS)

by Eric Frederiksen

April 16 2014

FTL captures the excitement of Star Trek without lifting the ideas wholesale; this is a game about space exploration, combat, and diplomacy in equal measure. (rating: 5 out of 5 stars)

For a long time, gamers have been looking for a game that best emulates what we loved about the original Star Trek series. Encountering aliens, exploring space, and narrowly surviving harrowing encounters are some of the things that make the series so memorable. And FTL does all that perfectly.

FTL: Faster than Light hit PCs to almost "universal" acclaim just over a year and a half ago. Since almost the moment it was available, gamers have been begging for a tablet version of the brutally difficult intergalactic roguelike. It's finally here, so how does it fare?

In short, it's better than ever. As predicted, FTL is a perfect fit for tablets, and it's apparent almost immediately. Rather than being a simple lift of the mouse controls, though, FTL has been, as they say about TV movies, "modified to fit the format of your screen." Experienced FTL players will be right at home, but some things have been adjusted to work better with fingers since a mouse cursor isn't available. Doors, for example, take a couple more clicks to operate. Even veterans should check out the tutorial to get used to the new controls.

With that said, one of the benefits tablet players have over those on the PC is that, if you have hands big enough to reach around the screen, you can use both of them to operate things faster than one can with just one mouse cursor. It makes an already fast-paced game feel faster.

If you're an iPad diehard who wants something to hold over the heads of those gaming from smaller screens, FTL has something for you, too. This game simply isn't available on iPhones. There's a lot going on on the screen, and to make it work on a smaller screen would require a mechanical overhaul rather than some elegant modifications to an already working system.

FTL for iPad is, as far as I can tell, content-identical to the PC version, including the newly released "Advanced Edition" update. All the scenarios and upgrades are in place and ready to enjoy. You can now save your crew members' stations. When you have 8 crew members halfway dead from defending the ship, running them through medbay and remembering their stations can be difficult at its best moments. Now, with a single click you can save your positions and with one more, you can send your crew members back to their stations.

You can plan out your path across each sector of the galaxy ahead of time, as well. Clicking on any given point on the map will show you, regardless of your position, which positions that point is in range of. This has saved my bacon more than a few times, ensuring I don't get stuck, low on fuel, in some distant corner of the map.

The new scenarios included are often pretty entertaining as well. They provide new interactions with the map and new ways to play the game, without overpowering the already great game fans are familiar with. There's a new alien race to fight alongside and against, but they're so rare that each time you encounter one, it's a treat.

The fabulous soundtrack, one of 2012's best, is fully intact as well, and sounds great. I usually mute iPad games, but this one is worth keeping the volume up on.

FTL: Faster than Light is a must-buy for fans of the original and new fans alike. It's perfectly suited to tablet gaming, and it's just a great game on its own.

  • FTL: Faster than Light
  • Developer: Subset Games
  • Platform: iOS
  • Price: $9.99
  • In-App Purchases? No

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