Last weekend, my guild’s Ventrillo server went completely quiet. This is an extremely unusual event if you geek out as hard as we do. All of the sudden, a friend pops online. Before he can go offline again, I corner him and ask where the heck is everyone. His reply was curt and breathless, “FTL dude… Faster than light!” And like that, he was gone.

All I need is a ship and a star to steer her by… and an ion cannon, and some missiles would be nice.

After doing a little research, I realized he was talking about one of those sweet little, underground indie games that got it’s start on Kickstarter. It’s a single player game that falls under the “roguelike genre” in that no two playthroughs are ever the same. In FTL, the challenge is trying to micromanage your spaceship as you jump from one star system to the next. On it’s own, a spaceship simulator sounds pretty cool. Now toss in randomized battles, space slugs and tons of weapons and customizable powerups and you can start to realize why your gaming buddies have been gone for so long.

Now graphically, there is nothing special here. In fact, the game looks like it came right from out of the 16-bit era. But the graphics are never an issue as you’re so busy trying to manage life or death decisions for your crew while being chased by a horde of alien rebels. It also helps that the soundtrack is a tightly composed set of chip-tunes that really heighten the tension of the game.

As you progress through space, the game starts to throw ever tougher challenges at you. You have the ability to pause and give your crew individualized tasks in addition to assigning crew positions that will allow your crew to gain experience. After spending many battles together, it really hits you when a crew member succumbs to a brain sucking space slug!

You can be a pansy and choose the easy route, or take the RED route for greater reward (and guaranteed death).

My one complaint for that this game is how freaking hard it is. If you make it to the fifth stage and you don’t have a firm grasp on the combat, things quickly turn south. At one point, I was travelling through Rockmen space who decided to board my ship and go straight to my shield control room. Meanwhile, their battlecruiser was shooting fire beams all over my ship. Rockmen – being immune to fire – had free reign to murder each member of my crew and turn my ship into a hunk of scrap. Game over, man. And no game saves means back to the starting point. Yes, it is hamfisted in punishing you for mistakes but knowing that the next adventure is completely randomized means I might have a better gun or more crew… then I’ll show those Rockmen what’s what!

It was probably on my 11th play through before I realized that the sun was slowly creeping up the horizon and I had to get to work in a few hours. Screw it, one more play through!

Cause if you are going to geek out… GEEK HARD!