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Death comes in many flavors in FTL: Faster Than Light for iPad (also on Mac). Will your crew slowly suffocate from depleted oxygen? Be eviscerated by carnivorous space spiders? Get caught by the heavily armed armada fleet that's always in hot pursuit—or something far worse, perhaps? An unpleasant fate is almost a certainty in this challenging strategy affair, but the push to survive and conquer the obstacles thrown your way with each light jump is where FTL's magic lies.
Life at the helm of a rickety space cruiser—manned by a misfit crew—is never dull. FTL's galaxy-hopping adventure throws you into crazy, random encounters that put your captaining skills to the ultimate test. Between managing your ship's systems effectively and conducting your crew in combat, there's a lot of pulse-pounding fun on tap. Plus, scavenging for resources while scrambling to escape an ever-encroaching fleet of menacing, doom-dealing battleships amplifies the already intense vibe.
Diplomacy and shady deals sometimes let you persevere without risking your ship, but the promise of a good battle is never that far off. FTL's real-time combat encounters have you juggling your weapons systems to battle enemy ships, all while simultaneously sending crew members scrambling to repair incoming damage inside your own craft. Meanwhile, you must carefully monitor energy reserves, sensors, life support, shields, and other critical systems. It's sometimes a lot to take in at once, but the ability to pause and strategize pairs well with comfortable touch controls to help ease the chaos.
Once combat subsides, the momentary downtime is a welcome breather for plotting your next move and patching any leftover holes still smoldering. The depth of FTL's ship upgrade and resource management elements adds lots of nuance to balance out its bustling action. Bolstering your ship's functions helps you push further with each run, while unlockable ships and other goodies earned through repeat playthroughs take the sting out of meeting a sudden demise.
Usually, it's not a matter of if your small ship will get ripped apart during your daring escape through the stars, but rather when and how. Getting brutally annihilated mid-game is par for the course, though the big question mark that awaits you on the other side of every light jump keeps things interesting. Will it be an imperiled space station willing to exchange goods for help? Or will it be a hostile alien cruiser primed to melt your face off? Be prepared for anything.
The bottom line. FTL's seat-of-your-pants strategizing hits the sweet spot between careful planning and unpredictable action. This survival sim can be a heartbreaker at times, but it's one of the most thrilling downloads you'll find on iPad.
iPad running iOS 6.0 or later
Gripping real-time space combat system. Deep ship customization. Inventive and vast romp through the galaxy with high replay value.
A bit overwhelming for newcomers at first.