Often viewed as “the most anticipated game of 2011”, Gears of War 3 is set to burst from its emergence hole on September 20th of 2011. I don’t drive a pickup truck, don’t chug beer out of a football helmet, and can spell my own name (on occasion) and guess what haters … I’m a huge Gears fan.. The Gears of War series gets a bad rap for being “another space marine game”, or “digital testosterone”, but I disagree. I’ve played the games, read the novels, and truly believe the Gears of War franchise is a rich and adult science fiction universe. But how does Gears 3 play you ask?
I fancy myself a pretty versatile gamer, but there are definite a few things I’m a sucker for, notably Sci-Fi and Space adventures. Heck, it probably explains why I’m a bigger Mass Effect fan than Dragon Age, why I prefer space aliens (Halo) to ground aliens (GoW). But I digest.
As is custom now, those ever popular Steam sales are the perfect time to score huge deals on high-profile titles, but it’s also the time where an under-the-radar indie game can find top billing alongside those AAA games. Enter FTL (Faster than Light) from Subset Games, which I can hardly assume is under the radar anymore. Within just a few short months the game has been featured on Steam sales multiple times, and has totally destroyed the productivity of this podcast, to be sure. It’s 8-bit inspired, takes place in space, and utilizes strategy elements. I’m a sucker for it, but find no disappointment in succumbing to everything this game has to offer.
I like to summarize this game in the same way I used to jokingly describe new music “It’s like Band-A and Band-B had a baby.” And to me, this game is if Oregon Trail and Battlestar Galactica had a baby. I know, that’s a pretty lofty claim. Subset describes it as “A Spaceship Simulation Real-Time Roguelike-like.” I think that works too.
In FTL you are the captain of a Federation starship, and you carry information vital to the survival of the Federation, which is under attack by a Rebel faction. You start the game aboard the Kestrel, with a modest crew of 3 humans. It is your charge to carry this vital information across the galaxy to the Federation fleet, in hopes that it gives you the critical advantage to defeat rebel forces.
Easier said than done. Managing a ship is no easy business, and with that all the trappings of a resource management game. With a limited energy source you must power O2 for the ship, shields and weapons systems, a drive core and pilot station. Along the way you encounter rebel and alien enemies, which carry out in ship-to-ship strategy combat. Target the shields to expose the enemy ship, focus fire on specific subsystems to disable their escape… or just set fire to the ship and obliterate the enemy crew! Worse yet, enemy factions can board your ship, at which point all hell breaks loose. Let me tell you a tail of heroism…
Federation Cruizer “The Appropriate” was on the second leg of their journey when mantis-like aliens boarded the ship. Under heavy fire the crew of Hilary, Matt, Ash and Scott battles valiantly to sustain the attack of the ship while killing the invaders aboard. The enemy warped into the section of the ship with the O2 exchanger, and quickly destroyed it. Battered and bruised the brave crew of The Appropriate defeated the enemy, but at an enormous cost — fires blazed aboard the ship, quickly depraving the crew of oxygen, Matt returned to the pilot station to chart a course to safety while Hilary and Scott worked to contain the fire. Ash ran to the back of the ship to repair the O2 sensor. With his last breath oxygen was restored to the ship, but his injuries sustained from combat, fire, and smoke inhalation were too much to overcome. A hero was born that day, as Ash saved the crew of The Appropriate, and possibly the Federation as well…
So yeah, it’s an 8-bit styled game, without an overly deep narrative, but the game is what you make of it. The downtempo sci-fi soundtrack and personalization touches you can put on the game draw you in as you explore the vastness of space. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way, opportunities to barter, expand your crew, upgrade weapons, or discover new technology… it’s totally up to you.
But a final warning, the game is hard as hell, but in a good way. You learn from mistakes, and the difficulty of the game keeps you honest. And, as you progress, you can unlock new ship layouts, and alien ships, each with a different starting configuration, which provides different strategies for approaching the game. And on a final note, I’m liking this trend in indie gaming, where the soundtrack is so important (and thus so good) in the game that it warrants a separate purchase. I’m telling you, if anything I’ve just described sounds even remotely interesting to you, do yourself a favor and grab this game now. For the next 26 hours it’s on Steam right now for $5 (or $7 with the soundtrack – Highly Recommended)!
Give it a try, and share your adventures with us! Happy Gaming.