I’m a terrible person because I cheat to win in FTL: Faster than Light.
In case you haven’t heard of it, which is totally possible since this is an indie game, FTL is a darling space simulation roguelike adventure where players pilot a ship which has news that could make or break an intergalactic battle. (Whew! That’s a lot of genre-hopping!) The catch is said ship is small and practically powerless, and it must survive seven guaranteed deadly sectors of space to reach Earth, to provide the Federation fleet with the information that will allow them to survive the rebel attack.
It’s hard. Harder than old school Nintendo hard. Even if you are playing smart, thinking ahead, and making good decisions, there’s a 99.9999999% chance you won’t make it past the second sector during your first playthrough. Yeah, it’s like that. If you don’t check with an online walkthrough or wiki, it’s easy to miss the events one has to participate in to unlock new ships. It’s constantly testing you.
Which is why I cheated.
I admit it freely. I found a workaround. It’s a fan-made program called FTLedit and I love it for multiple reasons. For example, it allows you to have save games. Part of the challenge of FTL is that you can’t save at any time. You can do a quick save, if you need to step away from the computer, and that quits the game. You can reload that save only to immediately start playing again. FTLedit allows you to backup that quick save to reload whenever you’d like.
That’s not the part of the cheating that’s starting to gnaw away at me.
The part that’s making me feel guilty about not condemning my FTL crews, which usually consist of virtual people named after my friends and family, is the main function of the FTLedit save editor. See, you can automatically restore the Hull to 100%, refuel and load up on Scrap, rockets and drones with the editor. You go from being a plucky little ship of dreams and can-do attitude to a hidden god. Did you ever see that SNL skit about the Cameleon XLE? The car looks like a hoopty on the outside, but is Cadillac-quality on the inside. Thanks to FTLedit, that was what my FTLships were like.
The defeat got to me. After exactly ten FTL playthroughs where I couldn’t even reach the halfway point, I caved. I succumbed to the golden future and glory FTLedit promised me. It was good too. I beat the game twice. I unlocked extra ships. I built awesome crews. I had enough of a safety net where I could be concerned about other (virtual) people, and not just the lives of my crew and the mission.
After my second success though, I couldn’t help but feel a little down. I didn’t really need to cheat the second time. I’d proved I could beat FTL with a little help already. Yet, I couldn’t resist the call the second time. I even started to do it again, with the a third Engi ship called the Schmoopie. My goal there was to use FTLedit strictly for save backups and an initial boost to starting funds.
I’ve never had issues with cheating in games before. I have an Action Replay for my DS, a Codebreaker for my PS2, GameShark for the PS1 and have accumulated numerous other cheat devices throughout the years. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Sims household where I didn’t just immediately rely on “motherlode” to build each family the house of its dreams. With FTL, it bothers me though.
I think it’s because FTL is about the incredible odds and the satisfaction that can come from actually beating them legitimately. The journey is still incredibly fun if you cheat, but it loses the intensity and satisfaction along the way.
So, next week I’m going straight again. I’m going to play an unadulterated FTL playthrough and I will chronicle my crew’s unfortunate journey next week on GeekParty. Stick around – it’ll probably be a hilarious bloodbath.
Now, for those of you who don’t have the same qualms as I, you can get Jacob Keane’s FTLedit here. Be forewarned – with great power comes the ability to carry like a million drones and loads of scrap in a ship the size of a shoebox.