Clearing the Cache

Faster than Light is Gaming with Grit

Gaming with grit is how I would describe Faster than Light after playing over forty hours to reach the end. An end.

There are other games that has taken me that long, or longer, to reach the conclusion, but this game took over forty hours through repeated playthroughs. Every time I lost, I started over from the beginning. And each attempt was randomized so I couldn’t recreate the same strategy.

I don’t tend to invest in games that require me more than 10 hours to finish (which is opposite from when I was a college-kid and I wanted the most game for my dollar). So I was surprised that I had played over 40 hours into a game that I’ve replayed without ever winning.

I considered giving up multiple times because I didn’t feel like the game gave me enough clues on how to win. Most modern games actively help players succeed so they would reach the end. I remember reading that gamers have so many choices now that they don’t tend to finish games. They just move on once they get stuck or the game got too hard.

Faster than Light also reminded me of arcade games designed to be difficult so that you would have to put in just one more quarter.

In one playthrough, I got three health points within beating the final boss before my ship was destroyed. Because I had gotten that close, and knowing that others have beaten this game, I was determined to try again.

Each time through the eight sectors of space traveled, I would learn a new tactic that would help my survival. There are many systems you have to manage simultaneously to succeed. Thankfully, the game allows you to pause to give orders.

I read a few tutorials online, but many of them were frustrating because the game allows for a variety of styles to win. I had to find my own way. It was like figuring out how to “win” at life? I had to figure out what style I want to play then how to upgrade my spaceship to suit my style.

I was able to unlock three different spaceships and tried them all. The first ship available was a generalist, it had strong weapons and well-balanced.

The second ship relied on drones to do most of the attacking. The third ship relied on stealth for defenses and did not include shields.

In the end, the ship that fit my style the best was the first ship. The balanced approach allowed me to attack the final boss with multiple options. It was critical because the enemy had three phases I had to defeat and each one required me to adapt.

After being defeated with my best configuration of weapons so far, I declared to Jenni that I was done. This game was impossible. Despite my best strategies and my well-equipped ship, I couldn’t beat the boss. I felt like all the time invested was a waste.

Somehow, I still started a new playthrough. It was most likely because it had become habit at this point. Or the tagline of the movie Edge of Tomorrow: “Live. Die. Repeat.”

Jenni settled into a movie for the night. I half-watched the move and half-played the game. I anticipated being decimated at any point since I wasn’t focused.

I got hammered pretty hard in some early battles and had to escape. My weapons weren’t powerful enough to break through the enemy shields.

“I’ll probably die here.” I thought. But I survived.

“I’ll probably run out fuel here.” But then I ended up at a shop, sold a weapon to get enough scrap to buy some fuel.

“I’ll probably get stranded on the seventh sector.”

Each time I thought it was the end, I got a little further. I acquired a strong burst laser weapon and managed to upgrade my ship decently. When I reached the final boss again, I focused on disabling the weapon that did the most damage to me.

As I progressed passed two of the three phases for the final boss, I started to wonder if this attempt would finally be the one where I would succeed.

Almost anti-climatically, after so many defeats from the orange-colored enemy boss spaceship, I fired off my lasers, broke through the last shield layer, and destroyed it. It was a shame I was playing without sound as I wonder how the soundtrack changed during the game over screen declared that I won. After the credits rolled, the game welcomed me back to the beginning. To try again.

“Not yet.” I answered Jenni, when she asked me if I would play again. I savored the hard-earned victory as I watched the rest of Jenni’s movie.

My kids were happy to learn that I finally beat the boss. They had witness my countless defeats as I found my own path to success. They saw their dad try and try again even though it meant starting over.

Maybe, that’s why I played this game. To teach my kids that failure and starting over isn’t bad, but a chance to try again with lessons learned. And a future victory that is sweeter because I didn’t give up when the challenge got hard. The challenge just gave me another reason to try again.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas A. Edison