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SHORTEST TRIP to EARTH is a 'Faster Than Light' science fiction space game available for the PC on the Steam media. This is a game about resources, about Worker placement, about Robot Helpers, Modules, Fussy Rabbits and Mad Space Pirats [Pirates who are Rats, literally Rats that talk, fly space-ships, fight, demand payment for passage etc]and a whole lot more.

DO take the tutorial! Even if you are confident on FTL games, even if you are experienced, even if you are a very VERY experienced player, DO take the tutorial. It will save you so much heartache and so many headaches if you, and besides once you have got the game mechanics under your control you can jump straight into into the game filled with the knowledge that you shouldn't fear the first large ship full of Piratical Rats you encounter.

 

To start with you have your ship on the screen, top down and top off. Follow what you learnt in the Tutorial and you will soon have a ship filled with various weapons, sensors, engines, warp drive, missiles, health department - yes you can even put in a hospital-ward-style capsule that will heal your crew if you pop them into the beds and leave them there for a while.

Left click on a crew member (or your cat) and then Right click where you want them to go. If there is something that they can do where you put them - mainly because there are small icons on the capsules that inform when a crew member is required - then the crew person will get to working, repairing, operating etc etc until such time as they are no longer required or you physically move them.

 

You have several views to select, so once you are happy that your ship is at its best (as far as what is available to you) you can move the ship up, down, back and forth using the WASD keys and the mouse wheel for scrolling in and out. Choose to look at the big picture and you will see a screen with your ship (the regular triangular arrow shape) and a number of planets, stars and suns. Click on one of them and you can accept a warp ride to orbit it. Once there you may see other small white dots in the blackness, a right-click on one of these and off you go to intercept it. If it is a small planet, roving merchant or something similar you may be able to mine it, explore it, buy and sell to it etc; this is one way of collecting fuel but generally not the best way.

 

If instead of someone or something you can explore you encounter the PiRATs they will ask for a fee in resources to allow you to pass safely. If you have the resources spare then pay up and make sure you don't click on them again otherwise they will be back with their hands open for more. Instead, if you feel you have reasonable fire power and shield capsules, then start a fight with them. If there is only one enemy ship then my experience is to concentrate the fire on one specific point of their ship - their largest cannon/missile etc is usually a good target as if it blows it takes a lot of the Pirate ship's interior with it, and then the ship will quickly disintegrate.

 

If there are two Rat ships, my experiences so far have been one smaller (fighter) ship and one Destroyer/Cruiser sized ship. In this case concentrate all your fire on the smaller ship and trust in your shields. Smaller ships blow up quickly under heavy fire and then you can turn all your guns onto the larger ship.

Once you have destroyed the Rat ship/s you can collect many pieces of debris - one click and all the pieces available are auto collected and placed in your storage modules - some of which is useful to scrap for fuel or other resources but if you are lucky you may well discover a capsule or two that is better than the 'similar' one you have on your own ship, in which case you can swap them out. Repairing modules and capsules is possible if you have the necessary resources and as many crew as required available.

 

This is a heavily complex and severely complicated game and it takes more than a little while to get the hang of - not sure I even have it fully under my control as yet, in fact I'm pretty darn sure I don't - and it is easy to panic and hit the wrong button at times. Countless is the number of times I have hit WAS or D and lost sight of where my ship went because it moves so swiftly that it was there, then it wasn't. There are so many units, buttons, switches etc that you can flip on and off to have your ship or crew perform various actions. There are also many resource charts and tables to keep your eye on, and all the time you are using resources to keep your crew alive and your engines humming, thus whatever your plans are they must always include getting food and fuel.

 

You may have noticed I said there was a Cat on board your ship. This is a human-ish cat, not a humanoid, not an android, just a cat with a personality problem. Sometimes the cat will do everything you ask it to and other times it might go to sleep. In a good mood you cat is every bit as good as a crew member. 

 

I have a lot further to go in this game, but as it is a review copy I have a duty to point out to prospective players a reasonable idea of what to expect. In which case I would say that this is more of a complex mind game with some okay visuals than it is a visible action game where you are dashing across space lasers and phasers blasting like an intergalactic shootout at the OK Corral on speed.

Make sure you intend spending time playing and are not looking for a quick play game. If you put the time in you will get many times more the entertainment value back.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015