Any Place Is Where I Want To Be When I’m Listening To FTL: Faster Than Light’s Otherworldly Tunes

Image: Subset Games / Kotaku
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Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s daily hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today it’s time to jump through hyperspace with the whiz-bang chiptune-y goodness of the soundtrack to 2012’s strategy roguelike masterpiece FTL: Faster Than Light.


FTL: Faster Than Light (playlist / longplay / VGMdb) is a game about holding a tiny spaceship together long enough to bring down an evil galactic empire. You can board enemy vessels, re-route all available power from shields to phasers, and depressurize entire rooms to put fires out. It’s full of just hanging on by the skin of your teeth moments made all the more rewarding and meaningful thanks to a vibrant and varied soundtrack full of synthy spacescapes.

Light up your soul and take a listen:

Subset Games / GameMusic321 (YouTube)

Every song outside of the credits music has an “explore” version for traversing space and a “battle” version for when you’re duking it out with space fascists, pirates, or other hazards (the “Cosmos” battle track, which transforms a sleepy tune into a pulsating techno anthem, is one of the best). The explore version of “MilkyWay” embedded above starts the game off with some upbeat energy and a chorus of electronic chirps. 1:40 is when the breakdown starts and composer Ben Prunty starts shredding on the alien keytar. It turns the void of space into a party as your crew rush back and forth between ops stations and helm controls.

The explore version of “Civil” is also charming but more chill. As the background music for the second map, it’s another one instantly familiar to anyone who’s played FTL, since the early levels are what folks will have replayed the most. From there things get more moody, though. Here’s one of the much later tracks, called “Debris”:

Subset Games / GameMusic321 (YouTube)

It’s mostly ambient for the first half, with the muffled echoes of clanking metal and sounds of bubbles as if you’re exploring the wreckage of a sunken ship. Halfway through though some bells and a hint of strings pick up, as if guiding you into some deep space church where a cosmic liturgy’s about to begin.

While its turn-based ship combat is perfectly tuned, FTL also stands out for the procedurally generated adventures that sprout up as you visit different planets, asteroids, and space stations looking for refuge and supplies. The game’s able to gesture at so much with so little, suggesting deep and personal histories beneath the text trees and pixels, and Prunty’s evocative music is a big part of why. “Zoltan” is the best example of this:

Subset Games / GameMusic321 (YouTube)

The music for the final set of worlds, it’s ominous but hopeful, mysterious but intimate. I’ve played 70 hours of FTL according to Steam, and most of those were spent hovered over my laptop, alone in a small apartment, generously gulping wine and desperate to finally defeat the mothership. It was freezing outside, but the windows were cracked open to release the excess heat from a giant old furnace that never seemed to shut off.

Meanwhile I was light years away, using my new teleporter to make rock monsters and Mantis aliens smash enemy ships while an android piloted my own long after the life support systems had failed. Some games are great for escaping. My favorite take you exactly where you never realized you wanted to go (in my case the far reaches of an unknown galaxy). Listening to “Zoltan” still gives me chills.


That’s it for today’s Morning Music! Hopefully wherever you are right now isn’t the last place you’d rather be. Let us know in the comments, or share whatever else is on your mind. I might go try to quickly beat FTL again while you do. Until tomorrow!

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

DISCUSSION

OT: Had to take our older cat in for an emergency vet visit. I had picked her up, she flipped her shit, clawed her way out of my hands, and landed on the lip of a toybox, resulting in a limp. The little shit is fine, it just cost a couple hundred dollars to get confirmation. They also checked for arthritis and bronchitis, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste, just a massive one.

Other than that it was a really productive day at work. Got a ton of outstanding items approved so I was able to finally sweep some projects off my plate and clear up space for new stuff from the backlog. It snowed like a motherfucker yesterday, but because I’m working upstairs I was able to control the heat and head off any hot roof issues this year.