FTL -Faster Than Light- Original Soundtrack

Album Title:
FTL -Faster Than Light- Original Soundtrack
Record Label:
Ben Prunty Music
Catalog No.:
N/A
Release Date:
September 14, 2012
Purchase:
Buy at Bandcamp

Overview

FTL: Faster Than Light is a brilliant Kickstarter funded indie game putting you in charge of a spaceship.  The game has many roguelike elements such as randomly generated maps and permadeath.  Inspired by a combination of tabletop board games and space combat games, the top down strategy gameplay tasks you with, among other things, moving and assigning your crew, deciding where and how to divide power between ship systems, and choosing how to fight enemy ships. Where do you shoot? Do you teleport your crew over to fight the enemy’s crew?  This and many more decisions come into play as you travel between star systems and planets during a run-through of FTL, it’s the closest to feeling like Captain Kirk a video game has become.

The music is entirely electronic, and has a very spacey feel to it, and in-game includes some simple yet very effective interactivity.  The impressive cross-fading between general exploration music and battle music really adds to the engagement while playing the game; you subtly know when the drums kick in that you need to focus on quick decisions to defeat an enemy, and then when the drums are gone, you can take your time and think about your next move.  Each piece of music that occurs during gameplay has both a chilled ‘Explore’ mix and a more intense ‘Battle’ mix.  The soundtrack album features separate tracks for both mixes of each piece along with some standalone pieces.

Body

Composer Ben Prunty wants listeners to think of the soundtrack in two parts, with part 1 (tracks 1 – 14) being the Explore half and part 2 (tracks 15 – 29) being the Battle half, and he encourages people to either listen to whatever suits their mood, or make their own arrangements.  The album opens with “Space Cruise”, which is the title theme.  It has a simple hook with additional layers being added and taken away as the piece progresses, which combine together to make a very well mixed and well written opening track that gives an indication of the feel for the rest of the first half. 

The in-game tracks correspond to what sector you are in and who inhabits said sector.  The first two tracks, “MilkyWay” and “Civil” are what you would most likely hear in the civilian sectors, probably the safest sectors to travel to, and the music reflects that.  “MilkyWay” builds its textures around repeating patterns and the shift to battle mode consists of a simple drumming beat with some additional synthesisers built on top and a funky bass line towards the end.  Meanwhile “Civil” starts off with simple chords before the bass comes in to get the piece moving forward.  The melodies are simple and can become quite catchy after repeated listens and the additional quirky sounds present in the battle version really add to the urgency without making it obvious.

The next two tracks, “Cosmos” and “Deepspace” are much more ambient and atmospheric, creating an interesting soundscape, though both pick up a strong percussion beat in their “battle” phase.  “Debris” is similar in style, though uses much more conventional harmonies and chords, there’s some creative use of radio chatter in the background in this track.  I also like the bass line that enters during the battle phase of this track.  Variety is kept up with more tuneful progressions such as in “Mantis”, with the bass part coming to prominence in the battle phase.  This seems to be the main musical idea behind other specific alien race compositions such as “Engi”, “Zoltan” and “Rockmen”.  I like the beat in “Rockmen”, it takes a more funky rhythm than other tracks adding some further variety, while “Zoltan” plays around with it’s beat and time, keeping the listener guessing.  Notable features of other main tracks include some impressive percussion work in the battle versions of “Void” and “Wasteland” and an effective driving bass part in “Colonial”.

Of the standalone tracks from the album, “The Last Stand” is a standalone piece for the final part of the game with no alternating mixes to get the player ready for the final boss, which seems to combine the best parts of tracks that have come before it, driving bass lines, hard percussion work, moving arpeggios.  Prunty also includes two bonus tracks, which were cut from the final game.  First up in the Explore half of the soundtrack is “Federation”, which was cut from the game as it was decided the pieces was too light-hearted.  I think this track could have been used at some point in the game, maybe during the credits or as a victory theme as although it is light-hearted, it still fits the overall feel of FTL.  Second is “Horror”, a bass heavy atmospheric track which again could’ve been used at some point in the game, maybe after encountering a war zone.

Summary

Overall I think FTL: Faster Than Light is a very successful soundtrack to an utterly brilliant game.  It has a consistent, spacey sound which compliments and adds to the feel of the game.  Each track is well mixed and is distinctive enough to give each area of the game an identity.  If I were Ben Prunty, I would, for maximum satisfaction, make a mix of each track which starts with the explore mix and cross fades in to the battle mix half way through, as this is effective in the game.  Fully appreciating the soundtrack’s impact requires playing the game to hear how each track cross-fades between mixes in response to the gameplay, but as a standalone soundtrack it works. You are encouraged to make your own mixes with this music, making part of the enjoyment of this soundtrack up to you, something that I like. It’s possible to sample and buy the soundtracks for both FTL: Faster Than Light and its follow-up FTL: Advanced Edition on Bandcamp now.

FTL -Faster Than Light- Original Soundtrack Joe Hammond

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Posted on April 18, 2014 by Joe Hammond. Last modified on April 18, 2014.

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About the Author

Joe Hammond

When I first heard the music of Nobuo Uematsu in the Final Fantasy series at about 17 years old, my love of video game music was born. Since then, I've been revisiting some of my old games, bringing back their musical memories, and checking out whatever I can find in the game music scene. Before all of this I've always been a keen gamer from an early age. I'm currently doing a PGCE (teacher training) in primary school teaching (same age as elementary school) with music specialism at Exeter University. I did my undergraduate degree in music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. My main focus at the moment is my teaching and education work, though who knows what will happen in the future. I like a variety of music, from classical/orchestral to jazz to rock and metal and even a bit of pop. Also when you work with young children you do develop a somewhat different appreciation for the music they like.



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