First released back in 2012, FTL: Faster Than Light became a huge indie game hit. The premise behind the game was that you were in control of a spaceship traveling through space. What made FTL unique was that it featured permadeath. If your ship was destroyed before it reached its destination you lost and had to start again from the beginning. I bring this up because the game I am looking at today shares a very similar premise with FTL. When I first saw Shortest Trip to Earth it immediately reminded me of FTL. Shortest Trip to Earth takes the successful formula created by FTL and considerably expands on it for both the benefit and detriment of the game.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Interactive Fate and Iceberg Interactive for the review copy of Shortest Trip to Earth used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In Shortest Trip to Earth you are in charge of a spaceship that has gone through a wormhole that has transported the ship into deep space. In order to return home to Earth you must successfully make your way through different parts of the galaxy as you enter portals that will bring you closer to home. The journey home won’t be easy though. You don’t have enough resources to make it back so you will have to make detours in order to gather resources and parts needed to make the trip back. This involves investigating planets, destroyed ships, and mysterious signals you find in your travels. You can also visit various space stations to buy supplies that you need. When visiting many of these locations you will be presented with options and your choice will impact the story and the fate of your spaceship and crew.
In addition to exploring the galaxy you need to micromanage your ship. Your ship consists of various slots that you can install modules into. The modules can range from engines, storage areas, radar, areas that generate resources, and even weapons. While each slot in your ship can only hold certain types of modules, you can change each slot so they can accommodate different modules. This means that you have a lot of control over how you want to design your ship. Your ship can also be modified at any time by taking out modules and adding new ones. After you have your ship layout finished you can then choose which crew member(s) that you want to work at each module. In order for a module to work properly it needs the right number of crew members working on it. At least early in the game you won’t have enough crew to run every module so you will have to choose which modules you are going to prioritize.
As you are in deep space it is not surprising that you will eventually run into combat. There are two main types of combat in Shortest Trip to Earth. First enemies may try to board your ship. When this happens you need to use your crew to fight them off. The more in depth combat comes from ship to ship combat. In ship to ship combat you can select your weapons and choose where on the enemy’s ship you would like to target. When targeting the weapon there will be an area that it will fire at. You can choose which modules on the enemy’s ship you want to target, but you should try to make sure that the whole target area is on the ship to increase the odds that your shot will hit the enemy’s ship. When enemies hit your ship they will deal damage to your ship and the modules. When a module is damaged it has to be repaired before you can use the module again. If you run out of ship hit points your ship explodes and the game ends.
Death in Shortest Trip to Earth is permanent. Once your ship explodes it is game over. You can’t go back to a previous save point or try the battle again. You will start again with a new ship and crew. While you will lose all of your progress when you die, Shortest Trip to Earth rewards you for each failed playthrough. When you reach certain parts of the game you will get access to different types of ships as well as unlock different perks that you can use at the beginning of the game. When you reach certain milestones in your journey you also unlock checkpoints of a sort where you can start your next game from instead of restarting from the beginning.
At this point people familiar with the game FTL will probably notice that Shortest Trip to Earth sounds a lot like FTL. It should as the two games share a lot in common. It wouldn’t surprise me if Shortest Trip to Earth was inspired by FTL. The basic premise of both games is basically the same as you control a spaceship and its crew as you try to survive for as long as possible. Even a lot of the mechanics are pretty similar. This means that your opinion of FTL and other similar space strategy rogue-like games should apply to Shortest Trip to Earth as well. If you like this genre you should really like Shortest Trip to Earth. If you aren’t a big fan it probably won’t appeal to you.
Generally I have never been a huge fan of rogue-like games. This is mostly because I am not the type of person that likes to lose all of the progress that I have made in the game. I am more the type of player that likes to play a game through to completion and then move onto another game. Having to replay the same sections over and over again is not something that I am a huge fan of. Despite not being a huge fan of the genre I still enjoyed my time with Shortest Trip to Earth. I have always been a fan of sci-fi themes and controlling your own spaceship is always fun. The rogue-like mechanics aren’t as bad as some other games either as each failure unlocks more for you in the game which should make your next run more successful.
While Shortest Trip to Earth shares quite a bit in common with FTL, there is one area where it differs quite a bit. While playing Shortest Trip to Earth it felt like the developers took a look at FTL and focused on finding areas where they could add to it. The main mechanics are pretty similar, but there is so much more to Shortest Trip to Earth. Each mechanic feels like it has considerably more depth. I see this added depth for Shortest Trip to Earth as both a positive and a negative.
On the positive side Shortest Trip to Earth seems to give you considerably more control over the game. The game gives you a lot more options from designing your ship, fighting enemy ships, and even exploring the galaxy. Shortest Trip to Earth lets you customize your ship quite a bit by letting you place components wherever you want. There also seems to be more types of ship components that you can equip your ship with. Therefore you can choose which areas you want to emphasize on your ship. The combat is more in depth giving you more direct control over how you attack enemy ships. You can choose which specific areas of the ship you want to attack with each weapon. The game even seems to have more lore and choices to make when exploring which can lead to a more in-depth story.
Generally I prefer when games give players more options. In the case of Shortest Trip to Earth though it does lead to some issues. Simply put Shortest Trip to Earth has a pretty significant learning curve. None of the mechanics in particular are hard to use, but there is so much you have to deal with at any given time. To illustrate when you start the game you get the option to choose which perks/traits you want to start with. The game gives you a lot of choose from and doesn’t really give you any indication on which you should use. Your first times playing the game you could spend a lot of time just looking through all of the different options trying to figure out which you should pick. The game has quite a few different resources and types of modules that you have to keep track of. Combat also requires you to keep track of where your weapons are firing as well as making sure repairs are completed. As you play Shortest Trip to Earth you start to adjust to all of this, but it can be quite overwhelming when you first start playing the game.
Like a lot of rogue-like games Shortest Trip to Earth is also quite difficult. You will die a lot in the game. Unless you are either really lucky or an expert at these type of games you won’t survive your first adventure. Basically you have to approach the game where you know you are going to die and you need to just try to get the most out of each adventure. Use the knowledge gained from your defeat to do better the next time. In addition as you unlock more perks, ships, and modules you can use them to make your ship better equipped for your next run. Even as you continue to get better at the game, Shortest Trip to Earth will still be a very difficult game. To survive the entire journey you will have to be really good and have at least some luck on your side.
Shortest Trip to Earth is basically what you would get if you took FTL and expanded on it. The basic gameplay is the same as you are controlling a ship trying to reach its final destination. You have to explore planets and gather enough resources to continue your journey. You will also encounter hostile ships that want to destroy you. You need to choose where to target on the enemy’s ships while also making sure you repair the damage to your ship. If your ship is destroyed you have to start over with a new ship and crew having unlocked some things based on how long you survived. Shortest Trip to Earth is very similar to FTL but goes into considerably more depth. The game gives players a lot more options allowing you to have more control over your fate in the game. At the same time though all of these additional options sometimes lead to you being overwhelmed when you first start playing the game. Thus the game has a pretty steep learning curve and is quite difficult.
If you have never been into space strategy rogue-like games like FTL, Shortest Trip to Earth is not going to be for you. If you are a fan of FTL and other similar games and would like a more in depth experience I think you could get quite a bit of enjoyment out of Shortest Trip to Earth.