Back in 2012, a little gem of a game by the name of FTL: Faster Than Light released on PC. A top-down spaceship simulator with roguelike mechanics, it was insanely addicting and fun to play. Fast forward seven years, and we have what feels like a spiritual successor releasing by the name of Shortest Trip to Earth. Coming from the developers over at Interactive Fate, it’s hard not to see the similarities and comparisons to FTL immediately upon entering the game. While the similarities are aplenty, there’s also just enough content to differentiate itself and allow it to stand on its own two legs.
Title: Shortest Trip to Earth
Publisher: Iceberg Interactive
Developer: Interactive Fate
Available On: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Release Date: August 15, 2019
Game Provided By Iceberg Interactive for the Purpose of This Review
Shortest Trip to Earth in a nutshell allows players to control a crew aboard a spaceship that is stranded somewhere in deep space. You have two goals. First and foremost, fixing your spaceship so you can freely travel around and between sectors. But ultimately, your second and main goal is to simply return home to Earth. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Because remember.. you’re stranded in deep space. There’s a lot of danger lurking pretty much everywhere.
Starting a run requires you to pick a ship that will be your base of operations. Options will be limited at first, with more unique and better ships unlocking over time. Get used to failing and dying often, which ends up being part of the learning experience and is not a nuisance in any way. In fact, it’s welcomed, as it allows you to continually get better and perfect strategies to move throughout the galaxies.
Resource management is a big part of Shortest Trip to Earth. There’s seven different resources at your disposal that must be carefully maintained in order to ensure you have the necessary items to upgrade parts, modules, and purchase new equipment throughout the game. What I found to be a bit of a bummer is that the resources themselves are basically left to happenstance when it comes to being able to find them.
As you begin collecting new pieces of equipment for your ship and can move about the sector, you’ll be able to explore areas such as wreckage spots, warehouses, and a number of different floating oddities. Investigating each and every area gives the chance for a resource to be discovered. Boiling it down to luck made it excruciatingly difficult at times, and it would have been a bit better if finding resources behaved the same way it did in other similar games.
These resources will be required to upgrade and further enhance your current ship, which a lot of the play time in Shortest Trip to Earth will be spent on this. You’ll need to ensure you have things such as an energy reactor, command bridge, cryosleep pods, a long range sensor, a warp drive, fuel tanks, and of course, weapons.
You see, ship battles also play a large part in the experience, and is the aspect I enjoyed most. I enjoy deep resource management games to an extent, but I like the payoff of seeing your hard work in action even better. Coming upon an unknown ship that proceeds to engage you in battle is fun because it allows you to finally utilize all of those modules and items you’ve been collecting while aimlessly traveling about the sectors of the universe trying to find your way home. Depending on the difficulty you decide to play on, you can pause the speed of time whilst selecting actions during combat, or if you want the ultimate challenge, the highest difficulty only allows you to slow down time, which makes things incredibly difficult.
And truthfully, that’s the point I want to hammer home most about Shortest Trip to Earth. It’s a brutally challenging and difficult game. I had zero issues in all the hours I spent playing FTL back in the day, and I’m a veteran and lover of all things Dark Souls and difficult games. But this made me want to slam my head into the keyboard numerous times because of how difficult certain elements can be. There’s little to no room for error, and while there are a number of gamers out there that enjoy this, it just makes my anxiety skyrocket to the point where I just want to walk away.
Here’s the crazy part. I never did walk away. I put 5 to 7 hours a day into Shortest Trip to Earth over the past week because I wanted to keep seeing how far I could make it into the cosmos before my ship would ultimately succumb to another vessel and the journey would need to be started all over again. This game is not going to be something to appeals to everyone, or even to a large audience of gamers. But there is a dedicated group out there that will appreciate what there is to offer here.