In the modern language of gamers it has become common to refer to game clones not by the now obsolete X clone (e.g. Doom clone) but as x-likes: roguelike, Soulslike etc. Trigon: Space Story fits the FTL-like description perfectly as it adheres almost completely to the style, interface and basic gameplay loop of Subset Games' famous game, adding some new elements but clearly targeting the audience that logged hundreds of hours traversing dangerous sectors and engaging in countless spaceship battles. So the basic question for this review is rather simple: Can Trigon: Space Story also replicate the addictiveness of FTL or will it join the pile of would-be imitators that failed to come close to the original?
For those who haven't had the chance to play the modern classic called FTL, and I urge you to do so immediately because the game is really great, in Trigon: Space Story you take the role of a starship captain who has to cross star systems full of dangers and enemies without ending up as... stardust. In the image above you can see the game map from which you choose your next destination with the ultimate goal of reaching the next objective, if you play in campaign mode, or exploring the Trigon universe in Free Play mode. Each star system you visit can host various random events, from peaceful and profitable to hostile and destructive!
Text-based events are relatively simple: you will be presented with a situation and asked to make a choice on how to resolve it, with the results varying. If you have improved your ship's equipment or manned your crew with competent cosmonauts, additional options may present themselves (colored in orange) which generally lead to a favourable outcome of the event. The battles are even simpler: Either you win or you are destroyed and your run ends! Here we should point out that during the battle you do not directly control the ship but you choose which subsystems of the opponent will target your weapons and which tasks your crew will perform. For example, you may want your shield operator at his post to quickly raise the shields if they fall, but someone has to close the hole opened in the hull by the enemy's missile before we all suffocate to death! Fortunately there is a pause option at any time so you can assess the situation and issue orders at your leisure.
As already mentioned, Trigon offers both campaign and Free Play but the roguelite element is very strong in both modes. Even in the campaigns where each race's objectives are specific, the events you encounter and the location of the objectives are random, resulting in each run being completely unique. Of course the permadeath element for a roguelite goes without saying: if your ship is destroyed you'll see the game over screen and have to start over. However, a failed run is not a waste of time because, in addition to the experience gained, most of your actions result in unlocking better equipment that will be available for purchase in subsequent runs.
Beyond the campaigns, another notable difference between Trigon and FTL is the ticking clock factor. In FTL the enemy fleet was constantly on your tail so you had to quickly escape each sector before they caught up with you. In contrast in Trigon, staying in a sector progressively increases your bounty resulting in more and more dangerous combat encounters, but no one prevents you from exploring all the star systems in each sector if you can afford it. In fact, I would say that especially for the first two sectors, thorough exploration is the best strategy to gather resources and better equipment before moving on to the more dangerous areas. Otherwise, Trigon's interface and gameplay is so similar to FTL that the adjustment time is almost zero. A tutorial is of course offered for new players, although the real knowledge will be gained through... a lot of mistakes and deaths.
Time then to give an answer to the crucial question posed in the first paragraph. Has Trigon managed to achieve a similar degree of addictiveness to the amazing FTL in this area? In my opinion, yes, absolutely. Clearly the gameplay is incredibly similar to FTL, but if you've been begging for more FTL for a long time, Trigon is by far the best choice of all the equivalent games I've played. I've already amassed 25 hours of gameplay, completed the first two campaigns and have made it to the final boss of the third so I still have a ways to go without even messing with Free Play yet. The gameplay is very addictive, the graphics are clearly prettier than FTL and the variety in events and battles is satisfactory in the pre-release version I played, not as much as the patched FTL in this area of course. The campaigns could have been a bit more polished in presentation as the story progresses largely through text boxes, but otherwise I have no hesitation in recommending the game to experienced fans of the genre and to those new players who find Subset Games' game somewhat simplistic in the graphics department.