The upcoming free update to FTL has been on my mind much of late, and the more I wonder, the more unsure I become of my initial enthusiasm about the update. Firstly, on a trivial note, the announcement used the frustrating taboo term "early" to describe the release date: Neither a date nor a month nor a season, it is a word that, in such circles, tends to mean 'any date between now and juuuuust before we get halfway through the year', and at worst, a non-committal, vague, and easily retractable way of saying 'someday'.
Besides that, though, is the blatantly pressing matter of balance. As a disclaimer, I applaud the effort that went into balancing the game thus far; most layouts have clear advantages and disadvantages comparative to one another (not all, *cough* Stormwalker *cough cough* Vortex *cough*), and perhaps that bodes well for the future and my misgivings are unfounded. On the other hand, was this update planned? If so, since when? FTL is already a full and polished standalone game, why try to enhance it with relatively unrequested new features? Did the development team really synthesize this of their own merit, or did a foreign entity, perhaps newly-hired, inexperienced programmers new to the benefits of balance, gode them towards this horizon? We've seen it before. Perhaps most recently, XCOM: Enemy Within, anyone?
Still, perhaps we should let examples from the trailer, as vague and undescriptive-as-possible as it was, speak for themselves: First, a standard battle against a Rebel pursuer. But wait, what was that orange orb that flashes by near the end, dealing 3 damage and piercing shields? A missile? Would a missile have such an hit-and-run trajectory? Surely not. And look, the enemy ship has no missile systems, only a halberd beam and a burst laser III, both of which we've seen the firing animations for countless times. Looked a bit fiery, but we're not in a sun system. Wasn't a drone, they don't have a drone control. In summary then, without doing anything, without using any ammo, any drones, any weapons at all, they just damaged my ship? And 3 whole damage, straight through shields? Hm. Seems rather overpowered.
Moving on, ah, look, a new drone! We love drones (do we, does any serious FTL gamer really value drones as a meaningful part of gameplay?)! But wait, what's that it's doing? No hull damage (too bad we can't see the hull bar to know)? Is it doing system damage, or crew damage (too bad the room is on fire so there's no way to know)? Is it causing that ion damage (too bad it got there in half a second and we don't know if a previous weapon did that)? And what's that purple effect (looks sorta very much like lockdown)? So many questions, assuredly not any failure on the part of the trailer's informativeness. Forget that, sudden scroll to my ship. New mysterious systems. More stuff for boarders to destroy, looks like, less empty rooms to make airlock flushing a reasonable tactic. Also, better hope the maximum systems up with these new additions, I know I personally don't much like getting Federation Cruiser'd when 3 boss missiles hit my ship without a critical-to-avoiding-missiles system.
Anyway. Another lockdown drone. Cool, cool. Sad for the people who kinda hate drones. Although the new music sounds good, no cynicism there. The next couple clips pass so quickly that it's impossible to grasp what new features are being emphasized, but from what I can see, new weapons are only being deployed, and never cited actually firing, a bit anti-climactic. And at the end it hints at the introduction of the Lanius race, expanded upon on the FTL home site. That last part needs to be more seriously addressed than perhaps anything mentioned above.
The Lanius: Metallic lifeforms without motivation for entering the FTL universe other than what sounds to be a major nuisance. With an iffy background that sounds more like a haphazard combination of Mantis and Crystal than anything substantial, and the stupidest passive ability of draining oxygen from any room they're stationed in, I personally have yet to see anything good about the Lanius, besides perhaps the promised new ship addition, which is, frankly, a pretty sloppy justification. The draining oxygen ability especially seems like it'd be a real downer. I can't say I want my Lanius manning my shields when they start getting pelted, or my weapons. Rather have a competent Engi who doesn't suffocate his comrades when they come in to help with repairs. And I better hope my life support system can keep up with a handful of Lanius aboard at any given time besides. On the other hand, fighting Lanius on their own turf seems like it'd be a real hassle. Might have to reassess my Mantis' ability to dominate boarding, so, all of a sudden, I have 2 totally useless crewmen. The Lanius are just bad news.
Aside from all that, some of the mentioned upcoming features on their site look interesting, and by no means can I say that there's no positive outlooks. It's just that balancing is critical, and I hope their team keeps that in mind. Or really, they'd better, if they don't want to pull a George Lucas and lose half of their fanbase for some preventable mistakes.