Home Strategy 6 Tips to Survive in FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL: Faster Than Light (by Subset Games) is more than just a wildly addictive indie title. It was one of the first games to prove that people love paying for things with no guarantee of it ever existing, as evidenced by its massively successful Kickstarter campaign.

FTL is a deceptively simple game that may seem easy at first, but quickly overwhelms new players as they get a few sectors in. Being a master of all things strategy, I’ve compiled a few tips to help you make it through the game without your ship ending up blasted into spacedust.

#1 Spend as long in each sector as possible

The biggest mistake that new players make is being a total pussy. “Oh noes!” you might say, “The rebel fleet is coming for me! I’d better get as far away as fast as I can!” This is actually the easiest way to ensure death by Sector 3 or 4. Each sector will be incrementally more difficult than the last. And each jump you make is a chance to destroy a ship for scrap, or rescue a new crew member from slavers, or get some new quest.

You may be deluded enough to think that you can make it to Sector 8 with your shitty little Kestrel and its single burst laser. Or maybe you’re suicidal. But I can guarantee you that every time you jump to a new sector, ships will have stronger weapons, more shields, and more assholes ready to board you. So unless you have some fetish about being blown up, you’re going to need better shields and engines to dodge them, and more weapons to break through their shields. Giving your crew a chance to level up can give you an extra edge as well.

Don’t be an idiot and blindly follow this tip, though. If you’re down to three fuel, or your hull is red, screw exploration – get to a store. That may mean having to jump to the next sector. You’ll also want to stock up on fuel whenever you can. Usually I consider twenty enough to guarantee I’ll have a chance to refuel before running out. Finally, don’t waste a jump going to a store unless you have at least ~75 scrap, or a lot of shit to sell. It won’t be worth it. If you’ve done everything right, you’ll reach the exit beacon one jump before the rebels do.

#2 Turn off auto-fire

I know what you’re thinking. “But Rabid, if I turn off auto-fire, I’ll have to push buttons! I’m a delicate hand model, and pressing buttons will hurt my delicate constitution!” Well suck it up pansy; auto-fire will trip you up much more than it will help you. First of all, you’ll usually want to fire all your weapons in a burst, even if they have different charge times. If you can lower their shields with one blast and hit their systems with every other weapon you’ve got, you’ll do much more damage.

Second: things can change awfully fast. Maybe you were targeting their shields, and at the last second a drone comes back online. You need to switch to the more important target, and if you had auto-fire on, you may not react in time. If you’re pausing frequently in combat, which you should be doing, you won’t waste any time – your weapons will still be going off every time they’re charged.

Finally, if you have crew members aboard the enemy ship, auto-fire is the worst possible thing you can do. You may end up hitting a room that your crew is in or worse, blow up the ship with your crew still on board. Pretty much the only time I’ll turn on auto-fire is against an automated ship with no shields.

#3 Missiles or Drones: Pick one

Both of these weapons require a resource other than power, and it’s rare to have enough of both to actually use them. Pick one, and try and keep enough of whatever you pick on hand. I usually find drones more useful than missiles, but it really just depends on whether you can get a decent launcher or drone to use.

Whichever you do pick, don’t just spam it mindlessly. If they have heavy shields, or you need to take down an extra weapon fast, do it. But if you’re in a safe position, there’s no point in wasting missiles to blow them up slightly faster.

#4 Prioritize taking less damage over dealing more

In case you forgot basic economics, let’s do a little review. It may seem like taking damage is no big deal, since you can repair it easily. But you’d only think that if you’re a moron! Every few sectors, damage becomes more expensive to repair. And it can quickly cut into your scrap enough that you can’t afford to upgrade.

That means you need to prioritize damage a little counterintuitively. For instance, you should only target their shields if it is difficult to damage them without missiles. Usually their weapons are the most important target, or drones if they have an anti-ship or beam drone strong enough to get through your shields. Once their weapons are down to the point that your shields can hold them off, then you can start targeting whatever systems will help you defeat them.

One thing that’s worth noting is that shields aren’t always the best thing to upgrade for defense. Usually investing in your engines is cheaper and more versatile, as it will help you dodge missiles. Blast doors are also a cheap and helpful upgrade, as it can really help against boarders and fires. That said, shields are great against drones and beam weapons. If you’re playing something like the stealth cruiser which starts with no shields at all, getting that first bar as soon as possible is crucial.

#5 Vent oxygen for fun and profit

If you open your airlocks and the doors linking them to other rooms, you can remove all the oxygen from a room. This is obviously good for putting out fires, but there’s an even better way to go about this. Oxygen doesn’t leave a room instantly, and the fire may cause damage before you can vent it completely. A good strategy is to leave every unmanned room vented all the time, which will make sure fires go out right away. You may want to leave the life support room unvented as well, unless you like watching your crew suffocate if it gets damaged. If you need to go to a vented room for repairs, it only takes about 2 seconds for the room to get enough oxygen to be safe.

This strategy can also help against boarders. When your ship is boarded, move as many people as possible into your med bay, and vent every other room. This will force their boarding team to fight you where you can’t lose, or die. If you have blast doors, you may even be able to just suffocate them before they can do any damage.

#6 Angling beam weapons

Even the smallest of beam weapons can do far more damage than you might think. You should always try to start and end the beam at the corner of some room. If the beam touches even the tiniest sliver of a room, you’ll do damage to it. Even the mini beam, which may seem like it can only hit two rooms, can do four damage per shot if the ship is laid out properly. If you have something like the hull beam, this can easily mean hitting both their shields and engines, as well as two or three empty rooms for double damage.

Pause the game and think carefully about placement every time you’re firing a beam weapon. You’ll find yourself doing more damage than you thought possible. This fact combined with shield piercing easily makes most beam weapons the strongest weapon choices in the game.


7 replies to this post
  1. Well, there goes convincing Wing into letting me write guest articles because there’s nothing about FTL on this site.

    Anyhow, F**k Thy Life as I like to spell it is really an amazing game. Thanks for the venting tip, I never really considered that. Here are my advices.

    1. Things can be much better than they appear at first glance. Like the autorepair augmentation. Sure it cuts 15% off of your collection, but unless you’ve got like 57% dodge and 3 shield layers, that’s still less than you’d be spending on repairs anyhow, together with automatically fixing your ship without needing to visit a shop. Really, it’s good. Get it.

    2. Don’t spend scrap until the reward is immediate. It’s easy to be lured to immediately upgrade as soon as you can afford anything, but it’s MUCH more valuable to have stocked scrap for a shop. Believe me, you want to be able to buy stuff. Thus, ALWAYS first check the map for nearby shops. Following this tip, you should be floating >100 scraps before upgrading anyhow, so you’d be able to make use of the shop. Also plan out what you want to upgrade. Hovering over the panel gives you a price list, so add those and calculate the cost that you’ll have to save up (including reactor upgrades!)

    3. Don’t be Timmy. Surely you can run across a Glaive Beam early, but it’s NOT worth it to put all your efforts into that, especially if you can’t afford to run any support weapons.

    4. I so far haven’t played much on Normal (Doctor Awesome prefers the comfy atmosphere of Easy, thank you), but the Medbay is just screaming, “Unpower me!” If you need it, you can take some energy out of the engines or things, that’s more than worth it to have the energy somewhere useful at the remaining times.

    5. Invest into cloaking if you can. Seriously. It lets you pretend you’re not there, causes everything that’s flying to almost certainly miss (however that works), but still allows your weapons to charge. (Though I’ve not yet been able to have both cloak and the cloak-firing aug at the same time, that’s probably fine too.) I’m going to be a bit of a nass here and spoil the final bossfight. In its second and third form, it can use a power surge, which unloads a ton of drones or lasers onto you at the same time. Having cloak even at level 1 protects you from that. Believe me, you do NOT want to eat it, you’ll have plenty of other things on your mind at that time.

  2. You forgot to say that auto-fire is extremely useful with Ion weapons, specially Ion Blast MkII, which recharges every 4 seconds. With the last update, you can just CRTL+click it and it will turn auto-fire on just for that weapon. It’s important to fire the Ion as soon as it recharges for the best result, and auto-fire can help you in this case.

    About missiles/drones, I don’t think that they need to be exclusive of each other. Missiles are very useful when you need to break those lvl3/4 shields, and your normal weapons + drones can’t do it. Since you shouldn’t be firing them mindlessly anyway, you will end up with at least 15 for the moments of need, just from rewards given by the ships you destroy (never buy missiles). Drones are a little more complicated because for some ships, they are the main source of damage (Engi ships, for example), so it all depends on your build at the moment. From my experience, you can also survive at least a good portion of the game without buying them, if you know how to use them efficiently and wisely.

    Now, for the venting strategy, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a strong ship (that is, good shields, powerful weapons/teleporter and/or cloaking) to destroy enemy ships fast or a large crew to be able to repair systems quickly without walking around the ship too much. If not, you will end up killing your crew when you need to repair rooms that are far apart from each other while having to deal with boarders and fire at the same time (and while fires will go out quickly without O2, they can still inflict quite some damage on that meantime).

  3. Your first 2 tips and #6 are great tips. 3rd tip is pretty good, although I think it’s more of a personal preference issue, combined with whatever you find as you adventure.

    Tips 4-5 I have to disagree with.

    #4 – I mean yes, prioritize targets to shut their ship down as fast as possible, but upgrade engines over shields? The reason ships get tougher the farther you get in is because they have better shields. Shields add great survivability. Yeah it is an expensive upgrade but if you’ve got the scrap to spare it is worth it. I keep a crew member on shields the whole game and as his shield ability levels up he/she keeps those babies rocking, which can make all the difference in a tense battle.

    #5 – I’m sorry, but I whole heartedly disagree. Having half your ship deprived of O2 is not a smart idea. Especially in tougher fights when the enemy targets your life support that just spells trouble. One good hit and you are risking crew members lives just to get it functional again. It’s not worth the risk.

    Yes I will vent the rooms that boarders are in and to that end I do also recommend blast doors, but I only vent rooms to deal with fires and boarders and have never found it advantageous to leave a room vented just because.

    Also, when intruders attack often they come from an enemy ship that is still firing on you. You don’t want to move all your crew to the med-bay right away because you need to deal with that ship. They don’t always go right for your crew and if you camp the med-bay they will sabotage all your other systems, then you are wasting time repairing all of them. Granted, you’re not losing in-game time but still, it’s annoying.

    I would also endorse and recommend a cloaking device if you are able when the opportunity presents itself. They are fun and invaluable.

    This is a great game, easily my vote for game of the year last year, and I’m glad to see it getting some attention with articles like this. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss, and hope more people check it out.

    • I have to defend tip #5, it works better than you’d expect.

      Yes, you can technically vent reactively, but the time that it takes the air to leave the rooms often means that you simply won’t catch boarders, even on Easy. Whereas, if the room is empty to begin with, they will start taking damage from the start and also quickly leave off of their target in order to try and break a door. Once they end up in a supplied room, they’ll likely by hurt so that your crewmates can finish them off.

      It’s important that you do it as much as needed, not as much as possible. That also means that it depends on your ship’s layout. For instance, the Stealth Cruiser is a very good ship for this strategy as its important systems are all on the edge and you can vent the rest. (There’s an exit in the middle.)

      If you encounter those doodooheads who try to suffocate you, well, bad luck. In other scenarios, you’ve pretty much always got the edge if you can vent enough of the ship.

      I have to agree though that moving everyone to the medbay right away is pointless. Leave everyone on their battle stations if possible and withdraw as many people as needed to the room where they are (or are going) to help combat them, then shuffle back and forth to the medbay. You can let the system tank a few hits, especially if it’s not an essential one (like weapons).

      That and, if you’re boarded, pause immediately and create a battle plan. First on how you’ll deal with the invaders, then how to fight the enemy ship. In my opinion, it’s worth it to pull away some people from their stations and delay fighting the ship with all your force should it be needed, though you should have surplus crew by the time that boarders become a problem.

  4. @Omega – Upgraded engines are “better” than shields because it’s better to dodge a shot than soak it up with the shield. It’s situational obviously, and the #1 tip I would give was neglected – it’s better to have upgraded systems than the power to use them. Upgrade your shields twice and your engines twice, and buy 2 power cells – this way you can use level 2 shields if you facing say beam weapons, or pump it all into engines for an all-missile enemy. Better yet, put your O2 power into engines when you missile are incoming! Power juggling is key.

    About venting – if you turn off the O2 while venting a room, the oxygen drains very quickly – usually quick enough to put out the fire or make boarders flee before the system is lost.

    Has anyone tried offsetting the penalty from the Repair Arm augment with a Scrap Recovery Arm? I always ditch the Repair Arm immediately when I can but it occurs to me the combination might be a game winner.

    @Toraka Easy mode is fine, but you’ve gotta be a big boy at some point! Go for it and remember – losing is part of the fun! No, I’m serious…

Leave a Reply

Newest Articles

Disciple of the Ring
8 5195

Since I began playing Magic: the Gathering nearly 20 years ago, I've been drawn to blue/red decks. Maybe it's just that I've always favored instants...