FTL is one hell of a game. Play it right and you can have hours of joy and a sense of accomplishment usually reserved for people who can eat fifty hotdogs in a minute. Play it wrong, however, and you will never have been more likely to ragequit. It’s a tough galaxy out there, so pull up a seat rookie, and let this old veteran tell you what’s what.
1) “Do You Think This Is A Game, Marine?!”. Or; It Pays To Have A Good Imagination.
The real magic in FTL isn’t so much as overcoming impossible odds or strict micromanagement; it’s the feeling you get as you soar through space. Those men/space slugs/piles of rock you command are not simply figures walking around small grey rooms; they are a dashing captain and his loyal crew; a few small men in a big galaxy; fighting pirates and overcoming the odds. They are Kirk and Spock; Shepherd and Joker, Bill Adama and Saul Tigh. You are not just trying to complete a game; you are your own space opera, on a journey of highs and, more often than not, many lows, with each jump bringing a new chapter in the story, a new adventure and new dangers. Embrace it, and I promise your enjoyment of the game will double.
2) “How To Hand Your Ship To A Pirate; 101”. Or; Why There’s No Such Thing As Heroes.
Possibly one of my biggest failures actually came out of nowhere when I had a pirate on the back foot. My opening salvo had crippled their shield generator and damaged their weapons systems without me taking so much as a scratch. Then, I pushed my advantage too far. I wanted to use my new crew transporter to take the ship without destroying it.
In went my one and only combat able crewman, but with no sensors to see the inside of the enemy ship he teleported straight into an inferno and, unexpectedly, a mass of enemy soldiers. I watched helplessly as he was tragically cut down before the transporter could recharge, and although I won the fight I lost the war, as with only 2 crewmembers; the HMS Barry White quickly got overwhelmed and destroyed a couple of systems later.
Optimism is the bane of FTL. Hell, it practically feeds off cockiness. I can’t count the times I’ve thought my strategy was unbeatable, where I picked fights when maybe my ship was slightly too damaged, or not backed out when it was slightly too much on fire, even though I had a charged FTL Drive. This leads me on to my next point;
3) “The Fleet Can Wait!”. Or; Hoarding Is Good.
When you are one ship trapped in a hostile sector with a clearly marked exit on one side and a pursuing rebel fleet on the other, what would be your first move?
If you answered “head for the exit” or “surrender”, then get back to the academy, rookie! But if you answered “spend as much time as possible exploring, putting yourself, the crew and the ship in constant mortal danger and prolonging the delivery of the vital data you have to the federation fleet, all for the sake of some scrap metal” then…well, correct, actually. This game really rewards those that go out of their way to get not just the best loot possible; but ALL loot possible. You really can’t survive long without a constant income of scrap and fuel, and if you attempt to go from A to B, you will quickly become underpowered. So if you play Skyrim or Fallout and barely leave a house without every cabbage, plate and item of clothing then well done captain, you may have a fighting chance!
4) “Difficult Terrain Still Exists In Space”. Or; Be Mindful of Your Surroundings.
Most battles in FTL; especially those later on in the game, are long, intricate affairs, timing exactly when to
fire this missile or those lasers, prioritizing which systems to target, repairing your own systems, repelling boarders and more, all at the same time. However, a true commander must not let the demanding nature of battles distract them. Just because you’re in space doesn’t mean there’s no environmental hazards. Fires sweep through your ship from solar flares; asteroids destroy your shields and pepper your hull, and don’t even get me started on Ion storms. God damn Ion storms.
Fail to pay attention to any one of these problems and you’re going to have a bad time. Turn them to your advantage however, maybe time your attacks for when an asteroid downs an enemy’s shields for example, and you can make a long and difficult battle very short.
5) “Employee Welfare Is For Wimps”. Or; Ruthlessness is a Virtue.
One thing you will find yourself constantly doing in FTL is managing your power supply and redirecting it to different systems depending on the situation. You can upgrade and get a bigger reactor, but will almost always just have enough to see you through your trip through the galaxy. This means that in pressing situations you may have to make some tough decisions. Enemy’s weapons too strong? More power to the engines, evasive maneuvers! No more power to spare? Turn off the Oxygen! Of course it’s safe; they can hold their breath can’t they! Pretty much no tactic is forbidden. Using alien bio energy as a power source, turning them into little more than portable batteries? Keeping the helm manned even as crewmembers struggle to put out infernos in the engine room by themselves? Go for it, it’s all for the good of the Federation!
I hear what you’re saying. Matt, you say, I’m a good commander. I’m a Picard, not a pirate. But I absolutely guarantee that towards the endgame, when you’ve been struggling through for a while with rapidly dwindling scrap, you might just start considering powering down the medbay instead of wasting valuable scrap on a bigger reactor. Who needs health insurance anyway? We’re at war, son!
Anyone disagree? Anyone have any better hints or tips? Let us know!