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A Beginner’s Guide To FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL: Faster Than Light is a fantastic game developed by indie studio Subset Games. The game’s minimalist aesthetic mean pretty much any computer can run it well, making it very accessible. The difficulty of the game, however, undoes that accessibility.

The Roguelike game sees you take charge of a ship and a crew desperately trying to outrun the rebels in order to defend your home base. Why the rebel faction so vastly outguns the federation we may never know. All we know is they are tough to beat and most FTL runs will end with your ship being torn apart and your crew being sucked into the vacuum of space. This guide will help even your odds.

Play On Easy

No, seriously. This is a game where playing on easy mode definitely won’t get you mocked. The game is intentionally very difficult and you won’t get very far if you play on normal before understanding how the game works. Easy mode is your friend. The game is still challenging and you are in no way guaranteed to win on this difficulty, but your odds are a lot higher.

Use The Kestrel

You may assume that the Kestrel, the first ship available to you, is the weakest of the bunch, but this is not at all true. It comes equipped with a Mark II Burst Laser and an Artemis missile launcher. That laser fires three shots while only costing two energy to keep running, which is insanely good. The Artemis also offers a way around strong shields. The layout of the Kestrel, its good starting crew number, and its starting weapons make this a great little ship.

Assign Your Crew Permanently

By pressing the ‘/’ key your crew will remember the positions they’re in. Keeping them in the same stations will build their skill, making weapons and shields charge faster, and your engineer and pilot more likely to dodge incoming shots. The order of priority for manning your systems should go like this:

  • Pilot
  • Weapons
  • Engine
  • Shields
  • Sensors
  • Doors

General Combat Tips

Get real friendly with the spacebar as that will allow you to pause the action and plan your next move. You should pause every battle as soon as it starts, take a good look at your opponent’s ship, and figure out what weapons and crew they have. This will help you know what to do in the fight. If they only have lasers divert power from engines to shields, if they have a teleporter make sure some of your crew is ready for a fight, maybe pull the oxygen out of non-essential rooms and turn your medbay on.

Also, keep autofire on unless you’re trying to kill the crew while keeping the ship intact. Autofire helps you not forget to actually shoot back. When you’re putting out fires, fighting off boarders, and patching hull holes it gets real easy to forget things.

This is a less aggressive combat tip, but make sure your shields are at least level two by sector 3, as that’s when the enemy ships really start to improve.

Target Shields First

It’s scary to know that the enemy ship is about to launch a barrage of missiles and lasers at you, but you have to accept that. Unless you can break through their shield and disable their weapons in the same volley, always prioritise disabling their shields first. This will pull their crew off of other systems to repair them, meaning your next shots are more likely to land. You can then swap between weapons and shields, keeping both disabled and preventing you from taking any damage. Keeping their shields down also means you can quickly disable their engine or pilot systems if they try and escape.

Play Around What You Have, Not What You Want

This may sound obvious but it’s important advice nonetheless. If you have an antipersonel beam and a teleporter, you’re a boarding crew now. Got 30 missiles laying around? Use them. Learning to make the most with what you have will help ensure your runs don’t end just because you don’t have your favourite weapon. Sure, the Vulcan Laser would be nice, but they’re super rare, so make your Fire Bombs and Ion Canon work. If you’re having to use bombs a lot, upgrade your sensors so you can target rooms with enemy crew and do some searious damage, same with fire and antipersonel beams. If you’re using a teleporter then upgrade your doors to defend your ship while your crew is away. Improve your medbay too so that your boarders can get back into a fight quickly.

Visit Stores Last

When exploring sectors it may be tempting to seek the refuge of a store as soon as possible. Try to resist this urge and explore as much as you can first. You’re likely to find or barter weapons and system upgrades that you would have had to pay for at the store, freeing your funds for financing repairs and resupplies instead. Of course, you can also sell any undesired weapons.

Plan Your Journey

This applies both in a sector and when picking the next sector to jump to. It’s good to try and gauge how many places you can visit before hitting the exit beacon and before you get caught by the Rebels. Having a route roughly planned out means you won’t get caught out or frantically trying to fight your way out of a corner. When deciding what sector to jump to next, try and avoid nebulas and hostile zones, as these will have more difficult fights.

Fix Your Ship Before Jumping

It’s tempting to leave quickly after a hard fight. You’re tired and just want to get on with things, but this is a bad idea. Your ship won’t patch itself up as you jump, so make sure you take the time to fix any broken subsystems, heal your crew, and patch any hull breeches before you leave a beacon.

Next: The 10 Best Games Set In Outer Space, Ranked

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Issy is an avid film lover, writer, and game-player based in Leamington Spa, England. He combines his love of film and games in his writing, trying to find as many connections between the two mediums as possible. When he’s not writing, playing, or watching, Issy loves to DJ and look after his growing collection of houseplants, as they make him feel more adult.

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