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FTL: General Tips & Strategies

September 18th, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’ve been playing FTL for roughly a week now and I can’t tell you how many times I had progressed all the way to the final boss only to have that mothership blow me to pieces.  Perhaps you might be in a similar situation?  Well, after defeating the enemy boss twice two different ways, I wanted to put together a little something for you new players out there who may not have grasped all of the game’s mechanics yet.  Below are some general tips and strategies that might serve you well in your future FTL games.

FTL: General Tips & Strategies

FTL: General Tips & Strategies

1. One of the first things I noticed was that enemy shields recharge very quickly.  If you are using lasers or any weapon that doesn’t pierce shields, you’ll want to hold off on firing them until they are all charged.  Firing laser weapon “A”, then firing laser weapon “B” five seconds later, will give the enemy time to recharge their shields.  I’ve found that waiting those extra seconds to let your weapons charge and firing them all at once will make your battles a whole lot easier.

2. When encountering an enemy ship, it’s important to look at the ship to see how many weapons it has and compare that to how many shields you have.  If the enemy ship has more or if they sport missiles, you may do well to use tip number one’s tactic and aim for their weapons from the start.  You might take a hit or two before you get your shots off, but if you’re lucky, you’ll partially or fully disable their weapons.  If you can keep their weapons offline, they won’t be able to shoot back…your ship’s hull and its systems will thank you.  If the enemy ship has a lot of shields and you barely have enough to break through them, you may want to aim for the shield systems first, and then the weapons.

3. Save your missiles!  I know, they can do a boatload of damage, but there are times where you’re really going to need them.  For example, there’s a system that sports a star that shoots solar flares at you on a regular basis, setting your ship on fire.  There’s nothing you can do about it, it just happens.  If you’re fighting an enemy ship, you’ll want to gun it down quickly and get out of the system before those solar flares really mess you up.  I also pop off a missile or two when I’m facing an enemy that is particularly strong, just so I can keep their weapons or shields disabled in case my lasers miss their ship.

4. The rebel fleet will be moving from left to right on your sector map, but it’s important to maximize your time in a system before jumping off to the next one.  If you have the fuel and the time to explore a few more systems before you have to jump, do so.  You’ll need to scrounge as much scrap as you can before the final boss.  My advice here is to plan your route ahead of time and avoid backtracking into systems you’ve already been to, if possible.

5. You can unlock a new look for ships (Type B) that you’ve unlocked by completing achievements.  You can see these achievements when selecting your ship in the setup screen.  Take a minute to read them, just in case you’re presented with the opportunity later on to complete it.  You can unlock ships by completing events, some being more difficult than others.  If I have the time, I’ll create a separate guide for unlocking ships.

6. You can pause the game by pressing the space bar.  Learn to love it!  Things can happen fast and battles can spiral out of control unless you take the reins and respond to threats quickly.  I spent the majority of my battle with the last boss (the mothership) on pause, just so I could plan out my next move.  It takes longer for battles to resolve, but it will increase your chances of winning.  This is assuming, of course, that you don’t have the reflexes and processing power of a computer.

7. If you come across a situation that isn’t going well, such as a combat event where your weapons just aren’t piercing their shields, then don’t be afraid to jump out to a new system.  It’ll save you scrap / money on the repair bill.

8. Upgrading your primary systems requires more power in order to use them to their fullest.  For example, if you want another shield, you’ll have to upgrade the shield system twice (two bars for one shield) and then purchase two power bars to allocate there.  Of course, if you are able to, you can always reduce power to another system rather than purchase more power bars, thought I find this wasteful.  It’s less micromanagement and more efficient to keep all of your systems running to their fullest potential, though it can get expensive.  Before I upgrade, I make sure I have the scrap for not only the upgrade, but for the power bars as well.  Subsystems do not use power bars that you purchase…upgrading a subsystem will provide you with the power automatically to run it to its full potential.

9. Fires in your ship can be put out by venting those rooms out into open space.  No oxygen means that the fires will burn out, though do so with care as doing this will lower your ship’s O2 levels.  Be sure to close the doors after the fires are out.  If you send in crew members to do the job, keep an eye on their health bars and get them out of there when they reach 1/4 health.

10. Keeping your systems manned will not only improve their performance, but the crew members manning them will gain experience on that system.  Try to keep the same crew member on the same system throughout the game to specialize them…this will increase a system’s performance even further.  I try to have the helm, shields, weapons, and engines manned at all times.  Keeping someone at the helm will give award you with an evade chance while powering up your FTL for the next jump.  Weapons and shields will charge faster with someone manning them, and manning the engines will improve your evade chance.

11. As you get better at the game, try capturing an enemy ship instead of destroying it.  You’ll gain better rewards for doing so.  One method for accomplishing this is to keep the enemy’s O2 system offline so that they suffocate.  Using a fire weapon that starts fires on the enemy ship without damaging it works well…keep the med bay offline and watch their crew fall one by one as they attempt to put out the fires.  Systems destroyed by fires damages the hull by one, so cease your regular attacks if you can afford to so that you don’t destroy the enemy ship before the fires do their job.  You can also board the enemy ship with your own crew if you have a transporter and engage them in hand to hand combat…again, keep their med bay offline so that they can’t heal.  Keep an eye on your boarding parties…they can be lost if the enemy ship jumps away or if the ship is destroyed!

12. Each race has different abilities.  Some are terrible at hand to hand combat while others have extra health or can use telepathy to see through walls.  Keep these abilities in mind when you assign them tasks on your ship.

13. The mothership has three phases, all of them being a pain in the exhaust port.  The first time I defeated the mothership, I used missiles and teleporting bombs to pierce shields and disable its weapons…starting with its missile launcher.  Once its weapons were gone, I killed off as many of the crew as I could…they carry over from battle to battle.  If you do this, do not kill ALL of them…the ship will turn into an AI ship and repair itself automatically.  Keeping one or two of their crew alive will severely cripple it during all three encounters.  The second time I defeated it, I used three mark two laser cannons and fired them in volleys (tip #1), destroying one weapon at a time.  I had four shields and took a bit of damage, but I managed to get through all three encounters, stopping to repair between each.  If you can get your hands on a cloak, engage it just as the mothership fires a crapton of missiles or lasers…your evade chance should be enough to make most, if not all shots, miss.

14. If you can, save your scrap.  I know it’s tempting to upgrade your ship ASAP, but you might come across a store that sells a weapon or item that would really help you.  Keeping some scrap in reserve will enable you to buy these items as they appear.  By the same token, don’t wait too long to upgrade your ship…enemies get harder as you advance from sector to sector.

15. Don’t neglect upgrading your subsystems!  They don’t draw power from the bars you purchase and do a lot of useful things.  Blast doors, for example, slow down fires and enemy troops.

16. Some events will give you a choice in blue, which usually require that you go into the event with a particular system upgraded to a certain level or by having a crew member of a particular race on hand.  These blue choices often result in a significant gain of resources…so upgrade and diversify if you can!

17. Don’t be afraid to sell items you won’t or can’t use.  It would be awesome to have four high level weapons equipped, but your weapon system can only be upgraded so much and it gets very expensive to max it out.  Having four drones in your hold of the same type won’t do you any good if you only have power to run one of them.

18. Speaking of drones, they require one drone part to activate…so, like missiles, use them only when necessary!  I found the defense drone to be particularly useful in shooting down enemy missiles and the anti-ship drone to be great for enemy ships that sport a lot of shielding.

19. Don’t underestimate the cloaking device…it not only increases your evasion chance by a significant amount while it is active, but prevents the enemy’s weapons from charging.  If you can time it right, you can fire off all of your weapons in one massive volley, then activate the cloak and let your weapons recharge in peace.

20. When fighting off boarding parties, try to fight on equal or greater footing…that is…have two or three crew available to fight off a boarding party of two.  Two on ones don’t end particularly well and within seconds you’ll be rushing them to the med bay.  Crew management during times like this becomes crucial as you’ll be fighting both the boarding party AND the enemy ship.

21. One last thing to keep in mind…FTL is a game, try not to get frustrated when you get blown to kingdom come, because it WILL happen.  A lot.

Well, there you have it folks.  If I come up with any more off the top of my head, I’ll add them.  I hope you found this list to be useful…good luck!

You can check out my review of FTL here:


You can view play sessions for this game here:




  1. September 21st, 2012 at 15:01 | #1

    Yeah, I made the mistake of slaughtering the entire crew with the Mantis type B ship (4 teleport pads!), and once the ship switched over to AI it fixed systems far faster than I could damage them.

    • Vincent
      September 21st, 2012 at 15:07 | #2

      I did the same thing, no worries. I still forget about my boarding parties on occassion and end up slaughting them because I forgot to turn off my weapons…doh!

  2. James
    October 25th, 2012 at 14:45 | #3

    Great list! This will definitely help new players (wish I had seen this when I started lol). I want to add two things.

    1) The “Weapons Pre-Ignitor” is an amazing augmentation, especially when combined with Cloaking. It allows all your weapons to be fully charged when entering a fight. Enter a fight, launch your initial volley immediately, and then cloak. You will get your second volley off before the enemy gets their first volley off. The pre-ignitor is expensive, but during one game I was given the augmentation during an event; needless to say I did well that game.

    2) If you are stretched for power and dont want to (or cant) purchase an extra power bar (even though its priced relatively low), you can always take power away from your Med Bay and allocate it to a system that needs it. Your Med Bay doesnt need power unless you are healing, so most of the time it can remain unpowered. If you need to heal during a fight (rather than afterward), you just need to play a little power management (usually not an issue).

    • Vincent
      October 25th, 2012 at 16:03 | #4

      Thanks for adding your own tips, James!

  3. December 4th, 2012 at 17:31 | #5

    I have been hearing about the game fgor awhile. I downloaded it over the weekend. I was at first not really impressed. I was like, “I can make a better game”. The second or third time I played it that day. I was thern saying to myself, what a nomcompoop I was for thinking that the game was some throwback to when we couldn’t come up with better designs. This is the most addicting, challenging game. I can’t get past three sectors aftyer playing it for three days. It is challenging and very tactical. I bolg about using games for leadership training. I think this is a good game that deals with risk/versus reward in a subtle way. It forces balancing short term strategy, resource management, using your people effecrtivly. I love the game. Thanks for the great tips, I just hope they will help, as I am getting one smack down after another, by little bit map bast2r5’s. LOL

  4. joe process
    December 30th, 2012 at 21:38 | #6

    regarding melee: When i get boarded and do not have fighters yet, i depressurize the entire ship except the medlab and hole up there. boarders almost never attack subsystems if the oxygen is running out. once they come to medlab, you can close up the doors and start to repressurize while you fight them.