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Navigation of FTL Guide

Through this guide series you will find a wealth of complete and comprehensive information of the races, ships, weapons, systems, drones, augmentations, sectors, and events found in the game of Faster Than Light. Following that database of information, that you can easily peruse and reference during your normal gameplay, are strategies to unlock the several ships to be found in Faster Than Light, complete every achievement in the game, and ultimately beat the game by surviving until the last sector and defeat the Rebel flagship on any difficulty.

Introduction

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Faster Than Light is a spaceship simulation rogue-like indie game released for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, from Subset Games, which was funded by Kickstarter to complete the project after initially being self-funded by the indie developers. Because of the substantial and outstanding backing this indie game received from the Kickstarter funds, additional races and content were added to the game, bolstering the variety of species and culture in the galaxy of Faster Than Light.

The game’s style is top down, real time strategy, in a science fiction setting of space battles. The player takes reign as the captain of a lone federation space cruiser, equipped with aging weapons and minimal reserves, and control of a select crew with a very important mission. You had intercepted a data packet from the Rebel fleet containing integral information vital to the defense of the Federation, and must deliver it across several sectors to the Federation. All hope is – seemingly – lost if you cannot, as the rebels are launching a full scale invasion, tearing apart the territories of the Federation, and with you on the front lines of the Federation, they may just have a chance.

This is not themed like Star Wars, where the Rebel forces were the underdog protagonists fighting the oppressive and totalitarian Empire. It is actually the reverse, with none of the politics involved of the forces of dark and evil against good and light. It is just straight out starship battles with blasting greenish lasers, exploding outdated missiles, razing scarlet beams, whirring drones with myriad functions, haphazard back and forth teleportation, unethical but necessary cloning, otherworldly mind control, and darting ship evasions, brought together by the impossible to be power of Faster Than Light space travel in the form of jumps.

As your space ship darts across the sectors, you can encounter many different hazards, from hostile ships like mercenaries and sector dwellers, to rebel drones and nebula storms. You must fight your way through, patching up your hull as it takes damage and fortifying your ship with upgrades and weapons, to make it to the Federation’s front lines and take on the monstrous flagship of the Rebels. Dally too long in a sector and the rebels will encroach on the map, covering it in a red hued arc. If the player gets caught in that red covered area, the brute force of the rebel fleet will be upon the player with massive destructive force. This fleet continually chases after the player across every sector, forcing the player to continually proceed forward and make careful choices as to which nodes they visit, or else risk destruction by the rebel fleets.

There is an ever changing galaxy to explore in the journey to the Federation in Faster Than Light. You will come to visit sectors controlled by different factions and different races, as well as their homeworlds. For every new game you begin, the sectors in the main map are randomly generated, each sector appearing at different nodes, and some not occurring at all to begin with. It can take multiple games to find a specific sector, or even homeworlds. You can only travel to the next sector and access the sector map, by reaching the node labeled Exit on your general map. From here, the sectors will be branching out in a widening and narrowing pattern, until reaching the final red dot – your destination to the Federation front lines and your ultimate clash with the rebel fleet.

For every Exit you reach on a map, you will have the choice between two sectors to continue onto. By choosing either of these sectors, your path will gradually narrow on the spreading map, and sectors that were originally possible for you to travel to will no longer be there for you to reach. You control where you travel in your journey, and each choice will diverge further; but all paths will reach the final red node. When choosing which of the two sectors to Jump to, the map will dim any paths that you will lose access to, so you can be cognizant of the effects of your decisions on the sector map.

Because of this dynamically generated content, each time you venture into a new game of FTL, it is like a whole new galaxy to explore and dramatically lengthens the durability of this game’s replayability. Much of the game is randomly generated content, pulling from an ocean of possibilities, from what items and what kind of items stock a store, to what events you encounter every time you Jump to a node. This is the core of what makes FTL the game that it is, and the ensuing difficulty that stems from it.

There are of course ways to directly augment the overall difficulty of your chosen game from easy, normal, to hard. Hard is only available with the Advanced Edition however. These game difficulties, chosen from the hangar, will alter how high the regular scrap rewards are for events and the strength of enemy generation. There are more ways to alter the difficulty of your game, but they are indirect and deal with what type of ship you choose, what sector routes you try to take, what achievements you pursue to unlock additional ship layouts, and more.

The graphics of Faster Than Light are pixel art in two dimensions, giving it its familiar atmosphere of retro games and the related trend of indie games sharing this style. The indie game Starbound shares a similar style of pixel art with Faster Than Light, and while that game window can be enlarged more than Faster Than Light’s, the detail on the models and backgrounds in Faster Than Light is high enough that your visual experience is not hampered by the deficiency of out dated, eight bit era graphics.

Since the graphics are in fact styled like pixel art, represented in a two dimensional format, the strength and capacity of your brand of graphics card has to be very little in order to run this game, making this game accessible to a plethora of Windows users. Unfortunately as a result of this when playing Faster Than Light, the game window tends to not be full screened as the game resists stretching to your native resolution. There are generally two sizes to the graphics of the models, backgrounds, and animations in Faster Than Light, one being half the size and the other double. And in an effort to not distort and warp the appearance of these graphics, the game window sizes switch between those two aspect ratios. So the options there are to apply a full screening of the window have a substandard effect.

The game window will maximize to full screen, encompassing your monitor, but will not reach to the bottom and upper most edges. Instead in those spots are complete, thick strips of blackness that will fill a few to several inches of it. Because of how your attention is drawn to the game, this can be surprisingly unseen after several minutes of time, until your attention lapses and then returns to the game window.

This becomes a double edged sword, as while the pixel art is enlarged, the depth of detail to each model is increased and by the sheer increase in game window size, it demands more of your attention, increasing immersion. But in the smaller, regular window the models are about half the size yet without that distracting enclosure of black. On monitors with a screen resolution equal to or less than 1920 x 1080, the black border will be less prominent, or non-existent at all. You can temporarily lower your monitor’s native resolution to emulate this effect. It becomes your choice in the end.

How to Play

On the main menu of FTL, beneath the option of New Game is Tutorial. Select this option to begin the process of learning how to play the game. Through a succession of in game text windows, with a hexagonal background, the many parts of the game will be introduced to you. If you are not playing, and are interested in learning about the game, or would prefer to not jump through the hoops of the tutorial and have it explained from this guide, then continue on.

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Everything in your space ship is powered by the reactor, an integral part of every ship. There is no system directly associated with the reactor, and so it cannot be damaged to output less power, but there are random events that can lower how much power output the reactor can have, like specifically targeting hacks from hostile ships or ion storms in nebulas.

The energy output of the reactor is quantified by every short rectangular bar. If it an empty outline, then there is no energy in that slot. If the rectangular bar is instead filled with bright, neon green, then there is allocable power in that slot. When a reactor slot is empty, that means that slot of energy is powering a part of the ship. Matching the stack of bars of the reactor, each system and subsystem in your space ship requires a certain amount of power to operate. If one of those systems or subsystems has an empty bar, like the reactor can have, then that system or subsystem is not receiving enough energy to operate at full potential and capability.

This is actually an important strategic element of Faster Than Light, balancing and weighing how much and where reactor power goes to at every given moment, to move it around again to suit your needs. The demand of this active control over the reactor energy fluctuates depending on what systems and subsystems you have, how upgraded they are, how much total reactor energy you have and if that reactor energy is sufficient enough to fully power everything, or far from being able to do that. More often than not, you’re not going to have enough reactor energy to allocate to everything, and you will have to make weighing decisions to make use of the systems and subsystems according to what you need at that given time.

The reactor starts out initially, for every new game, with nine energy slots total. Some of these are allocated by default to necessary systems, like the engines and the shield systems, but can be removed by your discretion. Subsystems like the pilot deck and sensors do not require energy from the reactor. If you could though, that would have been an advantage, as subsystems like the sensors aren’t as important as something like the oxygen supply.

Faster Than Light must be played with a mouse, although keybinds are in great number. To allocate and move energy slots, right clicking a system will remove a single slot of energy, while similarly left clicking will grant a single bar of energy to that system. If that system is damaged though, the energy that would normally be feeding it will be put in reserve inside the reactor, and will have to be manually reallocated when the system is repaired again. This can lead to a quick destruction if not properly maintained.

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You can find your systems to the lower left of the screen, and your subsystems to the lower right. Hovering your mouse over them will reveal additional information and statuses about these systems and subsystems, while some can perform functions on demand. Looking up, you will find the reserves and HULL that are tracked persistently through every game, and reset to that associated game difficulty at the start of a new game. There is the HULL, the health value of your space ship, shown as a staggered horizontal bar filled with green squares. Each green square represents one point of your HULL’s health. Reach zero by receiving damage from hostile ships’ weapons, scripted events, and environmental hazards like asteroid fields, and your ship will rip apart and explode, ending your game. There are no extra lives, restarts, or ways to circumvent this (other than game breaking cheats), and so this will be game over.

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There are a number of ways to both protect your HULL and repair it. The Shields, seen just below the HULL meter with a single blue circle surrounded by white, will protect your crew and HULL from damage. Each charge and level of the shield will ward against a single point of damage, except those of missiles. Shields are especially effective against beams, as they cannot tend to pierce the shields, and tend to otherwise block direct laser fire, the most common form of artillery in Faster Than Light. Once the shield absorbs a single point of damage, it will go down for a period of time while it recharges. A blue, horizontally moving meter will appear beneath the shield bubbles, showing the rate it is recharging at and when that shield bubble’s level of protection will be restored. So the Shields are a constantly recharging source of protection that can only withstand a certain degree of damage at one time. It has a maximum threshold of how many barriers there are total. There is no such thing as partial shielding, as when the barriers are all stripped away, you are completely vulnerable to damage. While a shield is recharging, it cannot offer any protection, even if nearly completed before a laser strikes your space ship.

Shields are one of the most important systems to surviving in Faster Than Light. Manning a Shield system with a crew member will increase the rate in which shield barriers recharge, and will have the added benefit of having a crew member right there to repair and maintenance in case something damages your Shields.

The one thing Shields cannot protect against are missiles. These are the designed counter measure to Shields, and as such pierce right through them. The only way to protect against a missile, other than disabling the weapon firing the missile to begin with, is to evade the missile. You can either do this by the cloaking system, or by the base chance your ship has of evasion. Four things, aside from the influence of upgrades on these things, affect and control the chance to evade. The first is the pilot deck. It is through the pilot deck that any manner of evading is possible, as without the pilot deck your space ship would be unable to be guided to fly and move. The space ship, through the pilot deck, can be upgraded to evade without a crew member manning the pilot deck but the chances to evade are dramatically lessened. Un-upgraded, in its natural state a pilot deck without a pilot will negate the space ship’s ability to evade anything whatsoever. Missiles will be able to rack up great amounts of damage if you are left exposed like this, and missiles usually explode for more than just one unit of damage as well, often at a value of three.

Depending on your crewman’s skill in piloting will influence the dodge rate as well while at the helm of the pilot deck. The third, and fourth, things that influence the space ship’s ability to dodge is the Engine systems. The engine itself is what pushes and propels the space craft itself, and so without a running and powered engine, the pilot deck will be made useless and the ship will also no longer possess the ability to evade whatsoever. Depending on how many upgrades you give to the Engine systems, will influence primarily how high your space ship’s dodge rate is. The technical fourth thing that influences your space ship’s ability to dodge is a crew member manning the Engine systems. Even without any skill in manning the Engine systems, that crew member will increase the rate in which your space ship can evade enemy fire. The more skilled that crew member becomes at manning the Engine systems, the more they will influence the evasion rate.

Your evasion rate is one stat that commonly fluctuates over the length of the game and in the course of battle. You can easily see your space ship’s capability at this by checking below the Shields and above the oxygen percentage. You go anywhere from 0%, when one of the systems is damaged or hacked, to 90% evasion rate. 90% evasion rate is only achieved with the cloaking system, which will be explained later. Generally you can expect between 10%, 25%, 35% to 50% though, with 50% being exceptional, 35% being high, and 25% being average. You can achieve percentages anywhere between those depending on the many variables that affect your dodge rate, like if there is a crew member manning the engines, what tier your Engine systems are upgraded at, and so forth.

Limited Resources

The reserves your ship has are positioned below the HULL, and adjacent to the Shields. There is Fuel, Missiles, and Drones.

  • Fuel.

One fuel is consumed for every Faster Than Light drive jump you take, which is what you do traveling from node to node in the sector. You also consume just a single fuel when you travel from the exit of one sector to the starting, entrance node of the next sector. In order to use the fuel, you must have a crew member at the pilot deck or else the upgrade to the pilot deck to enable functional but less optimal auto pilot. You also, in order to use the Faster Than Light drive jump, must have the engines operational and powered. Just one slot of energy is enough to power the engines to enable the Faster Than Light drive jump. If your engine systems are fully damaged, then you will not be able to and must repair them.

You can actually use a Faster Than Light drive jump in the middle of battle, to escape an encounter you might otherwise not survive, or perhaps is too costly for you to deal with. At the beginning of every aggressive encounter, the Faster Than Light drive will charge up slowly. You cannot use the Faster Than Light drive jump until it fully charges, which in the meantime your engine systems or your pilot deck could become damaged, delaying the charge. While those systems are damaged or underpowered, the Faster Than Light drive will not charge but any accumulated charge during that node will remain, so once your problems are fixed the Faster Than Light drive will pick up where it had left off and continue charging.

Enemy Faster Than Light drives behave differently, in that you cannot see the charge percentage bar like you have, and will actually not begin charging it at the start of battle unless you are given a text message precisely saying so. It seems that either the enemy ships always have an upgraded Faster Than Light drive system, which you can get by upgrading the pilot deck, or their native charge rate of the Faster Than Light drive is much faster than your own. The enemy can begin to charge their Faster Than Light drive at the beginning of battle in specific scenarios, that again will always tell you of this with a text message, or can also happen when the enemy sees that they’re obviously not going to win and so decide to try to flee. When that happens, you have a limited time until they escape with the signature revving sound and the flash of light that flashes over the ship. You must either destroy both their pilot deck and engine systems, or damage their ship’s HULL to zero before they escape. While this won’t end the game or anything when they escape, you will not find any supplies. In some cases, when the ship jumps away, they can warn the encroaching rebel fleet of your location and the rebel fleet covered zones will speed up across the map.

  • Missiles.

Missiles are an integral part of the game. They will pierce shields, ignoring them essentially, to damage the HULL directly. For every missile fired, one missile is used up in your missile reserves. Unfortunately enemy ships do not seem to have this limitation, while you do. Missiles will always consume just one missile per fire, with the exception of one unique missile launcher that inexplicably fires two missiles in exchange for just one missile consumed.

  • Drones.

These are the reserves for your drones. Every time you summon a drone, in most cases, you will consume one of these. Some drones are persistent and will stay on your ship. Every time you activate and power those, they won’t use up another set of drone parts, but if they get destroyed, when you try to use them again, they will then consume another set of drone parts.

All of these limited resources are found in the game, so you can continually restore your reserves, in again limited quantities. Events can offer you fuel, missiles, and drone parts of random and varying amounts, either by destroying an enemy ship or happening upon a text based event. There are shops, as well, that offer fuel, missile parts, and drone parts to sell, at a hefty but necessary price.

It is always important to keep up a stock of fuel, because if you run out, you will no longer be able to make Faster Than Light jumps and must wait. That’s right, it won’t directly be a game over, but it won’t spell much good for your odds at success and survival. You can turn on your emergency beacon to call for help, but this can lure malevolent forces just as much as it can draw benevolent forces. In fact, it is more often that you will encounter something aggressive, instead of directly helpful. There is a drone ship actually designed for precisely this circumstance, ships drifting in space with no fuel, with their crew possibly left to starve in the dark depths. This drone ship, naming itself for emergency, will offer to give you a one time delivery of fuel. This will give you a few fuel to get you going again, but it is rare for you to find this drone. More often than not, you will either be caught by the rebels, or a shady merchant will find you, charging an exorbitant price for fuel. If you do get caught by the rebels, you can fight them and take fuel from their destroyed ship. But if you do not take out their ship quickly enough, they will wordlessly Faster Than Light jump away – one of the rare cases in which you won’t be warned of the enemy ship spinning up their Faster Than Light drive.

Scrap

The primary, most integral resource is Scrap as this acts as the universal currency for the entire game. You can barter in shops with scrap, purchasing fuel, missiles, and drone parts, and exchange scrap to the shop for repairs to your HULL. These options are always present when visiting a shop node, as necessary as those resources are, but the main merchandise that shops carry are not. They can have varying selections of augments, weapons, crew to hire, systems to add to your ship, drone schematics, and even subsystems should your ship be missing them.

Though a shop’s merchandise can potentially be any purchasable item in the game (which is the vast majority of them) there is a dramatically limited selection. Per section, there are only 3 spots that these items can fill. For every page in a shop, there are two sections. Shops can have up to two with the Advanced Edition content enabled, but sometimes do not anyway. This builds up the difficulty in the game in general, as choice weapons, crew member races, augments, drone schematics, and more are uncommon and even rare to find. This coupled with their high cost in scrap, makes it something to plan for.

On easy mode, you start out the game with 10 scrap, and on normal mode you start out the game with 30 scrap. You can earn scrap from defeating enemies and encountering random events that have a chance of rewarding you with scrap, among other items. The reward you gain is dependent on a number of factors. Beyond sheer randomization, there is the difficulty aforementioned, and then there is the enemy strength, the sector difficulty, and the position of the sector of the map. It is a general rule of thumb that the further a sector is on the branching sector map, the greater the scrap rewards will be. The further you survive in the same game, the deeper the difficulty goes, but the greater you are rewarded with quantities of scrap. You can also earn more scrap, on average, in random text events by choosing the blue colored text option. Those options are only available when you have something unique that is suited for the purpose, like an engie crew member or advanced scanners.

Combat

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The meat of Faster Than Light is the game’s dog fighting, space ship battles. This is a real time strategy game, so you’re not manually controlling the ship yourself, weaving through laser blasts; instead you’re commanding your space cruiser and crew to execute actions.

When you FTL drive jump to beacon from beacon, each one has a chance for you to encounter some kind of enemy ship, or an otherwise random text event that may lead up to a battle anyway. Most of the time you find ships, sometimes you find nothing but the expanse of space though. Each node is considered a star system away.

There are two ways to wage battle and win in Faster Than Light. One is less common and has to do with taking out all of the enemy’s crew. The main way is to attack the enemy’s space cruiser, by charging up your weapons and targeting the rooms of their space cruiser. Once you get their HULL health to zero, their space cruiser will rip apart in an explosion and you will be able to salvage resources and scrap from the wreckage. You have to damage through their shielding to affect their hull, either by having weapons that will out damage the shielding barriers they have or with missiles that will pierce through shielding as if it isn’t there.

But along the way of that, the enemy space cruiser is also going to be firing at you. Every time you encounter a hostile space cruiser, you have to out survive them. Each time you could lose. The depth of Faster Than Light’s gameplay comes from strategic targeting of space cruiser systems and tactical use of your own systems, along with customizing your own ship through upgrades and equipment. With weaponry, you can target enemy space cruiser systems and deal direct damage to them. You have to break through the shielding like normal, but if any damage touches a system, it will knock away one level of its health for every one damage. If you strike it with a laser that hits for two damage, and the shielding is down on that space cruiser, then you will knock away two levels of health on that system. Most enemy space cruiser systems have only a couple levels of health, with shielding and weapon control having more on average.

You have to make the constant decision as to what to focus on first, and how you will attack it. You can decide to use your space cruiser’s missiles on the enemy’s shielding to knock it out, so that your laser weaponry can hit their ship without having to break through the shielding first. Or you could decide to knick away at the health of their shielding with your laser weapon, while your missiles target their weapons control to disable them from doing any damage to your space cruiser. The options grow quickly more complicated than that. Sometimes your lasers won’t be strong enough on their own to take down their shielding, other times it isn’t worth it to expend a couple missiles as you have a limited resource of them.

You’re not the only one that can damage systems either. Hostile enemies can also target your systems and damage them. In the process of damaging your systems, your crew members can also be harmed and stunned by the blast damage. Usually it won’t take substantial health from your crew members, and only certain sources of damage can stun your crew members. Usually weaponry also only has chances to cause effects. Stunning your crew members is similar to the chance of a weapon resulting in a hull breach or a fire.

Systems cannot be permanently damaged however, unless the space cruiser itself is destroyed. Any of your crew members can repair a damaged system. They will crouch and work on it, looking as if they’re using a wrench. Slowly, so long as they are not impeded by anything else, they will mend the broken system level by level until it is fully restored. However if there is a fire, a hull breach, or an enemy crew member inside the room, your crew member will be forced to deal with that first.

They will attempt to put out the fire first with their fire extinguisher, they will try to repair the hull breach in a similar way they work on systems before repairing the system, and they will engage the enemy crew member in combat until they are either gone, defeated, or your own crew member is dead. Sometimes this can result in your space cruiser’s own demise because you really need a system up and running to save yourself, but most of the time this isn’t the case. If a hull breach is in the room, the vacuum effect in the room will hurt your crew member, and a fire is even more deadly as it can spread. An enemy crew member would be trying to destroy your system anyway, and if one of your own crew members moved into the room, they would start to engage your own crew member.

Having a system at full health and level will not prevent damage to the hull if that room is struck, as damage to the hull is joined with system damage. This gives less reason to target systemless rooms except in the cases of certain weapons that gain bonus damage when targeting said rooms.

Navigation of FTL Guide


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