FTL Faster Than Light: All Ships Series
I've played FTL: Faster Than Light a lot over the years. There are many discussions about the game's difficulty. Many players contend that the game is harsh and luck-based and frequently unwinnable, while experienced players counter with tales of winning long streaks and a substantial majority of games on Hard difficulty. Here is my contribution to this discussion.
This is the chronicles of me playing FTL with a freshly reset profile, until I record at least one win with each of the 28 ships, all on Hard difficulty. I want to see what kind of winning percentage rate I can achieve under those controlled conditions. A perfect record would be a profile showing 28 games started and 28 victories. I'd love to achieve the 28 wins on no more than 3 losses, which would be a win rate of over 90%. It is true that some games are truly unwinnable, when a ship with a beam weapon or drone hits some shieldless ship of yours before you can do anything about it. But I think sufficiently skillful play can win over 90% of all games on Hard.
The freshly reset profile poses an additional challenge: I will need to do the achievements for unlocking ships along the way. Many of these involve incurring substantial risk to the winning chances of your current run. This isn't completely ideal for the purposes of showing win-rate. I could unlock all the ships with a profile editor tool. But I feel I really want to keep this exercise as clean and uncontestable as possible, with no external tools or file manipulation at all. (I have no way to demonstrably verify that I didn't edit the profile or back it up to restore after a loss; you'll have to take me at my word.)
And due to the volume of gameplay this involved, the writeup for each ship will be short and unpolished, a stream-of-consciousness summary, mostly written by quickly tabbing out of the game during play. I'm including screenshots but not taking the time to trim and crop each one, so click to reveal each within the narrative. Finally, I work raw and unfiltered and uncensored, R-rated profanity abounds, you've been warned.
Page 1: Kestrel A, Engi A, Federation A, Engi B, Zoltan A
Page 2: Mantis A, Slug A, Rock A, Stealth A, Stealth B
Page 3: Stealth C, Kestrel B, Rock B, Lanius A, Kestrel C
Page 4: Engi C, Rock C, Mantis B, Mantis C, Zoltan A
Page 5: Zoltan B, Zoltan C, Fed A, Fed B, Fed C
Page 6: Lanius A, Lanius B, Slug A, Slug B, Slug C
Page 7: Crystal A, Crystal B
Also I'll use this space for a few quick strategic points:
- Bursts and beams is the eternal watchword for offense. If you have enough laser and flak projectiles to consistently pop 4 shield bubbles, and a beam that deals 4 to 8 damage that connects instantly and can't miss, that is enough to win every fight including the flagship. Ions are trash, fire crap is garbage, every gimmick like ion stack stunlock or a bio beam will have some situation where it won't work and will leave you screwed. To win a run means to be able to win every situation, and what does that is weapons that actually deal damage. In the space that any of those gimmick setups take to get going with their schtick, bursts-and-beams will just kill and win instead.
- Focused damage is what wins fights. An FTL fight is won not when you destroy the enemy ship or set it on fire. It is won when you render the ship into a state from which it will never recover to damage you again. Sun Tzu: "Seek to destroy not the enemy, but the enemy's ability to fight." The critical metric is essentially "time until you will incur no further damage." Unfocused damage like the artillery beam or combat/beam drones does not achieve this. Non-damage like ions certainly doesn't. Focused bursts-and-beams does.
- Attrition loses runs before the flagship. A fight where you take five damage while waiting for your slow weaponry or ion cascade or artillery beam or oxygen shenanigans is not a win, it is a loss against the war of attrition. You must kill the enemy ship and take as little damage as possible, every time.
- Cloaking and a defense drone are the keys for defense, because that is how you avoid that attrition. Shields and evasion are important too but not sufficient. Particularly against the flagship, cloaking is the only way to dodge the power surges, and a defense drone is the only way to mitigate the impact of its missile artillery weapon.
- Turtling does not work. There is no impenetrable defense. Cloaking and a defense drone can go a long way, but there will always be situations where they won't work, when an enemy ship has a big enough loadout of burst lasers and flaks and bombs and a beam, or hacks your shields. The best defense is a good offense: 100% of broken weapons cannot damage you.
- Boarding is good but doesn't work miracles. There are always situations where boarding will be problematic, airless autoscouts or Lanius or high-level medbays protected by a defense drone or just an enormous population of crew on the rebel flagship. The rewards for boarding are good, but you also always need to be able to function as a gunship as well. And boarding drones and mind control stink as support for boarding; those are fatally unfocused means of attacking, they do not stop whatever is the greatest danger facing you.
- Scour the sector. Navigate the map to clean out as many beacons as you possibly can before exiting each sector. Seek out as many fights as possible, particularly with Long-Ranged Scanners or when the map was otherwise revealed. Scrap income is everything. And spend that scrap wisely; you can't waste it on hiring crew or on marginal weapon upgrades or augmentations. Know what you seek: if you see a store and you want a particular system, visit other beacons before the store to accumulate the scrap that system will cost.