Faster Than Light is the sort of game you can sink dozens upon dozens of hours into without so much as a single victory. It’s a cruel mistress; almost invariably rewarding hours spent upgrading your ship, collecting scrap, vanquishing enemies and charting sectors with the soul-crushing sight of your ship exploding into fragments and being strewn across simulated space. The goal is simple: make your way to sector eight with some vital information, destroy the Rebel flagship and save the Federation. However, accomplishing this is so hard that you have to start to actually enjoy losing otherwise the game will drive you insane. While it might be impossible – or at least impractical – to produce a fool-proof, step-by-step guide to victory (ultimately, due to the random events, luck always has a role to play), there are some things you can do maximise your chances of success.
Set the game on easy if you’re new to it. There’s no shame in knocking the difficulty down to easy – it will make the process more forgiving for new players and let you get to grips with the game before bumping up the difficulty. Plus, easy mode isn’t really that easy; they should have labelled them “hard,” “really hard” and “near impossible.”
Maximize your earnings. Scrap is the currency of FTL, and to prepare your ship for the later sectors and final battle, you’ll need every bit you can get. Explore as many beacons in each sector as possible – use the “Show Beacon Paths on Hover” feature in the option menu to help with route planning – don’t revisit beacons, use nebulas to slow the pursuit of the Rebel fleet (nebula sectors slow them down, but not as much as nebulas in normal sectors) and get a scrap recovery arm as early as you can.
Position your crew optimally. Prioritise piloting, then engines, then weapons, then shields, then doors and sensors. Don’t worry about sending your crew to fix damage to non-essential systems, it’s better to keep them positioned on your piloting system and engines to keep your evasion up during a fight. Similarly, you can often put out fires by opening doors and draining your oxygen, rather than sending crew in to do it manually.
Prioritise avoiding damage. It’s tempting to take out an enemy’s shields first and then deal with the weapons when it’s unprotected, but using your shield-bypassing missiles on the weapon’s system first (especially in early sectors) means that you’ll take less damage, even if the battle takes longer. Repairing costs scrap, so it’s also wise to upgrade your shields and engines systems as soon as you can to maximise your evasion and take less hull damage.
Target crucial enemy systems. As well as hitting your enemy’s weapons system as soon as possible, try to take down their shields, their piloting system (to make future shots more likely to hit their target) and (if applicable) their drone system. However, if possible, you can increase your rewards by killing the crew without destroying the ship: use the Anti-Bio Beam or Fire Beam to damage crew directly, or use your Crew Teleporter to board the enemy ship.
Pause to make decisions. Pressing the space bar pauses the game, and it’s in such an accessible location because you need to do it a lot. This is important when you have any choice to make mid-battle, and particularly so when you also have boarders to deal with. Pausing also helps you defend against ion attacks: when you see the bubble of energy coming your way, pause the game and drop your shields. If it hits your shields (which it does whenever they’re raised and you don’t evade) you’re defenceless, so it’s better to let it strike another system before raising your shields again.
Upgrade your systems. As you earn scrap, you need to consider the systems most in need of an upgrade. Aim for two shield bubbles as soon as possible (and three by sector three or four) and upgrade your engines to minimise damage taken, but don’t forget to upgrade your doors (to help with borders and fires), your piloting and your Medbay (most important before a Mantis sector, but it offers blue-coloured choices for some events throughout). Upgrading also gives you a “damage buffer,” so you can take system damage without having it shut down entirely.
Spend your scrap wisely. One of the biggest challenges of FTL is making use of limited resources. Don’t worry about buying more – or really powerful – weapons right away, it’s better to use ones you get for free (and sell them if you don’t need them) and only buy something that fits in well with what you already have. Ideally, you don’t want to spend too much buying things like missiles or drones, so use them sparingly.
Remove power from non-essential systems. The Medbay is the perfect example here: it’s much better to have more power going to your engines than have a Medbay powered when you aren’t using it. You can also let your ship slowly drain of oxygen during a battle to use the power elsewhere – just remember to turn it back on when your rooms become pink and striped so your crew doesn’t start to suffocate.
Plan ahead for the boss battle. The three-stage boss battle is incredibly difficult, and a guide like this could be written on it alone, but the best advice is to come prepared. Three shield barriers (preferably four) are essential, having a teleporter enables you send crew into the isolated weapons rooms to take them down one by one, and cloaking is very useful in both the second and third fights (time it to avoid the drone surge and the laser barrage). Then all you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best.