I’ve been playing FTL a lot. A LOT…
I’d played a ton of it before the Advanced Edition then started all over again when the update came out. I’d dropped all my achievements and saves and worked my way back through unlocking all the ships, trying out the new rooms, augments, weapons, drones. I found the Advanced Edition more difficult in general, but only just. Mostly that’s because you can occasionally encounter an enemy that’s ready made to cause you grief, hacking your shields or teleporter or otherwise making things a challenge. That’s especially true (SPOILER ALERT) at the end of the game, where the Rebel Flagship is that much more deadly because of a couple of choice drones and systems that can come into play.
But I was still able to beat the game consistently like before. One in four games roughly, if I had to guess.
But that was always on Easy. One in four on EASY. Zero for a couple dozen on Normal. Still, I’d managed to learn a few tricks, had gotten pretty good I thought. However, after a discussion with The Crew1, where I’d boasted about my skills (*1), then had to admit they were “easy” skills, I took up Myk’s challenge of playing on Normal.(*2)
It took about a dozen tries, but I just got my first Normal Victory.
How did I manage it?
Mantis Cruise Type B. It starts with a 2 Mantis crew, 2 shields, a 4 person teleporter, some drones and no weapons. The first few sectors were a struggle. I’d abandon my ship and just teleport onto the enemy ship. If the enemy had missile, I put out the Defense Drone, if they didn’t, I put out the Boarding Drone.
A couple of times I had to use their own shuttles to get back to my ship (when they knocked out my teleporter) and once I got back to a ship on fire, with very little oxygen and almost zero hull. I was barely able to get the O2 back up and hunkered down in that room while venting the rest of the ship to put out the fires. Then it was a very long and tedious repair job, given that Mantis aren’t the fastest where that’s concerned.
Then it was back to teleporting off my ship and trying to take out them before they took out my ghost ship (I still hadn’t upgraded my Navigation Suite, so my ship was just a floating space hulk). That worked fairly well, unless I hit an Automated Ship. With no weapons and only Mantis, there was no way I was teleporting onto an airless enemy. Occasionally my boarding drone would work the long slow slog of killing it one system at a time (so slow), but mostly I’d just ride it out and run.
Around Sector Four it all changed… Scrap Recovery Arm and suddenly I was picking up more and more (you already pick up more when you take out a crew with the ship intact, with the scrap recovery arm that started to add up fast. Then came my Rocks, two of them, one hired at a store, one freed from slavers. Then a second scrap recovery arm.
The end of Sector Four found me selling everything on my ship that wasn’t nailed down in order to buy a Weapon Pre-Igniter. The irony was, that included the only weapon I’d picked up along the way, a sad little Ion Cannon.
It was a gamble, but when I scored a Flak II, a Halberd Beam and Mind Control system in Sector Five, I knew it was game over. Soon I’d cripple a ship, board it with my four man team, the Rocks up front to take the brunt of the counter assault, my Mantis in the back row slaughter anyone foolish enough to come into the room (that or they’d sneak off to take out First Aid, Clone or weapon systems).
By Sector Seven not much was standing in my way. Then came the Flagship and this is what I love about FTL. By all accounts I should have handled it pretty easily. With the pre-igniter and Flak II I could take down their shields the second they appeared. With the Halberd (and their shields down), I could keep the shields down and hit one two or three more rooms. Meanwhile, my Rocks were in their Missile Room, so my Defense Drone would only have to defend against one or two volleys before my ship was pretty much safe.
And then they hacked. The Hack is both the best and worst system in the game. Sometimes it’s stupid. Who cares if you hack my Sensors, heck, you can hack pretty much anything you want as long as it’s not my Shield, Weapons or Teleporter. This time, they hacked my Shields.
And crossed my fingers. What would they hit the next time? Turns out my Doors. I could live with that. They hit my doors, I hit them with Flak and everything would have been fine… except… oops… my Rocks died heroically, sacrificed when the starboard one wing of the Flagship broke off into space. Scotty dropped the ball and didn’t beam them back in time. I swore I’d fire him if we survived the battle.
I only needed my Mantis to take out the Missiles the next time the Flagship and I met. Still, my hull was in the red, as were a good share of my systems before the port nacelle of Flagship was destroyed.
That left the final battle (cue music). Now… I’d scored one last trick at the end of Sector Seven. I’d sold my scrap recovery arms for a Zoltan Shield Bypass. The Flagship was doomed. Then again, so was I. They hit one of my Mantis with Mind Control, teleported an assault team into my weapons room and got a missile through my defenses and took out my Drones. Fortunately one Mantis made it onboard their ship and bravely destroyed their missiles, my Engie fixed the drones (and launched a Combat Drone Mk II) and pummeling them with Flak, cutting them with Beams and blasting them with lasers, I took them down. Scotty even managed to get my Mantis back in the nick of time. I guess he’s not fired after all. (*3)
1. That’s the game mechanics crew, not my FTL crew… I’m game obsessed, but not crazy.
2. And I refuse to write skillz
3. This is why I love FTL. It’s simple, it’s repetitive, but it’s filled with stories and challenges and chance, but still has a place for some skill. I could tell you stories about how I left stations to be destroyed by alien spiders or how I watched a pirate burn in the glow of a red sun, I could tell you how I almost died at the hands of a cloaked automated ship that appeared just long enough to fire dual missiles and bombs while I desperately tried to keep my reactor online so my FTL engine could charge (it reminded me ‘33’, perhaps the best Battlestar Galactica episode), I could tell you how I got a lucky break finding that last store, how that Zoltan Shield Bypass probably won me the game, I could admit that it was me being slow and inattentive that cost my Rocks their lives (lack of skill) and my dual targeting of shields and lasers with my Halberd and all the work up to that point that won me the game.
4. The image is some fanart from Japan. It's awesome, check it out here: http://sagisyouzai-bokumetu.jp/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/1120bf06.jpg
So… in the end, while I think I prefer Easy because it’s more ‘fun’ to win, I’m glad I played it Normal so I can at least hold my head up the next time I brag!