FTL: Faster Than Light is a notoriously difficult game, building up the confidence of intergalactic explorers in the early stages of the game before crushing their hopes and dreams shortly after. To make matters worse, the Advanced Edition update, which brought the game to the iPad for the first time, adds new systems, weapons, and more, and it even includes a hard mode.
To help you survive, we’ve put together this FTL: Faster Than Light – Advanced Edition guide. The basics are the same no matter if you have the Advanced Edition content turned on or not, so we’re going to run over some beginner tips and tricks that apply to the game overall. If you’re already familiar with FTL, jump down to our section on the Advanced Edition below for details on everything the mode adds.
Tips for surviving FTL: Faster Than Light
You are going to die
Death is a universal truth in FTL. It might happen under the sustained fire of the giant rebel cruiser at the end of the game, or it might happen after your very first jump. You need to let go of your impatience. The random delivery of events as you leap from system to system weights the odds heavily against you, and more often than not, a game will end with your crew sucking vacuum. Don’t be afraid to restart completely if it’s clear a game is turning against you. That’s going to happen often.
The tutorial is essential
Before doing anything, make sure you play the tutorial. FTL asks if you want to play the tutorial the first time you load the game, but beyond that, it simply lives as an option in the menu. The tutorial is short, and it packs a lot of content into its relatively short playtime. FTL‘s tutorial won’t teach you everything you need to know about the game — far from it, in fact — but it at least demonstrates the basics of traveling and combat, giving you a solid foundation for future runs.
Enemy ship approaching
Every ship-to-ship battle has different needs, but combat always boils down to keeping your enemy off balance by forcing them to play catch-up. You’ll want to target two, even three, key ship systems so the opposing ship’s crew always has more than one repair to worry about. Weapon and Shield systems should be a top priority. Engine too, especially if you see “FTL charging” in the enemy ship window; that means they’re trying to escape. This might change depending on your weapon loadout, but one good strategy is to target the Weapons and Oxygen systems, since the former knocks out your enemy’s offensive capabilities and the latter gets repair priority.
Explore and pause between jumps
The early sectors in any FTL game are the ones you’ll want to spend the most time exploring. Each jump you make inside a sector brings the pursuing rebel fleet closer, and you’ve got lots of fighting with few rewards if they happen to overtake you. Later sectors throw much tougher ships and challenges against you, so maximize your scrap (FTL‘s currency) gains early by exploring as much as you can. Consider investing early in a Scrap Recovery Arm and/or Long-Range Scanners if you happen to see either in a store. These are both a big help throughout any game.
Don’t rush between jumps, either. The early enemies are relatively easy to overcome, so take advantage of the extra time at the end of an encounter to heal your crew members and repair any damaged systems. It should go without saying, but if you’re too eager to get on to the next system, you can enter combat without being fully topped off.
Running on empty
Mind your resources. They’re all listed in the top left corner of the screen, under the damage meter. If you rely heavily on missiles or drones, make sure you stock up whenever you visit a store. You’ll always rely heavily on fuel, so make sure you grab that whenever you can as well. Play it smart though; if you have 15+ fuel, you can safely spend in other directions. It’s not game over if you run out of fuel mid-sector, since you can wait for help or deploy a distress beacon, but both of these carry the risk of drawing rebel attention. What’s important is to always be mindful of what you’re using and what you need.
There are two layers to upgrading your ship: The individual systems and the core reactor. If you don’t have a powerful enough reactor, you’re going to have to make tough choices when it comes to feeding partial power to different systems. Try to upgrade the reactor and individual systems together whenever you can. It’s tempting to juice up your weapons immediately, but it’s generally smarter focus your early upgrades in other directions.
This all depends on the ship you’re using of course. The Kestrel, which is the starting ship and the one you’ll spend the most time with early on, has enough firepower to carry you through the first half of a game. The level two Medbay is cheap and opens up lots of extra options for various events. Level two Doors help prevent fires from spreading. Put a priority on Level two Shields and Engines as well, since they increase your durability and evasion, respectively. The less damage you take, the less scrap you’ll have to spend on repairs.
Focus your fire
There are dozens of strategies for surviving in combat, all of them dependent on how you’ve built out your ship, but there are some truths in FTL that apply universally. First and most important is that it’s best to be a focused weapon of mass destruction rather than a Swiss Army Spaceship. If you’re stacked with ranged weapons and have a small crew, don’t bother investing in a Teleporter system. Your choices in this regard are often influenced heavily by your choice of ship. Take note of each ship system and crew configuration. Play to your strengths.
FTL is a game of micromanagement more than anything else, and the pause feature is a vital part of that. Enemy shields recharge quickly, so try to fire all of your shield-susceptible weapons in a cluster by pausing immediately after you give the fire order on one to stack another fire order behind it. Ion shots knock your shields out quickly, but you can prevent them from leaving you vulnerable to other weapons fire if you pause and cut power to your shields when you see one of the slow-moving balls of electricity heading your way, then restore power immediately after impact. Pause is also necessary for boarding actions — engaging in them or repelling them — since you’ll want to keep your crew together.
Bigger and better
The Kestrel is an OK starting ship, but just like every other ship, it’s purpose-built for a particular kind of play. You’ll want to unlock more. The unlock conditions for most of FTL‘s ships are steep, typically requiring you to take down the rebel flagship with some other vessel. There are, however, hidden missions that offer an alternative route to filling your hangar up. There’s no surefire strategy for finding them, since all events in FTL are random.
This leaves you with two options: Check on the Internet or experiment every chance you get. One game is not a huge time investment, and it’s always more valuable in the long run to take a risk on an option you’ve never seen before. Certain events, for example, have hidden choices that only unlock when you have certain ship systems or crewmembers. If you highlight a locked ship, you’ll see a vague hint about what the hidden unlock mission might entail. We won’t judge you if you ask the Internet though.
To your stations
A capable crew is essential to surviving in FTL. You’ll want to have bodies manning Engines and Piloting for sure, to improve your survivability. Manned systems get an effectiveness upgrade without the need for extra reactor power. Your crew also earns experience for all activities: working on individual systems/subsystems, combat (during boarding actions), and repairs in general. Make sure to establish clear-cut roles for each crewmember; you won’t want your pilot manning the Weapons system. Advanced Edition helpfully adds the ability to save crew configurations and then use that to issue a global “return to stations” order.
Advanced Edition updates
With the basics out of the way, let’s talk about the changes in Advanced Edition. It’s a free update for all FTL owners, so if you already have the game, you have Advanced Edition, too. When you start a new run, you can toggle the Advanced Edition content on or off. By default, it’s turned off, and if you’re new to FTL, we recommend leaving it that way. It’s not that Advanced Edition is more difficult, just that it’s a little more involved. Plus, the new systems available in Advanced Edition are available to your opponents when you turn the toggle on, so you need to know how to fight against them.
Perhaps the most interesting addition in the Advanced update is the Hacking system. With it, you can either lock or disrupt enemy systems during an encounter, adding yet another system in FTL’s already frantic strategic combat. You can purchase Hacking between encounters, and continue to upgrade it to increase the duration of the hacking pulse. Like attacks, you have to target the room you want to hack, and you can only hack one room at once. Additionally, hacking takes time, and enemy drones can destroy your hacking drone before it reaches the ship.
As long as your drone is targeting a powered system, there are a few passive effects that apply to every hack. First, the doors to the room are locked to the enemy crew, and the repair speed of the hacked system is halved. Additionally, hacking provides max-level sensor information about the system.
Once your drone reaches the room you targeted, there are different effects depending on the system inside the room. These effects come up during the hacking pulse, which lasts four seconds when your unlock Hacking. You can increase the duration up to 10 seconds through upgrades. Depending on the room you target, here are the different effects when the hacking pulse goes off:
- Battery: Drains two energy bars and disables bonus energy.
- Cloaking: Automatically decloaks the ship and prevents further cloaking.
- Clone Bay: Shuts down the Clone Bay, preventing any cloning.
- Doors: Converts doors to blast doors, allowing friendly crew to pass while blocking enemy crew.
- Drone Control: Disables all enemy drones, and in some cases, destroys them.
- Engines and Piloting: Cuts evasion to zero and stops FTL charging.
- Hacking: Immediately stops enemy hacking, and in some cases, destroys enemy hacking drones.
- Medbay: Enemy crew using the Medbay to heal are damaged instead.
- Mind Control: Cancels enemy mind control while allowing you to control a random enemy crew member (see below for more on mind control).
- Oxygen: Drains enemy oxygen quickly.
- Sensors: Disables sensors.
- Shield: Removes shields at a rate of two seconds per layer.
- Teleporter: Immediately returns enemy boarders to their ship.
- Weapons: Drains weapon charge at the same rate that weapons normally charge.
The next major system addition is Mind Control, which allows you to take control of an enemy crew member (and allows enemies to take control of one of your crew members). The duration of the effect depends on the system’s leveling, starting at 14 seconds at level one and ending at 28 seconds at level three. As far as what mind-controlled enemies can do, well, they can do just about everything any of your crew members could. The only difference is that you can’t issue direct orders to mind-controlled enemies.
Before you can take control of an enemy, though, you need a view of them. The easiest way to do this is to upgrade your Sensors to level two, which allows you to see all rooms on an enemy’s ship. Alternatively, you can use the Lifeform Scanner augmentation, which is exclusive to Advanced Edition. Additionally, you need to pierce the Super Shields if they’re present on the enemy vessel before you can take control of an enemy crew member.
Once you have control of a crew member, it’s up to you as to what you do with them. You can teleport them back to your ship to assist your crew for the duration of the effect, or you can have them roam around the enemy vessel, doing whatever they can to sabotage the vessel’s attack strategy. The most interesting use case is to combat enemy mind control, though. As mentioned, turning on the Advanced Edition content gives that content to your opponents, too. You can use your Mind Control system to regain power of a friendly crew member that your opponent has taken control of.
The final new system in Advanced Edition is the Clone Bay, which serves as a replacement for the Medbay. You can’t have both on the same ship at once, though you can choose the Medbay instead of the Clone Bay, even if you have the Advanced Edition content turned on. The system tells you most of what you need to know in the name: It’s built for cloning your crew members. In particular, the Clone Bay clones killed crew members at a minor XP loss. This only counts toward crew members who have a regular death, which includes dying on an enemy ship, from suffocation, and from a fire.
Keep in mind; there’s no direct healing in this system because Clone Bay has replaced Medbay. Fortunately, you’ll still be able to access some levels of passive healing between jumps in Clone Bay, with a 12-second clone time. Consider upgrading the system to level three— which could potentially reduce your clone time even further to seven seconds and increase the HP between jumps to 25. To restore a crew member, you can suffocate them and then reconstruct that member at Clone Bay. That character will reappear at full health. However, it could cost them XP.
New weapons, events, and more
The latest Advanced Edition will draw players in with brand new weapons, effects, events, upgraded ship layout, and more— including the three systems we detailed above. You’ll also find a host of new characters: the Lanius. The Lanius race doesn’t require oxygen to survive and also works to eliminate the oxygen from every room they enter. You’ll likely find the newest additions don’t influence how you play in a significant way, but they’ll add fun obstacles to the mix.
Advanced Edition features an upgraded backup battery, which is referred to as a subsystem. This addition creates four extra reactor powers once you’ve fully updated the game. That added subsystem also brings a third layout to nearly every ship in the game and forms a new vessel for the Lanius.