A beginner’s guide to ‘FTL: Faster Than Light’ on iPad

April 17, 2014
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You're ready. The future is here, and you want to take your first baby steps into space. You know it's dangerous. Maybe our guide can help you make it a little further.

Use the Tutorial

FTL proper doesn't have a tutorial, so make sure you check out the tutorial mode from the front menu. Whether you're a veteran of FTL's PC version or new to the series entirely, this is important. Familiarizing yourself with the controls is key to making the game playable, and they aren't going to make themselves as apparent as many other modern games.

You'll Die Often

FTL is brutally difficult. Death isn't just an inevitability, it's commonplace. There have been times where I'd be cruising along, feeling like a boss in my sweet spaceship, only to have an enemy ship end my streak almost immediately, leaving me limping to the next destination (if even limping).

Every death, however, is a learning experience. Each time you venture out into space, you'll learn something. Maybe you'll find out that, in fact, an all-laser weapon loadout doesn't work as well as you thought with just level 1 Heavy Lasers. Maybe you'll encounter space spiders for the fourth time and realize that going onto the ship is a bad idea.

Keep your eyes open and observe. Fight to survive, but don't get angry when you die. Except against the end boss, because that guy's a huge butthead.

Don't Be Afraid of Easy

Listen, it's okay to play on Easy. Normal in FTL is "Very Hard" in other games. You can work your way up to Normal by mastering the game on Easy if you like, but it's much easier to make it to the next event and experience something new. If you stick to normal, you may never even meet the Rebel Flagship.

Watch Your Power

Much of FTL is automated – there's a difference between skill and tedium – but not everything can run on its own. This is my personal recommendation. When things get hairy, keep an eye on your power distribution. If your oxygen system is hit and damaged, it'll lose power. Even when you get it fixed, it's possible that it won't power up automatically, and your crew will suffocate in minutes.

I'm not saying this ever happened to me or anything. I just want to save you the pain.

Try Different Strategies

Even if you think you've found the perfect strategy for FTL, there are so many different ships, ship layouts, and tools that trying out different strategies is both a necessity and a pleasure. There are missile weapons, beam weapons, lasers, bombs, drones, boarding, and with the Advanced Edition content, hacking and mind control. There might even be some things I'm missing!

FTL is a random experience for the most part, and just about the only thing you have control over is which ship layout you choose. After that, it's a roll of the dice what you'll end up with. Roll with the dice instead of against them. If you end up with a bunch of drones early on, pick up a drone controller and see how it works. It might not be to your taste, but then you might also find that you enjoy the mechanic.

Missiles ignore shields, but they're limited supply. Having a series of rapid-firing lasers can be enough to get through the shields if you have enough of them.

Another reason to try different strategies is to approach the different scenarios that play out as you make your way through the game. Different types of weapons, systems, and crew members can give you sharp advantages in some situations that present you with an extra option in choice-based situations. Always take that option when it becomes available, and try different loadouts to see what options you get.

You'll Die Often

I've given you a guide to get started, but we've only just scratched the surface of what FTL has to offer. Get in there and charge headlong into the emptiness of space. There's tons to explore and tons to find. Good luck, captain.

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