FTL: The Fatal Frontier, Sector 5

By Alec Meer on September 27th, 2012 at 12:00 pm.

Previously. Now:

Crew: 5
Shields: 3
Guns: 2 (only one of which can be used at once)
Fuel: 5
Hull: 1%
Scrap: 2
Location: Parked outside the exit from Sector 4
Situation: desperate

Mood: Funereal. A little like this, in fact:

We’re alone, we’re very nearly helpless, we’re very nearly dead and we need to continue on into an even deadlier unknown than that which we’ve already faced. Unless…

Jump 8

I changed my mind. Rather than leaving the sector, I made one more jump. This sector was most likely less challenging than the one that lay ahead, so if I was going to recklessly search for cash to spend on repairs (when and if we found a frigging store), better here than there. Once again, we had the choice of aiding a civilian ship or fleeing. Grimly, knowing this was very likely it, I took on the pursuing pirate. Two drones deployed, two crew manning shields just in case. One hit to the hull and it’s all over. Shields don’t fail me now.

And we won. Without taking any damage. Amazing.

We now have 42 scrap to spend on repairs. If we can find repairs. It’s one source of stress dealt with, at least. But now we absolutely, definitely have to go to the next sector. Cross your fingers, and whatever Engi have instead of fingers, crew. This is it.

Sector 5

Jump 1

Here’s the map that greeted me upon arrival:

Look what’s just one jump away.

HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH HALLELUJAH

Hallelujah.

I have precious little cash, only enough to repair half the damage. I elect to sell my Heal Beam – this Engi ship has a craft-wide healing effect anyway, and the 20 scrap I can get for flogging the beam is far more useful to me right now. I only notice that I’m down to only 3 fuel just in time. Grimly, I cease to repair further damage and spend my remaining pennies on four new barrels. Back in the game. Barely, but at least I have to squint to see death’s door now.

Jump 2

Nothing. Typical. More fuel wasted.

Jump 3

A distress signal. For the second time we encounter a space station whose defence satellite has gone haywire. I can choose to fix it with my Ion Blast or my Engi crew. But which?

Engi crew. I’m rewarded with some drone parts and 48 scrap, which is King’s ransom to me right now. So, a dilemma – do I head back to the store for more repairs, thus essentially wasting two more fuel units (I only have 6), or do I forge on? VOTE.

No, too late, I’m writing this hours before you’ll read it and I can’t be bothered to wait. I opted for a compromise approach – retreating one jump, but not heading all the way back to the store. This is because I want to avoid a nebula cloud which will scramble my sensors and potentially contain nasty things that limit my reactor power. So I’m trekking around its periphery instead.

Jump 4

Like I said, going backwards. Nothing to see here. Though there are rumours that Bonz and Tacky were spotted in a clinch during the jump.

Jump 5

Ooh, a second store. Fuel and hull repair it is.

Wait a minute. What’s that?

DRONE RECOVERY ARM AUGMENT. Once a fight’s over, it’ll collect any drones I deployed rather than leaving them floating in space, wasted. That would mean I never needed to worry about drone parts again, and could comfortably deploy my two attack drones each and every fight. It costs 50 scrap.

I have exactly 50 scrap.

I only have 3 fuel.

No.

Another compromise. I sell my system repair drone for 15. This will doubtless come back to haunt me, but my relatively high crew count means I’ve not had any call for it yet. This way, I can get the drone recovery arm and a few units of fuel.

I feel sick with anxiety.

Jump 6

Some passing Engi (man, I love the Engi. I practically am an Engi by now) have a gift for me: an auto-repair augment, which will fix up my hull every time I collect scrap. Problems a) I’ll get 15% less scrap. b) I already have three augments, which means I need to ditch one. My ship-wide auto-heal? No, that’s a lifesaver if ever invaders beam aboard. My drone recovery arm? I only just bought it, so no way. The 15% shield recharge time booster it is then. I spent 45 scrap on that a few sectors back: what a waste. If only I could put augments into storage rather than have to just abandon them in space.

Jump 7

A pirate ship pursues an unknown target. It offers us a missile-centric bribe to leave it alone. Pah, I have no use for missiles. Attack!

My 75% hull is very quickly a 50% hull, but I’m very much the dominant force here. Poor Steven has to peg it all over the place putting out fires and fixing breaches – he’s not the best man for the job, but everyone else is manning battlestations. The pirate, spooked, offers a second bribe – some fuel, plenty of scrap.

It makes me a coward, or a sap, or lazy, or all three, but I’ll take it. Maybe I’d have gotten something even better if I took ‘em out, but my fuel remains in frighteningly short supply and I don’t feel like gambling any more.

Jump 8

My travel options are either into the nebula or into the waiting lasers of the rebel fleet, which is hot on my heels again. I choose a third route, and return to the store for fuel and more repairs. Boring, I know. Boring is safe though.

Jump 9

A fight against a Rebel, in the middle of an asteroid field. I decide to experiment with a different tack, as I’m bored of my hull getting shredded. I target my Ion Blast at the enemy’s weapons rather than shield generator. It’ll take longer to take it down – with those blasted asteroids pummelling us all the while – but hopefully, hopefully our foe won’t be able to duff us up in the meantime.

It works! We’re out of here with no damage, and a spot of bonus fuel and scrap for our troubles.

Jump 10

I could squeeze in one more jump before leaving the sector, but at the speed the rebel fleet is advancing, it would mean one definite fight with their advance guard before I could leave. Once again, my boring side gets the better of me. Let’s make like a tree and go through this wormhole to a different galaxy. For once, we leave not in bad shape. Hull’s at about 80%, there’s a decent amount of fuel in the tank, I have some new upgrades and NO-ONE IS DEAD. Five sectors down and no casualties! It can’t possibly last. Especially as the last, deadly stand against those damnable rebels is now just two sectors away.

To be continued

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98 Comments »

  1. Yargh says:

    What a comeback. This is (delayed) edge of the seat story-telling. (Note: you’re still screwed)

  2. Belsameth says:

    I always do that, target weapons instead of shields. Works wonders for me, most of the time.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Me too.

      Also, I would have junked the Engi medi-bot dispersal. It’s nice, but shields, drones and hull integrity are nicer.

      • Eskatos says:

        I logged in just to say that. The medibot effect is super slow and can be easily replaced by just sending your combaters into the med bay for a bit while letting the enemies beat on whatever room they’re standing in.

        • PoulWrist says:

          Disagree. It’s a complete lifesaver when you are being boarded.

          • PodX140 says:

            This. It may not be the biggest use in ship to ship combat, but when you’re being boarded it makes 1-1 combat in your favor ALWAYS.

          • naweisda12 says:

            So that’s what happens to those tiny animal balls when the vet’s done with them.
            Hail Seitan!
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eovuIfeH2k4

          • UmmonTL says:

            It’s not a lifesaver at least not for a crew made mostly of Engi since they do half damage in combat. With 5 crew he should be able to either overwhelm invaders or cycle the fighting crewmembers in and out of the medbay. On your own ship you already have the advantage, so IMHO the med-bot dispersal is only nice to have because it heals the guys taking damage from enemy fire. While the shield booster actively prevents that damage.

    • westyfield says:

      I hit the shields first, then control the ion cannon manually and alternate between shields and weapons.

      • Gramarye says:

        I try to alternate — get the shields down, then if you have a good gunner you can one-two the weapons and the shields to keep them both down. The Ion Blast fires quickly enough for that.

        I would have definitely junked the repair augmentation. It is not worth it. It always takes 15%, but only heals 1 point of hull. Good on Alec for surviving, but 1 point of hull is useless compared to that much scrap, especially in the late game. He’d be much better off ditching it.

  3. bobbobob says:

    This diary has taken longer to read than it would have done to play. I love reading any game diaries, but after 2 hours of playing FTL I kinda felt like I’d pretty much played it out.

    • zebramatt says:

      I’ve no idea how you’re bored of FTL after only an eleventh of the time I’ve played it!

      • bobbobob says:

        me either. I just can’t see what else I can get out of it. I have only played it on easy mind, so I should man-up a bit I suppose. I won’t though, because carmageddon has just come out over at gog.com.

        • zebramatt says:

          Ha, I can’t argue with that!

        • Gnoupi says:

          To be honest, playing easy is boring. It’s almost fair, but at same time, you have much less encounters, and you really feel like the game is babysitting you.

          Mind you, I’m usually one for casual/easy modes, because I don’t really enjoy being killed repeatedly to pass a level. I like having fun without worrying too much. I played Red Faction guerilla on easy, running after guards with my hammer. I play Just Cause 2 on easy to not be wasted each and every time by the soldiers when I’m having fun.

          But FTL in easy is dull. It really feels like the game is patting you on the back for all the time. And most of the time, you reach the end without a challenge (though usually also without the correct equipment). I got bored in easy, in FTL. The heart of the game is really in managing the risk, and the crisis happening inside your ship, with your crew. Easy mode takes away a lot of that… And to be honest, not much remains after.

          • The Random One says:

            The difference is that both RF:G and
            JC2 were games about cool
            environment interaction that had
            combat tacked on them because AAA
            devs and pubs can’t conceive of a
            game in which you don’t murder
            anyone, whereas this is a tactical
            game in which combat is one of many
            things you have to keep in mind as a
            possible drain and source of
            resources.

          • iniudan says:

            Yup give me a skyscraper demolition game with Red Faction demolition and I would play the hell out of it, they only reason I like the enemy in Red Faction is has to collapse building on/under them. =p

          • LionsPhil says:

            To be fair, JC2 is taking all of its cues from action films and EXPLOSIONS! Exploring the world is just so that when you find something you can slam your mode of transportation into it, ideally covered with C4.

          • Eskatos says:

            Easy mode has one good use in FTL besides for learning the game. If you beat the game on any difficulty you unlock a ship that is in my opinion much more powerful than the default or engi ships. This gives a leg up in normal mode.

        • jonfitt says:

          I have only played on Easy so far, and have always made it to the final sector but no further (except when trying for the “heal fro 1pt to full in one go” achievement).
          The furthest I’ve made it is to the second round of the boss fight, and that was with an Engi ship that had cruised through the game up til that point.

      • x1501 says:

        I fully agree [with bobbobob]. After finishing the game once after 4 or 5 hours or so, I just can’t see myself playing it again. Not nearly enough varied content to justify the repetitiveness.

        EDIT: Strange, I was replying to bobbobob…

    • kikito says:

      The game is meant to be played on normal.

      Cakewalks can entertain only for so long.

      • Yosharian says:

        HAHAH GOOD ONE oh you’re serious.

        The game is still amazingly unfair, even on easy mode. And yes, I did say unfair and not difficult. There is a difference.

        • PoulWrist says:

          Why would you play on easy O.o never even considered it.

          • Vinraith says:

            Because you want to unlock another ship to play with, and the game design (idiotically, IMO) pretty much requires you to win in order to do that.

            The game appears to be designed in such a way that you have to play for awhile on easy to be able to unlock content to make you competitive on normal. Well, unless you’re content to never use anything but a Kestrel A.

          • PoulWrist says:

            I unlocked 2 ships just from playing normally… never even made it to the final boss yet.

          • Vinraith says:

            Interesting. Perhaps I’ve been misinformed?

            I haven’t had a chance to play much yet, myself. Originally, like you, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to play on easy. I want this game to kick my ass 99% of the time. I got the strong impression from reading other people’s experience and advice, however, that doing that meant I would never unlock most of the content in the game.

          • jalf says:

            One of the ships requires you to beat the boss. That’s obviously easiest done on easy.
            One requires you to get to sector 5 (I believe it is). That, too, is easier to do on easy (but still quite easy to do on normal)

            The others depend on random events which happen just as frequently in Normal as they do in Easy.
            Of course, these events typically require you to stay alive and maybe fight another ship or two, but those fights are really no more difficult than the usual ones.

            Also, the unlockable ships aren’t generally “better”. They’re different, and have unique strengths, but they’re not intended to be “better”, or to be something you “need” in order to survive on normal.

            I get blown up just as often in the stealth ship or the one you get for killing the boss, as I do in the kestrel or the engy ship.

    • Carra says:

      22 hours of playing and I finished it one time.

      You must be either very good or playing on easy.

    • Balanuir says:

      Hm, you’re doing something wrong.

      Every ship, every combination of weapons, requires a slightly different approach. True, though, towards the end you often get similar loadouts, since you will usually end up buying stealth, drones, or whatever else you don’t have at the beginning.

      But the simple fact that you have to adopt to whatever you find in-game instead of being able to plan your entire level 1 to level 80 journey out beforehand like most MMOs is a great thing.

    • bobbobob says:

      I’m far too aware of my own mortality to play stuff on hard these days. If it wasn’t meant to be played on easy they shouldn’t have included it. I think i’d have preferred it if the rebels weren’t on your heels all the time, then at least the exploring would be a bit more relaxed.

    • Ragnar says:

      I’m actually enjoying reading this diary more than playing the game.

  4. Clavus says:

    The Drone Recovery Arm is a must for every drone-centered strategy. Pretty much takes away the need for hoarding drone parts.

    • jalf says:

      Oh wow, sounds like I’ve been missing out. For some reason I always just read its description as recovering (enemy) drones and converting them into scrap. If you get drone parts out of it (and it works on your own drones), that changes everything

      • Mr. Mister says:

        I laughed madly when I ended the boss’ 2nd phase during a drone swarm: ALL OF YOUR DRONES ARE MINE NOW!

        Not that getting 10+ drone parts made a difference though, since I had the drone retrieval since quite early and was already swimming in drone parts.

        • Yosharian says:

          http://ftl.wikia.com/wiki/Augmentations#Drone_Augmentations

          Drone Augmentations
          Drone Recovery Arm
          Non-destroyed drones will be retrieved at the end of battle, allowing their parts to be re-used. Note: This only applies to drones the player created; enemy drones cannot be harvested for parts. Boarding drones are also not affected, once launched on enemy ship they do not resupply at the end of the battle. (even if they are still functional).

          enemy drones cannot be harvested for parts

          enemy drones cannot be harvested for parts

          • Mr. Mister says:

            Didn’t make a difference = in my imagination, I stole them. You gotta roleplay sometimes.

    • dontnormally says:

      NEVER use the Repair Arm. Totally a waste.

      • beekay says:

        Yes, there’s no conceivable situation where you’d want to gain hull integrity every fight and remove the need for repairs.

        • Gramarye says:

          You sound sarcastic, but he’s right. It’s been documented to repair 1 point, no matter how much 15% scrap may be. Early game, it’s not great; late game, it’s horrible. Really really don’t use it.

          http://ftl.wikia.com/wiki/Augmentations

          • Antsy says:

            I just tested it and got two points of hull each time. Possibly improved in the latest patch. It’s a lifesaver in early game especially since 15% of the 10-15 scrap you’re receiving is much less than the cost of even one point of hull repair.

          • Ateius says:

            Document, schmocument. I’ve had that thing repair 15+ points on one go. It all depends on how much scrap you get.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            Plus for the final battle you need something to repair your hull between battle 2 and 3. You don’t have a lot of options, that is one, thus it is actually extremely valuable.

    • iniudan says:

      For attack and defense drone build yes it is a must, but for build with drone that operate inside ship, not needed at all, has you always lose them because they were destroy. =p

    • Charles de Goal says:

      But on the other hand it makes all the drone parts you loot useless, since you can’t resell them. A bit of a pity IMO.

  5. zebramatt says:

    I’d say not a bad run all-in, so far!

  6. bstrootje says:

    i’m usually pretty screwed after sector 5, furthest i’ve ever came was sector 8, so good luck

  7. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    The Repair Arm made a huge difference for me. I may have been getting 15% less scrap, but I would have only spent that on hull repairs anyway!

    Right about now is when I start to feel a little confident. The crew are starting to take a real shine to their jobs, my ship is pimped with extra weapons and enough reactor power to run everything plus the hot tub, and even if my hull is more patching than plating, it’s still airtight.

    That’s usually the point where FTL kicks me in the teeth, like a team of angry Mantises appearing out of nowhere, splashing into the hot tub to forcefully redecorate the ship with an avant-garde blood splatter motif.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      I usually prefer to buy the Scrap Recovery Arm early on though, since I don’t spend much money on repairs anyway: instead, I can get more upgrades quickier, which lets me avoid taking damage.

    • MrLebanon says:

      this made me giggle

      and cry. All was going well in my last playthrough until 5 MANTISES WARPED ONTO MY SHIP 5 OF THEM!

      I had 2 humans and 5 engies. good game FTL

      • jalf says:

        Oh yeah, that happened to me too. Brutal…. I think I survived, but only because I had door upgrades and was able to run and hide and suffocate them.

      • Aankhen says:

        Kill the oxygen, kill the boarders. With the first door upgrade, it becomes much easier to deal with boarders. If you get the second, it becomes trivial.

  8. Mr. Mister says:

    Luck just gave me the oportunity to use a very particular tactic: Pre-ignited Fire, Ion and Breach bombs, as well as a fire beam, with a double auto-reloader. Not sure if I’m gonna use it though, it’s gonna eat missiles.
    http://imgur.com/OANfd

    • hamish says:

      breach II is sweet, high pen, and damages crew and system (3dmg) great for boarding, it also rips the hull, augments don’t stack, i think they should though.

  9. Lambchops says:

    Nobody has died!

    My money’s on Steven being the first.

  10. kikito says:

    My ions always target the enemy’s weapons. Only exception is when they have strong droids.

  11. fauxC says:

    The nebulas are a lot less dangerous than you think. and have the advantage of slowing down the rebels, allowing you more time to zoom around harvesting scrap. Avoiding them is a bit silly really.

    • udat says:

      I think that’s only true if it’s a nebula in a normal sector, rather than a nebula sector proper…

      • Primar says:

        Nope, it’s true in Nebula Sectors as well. The delay to the rebel fleet isn’t quite as much (since if it was, you could quite happily clear the entire sector before jumping), but it’s still enough to get quite a few more jumps in.

        Plasma Storms are the only real danger in nebulae, and aren’t a major problem as long as you don’t get a seriously unlucky fight – you just need to be a bit more efficient at cycling power through necessary systems. If you have Long Range Sensors (one of the best Augments in the game), you can avoid Plasma Storms entirely, and the fact that you can fit in 4-5 more jumps before moving to the next sector more than makes up for it.

        • udat says:

          Interesting. I was just going by the “tool tip” text in the game that says that the rebel fleet would be expecting a nebula, and thus wouldn’t be slowed down.

          I’ve not hit a plasma storm yet, but that’s because i was in the habit of avoiding nebulas because of the sensor and reactor havoc they usually play. I might explore them more now.

          • HothMonster says:

            The reactor havoc is only in the storms. All nebulas(nebuli?) block your sensors, if there is a storm it also drops your reactor to half capacity. Cutting the O2 to power your missiles is always enjoyable.

          • Listlurker says:

            HothMonster — your instincts serve you well. The proper plural of nebula is nebulae (still pronounced neb-you-lie in English). The i-ending is for “masculine” plural words in Latin, the ae-ending is for “feminine and “neuter” words.

            More than anyone ever wanted to know, I’m sure. :-) Cheers!

    • Randomer says:

      The ion storm nebulae are brutal against the Engi ship, though. The standard cruiser can handle half-power decently, but the Engi ship really needs every drop of juice if it wants to think about scratching an enemy ship with its ion blaster and drones.

      • udat says:

        This is very true. The only thing that saved me was that I had a couple of those crew who power systems when in the room with them.

  12. BioTitan says:

    Well done on the fuel pickup. I thought this one would be the end of the story :)

  13. Unrein says:

    Aww, why didn’t you use Captain Archer from Enterprise for the header pic?

  14. Mordsung says:

    Captain Christopher Pike:

    First televised captain of the USS Enterprise.

    First captain to get totally owned by a hot woman.

    Perfect mascot for this series.

  15. Triglav says:

    A fun little game, but I’m playing on normal and either I am very lucky, or it’s not as hard, but in about 6 hours of play I only died once, pretty much because I was stupid, while in the new game started after that I am rather comfortably going through zones, enough supply, in good shape, etc… So it’s not as tense and nerve-racking as I was lead to believe by these logs, before I bought the game. Still fun though.

  16. dontnormally says:

    Woah woah woah woah woah – NEVER use the Repair Arm. It is not not not worth it – it only repairs 1 hull each time and each time it takes 15% of your scrap.

    • jalf says:

      Despite the several people commenting above saying they have actually seen it repair a lot more than that.

      I don’t know if it’s worth the 15% scrap, but it certainly repairs more than one tick of damage.

      At least, if you actually *try* it instead of going by what someone wrote somewhere on the internet… :)

  17. Ironclad says:

    I just got this, and it’s very much related:

    http://i.imgur.com/nFyC5.jpg

    suck on that, AI!

  18. SmittyBit says:

    Must-do strategy for me: I don’t touch the door upgrades, and any invasion force large enough to be a challenge, or ANY invasion sector 5+ I send all pers to the medi-room, pause, open all doors inc. outer, and seal doors around the medi-room and the O2 room (after waiting for it to partially decompress) Invaders freak out and (using their sixth sense apparently) head for survival in the medi-room. Close all the doors again, and proceed to whomp invaders, all the while healing. quick and easy, and by the time the invaders are nearly all gone, oxy is high enough to send crew (some anyways) back to their stations. Honestly this works for me near every time (although I did one time have the luck to get two missiles in a row to my O2 room, breaching and wrecking it, giving me a good 10-15sec. to sit back away from the KB and say ‘Shit.’

    Great game, haven’t tried easy yet, after playing it many time on normal (and getting to the boss only once…) it just feels like cheating. Odd. Masochistic and odd.

    • Charles de Goal says:

      Your trick doesn’t work when the invaders *appear* in the med room and break it before your men could reach it, though.

      • jalf says:

        or when you need someone to pilot (for evasion). Or when your crew won’t fit into the med bay. Or when other important rooms (weapons or shield, or, as you mention yourself, O2) need urgent repairs.

        All in all, not the most reliable of strategies :)

  19. mr.black says:

    I’m really enjoying this diary! Exquisite prose, good sir!

  20. Slade says:

    Finally, a Red Dwarf reference. I couldn’t think of anything else while playing with my lousy crewmates on FTL. All I need now is a second technician hologram.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Are you sure you want to go to red alert sir? It does mean changing the bulb.

    • MacTheGeek says:

      An excellent idea, sir, with only two minor drawbacks. One, a second technician hologram would not be able to fire the lasers; and two, we don’t actually have any lasers.

  21. ffordesoon says:

    Oh, FTL. You are the bullshit-hard bridge-commander sim of my stupid dreams.

  22. Hybrid says:

    I’m calling it now: intruders will be the end of this diary!

  23. MvBuren says:

    After losing about 50 games in a row on easy, I’m finding not-too-hard to win (like half the time on normal) since I started upgrading shields first. Basically if you have one more level of shields than the average enemy for the sector you can get through a lot of the fights with no damage and thus have a lot more scrap to spend on upgrading your ship. Clearly that means shooting at weapons first if they have a missile thing and you have any way of getting through their shields.

  24. JoeGuy says:

    So is Captain Archer a safe bet for the next image?

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