And so my FTL campaign, the flight of the starship Moggy, limps to the game's penultimate sector. It seems impossible that we're still alive at this point - let alone that we now have seven crew, three guns and NO-ONE IS DEAD. The looming question is whether or not we're anything like equipped for the final showdown in Sector 8 - but then again it's foolish to go asking that before we've survived Sector 7.
Ah, we're in the Engi sector. Home, in a sense. I have four Engi on my crew, we're in an Engi ship and we're attacked by roaming Engi a whole lot less than by any other species. Home. But better not get too comfortable.
A distress call beckons. I could not forsake my Engi chums, so I head straight over.
We find a floating wreck, devoid of life Engi or otherwise. We can loot but one thing from it before having to depart - with a choice of damaged stasis pod with mystery contents, or a mystery weapon and some scrap.
CHEAT ALERT CHEAT ALERT CHEAT ALERT CHEAT ALERT
Allow me to lower this fourth wall for a second. I - that is to say Alec Meer, player of games, rather than the unseen and increasingly terrified captain of The Moggy - know from past experience in FTL that damaged stasis pod is equipped as an augment. All three of my augment slots are already occupied, and I'm not willing to part with any of my augments for the uncertain benefit of the stasis pod. I won't do spoilers and say what the stasis pod results in (I have experienced that in a previous campaign) but I do know that the situation I am currently in means I will not be able to usefully avail myself of the pod's contents. Thus, I choose the weapon. Fourth wall rebuilt.
CHEAT ALERT ENDS
For some strange reason, I have an overwhelming urge to take the weapon and scrap. It's a fire beam, which does no hull or shield damage but does start fires in any enemy rooms it scores a hit on. That sounds marvellously brutal - though actually I'm more interested in the scrap that comes with it.
We jump into a zone occupied by a Mantis ship. Nasty Mantisses. If only they were friendly Engis. Fortunately, the insect people haven't spotted us yet. We could just piss of out of here in complete safety...
Man, I wish we'd pissed off out of here in complete safety. The hull's down to 45% again, and poor old Security Chief Dengler was moments from death. We may have that handy ship-wide healing effect, but it can't keep up with the sheer damage output of two invading Mantis. Judicious use of reinforcements (Weston didn't have a whole lot else to do) saved Dengler's green carapace. We're hurt, but we're not crippled. WAZZZZZUMP-blink
It's a Rebel ship, already powering up its engine to flee and tell on me to the rest of its fleet. Well, we'll just see about that. ATTACK DRONE II! BEAM DRONE I! ION BLAST II! HULL BEAM! We are INVINCIBLE!
We most certainly are not invincible. The rebel ship seems to be, though. Whatever I try, we just can't get through its shield, and manage to score precisely zero damage before it leaps away. It scored precisely shitloads of damage to us, however. And now the rebel fleet is right on my ass, hounding me across the sector, affording me precious little time and space to find repairs, find loot, find breathing space.
This is a disaster.
I spend the scrap we've accrued in this sector on another engine upgrade, boosting our evasion incrementally. You can't hurt what you can't catch, or at least that's the plan. 'Plan' is very much overselling my thought processes here.
Nothing. There's a mention of merchants having passed through this part of space, but the bastards have long gone, just when I urgently need to buy repairs for the four billionth time. I hope their businesses fail and their children starve.
A distress call. Engi in need! It is my duty to help them.
These particular Engi are being harrassed by some giant spiders. I eat giant spiders for breakfast, or at least I would if they weren't so terrifying. I'm pretty sure my crew are made of sterner stuff though, so I send an away team to help out.
Not everyone comes back alive.
Not everyone comes back at all, in fact.
Someone got left behind.
Who is it? WHO IS IT? I can't abide the thought of losing Tacky, or Ripley, or Bonz, or Steven, or Dengler, or Ohm, or Weston...
Oh, Weston. Weston! We barely knew ye. We barely even noticed you coming aboard, in fact. And now you are gone, and a spider's lunch. I'm so, so sorry Weston. You did an amazing job of hanging around the middle of the ship not really doing anything. I... I loved you. Sleep the eternal sleep, sweet, silent prince. We shall from this day forward fight in your name.
Now we are six. Sniff.
Hey, forget about the West-whatever guy, we've found ourselves a mother-lovin' store. Let's go shopping!
I'm about to spunk everything in the bank on repairs when I spot something very shiny in the shop window. It's a Defence Drone. A Defence Drone II, no less. That stout laddie could fend off any number of incoming lasers and missiles. I want it I want it I want it I want it.
It's 75 scrap. I have 30 scrap. And I need to repair everything.
Fortunately, I have two weapons I'm not using in storage, and it's unlikely I'll earn enough scrap in my remaining time on this voyage to upgrade my weapons system and reactor to the point that I coudl actually use them. So farewell then, firebeam and hull laser. In another life you'd have been of use to me, but for now it's all about Defensor here.
Now I have 30 scrap left to divide between crucial repairs and crucial fuel. It doesn't get me far.
Also, a shortage of drone chamber and reactor upgrades means I could only run the Defense Drone instead of, rather than as well as, my existing attack drones. Not ideal. Not ideal at all.
More Engi in trouble. I'm starting to get sick of these weak-ass idiots, forever needing to be bailed out. No offence to your memory, Weston. These ones are being harrassed by Mantis - I'm happy to help, but impressed that the Engi take advantage of our arrive on the scene to flee rather than pitch in. Gee, thanks guys!
Two enemy Mantis beam aboard, and once again they quickly overwhelm to the Dengler/Steven combo. We manage to kite them to the nearby Weapons room, where Ohm joins the fight. Back in control, but the cheeky Mantis sods beam away just before they die. Well, they're only delaying the inevitable. Gogogogadget Hull Beam.
We take a few semi-serious hits, but nothing to cry over this time. However, it does necessitate being a little boring.
So, back to the store for more hull repairs and fuel. What an epic saga of slow-motion shopping this is.
We find some friendly Engi wondering what to do with a cache of assorted loot they've found. Allow me to help. We've the choice of raiding it for goodies ourselves, or booby-trapping it to distract the Rebels, who are now just one jump behind me. I do like loot, but I also like not being shot at. It'll cost me missiles to booby trap the cache, but I have no guns that use missiles, nor am I likely to any time soon. This should buy us a little time - a little time that will most likely be spent shopping. You never saw Captain bloody Kirk in Walmart, did you?
More Mantis, chasing more Engi. They have a transporter. They beam two invaders aboard. We'd done tihs dance before, guys.
Mercifully, the idiot Mantis elect to assault our medbay first. There, Dengler and Steven are basically gods, healing far faster than the boarders can damage them. You go, guys.
This was an easy fight. I'm feeling on top of the world again, in control of my destiny, relatively well-armed and still with 6/7ths of my crew left. Everything's going to be just fine.
What have I done?
The next jump, or what I had intended to be the next jump, is too far away to, er, jump to from this point. To reach it, we have to go backwards, and loop back around to it. In fact, there is only one direction we can go from here, and that is backwards.
Back to where the Rebels now are. And by the time we've jumped there, the rebels will have move forwards again. I do a quick calculation. I don't like maths at the best of time, but this is as terrifying as maths gets.
It will take me a minimum of four jumps to get the exit and leave the sector. The route I have to take and the speed the rebels are advancing at means I will encounter them on each and every one of those jumps. I will not be able to avail myself of whatever goodies those jumps once held - all I can do is either destroy the Rebel ships I encounter or hold out until our FTL drive recharges. We will gain no loot, but we will fight a heavily-armed foe four times, burning fuel and most likely losing hull all the way.
This was a critical error on my part. I mean, the least a captain can do is check the map properly before he tells his crew to sail ahead.
So, grimly, we return to the previous jump. Call me Captain Stupid.
The first of our pointless, fruitless Rebel engagements. I elect to go all out defence, hoping to minimise damage until the engine comes online, so I put out that shiny new Defence Drone II instead of my usual two attack drones. Meanwhile, the Ion Blast and Hull beam are primarily pointed at the enemy's weapons. I don't need to kill them, I just need to restrict their damage output as much as I can. Go full turtle, team.
It works! We take a couple of hull hits while we're busy fending off a boarding party, but the Defence Drone knows what it's doing. WAZZUMP-blink, so long suckers.
See above, basically. This jump was a distress beacon before the Rebels reached it, but I'll never know what it held.
WAZZUMP-blink. Buying that defence drone might just have been the smartest thing I ever did. Mostly because everything else I ever did was incredibly dumb.
I'm not feeling good about this cowardly tactic and... well, it's risky, but it does seem as though the Defence Drone, coupled with my tier 3 shield, is pretty much holding the damage these ships can dish out at bay. I'm burning fuel with every jump, so I elect to stick out this fight, knowing that while there won't be any meanginful loot I will at least salvage some fuel should I down this enemy.
And, whaddayknow, it works. Engi smash puny rebel.
And, at last, we're at the sector exit. Though we have to fight one more Rebel before we can leave. There's only 4 fuel left in our tank, so I repeat Jump 14's formula.
Again, we pretty much hold our own, though the hull takes a hit I could do without. I get my precious fuel unit and we get out of there. Out of here to Sector 8. To the last stand. Oh Lord.
OK, team, gather around. I have some words for you.
Let's do this.
(You're all going to die).
TO BE CONCLUDED
Belated editor's note - people keep asking, because I should have said this from the off, but I am playing this campaign on Normal rather than Easy difficulty. It is the furthest I have got on Normal to date (by contrast, I've completed it a couple of times on Easy).