[one_third]In FTL, frailty is demise. But can strength be fashioned from quietness and cunning?[/one_third]
Sometimes, within a known system, previously unappreciated mechanics and strategies find their own synergy. Unlocking FTL’s Stealth Cruiser exemplifies this.
Beforehand, randomised encounters and permadeath can train an obsession with shields. Your other ships have their peculiarities, like the murderous Slug Cruiser’s Anti-bio Beam, but they all share a reliance on acquiring those little, blue dots that stand between you and one measure of damage, each. On Normal difficulty, scarcity of scrap only serves to reinforce the inviolability of fully upgraded shields. Is eschewing them even possible?
Alternative damage mitigation methods, like improving evasion through engine upgrades, support play but aren’t overtly game changing in isolation. Cloaking is nice to have, but spending 150 scrap, equivalent to attaining third level shields, is prohibitively expensive, even if the system does miraculously show up in a store, at exactly the right moment.
Cloaking is standard, but there is no shields system at all.
After some successful questing in the Engi homeworlds, however, you’ll find the Nesasio. It is fitted with a unique augment, Titanium System Casing, which brings a 15% chance of protecting systems from damage. Cloaking is standard, but there is no shields system at all. Further, it has Long Range Scanners, sensors of level 2 and four initial engine points. Or, all the things you likely tried out a few times, but maybe only when plundered for free.
Wow. A ship made entirely from seconds and discards?
Initially, it feels infinitely fragile. A chance, offensive drone could reduce the ship’s hull to 50% before your Dual Lasers and Minibeam are charged. A single hit to the weapons room, in the first few encounters, should signal your demise. Cloaking is magnificent, but shortlived. Upgraded engines are appreciated, but with untrained crew and “only” four points, not pivotal yet. So, the immediate focus is on survival, and it is surprisingly achievable.
Protecting the weapons room costs only 25 scrap. It is one point of system power you won’t use, except to absorb a first hit, without knocking beam and lasers offline. Upgrading the cloak requires 30, then 50 scrap, but provides 20 seconds of time to charge weapons, repair damage, heal crew and prepare your next move. This can be achieved, realistically, in Sector 1-2, as opposed to shields often being painstakingly upgraded over an entire game.
Without shields, the Nesasio needs to deal damage rapidly and decisively.
Without shields, the Nesasio needs to deal damage rapidly and decisively, as every volley of incoming missiles, lasers and beams causes hull damage and takes more systems offline. If you happen across the Stealth Weapons augment, firing while cloaked will no longer reduce its countdown. Similarly, an Automated Reloader charges weapons 15% more quickly.
Dual Lasers and Minibeam are more than sufficient for the first 2-3 sectors, with a little timing and finicky placement. For enemies with a single shield, simply targeting the weapons room might be enough to secure a careful victory, most times. As enemies start to have 2-4 shields, a familiar balance between knocking out weapons, pilot and shields will become more appropriate.
With only three weapon slots available, it is imperative that one very powerful thing, generally a beam, is purchased on sight, as soon as the opportunity arises. The remaining two weapons need to provide a means for removing shields, like Ion Blast, bombs or lasers. Literally everything that doesn’t support this interaction must be scrapped.
Interestingly, the very beginning and the very end of the game are the easier parts. With a basic toughness realised, yet inadequate time to hone munitions, the middle sectors largely revert back to managing luck. Where are the weapons you need? Can you survive solar flares if opening airlocks requires unmanning systems? Are these free drones actually useful or just sellable scrap?
These questions are familiar, as they are common to all of the ships, but free Long Range Scanners are a blessed alternative to “jump and see,” as a course can be planned flexibly and contextually. Surviving the endgame depends on how your route and battles are chosen in the middle. If things start to go wrong, in a given encounter, sitting behind your cloak until the FTL is charged, then searching elsewhere, is a good option.
Overall, the Nesasio, and its unlockable cousin, the DA-SR 12, are endearing little beasts, delicate but precise tools of annihilation. Beating the game, without shields and on Normal, only requires taking a deep breath and finding a new appreciation for those “other” stealth mechanics. Good hunting.