And the series concludes with the victory laps of the Crystal ships. I never got to the crystal unlock quest the long way, but there's the alternate unlock of winning with all A + B ship layouts. Crystal A is overlooked compared to the monstrous Crystal B, but it's a seriously strong gunship, the 3 power of shield-piercing crystal guns makes for offense that can carry through 2-shield ships through 4 sectors needing no help, possibly the best of all ships by that metric, a tick ahead of Kestrel B.
I do have to do one last round of unlock achievements to get to Crystal B. Sweet Revenge: destroy an enemy ship with a shard from the Crystal Vengeance augment; No Escape: trap 4 enemy crew inside a single room using the crystal being power or Lockdown Bomb; Clash of the Titans: destroy 10 Rock ships using the Crystal Cruiser. The first is similar to Tough Little Ship way back on Kestrel A, find a situation where you can intentionally take damage under controlled conditions. I'm undecided yet which of the other two; not really sure if I want to buy a teleporter, but can see if any good amount of Rock ships (and a defense drone) happen up through the first few sectors.
Sector 1: First things first, switch the crystals onto piloting and doors, that's the places that want a more robust crewman to hold up against boarders. Very first fight was a slaver to yield a Mantis, okay that might be a strong push towards boarding, go man shields in the meantime. Second fight is nasty: asteroid field AND a zoltan shield AND an ion (fucking disaster vs asteroids) AND a missile, but I smartly depowered my shield just long enough for the ion to pass through harmlessly, and my crystal burst did break weapons. ANOTHER asteroid field, same approach to the ion, but an asteroid punched my shields for that beam, and then ALL THREE CRYSTAL SHOTS FUCKING MISSED WEAPONS, then SHIELDS GOT DAMAGED on the next beam shot, but then finally broke weapons to win from there. And AGAIN DAMMIT, going to take another pounding while my HACKED WEAPONS are waiting for these slow fucking ass crystals to get a shot off, though the second of the two flak volleys actually completely missed. Low scrap payouts and a few blank beacons, finally got the first 50 scrap for shields only right at the end of the sector. Galaxy map, very few red sectors, can't expect many Rock ships, may have to go the boarding route after all.
Sector 2 went Pirate over nebula, need income and crew from slavers, and might find a few rock ships. Mercenary event gave a thoroughly unhelpful weapon. Would be evasion trainer - except not thanks to fucking hack event on my engines, which also CANCELS ALL MANNING including the opportunity to get skill, whose damn idea was that?! Store and here's quite a choice. I can take any of drones, teleporter, or hacking. Well, not drones with only a combat drone included... but do I want the teleporter for all the good it does, or hacking as such an all-purpose solution? Decided the limiting factor was that drone parts for hacking wouldn't last all that long, so yeah, go with boarding, that should be a crystal's destiny (particularly vs autoscouts), so I did that, at the very least can hope to get that lockdown-4-enemies achievement even if the run loses. Still in the hole on scrap and upgrades but now the path is clear to climb back up. Decided the boarders should be one crystal and the mantis; one lockdown is enough and then you really do want the mantis's extra damage to go faster. Big help there, human crew to replace the doors manning station, or freelance over to shields or sensors too. Again too many empty beacons and not enough income. At least now I did get a good evasion trainer, plus shield skill as well, though not weapons (crystals will pierce the single shield.)
Sector 3 Mantis or Zoltan, definitely the bugs. Super nice, first fight gave an Engi! Hot DAMN that's all the crew we could possibly want. Holy Freakin Mantis, will keep that one for the combat skill, but don't really want more than two (second crystal lockdown is better than a third mantis) so dismissed one of the others. Anti-Combat Drone dropped (missed the screenshot), nice pickup could come in handy.
Presently I remembered that you have to get the Crystal Revenge achievement soon, since the vengeance shard pierces one shield but not more, gotta do it while I can still find a 1-shield ship. So here it is. First off, doing all this next to a store to repair the damage afterwards. Here we go: started by killing off all but one crew (broke clone bay), ran just my one crystal guy in and out of shields to distract the Engi and prevent him repairing piloting to make sure evasion stayed off, let the Engi revive in clone bay if necessary, all while I carefully depowered shields or engines to allow one damage at a time from their weapons, with my own engi in shields to repair it ASAP if hit. I took 4 hits and there's the shard, all I have to do is teleport my crystal guy back out before it impacts, and BINGO got it. But then this fucked me: notice the teleporter is showing its cooldown meaning it was triggered, but my crystal guy isn't there, somehow the beam-out didn't count in time, that's fucking nuts, I know you can beam out instantly to not suffocate on an auto-scout so why does that need extra time?
Anyway, I've still got one crystal left for boarding, but now no margin for error, and also have to train a new pilot. At the store for repairs, sold the crystal vengeance of course, was just barely short of cloaking, did pick up defense drone control. And OH MY GOD YOU FUCKING NUTSACK a MISSILE HIT MY TELEPORTER WHILE MY ONLY CRYSTAL GUY WAS WORKING ON AN AUTOSCOUT'S WEAPONS and there's EVEN A FIRE IN THERE TOO FUCK THAT so HOLD YOUR BREATH CRYSTAL GUY and we repaired it and got him back out in time!
Sector 4 Zoltan is only option, well we'll have to manage somehow. I misplayed this fight atrociously, it took me forever to figure out the solution: get four boarders into weapons, just let the first two crew run off to medbay, kill the rest while medbay is full, and work down weapons as the last two engi keep running back and forth to medbay... but before I figured that out, the ion and a burst laser and beam raked me for about ten hull damage. (Real nearly fatal error was not having shields layer 3, was saving the scrap for cloaking.) The fight did yield a Zoltan crew, helpful, and two jumps away was a store for repairs again. Here's the store options: decided Cloaking trumps all, particularly with this setup, all I need is cloaking to buy time for boarding including crystal lockdown to win every fight; also can even use the Zoltan to walk through the cloaking room to pull the power out while on cooldown; and then decided I also had to sell the anti-drone to afford repairs. OH HOLY FUCK YEAH NOW WE'RE IN LONG-RANGED BUSINESS. And very nice value there too.
Sector 5 Civilian: Shields to layer 3, and that's a scary loadout but that is exactly why I bought Cloaking, that alone buys enough time to eat everything with my boarders. Evasion trainer here, to rearrange all my crew assignments yet again: put a human on piloting, so the mantis can go to doors and freelance against boarders or be a secondary boarder himself, and the engi to sensors and freelance for repairs, and the zoltan on engines where his power belongs, leaves the other human on shields. First weapon drop, ugh that is terrible, no I am not spending 3 weapon system power to get through 1 ion shield. I'm stuck doing exactly the kind of build I always caution against, dancing with the devil, any lapse that gets a crew killed means serious trouble, absolutely reliant on boarding with near zero weapons offense, vs 3 shield ships need all 3 crystal projectiles to hit to do anything... but fucking damn that crystal lockdown just carves through everything, my guys can usually take out 4 crew: first 2v1 protected by lockdown, then enough health and damage to win 2v2, then 2v1 again vs the last crew. Or the other approach is that the lockdown buys enough time for the teleporter to recycle and send 2 more boarders, and then we're playing like the godly Crystal B or Mantis C.
Sector 6 Engi over Pirate, mostly because the engi sector has two options after but the pirate sector has only one. Free weapon from the stasis pod event, but not all that helpful, but so much surplus scrap from not spending on weapons earlier that I may as well upgrade weapons to use it, could at least knock out medbay occasionally.
Sector 7: ooh gotta go for Rock Homeworlds, the trick to rename your crystal crew Ruwen to show the quest no longer works, but it's still possible to luck into the beacon for the crystal sector! Store ugh nothing good for weapons, but couldn't resist the temptation on the scrap recovery arm. Fuck, got enough missiles there? Next store did add a Heavy Laser, but not worth replacing the breach missile with one of the others. Hate that weapon too but may be forced into it. Unfortunately, I never found the crystal ancient device entry, tried to scour every empty-looking beacon in the sector but just never came up with it; was probably in those two dead-end beacons in the bottom center that I couldn't reach at all, oh well.
Sector 8: This is like the definition of a build that crushes throughout the game but will fail horribly on the flagship. I have terrible weapons offense, but crystal lockdown boarding can beat everything... everything except ten crew on the flagship supported by max medbay and doors systems. But there's a store... wow that is a really lukewarm set of weapons. I decided the best combination had to be Charge Laser + Heavy Laser + Crystal Burst + Heavy Crystal, need max projectiles as the only workable way to get through shields, and can't rely on either the small bomb or breach missile for running out of ammo. And I got NO fights in sector 8 before the base, so what we got is what we got.
This was the longest flagship fight I ever had, here goes the ride.
Phase one: FUCK hacked weapons is going to be a critical fail, d-drone was too slow, thank god there's a repair node on the far side of the base still open to reset and restart. Also I had teleported in to the missile weapon, but found that the lockdown didn't last long enough to both kill the crew and also damage the artillery, which taught me better for phase two, would have to start with the beam and ion weapons instead. Phase one again: FUCK FUCK FUCK IT HAPPENED AGAIN. At least the first missile volley whiffed, and by breaking both the beam and ion weapons with two pairs of boarders, I could buy a LOT of time. Second missile volley cloaked, third missile volley ALSO whiffed, but all this time I was getting no weapon shots at all with the flagship's hacking and cloaking covering each other's cooldowns. Decided my next move had to be this: port into piloting to at least cancel the manning bonus for the one single volley I was going to get off, and could at least kill that one crew under lockdown. (Could I port into hacking which is currently unmanned, in order to break it under lockdown? No: the instant I do, the enemy crewman in medbay will respond through that door before I can click the lockdown button.) FUCK YES, THAT WORKED, broke the missile weapon to buy time (would have been better if I had broken it instead before boarding, then ported in to block repairs under lockdown -- but that was less reliable if I didn't distract the pilot's evasion.) Then I could port my next pair of boarders into missiles -- wouldn't make any progress killing crew, but could delay repairs, while my first pair of boarders ported back to heal. NOW I could do the move I wanted before: port into hacking and now get the lockdown off in time to block crew while I damaged it. That let me get off my next one critical volley, to finally break medbay, and now go park in there and fight. But then FUCK - my first pair of boarders got a little too low on health before I could send in the second pair -- and then the flagship cloaked just before my next teleporter recycle -- and I couldn't retrieve my crew AND THEY ALL DIED!!! But they took most of the rebel crew down with them, only two left on the ship. Then I started to get off more weapon volleys -- the key was that the timings shifted around so that the hacking and cloaking were happening simultaneously, meaning I only lost potential weapon charge to the hacking drain and not also the 10-second cloaking delay. So I got off two more weapon volleys to win from there. That was fucking EXHAUSTING - that one fight took me over thirty minutes. I lost four crew, but took only four damage... is this doable, I really don't know, about the most suspense I've ever had going into phase two.
Phase two: good start, pre-cloaked 5 seconds (should recycle in time for drone surge), and my first volley did break missile weapon before it launched. Second volley didn't get much damage - oh crap I forgot the defense drone can shoot down crystal projectiles! Third volley connected for a big punch on shields and that's what I needed to win from there.
Phase three: No crew boarded me, but the problem with a small crew of my own is mind control - my engines guy got MCed and the first missile volley dealt a mess of damage including fire so I had to jump out to restart. Second try: deploy the combat drone to start working on the super shield... and the FUCKING MISSILES HIT MY DEFENSE DRONE -- wait that's actually GOOD since it means that missile didn't hit me instead! Cloaked past laser surge, replaced the defense drone, and WHEW next missiles missed and I have a chance, though my own volley was crippled because my weapons guy got MCed and broke one bar, leaving me only enough to plink just 1 damage onto the missile weapon. Next volley fared better and dealt 3 to missiles but that didn't break it. You gotta be kidding me, DEFENSE DRONE GOT SHOT AGAIN. And for fuck's sake the laser surge smacked my combat drone! Next volley finally did break missile launcher, so next I could and had to target shields... next volley had the same problem (my weapons guy was MCed again and broke one bar), but the following volley connected bigtime and even killed off all the crew! Holy crap, I know this happens but been a long long looooong time since I ever saw this, the next power surge restored the super shield! But my combat drone and weapons got through that again and I finally won. Holy crap, that was over an hour for the flagship in total. Mad props to Rebekah the Engi who singlehandedly held the entire ship together on that last phase, madly running around to repair everything all inbetween distracting the mind-controlled weapons guy.
Had to work like hell for that win but earned it. Damn, 1600 scrap is hellaciously low for boarding plus LRS. Happened because I skipped a lot of fights in sector 7 looking for the crystal sector entry, and got zero pre-boss fights in sector 8.
But here's the sad epilogue: I never got the achievement for locking down four enemies in a room. I never saw a good opportunity; it's harder than you think. Four enemy crew won't respond to the same room against only two boarders. With a 2-man boarder ship, you have to send the first two, and then the second two when your teleporter recycles. And then you have to actually fight the four enemy crew -- and your health has to hold out for another teleporter cycle until you can retrieve the crew -- you can't run around and kite because you just locked down the room! I intended and tried to get the achievement on the flagship, when fighting in medbay -- but what happened was my crew killed one of the four a split second before the fourth entered the room and I triggered lockdown. Gotta do this all over again, including a teleporter required for that achievement, unless we happen upon a multitude of Rock ships and sectors.
Sector 1: First two jumps were both distress events that dealt hull damage, not exactly getting anywhere here. Next two jumps each gave crew though! So uh I will pass on that. REALLY FUCKING REALLY GAME?!, but at least there's no drone, and neither enemy weapon hit my weapons and then mine hit theirs. Far too many dud/empty beacons, I only got 60 scrap the entire sector, so starting bad in the hole on upgrades, shields to layer 2 only just now.
Sector 2, picked Abandoned over nebula because low on fuel. Got my evasion trainer, also shields skill, though not weapons. Yet another slaver offered a crew, but this time I have to decline it, need scrap more. Bypassed an early store, got to the next, sold Crystal Vengeance of course, didn't have teleporter available, decided to go for Hacking, as always that can solve a million problems, and will make this run feel less like repeating the previous over again -- even if I won't be getting any oxygen hack kills in the Lanius sector, haha. Pulsar fight wrecked me for a predictable 8 or so damage, but hacking weapons saved it from being a complete run-ending disaster. Fuck THAT's a kick in the teeth I haven't seen before, a random event at the exit that has ASB with no chance to do anything about it, and I only have 2 engines, but FTL does charge faster when there is no enemy ship (like at a sun or asteroid field also) and I got out of there.
Sector 3 picked Engi over Rebel, need some friendly scrap rewards. Or Engi crew. Store again didn't have teleporter but did have Cloaking just barely affordably, had to grab that. Cloaking means we can freely use Hacking, since we'll never have drones (still need to buy the teleporter for the achievement) to spend parts on. Next store also no teleporter but Long-Ranged Scanners and once again we're in business. Got a crew kill by the procedure of letting each one board me then port back at low health to be killed off by laser shots and break clone bay, rewarded a mediocre but usable Hull Laser.
Sector 4 Pirate: Found a weapon from the piloting-explores-nebula event (thank you LRS!), not to use but solid sell value. Yes all hail our lord and savior LRS. Shields to layer 3 just before going to both an asteroid field and a pulsar, and holy hell that was a run-saver, each had a beam drone, probably saved myself at least 10 damage and maybe even death, then there was even another asteroid field beyond those. Hacked weapons here for the dual purpose of buying time vs that missile and then also blocking access to oxygen repairs to kill via suffocation!, although then got this surrender offer, that's probably higher value than an average crew kill, 31 scrap is quite high for sector 4 plus the sell value. Store STILL no teleporter, but at least sell the junk and upgrade weapons to 5 to use the hull laser. Another store STILL no teleporter! ANOTHER store still none (page 2 is augments) - no can't be spending on that Flak compared to my existing workable weapons and oh god hell not the Vulcan. Engines to 4 because all those stores involved diving past the exit, cleanly cloaked past the ASB.
Sector 5 Engi Homeworlds over Rebel Controlled, still need to find stores for that teleporter. At least LRS should catch me up on income. Did some hacked oxygen crew kills, and next store finally got my teleporter. Holy crap 8 weapon power in sector 5, and it's all nasty efficient weapons!, and a pulsar! -- decided I had to throw EVERYTHING possible at weapons: board it, lockdown to kill the crew manning it, hack to block intrusion and drain charge, second lockdown to break it more, and then even also shoot my own weapons at it even at the cost of hurting my own guys, all that was the right approach, killed this nasty nasty ship with I think only 2 damage taken.
Sector 6 Civilian: FUCK YOU SHIELDS VIRUS EVENT. Finally got that lockdown achievement -- but notice the problem in that room, that zoltan! My crew will not come out on top healthwise, and the zoltan's death bomb will kill anyone who gets low enough. I had to NOT KILL THAT ZOLTAN, so had to desperately break out past my own lockdown and sprint to the other side of the ship to meet my teleporter recycling time. Moving on, picked up the Stealth ship unlock quest that carried over from the previous Engi sector, even kept the titanium system casing as useful insurance. Now racked up a ton of income between boarding for crew kills and LRS to find all the fights, over 400 scrap accumulated in the sector. Two crystal lockdowns are much better than one as on the previous run: I can teleport into an empty med/clone bay, and use each lockdown one by one to get enough time to break it even all the way from a level 3 system.
Sector 7 OK more Engi yet again. You think I'm trying to be Slug B? Next store has a Halberd Beam on sale!... this is one of the less good loadouts for it (crystals pierce the last shield instead of punching it for the beam) but it will still destroy the universe when paired with shields hacking so still well worth it. You think I'm trying to be Slug B AGAIN?
Sector 8: Ooh finally a Mantis crew, probably the most helpful thing left to get here, to be the second wave of boarders in after the crystals. Also got to a store, mostly just to sell all the junk that dropped.... but I believe this is the first time I ever ever ever bought this, but Hacking Stun will actually be useful on the flagship! Weapons to 8 for a loadout of Hull Laser + Crystal Burst + Heavy Crystal + Halberd, not great at punching shields but hacking will do that for us. Also teleporter and reactor to max, usual utility upgrades like oxygen and medbay, and even upgraded sensors since it's useful to see the interior while my crewman that would be manning sensors (mantis) is boarding instead. HA, even got a blue event for those sensors! (who the hell is trying to terraform in the middle of a Rebel war!?) Not that a reward of more oxygen is likely to make any difference. Smart move here: didn't go to that repair node, so I could jump out to restart phase one if necessary after something like a bad hack (enough time on the destruction clock if I go to base now, but not if I go through the repair node first.)
Phase one, decided to begin like this: teleport my SECONDARY boarding crew (mantis + engi) into the beam weapon first, let them kill that guy and break the weapon, while I hit missile weapon with my Halberd first and then send my main boarders (crystals) in there to kill crew one at a time under lockdown. Ha - but then I hit that room so hard it just killed off the crewman already! Still decided parking in the missile weapon was the best and safest option -- and check this out, I hit lockdown at the EXACT RIGHT PERFECT INSTANT to let only one of those crew into the room (he already turned the corner and is moving into the doorway) before the second one got in (he hasn't turned.) Then I recycled the beam-weapon boarders into the ion weapon as well. Now I had unlimited time, invulnerable to the triple laser with all other weapons broken and unrepairable. Also realized to recycle my other pair of boarders into the room just outside the missile weapon, for extra damage on crew running back and forth. Thus fully cleared out all crew in a zero damage win. (Guess Hacking Stun hardly mattered.) Sneaked away from base for an extra fight before phase two, scrap went into one more engine for the first missile volley in phase 3.
Phase two: pre-cloak 5 seconds, board first pair into missile weapon right away, second pair into beam weapon, break missiles before they fire (also hit with Halberd, don't care if damage my own guy), cloak past drone surge, fire second volley at triple laser and drones just to be sure -- but make sure not to kill on the second volley so I have time to retrieve both pairs of boarders!, won on third volley just before the second drone surge. Phase three: smartly parked nonessential personnel in medbay before starting, as the easiest place to deal with MC; it hit my shields guy, also no trouble to deal with. TRIPLE MISSILES ALL MISSED AWESOME! Cloaked past second missile volley and laser surge together, then correctly cut off my own cloaking by shooting weapons. As for offense, I didn't have the greatest loadout for dealing with the super shield, that took two full volleys to get through. Then boarded missile weapon first then also triple laser. Then unfortunately my next volley whiffed as I forgot to hack shields! Then did so, although that lapse let the missiles get off one volley that would hit me, but with my boarders still to break that shortly I could aim the halberd at MC instead. Cloaking recycled for second laser surge and I won from there.
1980 scrap is considerably better than the previous run, plus got and sold a ton of junk drops as well.
And we wrap up with everybody's favorite most overpowered monstrosity. I think Zoltan A is still a hair higher for win rate: it is possible for Crystal B to lose crew in a disaster, and it can't deal with zoltan shields, and I think Zoltan A's own zoltan shield makes for defense marginally more reliable than Crystal B's cloaking. But those two ships clearly stand above everything else for unstoppability. I've talked down several ships for being overrated, but Crystal B is correctly ranked among the gods. Crystal B can even become superior because it could also acquire a Halberd and zoltan shield, while Zoltan A can never acquire a four-man teleporter and multiple crystal crew.
Sector 1: Very first jump yielded an Engi crew, perhaps the best possible result there, immediately put him on piloting and three crystals to the boarding team. And the second jump was an evasion trainer for him! (I put one crystal on engines for the manning bonus to speed up the pilot's training, even though I'd eventually have to do this again once I got a permanent engines guy.) This sucks and is Crystal B's one weakness: can't kill an auto-scout, can only watch as it jumps away to warn the fleet (it's possible if you sacrifice a crew to deal the last point of hull damage, sometimes I even will with surplus crew, but not now.) Got four damn autoscouts in a row, one had a blue event to avoid with cloaking, two I had to just run. First 50 scrap to shields; was tempted to save up to buy a weapon from a store instead, but remembered we have the Crystal Vengeance augment to sell for that. Which happened, that swarm missile is certainly not one of the more optimal possible weapons, but it's what's available and it'll pay back its cost by being able to kill scouts and z-shields.
Sector 2 Civilian over Zoltan of course, can't deal with z-shields yet until getting the 40 scrap to upgrade weapons level to use the Swarm, had to skip one more autoscout before that happened. Then I actually went back to kill that same autoscout, and got rewarded a normal usable weapon, there we go. AI stupidness with lockdown, stand there banging on the crystal while my guy shoots you in the back; also I intentionally kept using lockdown to keep breaking weapons even though the fight was already guaranteed, to build up combat skill. Sector exit was early and I could get like five extra beacons for the cost of just one dive back to the exit, decided that was worth it. Also I had upgraded piloting because of that big nebula in the sector for this very common event, though it didn't yield anything this time. One of those extra beacons gave a human crew to put on engines and another an evasion trainer for him (not perfect, possible for the drone to fire twice quickly and beat two shields, but I could cloak if that ever happened.) And hell even at the dived exit beacon I could still just go kill the rebel crew under lockdown for the 1 extra fuel, no reason not to.
Sector 3 Engi over Rock yeah that's the wise choice. Oh man Pre-igniter on sale but can't afford it (btw I haven't repaired at all yet in the game, that's just 2 damage taken through 2 whole sectors so far), but did take the Distraction Buoys, can afford to invest now for payback later. Late in the sector bought Hacking, probably won't need it for a while (maybe not even until the flagship) but take it while it's here, also an automated re-loader, though definitely not doing much with that just yet either.
Sector 4 more Engi: More good scrap income, shields to layer 3, still haven't used any weapons beyond the hull laser yet. Hacked clone bay a couple times to make it easy - can afford drone parts for that since can't ever have the real drone system. Got a third Engi crew, so put one of them on engines and moved the human to the boarding team; and used this ship for evasion training for him -- broke the missile weapon but left the two lasers online, let that mantis keep getting hurt and running back and forth to med bay, used lockdown to delay him while recycling some of my boarders for healing -- then realized this sadistically delicious idea, hack DOORS to slow him down even more... then the joke was on me as that fight yielded a Zoltan crew and the only place I ever want to put one of them is on engines. Then got evasion training for the zoltan here -- the flak and laser were usually desynched so neither could punch through my shields alone, and I could cloak the few times they did synch. Don't usually show these silly trade beacons, but that one is particularly bonkers.
Sector 5 Mantis Homeworlds over Rock certainly: Got a Rock crew to replace the human on the boarding team. Huge scrap income, weapons to 4 to use hull laser and swarm together, though still didn't need them against anything but auto-scouts. Store bought a second auto-reloader because the hell of it. One more weapon could help a bit. And another silly trade beacon. Went past the exit two extra beacons, and at the exit dive got hit by a missile because I had to save cloaking for flak 2 and the ASB -- this made me realize I've taken a grand total of only SIX TOTAL DAMAGE THIS ENTIRE GAME to this point. Every fight I can port into weapons, kill one crew if necessary under lockdown and then break weapons as much as I need under up to three lockdowns, cloak past any first missile and break it before any second.
Sector 6 Civilian over Zoltan Homeworlds: There's the goodies and now it's all over. Then HAH HAH OH HELL FUCKING YEAH totally worth selling off the heavy laser to buy DOUBLE HALBERD BEAM, we've got more than enough drone parts to hack shields every fight until the end.
Sector 7 Engi: Like we could even get any better here. Ha, don't think I ever saw this event without the safe "human crew" blue option before! Hah, if only we could use three Halberd Beams - and no I'm smart enough not to try to add the fire beam, it's just not necessary, plus the 20-second charge unnecessarily drags on the 17-second halberds; anyway, sold off the Distraction Buoys and the hull laser and swarm missile that would never get used.
Sector 8: Four fights and two repair nodes for extra scrap before base. Phase one: boarded beam weapon first -- but flagship hacked my shields! That's dangerous enough that I decided 1) aim both halberds across the missile weapon and the BEAM weapon rather than shields/piloting, because 2) we don't care about hitting those since we're hardly using any projectiles (we'll kill on the second shields hack guaranteed), and 3) DO NOT MESS AROUND killing crew, just retrieve those boarders and kill and win. Sneaked away for an extra fight - well three crystals beats a pair of vulcans for sure. Back to flagship phase two, boarded beam weapon again, hacked shields and broke missiles with the double Halberd of course, cloaked drone surge, won on second Halberd stroke.
My plan for phase three: Cloak past missile weapon, and wait to see if my 4 shields might hold up against the laser surge. If so, keep going with the fight, and if they don't, then jump out right now mid-laser-surge to kill off the rest of those boarders (although there's still two on the flagship that I'll still have to deal with.) Still one unexplored beacon next to base, so out of sheer arrogance I went there for one more fight, haha even got a weapon though not that it helps anything. Phase three restart: knew I had to endure the missile launch to save cloaking for the laser surge... but fuck you all three missiles hit, and one on weapons... note the right move with weapons here: fire that Flak right this instant (will finish the super shield) but then switch power to the second Halberd instead before it depletes! - and even power up that heavy laser, hah that weapon did help! Hacked shields and eviscerated with the double Halberds, even had the luxury to blast mind control with one to get that headache over with. Cloaked past the second missile volley and first laser surge together, sent boarders to break the triple laser just in case, and of course won on the second Halberd stroke.
Was hoping for that last run to be the highest score, but that wasn't going to happen without Long-Ranged Scanners, got a solidly high top-five but not recordbreaking 2240 scrap in total. Did set the series records for most beacons and jumps, thanks to a lot of rebel diving and those extracurricular flagship fights in sector 8.
And the stats show 36 games, 33 wins. Exactly as I hoped to demonstrate, that was a win rate of over 90% on Hard difficulty throughout all the ships. (And also would have been if it were 28 wins out of 31 starts; I didn't pad the win count by redoing ships.) Here is a copy of the profile save if anyone wants to see.
I lost just three times: Zoltan C, Federation A, and Lanius A. I'll have to go back over these. The common thread is that every one of those required a long list of multiple things to go horribly wrong all at once in order to actually kill a highly skilled player.
Lanius A was 100% my own damn fault in chasing an unlock achievement. Even so, here's the amazing list of things that had to go wrong for that loss to happen. First, I never found a beam weapon, something that happens in over 80% of games, and if it does will kill the flagship in 98% of those. Second, I never got enough projectile weapons, which was my own fault in passing up a purchaseable Flak 2 to save scrap towards the hoarder achievement. Third, I made the mistake of getting cute to shoot out crew in medbay instead of killing the damn flagship. Fourth, I got fatally unlucky on the beam weapon damaging my hacking that I was relying on exactly at the worst instant. Fifth, I also got unlucky on the fatal drone surge itself, with exactly the wrong mix of drones dealing exactly enough hits to the wrong places. Sixth, I was also unlucky that there was no clear beacon adjacent to base to jump out and recover, something that's available perhaps half the time. Finally, I had a bad crew for repairs to recover: only six total, no Engi, and two were rocks that were too slow to reach and repair anything. Flip any one of those seven factors and I win that run easily as usual.
Conversely, Federation A was 0% my own fault. Again look at the set of factors that all had to converge in going wrong. First, the shields-virus-hack event of course. Second, that that event happened before I could buy layer-2 shields. Third, that that enemy had a beam drone to eviscerate past my lack of shield. Fourth, that that drone hit my weapons on its second shot, just before my own weapon could have shot out the enemy drone. Fifth and sixth, that more missiles also took out my artillery as the backup offense and then also the piloting so I couldn't run. Again, flip any one of those six factors and I still win that fight as usual.
100% unavoidable RNG wipes do happen in FTL... but not remotely as often and brutal as the armchair pilots try to claim. The vast majority of supposed and apparent RNG wipes do have an out, where you could manage to run away, or else have acquired the right upgrades beforehand to avoid it (typically layer 2 shields or evasion skill training.) I had lots of those throughout this run, where I took 10-plus damage from early missiles or some such, but survived to win every such case except just one. The cases are really very few where you really do take 30 hull damage and can't do anything about it before your FTL charges to run away. I showed here that happening in only one out of 36 games on Hard.
Finally, Zoltan C was the one questionable loss in this series. Again it required a big pile of multiple things to go wrong all together. First was the problem with broken clone bay and doors early on, where I had to leak scrap on spending for a new crewman to fix that. Second was the usual drag of falling behind the power curve, no workable weapons until late in sector 4, and badly behind on upgrades like shields and engines. Third was the fatal fight, which needed a series of disasters all in itself. One, a boarding event along with the fight, already uncommon. Two, that the event consisted of five zoltan boarders, also uncommon, three or four is more usual. Three, that they boarded into shields, so that they'd break it if I tried to vent (difficult on this ship) and had to fight them in place. Fourth, that the fight also had a ridiculous deadly loadout of double Burst Laser 2 and also a Burst 1. Fifth, that those lasers hit my clone bay at the worst instant even just as I shot their weapons to gain control of the situation. Again, flip any one of those factors and it's a survivable no-big-deal, it takes all of that bullshit at the same time to kill a good player. And last, that Zoltan C requires unavoidably relying on the zoltans' power and so couldn't do shit to recover after they died. Yes, this loss could surely have been avoided with perfect play, but I'm not sure any player would actually have played perfectly enough to do so.
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