Ship systems are the key to survival in the PC game FTL: Faster Than Light. Each system gives your ship unique benefits which will help you fight enemy ships, deal with random encounters, and survive the final battle of the game. Whenever you start a game, you initial ship has about a half dozen systems, usually at level 1 or level 2. In order to win the game, you need to upgrade these systems and possibly buy new ones. The following guide to ship systems in FTL: Faster Than Light will detail the value of each system in your quest to save the federation.
Engines (Mandatory) – Every single ship in the game is equipped with this system. Unpowered, your ship can’t move and can’t evade enemy attacks. Each level of power increases your ship’s evasion against enemy attacks and increases the speed at which your FTL charges. Low level upgrades are quite cheap for this system, and you should generally upgrade it to at least level 4 before reaching sector 5 and least level 5 before reaching the final sector. Assuming you have spare scrap, every upgrade of this system is valuable.
Shields (125 Scrap) – Most ships start with this system installed at level 2. Every two levels of power this system has grants you one shield bubble. A shield bubble prevents one hit from a laser, one hit from a meteor, or completely stops a beam weapon. A laser hit or a meteor hit drains the bubble for a few seconds while a beam hit does not. During the early sectors of the game a single shield will almost completely protect you from all enemy attacks. Two shield bubbles will grant you near immunity to attacks until roughly sector 5 and three shield bubbles is potentially enough to win the game with. Shields do not protect you from missiles, teleportation, or bombs, so you can’t entirely rely on them for defense. Generally, you want to upgrade this level 4 as early as possible and to level 6 by sector 7 at the latest.
Oxygen (Mandatory) – Every ship has on oxygen system. This system restores oxygen to rooms that have lost oxygen from fire, a hull breach, or open doors. If the system is unpowered, oxygen will slowly drain from the entire ship, reaching lethal levels in a minute. Each additional powered level of this system increases the speed your oxygen is restored. Your oxygen system is one of the main systems that enemy ships tend to target. So, even though extra levels of this system aren’t generally that useful, it is worth improving the level of this system in later sectors just so it can take more damage before you need to repair it.
Weapon Control (Mandatory) – Every ship has a weapon control system. The level of this system is equal to the maximum power you can provide your weapons at the same time. During the early portion of the game, you don’t really need to upgrade this. Instead you can swap weapons on and off as you need them. But, by the later sectors of the game, you generally want enough levels of weapon control to power up to three of your weapons at a time. If you are heavily reliant on drones, you may only need to be able to power one or two weapons at a time.
Medbay (50 Scrap) – Nearly every ship starts with a medbay or a clone bay, though the medbay is much more common. While this system is unpowered, your crew cannot heal. When it is powered, any crew member in the medbay heals at a modest pace. Each power level beyond that heals the crew members more quickly. Level 2 is quite fast and level 3 is amazingly fast. This system is good to upgrade early because you are very likely to earn free crew members during random events if you have it at level 2.
Clone Bay (50 Scrap) – You can’t have a clone bay and a medbay on the same ship. If you purchase one, it replaces the other. On a ship with a clone bay, crew members can never be healed. Instead, as long as the clone bay is powered, when a crew member dies, the crew member is brought back to life in the clone bay. This is a system that you can’t afford to let get unpowered. As such, you should upgrade it as quickly as possible, even if you don’t put power into it.
Drone Control (85 Scrap) – When you purchase a drone control, you also get a free drone that you can sell for 25 scrap if you don’t want it. The drone control works like weapon control, except it limits the energy you can have in drones at one time. If you use drones for combat, you generally only want to charge this before a battle. If you use drones for ship instead, like repair drones, you need to have this charged at all times. Unlike weapons which you can easily swap between, you generally want to be able to charge all drones at the same time. You should always upgrade your drone control so that you can deploy all your drones at once.
Crew Teleporter (90 Scrap) – The crew teleporter allows you to teleport your crew members to an enemy ship. It only functions when it is directly activated. When you activate, it will either send all crew members in your teleport room to a chosen room of the enemy ship or return all of your crew to your ship. It has a cooldown after activation. The cooldown is shorter the more power you give to it, but it is always at least 10 seconds. There is no reason to power this when you aren’t teleporting crew. Upgrades for this are not particularly important.
Cloaking (150 Scrap) – Cloaking is a very powerful system. When it is activated, it will put a cloak on your ship that will last for 5, 10, or 15 seconds, depending on how much power you have given the system. During the cloak, you can’t be directly attacked and enemy weapons don’t recharge. Your weapons do recharge during this time, though you can’t actually fire at enemies. Once the cloak wears off, it has a 20 second cooldown. This system is the best system in the game for keeping your ship in one piece. It also offers breathing room when you need to make repairs on your ship. If you can afford to buy the cloaking system, you should definitely upgrade it at least once.
Hacking (80 Scrap) – Hacking is essentially an alternate form of an ion weapon. It costs a drone to use, but it can disable enemy systems. If you use your drones regularly for combat, this is probably not worth the investment, but on ships that rely mostly on weapons, this is a great way to disable systems like shields. It is particularly good when combined with beam weapons. You should generally buy and upgrade this at least once, if for no other reason than to make it more resistant to damage from enemy attacks.
Mind Control (75 Scrap) – As the name suggests, you can use this system to take control of an enemy crew member. The enemy crew member is controlled by the AI still, but it takes actions that help you, like sabotaging the enemy ship, attacking enemy crew members, or repairing your ship. This is not a particularly useful system at level 1, but really gets impressive when upgraded. Fully upgraded, you can easily use it to massively sabotage enemy ships in the later sectors of the game.
Artillery Beam (Unique) – This is only available on specific Federation ships. You can’t buy it, but it does start on some ships. If you have this system on your ship, you want to upgrade it as quickly as possible. Each upgrade decreases the charge time of the artillery beam. When the artillery beam is fully charged, it randomly attacks the ship with a beam that ignores shields and deals heavy damage. This is effectively a beam and a missile all in one.
Flak Artillery (Unique) – Like the artillery beam, this only appears on specific Federation ships and can never be purchased. This system is nearly identical to the artillery beam, except that it fires seven random flak shots when it fully charges. Like the artillery beam, you want to upgrade this as quickly as possible, to get any use out of it. If you can’t afford that, never upgrade and just accept that it will only attack about once per minute.