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- For the system see: Weapon Control.
Lasers are general-purpose energy weapons. Each laser shot temporarily removes a shield layer. Once all shields are down, lasers can hit rooms and deal system, hull, and crew damage.
Like any projectile, lasers can miss. They can only be shot down by Mark II Defense Drones.
Flak weapons fire waste debris in a shotgun-like blast. Each flak projectile temporarily removes a shield layer. Once all shields are down, flak can hit rooms and deal system, hull, and crew damage.
Flak weapons use area targeting, making them less accurate at hitting the targeted room (especially a small room). Like any projectile weapon, they can also miss. Flak can be shot down by defense drones (Mark I and II).
Missile weapons consume 1 missile ammunition each time they fire, but completely ignore shields. They deal system, hull, and crew damage in the targeted room.
Like any projectile, missiles can miss. They can be shot down by Defense Drones (Mark I and Mark II).
Bombs teleport themselves directly into rooms, bypassing shields and defense drones. They cost missile ammunition to fire. They are the only weapons that can be fired at your own ship.
Bombs deal no hull damage, but can damage or disrupt enemy systems and crew. They can miss, but not when targeting your own ship.
Ion weapons disable systems by forcing power out of them. They do not damage hull, systems, or crew.
Like any projectile, ions can miss. They can only be shot down by Mark II Defense Drones.
Beam weapons cut across multiple rooms, allowing them to damage several systems and deal large amounts hull damage. They are the only weapons that never miss.
Beams do not deplete shield layers, and a beam's damage is reduced by 1 for each shield layer present, making them ineffective without support.
Crystal weapons fire shards of crystal that pierce one layer of shield, going straight through it to damage systems, hull, and crew. When a ship has multiple shield layers, a crystal shard will deplete a layer instead (just like a laser).
Crystal shards can be shot down by defence drones (mark I and II).
Flak, lasers, crystals, and ion blasts can shoot down attacking drones. This can happen either accidentally, when a drone flies into the line of fire (and perhaps disrupting a carefully timed volley), or by design, requiring careful aim and timing (and most likely using Pause). Taking out attacking drones can have a tactical advantage beyond the obvious defence of the ship: destroying a combat drone can lure the opposing ship into deploying its limited supply of drones outside the ship, which leaves no replacements for destroyed boarding, system repair, or anti-personnel drones.
Crew damage depends on the weapon type used; beam weapons only damage the crew if the beam hits the tile that the crewman is occupying, while all the other weapons do damage to everyone in the room they hit. Every 1 point of system damage from a weapon deals 15 damage to a crewman.
Rarity in the tables means harder to obtain the higher the number is. The exception is zero, which means a weapon can't be obtained in-game (can't be bought or randomly found).
Volley Control refers to shooting your weapons in the most effective volley possible. Effectiveness depends on what weapons you have, how strong the enemy defenses are (shields, drones, dodge rates, rock plating, and cloak), and what damage you want to do. In general, you want your volleys to be as tight as possible with as little time possible between when the first shot hits to when the last shot hits (assuming no misses). This lowers the likelihood of a shield regenerating during your volley and cancelling one of your shots or a beam. When you fire 3 weapons or more, your more forward weapons will likely hit first. Ships like the Kestrel (either layout) or the Federation Cruiser (either layout) have a good distance between the forward weapons and the weapons in the wings. In order to have a tight volley, you will want to fire the wing weapons, pause-unpause-pause the game until your first shots are roughly parallel with your forward weapons, when that happens, you can fire your forward weapons.
There are times when you will be better off not having a tight volley. One example would be if you face a manned ship with a level 2 or 3 cockpit, little hull left (2 or 3 points) and the ship is about to jump (screen says 'imminent jump'). Also, the ship only has one shield (you may have partially destroyed the shield already) and you have the Red-Tail (Kestrel layout B) with its original weapons (4 x basic lasers). In this case, you are better off firing all your weapons once and targeting the cockpit. With a little luck, your first 2 shots hit. The moment the cockpit is damaged is the moment the enemy pilot begins repairing it. As soon as the repairs begin, the pilot is no longer manning the cockpit, which means the ship's dodge rate takes a nose dive. If the ship has a level 3 cockpit, the ship can still dodge even when reduced to a level 2 (a level 1 cockpit only helps if its being manned; not repaired, and a unmanned level 1 or destroyed cockpit means the ship can't dodge). Your next 2 shots have a much better chance, if not guaranteed, to hit the ship. If you had tried to hit the ship with a tight volley, there wouldn't be enough time between shots for the dodge rate to drop (the game declares a miss before it registers damage).
Another concerns for volley control is projectile speed. It's worth noting that Ion weapons have a noticeably slower projectile speed than standard weaponry - if you need a tight volley to get past a Defense Drone II, or if you need your ion bolts to arrive first, you will need to take the projectile speed difference in consideration.
Approximate speed order from quickest to slowest is:
Beam (Instant) > Heavy Laser > Laser > Missile/Bomb/Flak > Ion (slowest)
These are guidelines; not rules. It is assumed the enemy craft started with a shield. Suggested firing order of your weapons:
- Missiles/Bombs (Be careful of Defense Drones)
- Ion blasts (To disable shields)
- Flak (To knock down shields)
- Standard Lasers
- Hull Lasers OR Crystal (Depends on your payload, target, and your enemy's shields)
- Heavy Lasers
- Beam Weapons (You can fire your beam as soon as shields are reduced to zero)
Both Missiles and Bombs bypass shields, allowing you to harm the ship's hull and systems directly. They are good weapons to open with because they can soften the enemies’ defenses. A successful hit on their shield can reduce their shields by one while a successful hit on their engines or cockpit will reduce their dodge ability. Even if you aren't targeting those systems with your missiles/bombs, the damage you do has a chance of peeling off enemy crew members from those manned systems, which removes the manned bonus. In that case, the enemy loses 5% in dodge or shields regenerate roughly 0.2 seconds slower.
There will always be wrinkles and exceptions to using missiles-bombs first. For missiles, there is the obvious exception involving defense drones. Defense drones have a slight chance of missing an incoming missile, especially in an asteroid field. Also, the Defense Drone Mark II tries to stop all incoming projectiles (missiles, lasers, and crystals). You may be able to trick the Mark 2 by shooting another weapon followed by the missile. If you have the Pegasus or multiple missile launchers, you can get a missile by a single drone.
As for bombs, Ion bombs won't weaken the enemy ship defenses' unless you target those 3 systems directly or the enemy has a Zoltan Shield. However, the enemy medbay or drone room (Anti-Personnel Drones are such a pain) might be more important. Healing bombs have no offensive use unless you have an away party. Lockdown bombs are tricky because they can be used in a lot of ways. You can protect your away team, or deny enemy crew a chance to heal. Also, you can lock the enemy crew out of a room (engines, shields, medbay).
Why use Ion lasers second and flak third?
If the enemy ship has shields active, ion lasers will always target them as they strike - not the system you were aiming the lasers at. If you want to use the ion damage to stun a system, then shoot your other weapons first to allow your ion laser to get past the shields. If the enemy has a Zoltan Shield, it is wise to use your ion weapons first as they deal double damage, but keep in mind that ion damage will affect the shield system if it destroys the Zoltan shield. When one layer of shields is ionized, the other layers regenerate without the manned bonus (0.2 seconds slower).
Flak is a new weapon type introduced in the Advanced Edition. It has some advantages since it delivers all its damage in a much tighter volley than laser/crystal/missiles weapons do but it can only be half aimed and it can miss with 0% evasion. The lack of aim and the tight volley make it the preferred weapon to hit shields behind ion weapons.
Why use hull lasers after regular lasers?
Regular lasers don't do any extra damage and only have a slight chance of causing a fire. Hull lasers can do double damage to systemless rooms. Even when targeting system rooms, it is worth using the hull lasers after regular lasers. Hull laser can still cause fire but also hull breaches. Because of the hull breaches, hull lasers can be particularly useful in fights with Automated Rebel ships, especially during long fights. The Auto-Rebels can't repair hull breaches and any system with a hull breach is permanently damaged.
Why use crystals after regular lasers?
Crystals are odd and useful weapons; they bypass one shield bubble and have a slight chance of causing a hull breach. Both defense drones and shields can stop their shots. This is a great weapon to take out the enemy shield generator. Use a weapon to lower the enemy's shields to a single bubble, then use your Crystal weaponry to strike their shields system, dealing damage to the hull and the system. If you have a couple of Crystal Burst (either Mark I or II), consider firing your crystal weapons at the shield room, then use your other laser weapons. If you have a beam weapon, remember it loses power if one shield is up.
However, if you plan to use beam weapons to take out a ship (or also if using the Anti-Bio Beam to kill the crew, or the Fire Beam to destroy enemy systems and crew), firing crystal weapons first is a better idea. That way a regular laser can take down the shields to clear the way for beam weapons.
Why use heavy lasers after regular lasers?
Heavy lasers do 2 points of hull/system damage, but only do 1 point of regular shield damage. For this reason, you really want them to hit the hull and not the shield. They also can cause fire and hull breaches. When you have a Heavy Laser Mark I and face an enemy with Zoltan shields, use the Mark I to take down the Zoltan shield as they do 2 points of damage to the Zoltan shield and have a very short cooldown (9 seconds at most).
Why fire beams last?
Because shields block them. If during your volley, you knock the shield down to nothing, pause the game immediately and fire your beam to its full devastating potential. If the beam damage is more than 1, you can still fire through certain enemy shields without getting the full damage effect. (example: You have the Glaive Beam and the enemy has 2 shield points. If you fire while they have 2 shield points, it will deal 1 damage to each room hit. If you fire while they have 1 shield point, it will deal 2 damage to each room hit.)
Weapon Pairing and Damage Effect
When possible, look carefully into Weapon Pairing. Granted, in a roguelike such as FTL, you can’t control what random weapons you will find. You want your weapons to work well together, which means taking into account weapon charge time and Damage Effect. You normally want to charge up all your weapons, and then fire one very powerful burst all together or over a couple of seconds. Sometimes however you get a couple of Ion Blast I (8 seconds) and a Halberd beam (17 seconds), or Burst Lasers I/II (11/12 seconds) and a Glaive Beam (25 seconds). These examples have lesser weapons with charge time less than half of the more powerful weapon, which means you can do an intermediate burst between your big burst without delaying your big burst.
As for damage effect, you want all your different damage effects to work together. For example, weak beam weapons (bio, fire, hull, or pike) would work poorly with missiles, bombs, or crystals because the latter weapons don’t take down shields unless they target and destroy/neutralize the shield system. While it wouldn’t be horrible in the early sectors, the late sector enemies usually have three, four, or even occasionally five shield layers and would require multiple hits to the shield room for the weak beam to work. Lasers of any type work much more effectively, as their ability to bring down multiple levels of shields synergizes well with beam weapons.
In some cases, the enemy ship or crew will affect how your weapons perform sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. For example, breach making weapons have less effect on slug ships because the Slug Repair Gel augment will automatically seal the breach. Meanwhile, weapons that can cause breaches have added effectiveness against AI rebel ships and an AI-controlled rebel flagship, as they are unable to autorepair any system with a breach. You sometimes need to be familiar with how the computer will react to damage. For example, enemy crew will leave any 2x2 room that has 4 fire squares, even if the crew are Rockmen and immune to fire damage.
Finally, consider how your weapons and their respective damage effects work with your drones and boarding parties. For example, fire beams or fire drones become stronger when you board the enemy ship with fire immune Rockmen. Along similiar lines, creating a breach (with a weapon like the breach bomb) and following up with a Lanius boarding party will quickly deplete the oxygen in the room.