Faster Than Light (FTL) Best Systems Guide

Last Updated on September 18, 2022 by Samuel Franklin

Faster Than Light (FTL) Best Systems Guide

Learn the FTL best systems and subsystems to purchase or upgrade that ensure your Faster Than Light Galactic Federation ship is equipped for the sectors ahead in your adventure. This guide is designed to help players wondering what to upgrade first by detailing the FTL best upgrades and various upgrade priority considerations for the FTL run at hand. Systems are a permanent upgrade to your FTL ship and with limited slots available you’ll have to make important decisions during your journey if you wish to win the final battle. With these system options expanded in the Advanced Edition in particular it’s never been more confusing for the new player as to how they should spend their hard earned scrap resource and utilise the limited system slots.

In this FTL best systems guide we will detail each system and FTL subsystems to give you the necessary knowledge of when to acquire and the FTL upgrade priority for them. While some of this will depend on your choice of FTL ship and the FTL weapons you acquire randomly along the way there are some systems that should be prioritised. This priority comes in two forms, first players need to survive the random sector encounters but more importantly have the necessary tools available to defeat the Rebel Flagship in the final battle which grows increasingly challenging which each FTL difficulty.

FTL Systems & FTL Subsystems Overview

Choosing the right systems is one of the most important decisions you can make in your Faster Than Light journey as is when you spend your scrap to upgrade them which also needs to be balanced against your available reactor power. Like other strategy games like Faster Than Light decisions can have a large impact on your chance of success and the playstyle you’ll adopt for ship combat given you cannot use all systems available in the game.

Faster Than Light: Advanced Edition allows players to have a maximum of 8 primary systems on their ship at a time with decisions being permanent and unable to be changed for that attempt. Given there are 11 total possible systems no ship will ever be able to have everything available which requires players to decide how they will use their available slots. The FTL subsystems do not count towards this cap. Keep in mind that some systems and specific levels of systems are used in random event encounters and often provide a powerful method to resolve a these encounters that aren’t considered in this FTL best systems guide.

The systems in Faster Than Light: Advanced Edition in order they will appear along the UI bar when installed are:

  • Shields
  • Engines
  • Oxygen
  • Medbay
  • Clone Bay
  • Hacking
  • Mind Control
  • Teleporter
  • Cloaking
  • Weapons
  • Drones

The subsystems in Faster Than Light: Advanced Edition in order they will appear when installed are:

  • Piloting
  • Sensors
  • Doors
  • Backup Battery

FTL Best Systems

While the best systems in Faster Than Light can alter slightly based on your desired playstyle and starting ship selection the best FTL upgrade priority order for these systems to solely focus on the best chance of victory is as follows:

Shields > Medbay > Cloaking > Hacking > Teleporter > Mind Control > Drones > Clone Bay

The reasons for this FTL upgrade priority path is detailed as follows:

  • Shields: Shields are vital to surviving in the harsh galaxy of FTL and with higher shield levels you’ll be able to absorb extra enemy hits. In turn this means less opportunity to take damage to your ship hull which will cost you scrap to repair and result in less overall currency for other upgrades. Shields are always one of the FTL best upgrades because of this and note that some ships even (the Stealth Cruiser layouts) start without any shields that make it a priority when playing as them in particular.
  • Medbay: Without a Medbay players won’t survive long in the galaxy of FTL and allows players to recover damage from ship battles and environmental encounters. With the Slug Cruiser starting without a Medbay or Clone Bay grabbing this early is vital for that ship in particular. For other ships players can generally survive with just either the Medbay or Clone Bay options with having both being a waste of a potential system slot although the playstyle difference between the two is quite vast.
  • Cloaking: The best system for your FTL adventures as this system gives you an easy to use button to dodge enemy weapon fire and even prevent their weapons from charging. It’s vital through both the core game and the final boss fight to avoid damage and the high purchase cost reflects this power level. Even at level 1 this is a useful addition to your Faster Than Light ship and only becomes more powerful with upgrades although these upgrades are a lower priority compared to the initial purchase of this system until the rest of your ship is upgraded.
  • Hacking: An extremely flexible offensive and even defensive weapon depending on what you target on the enemy ship. Hacking can disrupt an enemy system for several seconds and is a great candidate for upgrades due to the extended length of time that each upgrades add. The flexibility of this system is what makes it another one of the Faster Than Light best systems available with options to disable shields, drain weapon charge, turn a Medbay toxic, reduce evasion or other utility to help you prevent damage to your own ship and crew. Hacking effectiveness can be impacted by defence drones though so does require some planning to work enemy drones when this system is present.
  • Crew Teleporter: The teleporter opens up the potential of a boarding party playstyle in FTL and there are a number of ships that even start with this system that are highly effective for this playstyle. If available for purchase this is generally a good option provided you have the crew to support it as it allows you to board enemy ships to defeat the crew which rewards additional scrap. A powerful boarding crew is also an easy to use tactic against the Rebel Flagship to disable some weapons quickly although is not as effective on hard difficultly due to a different boss ship layout on this difficulty.
  • Mind Control: Works well with the teleporter for a boarding focused ship and crew setup as it can give you an edge in fighting over enemy rooms although is generally overkill if you have the appropriate crew. Given the limited number of slots on a ship mind control can be difficult to fit into your standard layout but is an enjoyable playstyle combination with teleporter to use from time to time.
  • Drone Control: Drones create a unique playstyle in FTL with a number of ships even starting with drones as part of their core theme. Outside of these ships though it is hard to recommend purchasing drones over the better system option noted above as system slots are limited. That being said drones are quite flexible with offensive, defensive and utility options but they simply don’t do anything you can’t already achieve through other systems already.
  • Clone Bay: Another niche choice the Clone Bay can actually be quite fun to use when paired with a teleporter as you send endless waves of crew to your enemy ship without a care. Most ships in FTL start with a Medbay already though that creates an unnecessary double up as the Medbay is perfect at healing small damage your crew accumulates during FTL ship battles and other events.

Upgrading systems in Faster Than Light will often be driven by your current needs but some notable systems considered the FTL best upgrades priorities are:

  • Shields: Shields should always be your first consideration with level two shields (4 power) being an early game staple to reduce damage and save on scrap resource. You’ll want to gradually upgrade shields to their maximum as you progress through sectors to ensure you have the necessary defence for the Rebel Flagship battle.
  • Engines: Engines provide evasion benefits to further increase your defence provided the piloting room has a crew member operating it or has the autopilot upgrade. Level 5 is often a good goal to aim for as a minimum which provides 25% evasion before diminishing returns kick in per power invested at which point you might want to focus on other systems.
  • Weapons: Weapons are the primary method to deal damage and gradually upgrading this system as you progress is important to being able to ensure you have enough weapon power available to use the weapons you find along the way and destroy enemy ships quickly.
  • Hacking: Hacking upgrades each add 3 seconds to the length of your hacking attempts that turns the initial 4 seconds to a total of 10 seconds that provides a fantastic return on investment. This turns the already effective hacking system module into a devastating system that can lockdown a system of your choice for a healthy amount of time.
  • Cloaking: While effective at level 1 to dodge immediate threats with careful timing the addition of extra levels increases the time your spend cloaked which means less weapon charge for your enemy.


FTL Best Subsystems

Subsystems are simple in comparison to the main systems of a FTL ship but should not be overlooked and are a cheap upgrade option that offer plenty of utility. Note that the vast majority of ships in FTL start with subsystems installed excluding the backup battery and where not available on the starting layout by default is purchased from stores like other system upgrades.

As a general rule of thumb you can follow this upgrade and purchase priority for subsystems:

  • Max piloting to unlock 80% auto pilot evasion that allows you to move your pilot if necessary without significant evasion impact.
  • Obtain level 2 doors as a minimum as this gives you better control over fires and enemy boarders of your ship. You can also assign any extra crew to this system to gain an upgrade level a any point.
  • Consider if you want to purchase Backup Battery while this does provide some useful utility the cost is competing against other potential (and better) system upgrades so is a low priority overall for your FTL ship.
  • Consider if you want to purchase sensors or upgrade them a single level. Sensors are really only useful for boarding focused ships so you can scout your enemy and if you don’t have enough crew to assign here to get the extra level without having to pay for the subsystem upgrade.

Written by
Samuel Franklin
Samuel Franklin is the founder and lead editor of the Games Finder team and enjoys video games across all genres and platforms.

Sam has long enjoyed Faster Than Light (FTL) and regularly returns to the game for its randomisation and challenging mechanics. He has beaten FTL with all ships and layouts but enjoys the starting Kestrel Cruiser over other options to defeat the Rebels.

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