This writeup was provided by System Error for an achievement playthrough that I did with FTL. Thanks again for creating this report, which would not have gone on the website otherwise!
Livestream Link (for those who would rather watch first before reading)
FTL has a number of in-game achievements that require you to meet a particular objective whilst on a voyage. Some of these are tied to using a certain class of ships, which are the unlock criteria for the B-class of ships (though they can be done on any ship in the class). Others are more generic, achievable on any ship and giving you nothing but bragging rights. A number of these are luck-based or just require setup, such as one on the Mantis ships asking that you kill an enemy's last crew member with your own last crew member on their ship. A few of these drastically change the way you play the game, and make for very interesting variant play.
The one Sulla tackles on this particular voyage is the Living off the Land achievement. As those of you who are familiar with the challenge from classic Diablo or have read his similar variant in Final Fantasy 1 know, this variant requests that you never buy anything from stores, and reach Sector Eight. As the in-game description says, repairing (and selling) to stores is allowed, which is a good thing. Otherwise, there would be almost no way to fix up your hull. He thought it might be fun to try this challenge - on Hard of course.
Ship choice is obviously key for this challenge. Sulla decided to go with his favorite layout and one of the best ships in the game - the Kestrel B. While the four Basic Lasers are obsolete beyond the first half of the game, it does a good job of smashing through said first half, allowing the ship to get ahead of The Curve with just a bit of weapons luck for later on.
The run got off to a very good start, with the very first jump producing a Rebel Ship that gave a surrender offer of four fuel, six missiles, and eight scrap. Very good for Sector One. A little later on came another good offer, featuring five fuel, seven missiles, and eight scrap. A third good offer with five fuel came at the end beacon, but since he had 30 at that point, he decided to destroy the ship, which paid out a healthy 19 scrap. He was also able to pick up the Shield Charge Booster augment (boosts shield recharge time by 15%) and a Rockman in the sector, as well as receiving trade offers for fuel in exchange for missiles and drone parts. The latter was especially a beneficial deal to take - this ship would never have Hacking or Drone Control, so he had no use for those parts. As if to make things even better, he managed to get multiple dodges at low odds in some of the fights. He managed to get shields to level 4 for the extra bubble, and engines to level 3.
Sector Two was a Mantis sector. The first battle offered a surrender offer which included an FTL Recharge Booster. Far from the best augment, especially since you don't really want to be using the FTL to flee all that often, but something that would sell for 25 scrap at a store.
Two beacons later, and he pulled a full scan of the sector from an autoscout's databanks. He was able to perfectly navigate through because of it. The only business he had at the store was to sell that FTL Recharge Booster and fix up the hull. Shortly after, came a battle against a Mantis ship. An intruder teleported near the room of the ship. Unfortunate for him, as Sulla immediately responded by venting the room. The post-battle reward was the first new weapon of the game, a Heavy Laser I. A straight-across upgrade from a Basic Laser, doing more damage for the same amount of power with less cooldown and a few additional effects. The next battle was against an autoscout. He breached the hull of its piloting room with the shots from this new weapon. With that opportunity and the ship posing no threat to his own, he took a moment to level his piloting and engine skill to max. While the automated ship was trying to run away, it couldn't due to the damage - you need to repair a breach in a room before you can repair any system damage, and autoscouts can't repair breaches!
In exchange for three battles, Sulla had to face the rebels at the exit. The last of these fights was set in an ion pulsar, against a ship with a Burst II. This was somewhat dangerous, as the weapon lines up with the pulsar. He replied by firing his weapons before the pulsar went off, to knock out their weapons before they could do anything. This was a bit of a calculated risk - ordinarily, you would want to wait for the pulsar to knock out their shields before unloading with your own weapons. The gamble paid off, and the ship was no threat from there. With level 4 engines, he only had to face a single ASB. It hit for three damage, and then he was out.
The next sector was rebel-controlled. Sulla did have to be a bit careful with fuel, as he realized near the start of this sector. With no way to buy fuel, surrender offers containing decent amounts of it were appealing. He actually managed to kill all the crew on the first ship he encountered here - fighting off a boarder and killing the pilot via lasers. The reward for this was a Flak I. He needed to upgrade weapons to level 5 to put it into play, but it was more than worth it. Fire the Flak to take down the shields, then unload with the lasers. He figured if could just get his hands on one more weapon, he'd be set for the rest of the game. This weapon came just in time for the next battle, which had a ship with a Defensive Drone II and two shield bubbles.
He was able to get the next shield bubble in this sector (bringing him up to three), also picking up an FTL Jammer and Hull Repair Drone to sell for some scrap down the line. The latter a shame; it would be great to have, but without a Drone Control system, it's useless. The former is one of those things you don't really want to waste space on, but on rare occasions you'll be glad you have it. There was also a chance to upgrade the reactor at the exit for two each of fuel, missiles, and drone parts, which he accepted.
An Engi sector was fourth up. One of the fights in here was against a pirate with a Flak II. This could have been dangerous, especially because the Heavy Laser repeatedly missed. Thankfully, a bit of misfortune from their own end - three shield bubbles and 40% evade are certainly helpful - made this more of a battle of attrition. Throughout this sector, Sulla continued to get various rewards from battles, including a new Engi crewmember. Sadly, aside from that, most of the rewards were of no or questionable use. Several of these happened to be drones, including a Defense Drone I which would be great in any other situation, but only sellbait here. As he stated, the game was in full on troll mode. Even the stores were in on this, offering up all kinds of merchandise that he would've loved to get his hands on if not for the restriction.
The most notable encounter in the Mantis sector beyond was an autoscout that hacked his oxygen. He only had one level of it, and so had to take out that system ASAP. He maxed out his shield level here, already in Sector Five. Sector Six opened with obtaining a Zoltan Shield Bypass and a new human. The weapons setup was still decent, but starting to sag a bit at this point in time. None of the fights aside from a Mantis ship with four shield bubbles and missile launchers were too dangerous.
Sector Seven served up an interesting new weapon choice. Missiles aren't something that Sulla likes to use himself often, but the Pegasus Missiles are competent enough at their job. They dish out two shots for two damage, with a 20 second charge time. He had no shortage of ammo, but decided to just hold onto it for the time being. They were nice to fire at the enemy shields, flying right through them and damaging the room. The sector also served up a great new weapon choice: the Pike Beam! Just like that, the weapon worries were over.
There was one really ugly ship he decided to retreat from, even with all the new goodies: four shield bubbles, cloaking, and a lot of ion weapons. His initial shots did get through, but his shields were completely taken out. He quickly got out of there after that. With a Zoltan to round out the crew at the max, he made his way to the last sector. And with that: Achievement Unlocked! Now the goal was to try to win the game. Offense would not be a problem against the flagship. Defense would be the question. No cloaking, no hacking, and no drones. What he did manage to get was max engines. Not something he usually gets, with those being long past the point of diminishing returns, but there was nothing else to spend the scrap on. Besides, it was the best he could do to get more defense, in lieu of any systems.
It was for naught though, because engines happened to be the flagship's choice of hacking in the first phase. The first exchange could've gone better: all of the flagship's ion shots hit, and because he couldn't take down their shields, he couldn't fire the Pike Beam. Then, every one of their shots hit due to that engine hack, damaging oxygen and weapons, as well as setting fire to three rooms. There were no repair stations nearby. As a second volley of missiles loomed near, he retreated next door to the base. An awful beginning. Their shots had taken him to 22 health, and he only did two damage, via a Pegasus Missile. Then he found out the location he jumped to didn't connect to the base, so had to make a couple jumps to get back.
The second time, the hacking went for sensors. He just had to move the crewmember in there out so he wasn't trapped. The only defenses he had was his evade. There was no way to fix the damage. That first volley in the first fight had led to this situation. The missiles were a very useful asset in this fight. If they hit, they could do heavy damage to whatever they were aimed at. That was a question of if, unfortunately. The good news was, he managed to take down the first phase of the flagship. The bad news was, he had only 15 hull remaining. There was still a ray of hope. The weapons just had to hit, and he just might have enough to make it through the next phases.
The Boarding Drone in the second phase went into the engine room, which was pretty bad. He could only fight with two crew in that small room, and it would cause him to lose the bonus evade. He did get a missile through, at least, also setting fire to the room. But no cloaking meant that the drone surge was incredibly painful. The first one dealt six damage. The most important thing to do after was put out the fires in the shield room. The next drone came in through the door room. Through the chaos, he managed to lose a crewmember. Amazingly, the next drone surge missed all their shots, so he stayed alive...for now.
Alas, it was only a temporary stay of execution. There was far too much going on, with numerous damaged systems, including oxygen being knocked completely offline. The third drone surge brought him to 1HP, and a final set of missiles finished him off. Game over, rebels win.
This was a low-scoring run, that didn't come near high score list. He had a low amount scrap for hard, partially due to taking surrender offers and partially due to the low number of encounters, though it at least wasn't too big a factor with shops out of the picture.
As Sulla said, the flagship battle is probably why the achievement simply asks to reach Sector 8 while Living off the Land instead of beating the game altogether. The flagship is a brutal fight without some sort of counter to its array of weaponry. You'd either need to use a ship that starts with useful starting systems not found on other ships (such as an Engi ship or the Mantis B for Drone Control, Slug C's Hacking/Mind Control, Crystal B's Cloaking, etc), or have enough weapons luck to just completely ignore defense and blow away the flagship. The weapons he got were good, but without something to support them, he simply couldn't deal enough damage quickly enough. Also possible would be a ship that has a good starting loadout of weapons to reduce the amount of luck you would need, or a boarding ship that don't care for weapon luck overly much.
This was an enjoyable run to watch through and type up, even if it ended in failure at the very end. Maybe someday, Sulla will embark on this quest again and come on top. A journey for another day, however.