Livestream Link (for those who would rather watch first before reading)
This is the second of the two Lanius ships added in the Advanced Edition of FTL. Lanius B is one of the game's true powerhouse ship designs, giving the player multiple different strong avenues of attack. This starts right away with the ship's weaponry, as the Lanius B begins with a unique Advanced Flak gun that can't be obtained normally. The Advanced Flak works the same way as a normal Flak I weapon (shooting three flak projectiles that are great at removing shields and somewhat less good at dealing hull/system damage) except that it takes 8 seconds instead of 10 seconds to charge, and requires 1 weapon power instead of 2 weapon power. Since the default Flak I is already one of the best weapons in the game, the Advanced Flak is simply ridiculous. You can pair this thing with just about any offensive setup imaginable and get outstanding results.
Of course, the Advanced Flak is only half of the deal, and arguably the weaker method of attacking. The Lanius B also starts with a Teleporter system, allowing your crew to invade the enemy ships. Killing the enemy crew results in higher scrap rewards, which does much to snowball games ahead of The Curve. The Lanius B has an excellent crew for boarding, with a pair of Lanius who can teleport to the other ship and drain the oxygen out of whatever room they happen to beam into. Even mantises and rockmen fare poorly in melee combat once there's no air present. Furthermore, if that wasn't enough, the Lanius B also starts with a Mind Control device, allowing the player to seize control of one of the enemy crew and turn them against their friends. Two Lanius boarders + Mind Control is almost unstoppable in the early game. Even if the player screws up the melee combat and loses one of their Lanius guys, the ship has a Cloning Bay to bring them right back to life again. The Lanius B is almost idiot-proof in its design.
There are a few offsetting weaknesses, if not many of them. All of the ship's systems aside from shields begin the game at level 1, and will need to be upgraded over the course of the run. Weapons in particular can be pricey to upgrade, since there is a one-time penalty of 40 scrap needed to upgrade to level 2. There are also no default starting Sensors on the Lanius B, for what that's worth. The two Lanius crewmembers cannot be intentionally killed off by draining the oxygen from rooms, which means that they will often be going into battle at less than full health. (It's a good idea to upgrade the Cloning Bay, both to heal them faster between beacon jumps and to stave off one missile hitting the thing and causing disaster.) The presence of the Teleporter and Mind Control also creates a limit on the total number of possible systems. You can add exactly one system to the ship, so pick between Drone Control or Cloaking or Hacking. You can only get one of the three, no more. Still, these are all relatively minor issues. I rate the Lanius B as the second-best ship in the game, trailing only the mighty Crystal B. If you are struggling to win with this ship, you're doing something wrong.
As such, I was expecting an easy coast to victory with the Lanius B, one reason why I chose this ship for a Marathon streaming session that I was doing. I should have known it wouldn't be that simple, as the very first beacon had an auto scout that Hacked my teleporter and shot out the weapons system, setting the room on fire for good measure. I couldn't use Mind Control since there was nothing living on the other ship, the Teleporter was offline from hacking, and the Advanced Flak was similarly disabled. Then an ion bomb landed on the shield unit... OK, you know what? This is ridiculous from the first encounter of the game. Restart!
The first battle from the real run wasn't much better. This rebel ship had a Burst II Laser and a missile launcher on board, plus a Cloning Bay to bring deceased crew back to life. I teleported over to their cloning bay in the hopes of destroying the system, and had a chance to use Mind Control for the first time. Meanwhile, the Advanced Flak fortunately knocked out the Burst II Laser, since the first missile landed in the shield room (of course) and set the thing on fire. The second missile landed in the weapons room and destroyed the Advanced Flak, but fortunately not until after the flak had fired a second time and knocked the rebel missile launcher offline as well. This battle was a hair's breath away from complete disaster. It foreshadowed the rest of the run, where I would be tormented endlessly by missiles of one kind or another.
Most enemy ships weren't quite that tough, fortunately. I typically would send the two Lanius invaders into the enemy Piloting room, since those rooms always have only two tiles and they could fight 2 vs 2 in there. If the enemy crew ran away from the room, then the Lanius would destroy the piloting controls, which would remove any chance to dodge the flak projectiles from my weapons. I typically had the Advanced Flak targeting the enemy weapons, as usual. That was another reason not to teleport into the Weapons room, since I'd be shooting my own crew. Piloting seemed to work better. I also made liberal use of Mind Control to help out, which was particularly fun when there were mantises on the other ship. The rebel flagship has turned plenty of my own mantises against me with its Mind Control unit, and it was fun to be on the other end dishing it out for once.
Halfway through Sector One, a pirate ship made me an offer I couldn't refuse:
A Flak II to go along with my Advanced Flak? Awesome! While that Flak II wasn't practical for the moment, it would leave me in an excellent position for the lategame. It even complemented the Advanced Flak nicely from a power standpoint, 3 power + 1 power. If I could get some lasers, or better yet a beam weapon or two, I'd be set for the rest of the game.
Sector One therefore turned out to be an excellent area with that Flak II pickup. I was able to upgrade shields to level 4 and engines to level 3, while getting some useful combat experience on the two Lanius. Sector Two led to more easy fights, including finding an Engi floating in space that we beamed aboard with the Teleporter unit. I upgraded engines further and took the Cloning Bay to level 2; another ship dropped a Fire Bomb as a reward for victory. This had every indication of being a lazy and uneventful cakewalk of a run.
This Mantis ship thought otherwise. Part of the problem in this battle was the design layout of the enemy ship. Flak as a weapon deals poorly with narrow ship layouts, as many of the flak projectiles will wind up missing the hull and doing no damage. I wanted to hit the weapon room on this ship, and my Advanced Flak was consistently unable to do so. The other problem in this fight was the Ion Pulsar firing in the background, introducing a dreaded random element into the combat. (I really do hate the Ion Pulsars; I enjoy the asteroid fields and battles near suns, but the pulsars have wrecked way too many runs due to pure uncontrollable chance.) In this particular battle, my first Advanced Flak shot failed to hit anything, and then the first enemy missile hit my weapons room and knocked it offline. Then the Ion Pulsar fired and took out my shields. The second missile took out the Cloning Bay, and the third missile took out the Teleporter. Ummm... that's not good! Fortunately my Lanius crew were in the process of taking out the enemy's own weapons systems, and that would be it for missiles, but this was still a bad situation indeed. I was able to use the two Engi to repair the damaged systems and stabilize, although only after taking way too much damage. At least this encounter dropped a Small Bomb as a reward, something that I hoped to be able to use later against enemy Medbays and Cloning Bays.
I found a fifth Human crewmember in Sector Three, again floating in space and brought aboard via a Teleporter blue event. The rebel ships were starting to scale up in defenses now, and I was looking to upgrade weapons further. I brought the Small Bomb into play first, and was looking to get weapons to level 4 to potentially make use of the Flak II against heavily shielded targets, should it become necessary. Then a store offered up another possibility:
The merchant had a Flak I for sale. While I'd been hoping for a Drone Control with defensive drone, this was still a pretty interesting opportunity. I had the chance here to collect the full set of different flak weapons, with Advanced Flak + Flak I + Flak II. That sounded like too much fun to pass up, so I sold the Fire Bomb (which has very little synergy with Lanius boarders) and purchased the new weapon. Upgrading weapons to level 3 allowed me to get this pair of Flak weapons into play, and upgrading again to level 4 opened up the Small Bomb once again for taking out those pesky healing systems on enemy ships. My offensive setup was quite strong, but with no defensive drone or cloaking unit, I was beginning to worry about my defenses.
Sector Four was a Slug Home Nebula, one of the areas that I try to avoid. Nebulas have fewer encounters than other sectors, and slugs are always a pain in the rear. I had no choice though, the only other option was Rock space, and I still had zero protection against missiles. Never head into the territory of the rocks without a defensive drone or cloaking on hand. Anyway, a Slug sector was also problematic because it eliminated Mind Control as an offensive tool. Slugs are immune to mind controlling, after all. I finally get a ship with Mind Control on it, and all the enemies were immune! Argh.
With that said, the battles generally went pretty well throughout this sector. I was able to save up over 100 scrap while taking little damage, mostly small pinpricks from random missiles. Since I made it to the end of the sector without finding any stores, I finally spent most of that scrap upgrading shields to level 6 for the third bubble. Then I jumped to one final beacon... and it had a Drone Control system and a defensive drone for sale. Sigh. Should have held off on spending until the end of the sector. That was a missed opportunity for sure.
Sector Five had another store right at the outset. There was no defensive drone for sale, but it did pose another tempting offer:
Another Flak I for sale! Now the game was just getting silly. I could get the Advanced Flak + Flak I + Flak I + Flak II combination and have 16 total flak shots firing against the rebel flagship at once. Thanks to the 1 power cost of the Advanced Flak, these weapons would combine together to cost exactly 8 weapons power. What a ridiculous situation. With the stream viewers eagerly anticipating this weapons combo, I sold my Small Bomb and purchased the Flak I, using the rest of my scrap to heal up some hull damage and pick up extra fuel. Now as cool as all of this sounded, I'd been over-investing into weapons by purchasing those two flaks. I still had subpar engines and no defensive systems whatsoever. Furthermore, I'd have to upgrade weapons (and get more reactor power) just to put the new Flak into use! While all these flak weapons were a lot of fun, there were some serious deficiencies in my setup. A defensive drone would have been a MUCH better purchase if I'd been able to line it up properly.
That was vividly on display a few beacons later, when this Mantis ship of doom appeared. It had a Breach Missile on board, the missiles that deal 4 hull damage when they hit, and of course I still had no defensive drone to shoot them down. But the enemy weapons room was extremely exposed in the middle of their ship, and I was pretty confident that the 9 flak projectiles would be able to disable the missile before it fired. The result:
Are you freaking kidding me?! Not one flak projectile managed to hit the hull. I can understand that when the flak is trying to hit a room off in the corner, but dead center of the ship? That's almost impossible. The second flak volley did manage to knock out their missile launcher, but not until after the weapon fired... and of course their missile hit my weapons room, dealing 4 system damage AND setting the room on fire. I had to vent the room of oxygen to put the fire out, and only then could begin repairing. This naturally gave the enemy ship the chance to repair their own weapons. The second missile fired... and hit the weapons room AGAIN, breaching the hull and dealing another 4 system damage. The third missile... hit the weapons room. Again. At this point, I threw up my hands and walked away from the computer in disgust. This was some of the worst nonsense I'd ever seen. First flak volley misses every shot, then the enemy missiles keep taking out my weapons again and again and again. I did kill that ship, eventually, but the cost was steep. Started the battle with 22 hull points, ended the battle with a mere 7 HP. The whole thing was some of the worst RNG idiocy I'd seen in ages. Now this run had a serious chance of being defeated, never making it to the rebel flagship at all.
Somehow, despite boarding so many enemy ships with the Teleporter, I was also critically short on fuel and had to keep purchasing more. I think this was partly due to the low encounter rate of this run, way too many empty beacons with nothing in sight. This wasn't helped by Sector Six, which was another Slug Nebula for lack of other choices. I hit a store at the beginning of the sector, and had to spent all of my accumulated scrap just to load up on fuel and fix the hull. (I was sitting on 1 fuel when I reached the store!) I would have liked to purchase Backup DNA Bank on sale there, but I valued patching up the hull as being more important. My crew might or might not die, while the Lanius B itself wouldn't last much longer without repairs. Having to sink so much income into fixing the hull was a dangerous sign, of course. It's an indicator that you're beginning to fall behind the dreaded Curve, as income goes into repairs rather than further upgrades to make yourself stronger. Still, I had no choice. That ship in the last sector had caused critical damage.
Most of the battles in Sector Six weren't too bad. The triple Flak combo would cut through enemy shielding and tear apart hulls without much trouble. The danger, as always, came in the form of enemy missiles. When a Slug ship appeared with another one of those Breach Missiles, along with a pre-battle event that disabled my Cloning Bay, I realized immediately that I had to get out of there before a missile could land and cause complete chaos. I powered the engines to full and prepared to jump away. There was one missile coming in though, where was it going to hit?
Right on the Door room, INSTANTLY KILLING BOTH LANIUS CREWMEMBERS. And of course I couldn't revive them due to the pre-battle event. Note that the FTL is still charging, there was no opportunity to jump away before the missile hit. Nor could I tell where it was aimed and walk the Lanius away, from the angle it was impossible to see if the thing was heading for the Doors or the Teleporter or the little room between them. My two best crewmembers, gone just like that, from another instance of RNG bullcrap.
Do you see now why the defensive drone is the single best tool in the whole game? Missiles are overwhelmingly the worst threat against player-controlled ships, and nearly all of my losses are the result of a missile hitting a critical system and starting a cascade that spirals out of control. Cloaking is better against the rebel flagship, true, but a defensive drone does far more to get you to the flagship in the first place. All these cool weapons and systems and augments, and I'd trade them all for the humble Defensive Drone I. Bah.
I wasn't out of the woods yet either. I had to jump out to the next beacon, where there was another Slug ship lying in wait. My shields were still damaged (only two layers available instead of three), the Doors were still disabled from that stupid missile, and much of the ship had been drained of oxygen to fight off boarders from the previous battle. Making matters worse, two slugs immediately appeared in my Piloting room from another pre-battle event. Good grief. Thankfully I landed an excellent first volley with the triple Flaks, knocking out the weapons on this new ship, or the run might have ended right there. After the combat ended, I stopped to assess the situation. I was down to a mere three crew, which was going to cause serious problems moving forward. Any notion of using the Teleporter was pretty much dead at this point, with a crew of 1 Human and 2 Engis. It was going to be up to the Flaks from here on out. I hit another store shortly thereafter, and I decided that it was worth spending 90 scrap to purchase a Slug and a Human as new crew. This was even more scrap that wasn't going into upgrades, yet again I felt I had little choice. I could not fight off the flagship's boarders with just those three guys, and two of them Engis. This was going to be a tough race to the finish.
Having a Slug on board helped a lot, since it allowed me to use Mind Control on the enemy pilot right before the Flak hit. You need to see the enemy crew to be able to use Mind Control, and the innate ability of the slug race covered for my lack of Sensors. The other thing that I need to mention is the crazy fast charging time of these Flak weapons. The Advanced Flak has a cooldown of 8 seconds, and the normal Flak Is had a cooldown of 10 seconds. With a fully trained weapons guy for 20% faster charge, I could fire the full volley every 8 seconds. That's FAST! It was too bad I couldn't afford to purchase the Automated Reloader that I saw in one of the stores, it could have been even more ridiculous. I definitely did not have the scrap to spare.
Sector Seven was off to another great start. The first rebel ship ran away (with pursuit doubled for one beacon jump), and then the second one landed multiple Hull Missiles against my ship again. The first one landed in the Piloting room, which made it impossible to dodge the second one. I was really, REALLY getting tired of missiles by this point. Perhaps feeling sorry for me, one of the rebel ships produced this drop after defeating it:
My third Flak I of the game. Unbelievable. This was a godsend though, and offered a ray of hope that I could actually emerge with a victory on this run of missile death. A third Flak I meant that I could sell the Flak II (which would raise quite a bit of money), and use a setup of Advanced Flak + triple Flak Is. This would allow the Lanius B to shoot 12 flak projectiles every 8 seconds, a completely disgusting offensive setup. The Flak II actually did not pair very well with the rest of the Flak weapons, with its slow chargeup time. I would be much better off dropping it and rolling with this extremely fast combination instead. Now if I could just make it to the flagship with life and limb intact, and then survive long enough to get all of these weapons into use!
I was hoping for a store to pop up in the worst way, and I finally found one in the back corner of Sector Seven. I would have to fight the rebels once to get out, but it was completely worth the visit. I sold a Boarding Drone and Antidrone that I'd picked up along the way (useless without a Drone Control system), plus the Flak II, and used that scrap to purchase Cloaking and the Backup Battery. Yay, cloaking! Better late than never. Cloaking and level 5 engines got me past the rebel fleet at the end of the sector with no problems. I still needed to upgrade weapons to get the third Flak I in play; I didn't hit level 7 weapons until the first battle of Sector Eight. That last Flak I was coming online just in time for the flagship. There was zero chance of upgrading shields to level 8, and I'd be forced to rely on only three shield bubbles. I had barely enough scrap to upgrade the minor systems (Doors, Piloting, etc.) and prepare for the final battle. As if everything wasn't hard enough, I only managed to fight two battles in Sector Eight, and there were no repair stations even remotely reachable. Well, time to do this. Let's see how well the Flak barrage works against the flagship.
The rebels Hacked my weapons system at the start of the first phase, which was arguably the worst target possible. Remembering how this cost me a winnable run in the past, I jumped away (into a rebel-controlled beacon, no less!) and then jumped back again. This meant that I would not have Cloaking available immediately, since I used it to dodge the ASB in the previous encounter. The second Hacking drone hit the Cloning Bay, which was fine for the first phase. I did manage to get my Cloaking back just in time to dodge the first missile barrage, nice. On the offensive end, I targeted all of the Flaks at the rebel shield unit. As a system located directly in the middle of the ship, I expected nearly all of the 12 projectiles to hit the flagship, dealing system damage and injuring rebel crew. The first volley worked just as planned, knocking the rebels down to a single shield layer and damaging the Piloting system as well. The second volley destroyed the shields completely, killed two rebel crew, and reduced the hull down to 3 HP. The Flaks recharged so fast that I was getting two volleys off before the rebels could use their Cloaking. The third volley finished things off, with my Lanius B taking exactly one point of damage from a missile. So far, so good.
The second phase would open up more offense on both sides. The rebels would no longer have their Cloaking unit, but I would also be highly vulnerable to their drone surge attack. With no defensive drone, the enemy boarding drone was guaranteed to get through, fortunately landing in the non-critical Backup Battery room. I opted to let the boarding drone kill that system rather than try to fight in a room that would be drained of oxygen from the hull breach. Meanwhile, the Flak barrage was doing incredible damage again, knocking out 3/4 of the shields again on the first volley, and eliminating them completely on the second. With the drone surge about to go off, I gambled that the third volley could destroy the flagship completely before the drones could ruin my day... and this worked! By a hair, way too close for comfort. I probably should have just Cloaked and played it safe, but I was trying to get the kill before the rebels could repair some of their system damage. Whew. On to the last phase.
The danger in the third phase was going to come from the rebel crew teleporting over to my ship. I had a weak setup for fighting hand to hand without my dear departed Lanius, although fortunately I could use my own Mind Control to counter the rebel system. At least I only had to deal with three invaders thanks to killing quite a few of the rebels in the previous two phases. The flagship's Zoltan Shield was torn apart pretty easily by all those Flak projectiles, and then they could start going to work on the hull again. I simply needed to keep the weapons operational and firing away long enough to secure the kill. There were some shenanigans taking place during this process - the Oxygen system getting knocked out by a missile, the Doors control doing the same, my Engi pilot getting Mind Controlled - but the weapons were never touched. In the end, I killed them before they could kill me:
This was a recoverable position, although it would have become more and more dicey if the battle had continued. The lack of Oxygen would have caused real problems in another minute or so. There was also another laser surge on the way, and I did not have Cloaking up to dodge it. Glad that those Flaks fired quickly enough to win before having to face any more threats.
This was a weird run. Between the missiles of doom, losing most of the starting crew, the endless number of Flak weapons... I've never seen anything quite like this. What was supposed to be an easy run with an overpowered ship turned into anything but. I wound up with a very low score for Hard difficulty, and one of my lowest scrap totals ever for a winning run. 1345 scrap doesn't leave much room for error. This was due to defeating only 32 ships, which is also extremely low. I simply didn't fight that many of them, partly due to luck and partly due to traveling through those nebula sectors. I also had to waste far too much scrap on repairs and fuel and hiring replacement crew. Considering all of the setbacks faced on this run, I was extremely pleased that it still managed to result in a victory. Even with the Lanius B, this one was not easy at all. It was a very memorable run indeed.