I found the Burst II around Sector 3, and the Breach Bomb around Sector 4 or 5. I picked up the Defense II drones around Sector 5 and 7, and the Hull Repair around Sector 5.
Here are some key points to help you in a no-shields run!
- The Basics
- Know how much damage you need to deal to kill the enemy, and how much you can deal in 1 beam. Remember you lose 1 damage for each shield layer active.
- Usually try to start your beam in the shield room. For enemies with 1 shield (e.g. Sectors 1, 2, and some of 3), You'll do 2 damage to the shield room, take down their shields, and do 3 to all following rooms.
- If you can't kill the enemy with one beam shot, it may be beneficial to try to take out weapons and/or drones with your first swipe, and finish the job with the second beam.
- Hit as many rooms as possible, using tight angles and pixel-perfect alignment. For example, you can hit 5 rooms at once on a Rebel Rigger (http://ftlwiki.com/wiki/File:FTL_ES_Reb_Rigger.png): Engines, Shields, Weapons, empty, and Drone. The extra 2 or 3 points of damage you squeeze out with clever positioning can mean the difference between a victory and a hefty repair bill.
- Power-juggle! There's no reason to have your O2 system on 100% of the time. Put its power into your engines whenever a volley is coming your way, then pop it back on when the danger has passed. The bit of scrap you save is definitely worth it while you're scrambling for upgrades.
- Avoid Suns, Asteroids, and Ion Storms. They will hurt you. This is a bad thing.
No-Shield Specific Skills
- Know roughly how long all common weapons take to charge, and
- Know how long your Glaive beam takes to charge. Base time is 25s, which is cut to 22.5s with a man in the weapons room. These points help you with the next one:
- Always time your cloak strategically! Cloaking has two benefits: the first, you have a greatly increased chance to evade enemy attacks; the second, enemy weapons do not charge or fire while you are cloaked. Make sure you take advantage of both of these properties! Wait until an enemy fires a shot to cloak. There is a fine balance in the timing here, and sometimes you will have to take a hit in order to avoid a stronger one later.
- Upgrade your Stealth to 3 as soon as possible. Let's do a little math to demonstrate why this matters. With a 22.5s Glaive Beam charge and a 10s cloak, the enemy gets 12.5s to charge weapons (assuming you can kill them in 1 volley, which is true for much of the first half of the game). This means that if they have, say, a 9s or 10s charge weapon and an 11s or 12s charge weapon, you're guaranteed to have to face at least one shot uncloaked. And, if they have a mini-beam, you're guaranteed to get hit! For 50 scrap plus some reactor power, the enemy gets only 7.5s to charge. You know what weapons charge that fast? NONE. Count 8 seconds, cloak, and slice them in half before they ever see you again. The only exception is Ion Blast II. So you'll have to take 1Ion hit, which has about a fairly low chance of targeting either your Weapons or Stealth.
- Your other upgrade priority is getting your Engines to 5. Stealth only increases your evade by 60%, so you're not immune to hits until you've upgraded quite a bit. Also, better engines means faster escapes from bad encounters.
- Upgrade your Weapons once at your convenience. This gives you a buffer to prevent your Glaive from going down if your weapon room takes a hit.
- Upgrade Piloting once to protect it from a hit. (Not essential, but helpful)
- Upgrade Doors once to help contain boarders. (Not essential, but helpful)
- Avoid the Zoltan. The Zoltan Shield takes too long to take down. However, if you MUST fight them, try to end your beam in their weapon room. Sometimes, the beam can get off an extra hit after breaking through the Zoltan Shield, and you want to make it count. Also, the Weapon Pre-Igniter is most commonly sold in Zoltan sectors, so you might want to risk a run through Zoltan territory to find it. I was not lucky enough to obtain one, but it could seriously be a game changer.
- Know when to run. Some fights just aren't worth it. Notably, Auto-Assaults with Attack Drones and too much health to kill in one shot.
- If you get lucky and find an enemy with only Ion weaponry, take your time to level up your Pilot and Engineer, (and your Weapons man too if possible). The extra 10% dodge is great, and the 9% reduced weapon cooldown is over 2 seconds on the Glaive beam-- fantastic.
- By the time you hit Sector 3, you will need to have a reliable way to break through multiple shield layers. My Burst Laser II was perfect for the job. Just don't rely on missiles too much because of defense drones, and don't rely on Ion Blast II-- the need for constant shooting will negate much of your cloak.
- Don't shoot non-beam weapons while cloaked! It significantly cuts down your cloak time, and is generally not worth it.
- A Defense I drone can help a lot. Defense II is actually useful in this Challenge too, because you want lasers shot down! Fun fact: Defense II can shoot down Anti-Ship drone lasers before they hit you! I had 2 Defense II, but I think that may have been unnecessary-- they run on the same AI and so are always shooting at the same things, it seems. If you do have 2 Defense drones, try to position them far from each other in their orbits to increase your chances of interception.
- Don't bother with a Teleporter. You don't have time for that nonsense-- unless you're coming up on the boss soon. Then buy one, but don't bother using it before the boss fight.
- Level your Engines to the max. ~50% evade plus a Defense drone means you can comfortably face some of the scarier late-game weaponry without taking too much damage. (I'm looking at you, Burst III)
The Rebel Flagship
- Take your time, plan your attack, pause often, think a lot.
- In my playthrough, it felt like the Defense Drone II and Hull Repair Drone were absolutely necessary. I had to repair about 15 hull after each phase, even with 2 Defense II active. Perhaps having a Pre-Igniter would negate the need for the Hull Repair Drone.
- You should have a bomb or teleporter (preferably teleporter) to take out the weapon systems. They have 3 health each. I never found a teleporter in any shops in sectors 6-8, so I had to use bombs. My Breach Bomb II was fine for the job.
- KILL THE BEAM ROOM FIRST. Unlike a shielded ship, which would best benefit from taking out the missiles, your biggest fear here is the beam. It can frak you up. The missiles are the least worrisome because you've got defense drones to shoot them down. If you've got a teleporter and time to spare, take down the lasers second, and leave the missiles up. If you're using bombs, ignore the lasers and move focus to the shields.
- While your boarding team or bombs work on the beam room, your Glaive Beam and shield-popping weapon should be working together to damage the ship as quickly and heavily as possible.
- Don't make killing the crew a priority; however, if it's convenient to slice somebody down while you're dealing damage, by all means vaporize them! (Note: beams only hurt people on the squares they do damage on, and each point of hull damage is the equivalent of 15 crew HP).
- Keep your cloak powered to 3 for this phase.
- Activate your Defense drone immediately so it can shoot down the boarding drones the Flagship will fire at you.
- Again, take out the Beam first, and focus on doing damage as quickly as possible.
- The power surge can frak you up if you're not careful. Use one level of Cloaking only, and save it for right when the power surge drones appear. You should then have just enough time between surges for your Cloak to recharge. On average, between your Evade and your Defense Drones, you should get hit by less than 1 of the 3 lasers or missiles per volley.
- The Flagship's regular Attack Drones are annoying, but you've got to deal with it. If you have Defense II, it can shoot down the laser drone's shots, but you'll just have to be quick and efficient on your repairs.
- If you're feeling lucky, you can try to time a shot to hit the beam drone and take it out of the fight entirely.
Phase II the hardest battle of this run, so take your time to plan every move.
- This Phase isn't nearly as bad as the previous-- no drones, but more importantly, no boss beam!
- Your Goal here is to simply take down the Zoltan Shield, and then focus everything you've got on taking out the shield room and tearing that ship in half with your Glaive Beam!
- Boarders can be annoying, but you'll hopefully have enough crew to distract them, and enough Door strength to airlock them.
- Again, use only one level of Cloaking, and save it for the power surge. If all goes well, you should have the Flagship in flames by the time it's charging its third surge.
And, with that, the No-Shields Challenge is complete! I hope you all enjoyed the story and guide, and I'll be happy to answer any questions. This was definitely the most fun and rewarding run in FTL, and was a fitting way for me to (semi)-retire the game.