Many players swear by beams as the ultimate in DPS, but I have shown in previous articles, that it really depends on the outcome you are looking for since DPS is just one part of the process to eliminate your enemies. One article in particular: “Cannons versus beams” laid it out in black and white.
Slow turning ships and or a play style of tanking with a park and shoot approach lends itself to the use of beams. Beam weapons have a tendency to be more efficient at long range than cannons and they have a wider targeting arc. Players utilizing a park and shoot ought to take at least two of the three science captains skills “Long Range Targeting Sensors” as that diminishes significantly the power loss over distance in both cannons and beams.
The title of this article however is “FAW or “BO” and that is between the BOff abilities that enhance beam attacks. FAW is ‘Fire at Will’ which randomly targets enemies in range and rapidly fires with a debuff to accuracy and damage. Normal beam attacks deliver 5 pulses to the selected target. This ability shortens the pulses to 4 but hits two enemies with each pulse. This is effectively an 8:5 firing speed increase. The amount of debuff is reduced the higher rank of the ability. See chart. Players using FAW had better have strong accuracy skills and buffs because FAW hits accuracy HARD! FAW is best utilized by characters in a support role, with strong tanking abilities and not afraid to use heavy tactics to draw fire away from other players/allies. As a means to actually kill enemies, FAW is rather ineffective. It is great at taking out annoying tractor mines, Tholian webs, mines, and heavy torpedoes, but actual enemy star ships, not so much. I do not like FAW in the ensign slot unless it is used exclusively to draw fire or take out annoying light targets. I use FAW on big and slow turning tanks like heavy carriers, heavy cruisers, and even some dreadnoughts that are light on tactical seating.
BO is ‘Beam Overload’ and is a very powerful attack that overloads the power in a single burst of crazy energy. STO changed the way this ability works in recent years. It used to do anywhere from 4.5-8x damage and would then cause your weapons power to plunge temporarily. It was a crazy powerful move when used in conjunction with weapons batteries. Now the ability does between 3x and 4x damage but slows the rate of fire for ten seconds rather than crashing weapons power. The old move was a one off attack that was worthless if you missed the target. This newer version overloads all of your beam attacks for ten seconds in exchange for severe slow down in firing rate. I miss the crazy punching power of the old move, but the new version is actually better. BO is ideal for players trying to do maximum sustained damage to a single target. I use this BOff ability on destroyers, warships, and battle cruisers equipped with dual beam banks up front and a reasonable turn rate of 9-14. See chart. Usually if my ship has a base turn rate of 15 or better and has adequate tactical seating I’m going with cannons.
In general FAW can be used effectively in large cruisers and other tanking type ships to control the battlefield by drawing enemy fire, using science and engineering control type abilities like tractor beams, gravity wells, etc. in conjunction with a constant barrage of beam attacks. Cruiser command, draw fire and other abilities such as those in the strategist specialization. FAW is also effective at keeping mines, heavy torpedoes, and other small enemies off your fragile carrier pets.
BO is solid for mid sized attack ships like destroyers and warships that either lack tactical seating or have a sluggish turn rate. It gives the beam attacks a big boost to DPV which can lead to more shots at exposed hull. One of the primary reasons to utilize beams is the fact that beam abilities are available at the ensign level. Cannon abilities begin at the lieutenant level. Many cruisers and carriers are limited to lieutenants for tactical and that means only the lowest level cannon abilities are available. Ships with a heavy engineering theme can utilize auxiliary power to weapons effectively to add even more punch to the overload. On ships with limited tactical seating, one might also utilize a Lt. Commander universal/specialist chair for a tactical officer with a specialization. This allows for say BO III in the LC spot and then the specialization abilities to support science or engineering as needed.
The nice thing about beams is the ability to utilize them on ships stuck with low ranking BOff seats It is important to have some engineering and or science help to increase the tactical performance of the weapons in these scenarios or just tank like a fiend and draw fire away from allies.