Today I want to discuss the seemingly complex situation with ship shields. There are essentially four different types of ship shields in the game. There are actually some unique modified versions as well but in general there are these four variants:
Before diving into the differences there are a few basic shield mechanics to discuss. First, ship shields have four shield facings. Each facing covers a 1/4 sphere around the ship’s fore, starboard, port and aft sections. When flying your ship the status of each of these four facings are shown on your HUD display. There are two primary stats that all shields have. Capacity and Regeneration.
Shield capacity tells how much base damage each facing can take before dropping altogether. The capacity is also subject to the ship shield modifier. Typically raider class ships have a 0.80 modifier. That means the shield capacity is only 80% of the base. Escorts are usually 0.90 so they get 90% of base capacity. Cruisers generally offer a 1.0 modifier which means the capacity is unaltered. Science ships often enjoy a robust 1.3 modifier meaning the capacity is 130% of base. Your captain’s skills, BOFFs, DOFFs and other buffs can enhance the base number substantially. In reality since shields have four facings and your shields have a total capacity fours time greater than the listed amount. Agile, quick turning ships can use all four shield facings to their advantage but big cruisers not so much. As long as there is at least some energy left in a shield facing it will effectively still protect the hull. So it is like this, say your fore shield facing is down to 1% and a huge critical deathblow is landed on it. The shields will still absorb all of the incoming damage as if the shield facing were at full capacity, but of course at that point the facing will drop and your hull will be exposed for the next volley. Time for a quick heal or turn the ship away from the attacker pronto!
The next stat is regeneration. This is the amount of shield energy that will regenerate on each shield regeneration cycle. Shields regenerate energy every 6 seconds unless proc’ed or boosted by consoles or abilities. So a shield with a regeneration rate of 180 will add 180 points of shield energy to each facing every six seconds. Keep in mind that if a facing drops to zero it will remain at zero until the next 6 second refresh comes along or until you utilize a heal or battery. It can take a fair amount of time to get from zero to full health at the rate of 180 per six seconds. Heals are very important! Remember though these are base stats and your captain’s skills, BOFFs, DOFFs and consoles can boost this significantly. Also the shield power settings effect this. If you are above 50% shield power you gain regeneration and damage resistance, below 50% shield power reduces regeneration. (see the post on Ship Power here) If you ever want an idea of how effective all these passive boosts are, you can simply take your ship into space at ESD, Qo’Nos, New Romulus, DS9, etc. Look at your ship’s equipment while in planetary space (not sector space, if your map shows the whole quadrant then you are in sector space). You will see the stats with all your passives in place under the stats tab of your ship page.
As a general rule, shields will absorb all incoming damage regardless of how large that damage is, but will allow a “bleed through” of 10% to hit the hull of your ship. So it is important to remember that a sustained battle can slowly eat away at your hull even if your shields never drop. This is especially true if your enemy has heavy attacks or tends to land a lot of critical hits. As I said before, any energy in the facing will allow the shield to work at 100% efficiency. As an example, if your shield facing has just 100 points left and damage totaling 5000 comes in, the shield facing will soak up the whole 5000 points of damage, passing through 10% as bleed through (5% if resilient shield is equipped) to the hull, which in this case is 500 points to the hull and is further reduced by damage resistances your captain has, then since the damage was greater than the amount of shield points left in the shield facing, that facing will drop and any further damage coming in will now fully impact the hull.
So now a look at the various shield array types. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and the ship type and captain’s play style are important factors when deciding which is best.
The standard shield array is designed to have a balanced layout with fast regeneration and stout capacity. This is the shield that almost always comes with a new ship. Of the four common varieties of shields the standard shield array has the second highest capacity and second highest regeneration rate. It is a surprisingly versatile shield yet many players shun it, despite its solid all round performance. I find that these standard shield arrays are priced pretty well on the exchange.
The covariant shield array is for the captain looking for big capacity at the expense of regeneration rate. The covariant has the largest capacity among the basic varieties of shields. This shield array has a 10% higher capacity than the standard shield array but regenerates 25% less energy. Captains with strong shield healing abilities can take advantage of the extra capacity without worry of shield depletion. The general rule is that these large capacity slow regenerating shields can be effective on ships that are slow on the turn and/or have a high shield modifier, science ships, carriers, and cruisers for example. This shield type also is more effective against shield draining technology; its larger capacity means that shield draining will take less of the shields total capacity and is less likely to deplete the shield facing entirely.
The regenerative shield array is the opposite of the covariant. This shield array has the lowest capacity and the highest regeneration rate. It has a 10% lower capacity than a standard shield array but 25% more regeneration. I find that these shields are very effective on fast turning ships with high defense ratings, such as escorts, raiders and some of the agile science ships. If your ship has a high defense rating the enemies will not land as many hits and thus your shields will last longer. The agile ships also can quickly turn away from the source of the damage by rotating shield facings that are taking damage and thus effectively increasing capacity with the rotation technique. The faster regeneration rate means that the shields depleted facings will come back faster so they will be ready by the time the ship comes back around. The idea here is that a fast turning ship can “hide” a depleted shield facing by quickly turning the ship away from the source of damage and exposing a fresh shield facing to the enemy. Slow turning ships can not pull this off as they are too slow on the corner. Also, this technique is ineffective when you have managed to fly into a shit storm and are taking damage on all sides. The regenerative shield is easier to deplete with shield draining technology due to the low capacity. If you are the type of captain that likes to fly into danger with reckless abandon, and you tend to generate a lot of threat, these may not be the shields for you.
The resilient shield array is the most interesting of the bunch. It has the unique ability to “absorb” half of the “bleed through” damage. This shield only lets 5% of the damage pass through the shields to your hull. The capacity of this shield array is 5% less than a standard shield array and also has 5% less regeneration than a standard shield array. This shield is probably the best for science ships that have weak hulls. The lower bleed through will keep the hull from eroding in a protracted engagement. The captain I mentioned above that flies into a sea of enemies, might be well served by these shields.
Shields, like most other items in STO can be found with a variety of “rarities”. The higher the rarity, the more modifiers the shield will have. The capacity and regeneration can be modified up to x3. The [Cap] modifier will add ten percent to the base shield capacity and the [Reg] will increase regeneration by 10%. Note that this does not shorten the 6 second regeneration cycle, but rather adds to the amount of energy regenerated. x2 and x3 will add 20% and 30% respectively. Other modifiers include damage resistance to specific energy types. Some of the specialty shields such as Elite Fleet grade shields offer a package of resistances that offer multiple energy resistances in one modifier. The [Amp] modifier will increase the effectiveness of incoming shield heals and I believe it is a crafting modifier.
These modifiers can allow you to make a covariant shield regenerate faster than a regenerative shield. It can make a regenerative shield have equal capacity to a covariant shield. When shopping for shields you may find a “deal” on the exchange for a very rare, standard shield with [cap][reg]x2 modifiers. This means the shield will regenerate faster than a common regenerative shield array while delivering the same capacity as a common covariant shield array. You can view the stats of any item you are thinking about acquiring or equipping and it will show the stats as that item would be with your captain’s skills applied but not with console mods, BOFFs, DOFFs, etc. unless you are in space (again, not sector space).
If you are trying to build a ship on the cheap, looking for deals means checking all the shield types with various modifiers to get the desired effect for the lowest price. You can also find some amazing shields on the reputation system. There are covariant, resilient, regenerative and some special shields as well. These offer the set bonuses when combined with the other matching reputation pieces. The Adapted MACO or KDF Honor Guard shields are excellent choices if you are seeking the covariant variety. The Iconian set has probably the best resilient shield in the game, the Assimilated Borg shield is likely the best regenerative shield in the game and coupled with the rest of the set is formidable.
You may come across the paratrinic shield array as a mission reward. (according to the STO Wiki: The Paratrinic Shield Array is a possible reward from the Federation mission “Past Imperfect”, the Klingon mission “Test of Mettle”and the Romulan mission “Tradecraft”). The paratrinic shield array has 43% more capacity than a standard shield array but only half the regeneration rate. It is like a covariant [Cap]x3 with a slow regeneration rate. Also the Numiri shield array is a mission reward from “S’harien’s Swords” (Federation) and“Destiny” (Klingon). This shield is the opposite of the paratrinic as it has super regeneration at the severe expense of capacity.
If you are thinking about upgrading you will find that upgrading shields is a huge advantage. A mark XIV shield will offer a pretty good boost to both capacity and regeneration over the mark XII. Just remember that set bonuses may not apply if the mark value is not equal on all set items.
Understand that consoles and abilities that boost shields and weapons often only boost the base value. In the case of shields what ever the base value shows when you click on the shield equipped to your current ship should be the value the console will boost. If you open the stats tab under your character when your ship is selected you will see most likely a much larger number for your shield facings than the number showing when you click the shield. I have the graphic showing both open at the same time and you can see a large discrepancy. If I add a console that generates plus 20% shield capacity I will get 20% of the number showing when I click the shield not the passively boosted number under stats. The number under stats however is the actual battle ready number and it will fluctuate as you take damage or as you activate BOFF and captain’s abilities affecting the stats. Be sure to do this while in space or the stats won’t reflect all your passive bonuses.
Of course I have a chart, need you even ask? This chart shows the relative difference between the four basic shield types at mark XII with various modifiers. Please remember these are base values that do not reflect your captain’s individual skills, BOFFs, DOFFs and other boosts due to consoles and of course the ship’s shield modifier. It will serve to offer a relative reflection of the difference in the shield varieties.