As of Tuesday, Season 11.5 has arrived. There is a new PVE mission and a new Story Mission which is typical for the mid-Season cycle. They added a new Romulan Admiralty system as well. There is also a new secondary specialization called “strategist”. This time however, the boffins at Cryptic decided to make a major change to the level 1-50 skills system. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that this was coming and no doubt you all have seen the posts from the dev team indicating the pending arrival of this change. More about the skills system later.
The new PVE queue is actually pretty fun. The objectives are simple enough and I rather like it actually. We are fighting a new enemy and it is the angry Na’kuhl that blame the Federation for the loss of their sun. It seems to be accessible only from the Romulan sectors near New Romulus rather than the normal queue menu. Right now it offers your choice of any reputation marks or fleet credits. The story mission is also a pretty decent play through. Nothing stellar just ho-hum, but I wasn’t annoyed by the mission, so that’s good, right? The prizes are a Na’kuhl ground set with a new piece unlocking each week. I’ll probably post about the set after I get all three pieces.
The big deal here is the skills change. The old system was a bit cumbersome but it did allow for an amazing level of control. I talked about its relative sophistication in an old post here. The reasoning behind this revamp was well quantified with this dev team q/a response in February.
“Time and again, we have received feedback from our players that the Skill System is unusually difficult to understand, and has done a poor job at helping players master the combat mechanics involved in Star Trek Online. In fact, even a basic level of understanding required a good amount of research and “tribal knowledge” that was difficult for players to obtain through game experience alone. For both the benefit of existing players, and to lessen the barrier to entry for new players starting their Star Trek Online experience, we felt it was necessary to simplify the system, improve the leveling experience, and de-mystify many of the underlying combat mechanics.”
Based on the above response from the team, this revamp seems to be spot on and delivers the objective outlined in the comment. The new system is much more simplistic and frankly much easier to respec. The 1-50 skills are now a tree system just like the post level 50 specialization system. There is a separate ground tree and you no longer suffer with the dilemma of choosing between ground points and space points. The space tree is split into three primary branches of engineering, science, and tactical. Prerequisites are so much easier to deal with on a skill tree than the old system. Yay!
They added some new abilities including a long-range targeting feature that reduces the amount of power lost on energy weapons over distance. Excellent! They also added a new captain’s ability called “Threatening Stance” to replace the useless old ‘Abandon Ship’ ability. This increases your threat level and gives boosts to shield and hull resistance. I like that this ability is a toggle it is always on or always off.
The new specialization, ‘strategist’ is based around the new captain’s skill ‘Threatening Stance’. Many of the abilities in the new tree are based on whether you are “threatening” or not. I played several PVE and Patrol missions with pilot as primary and strategist as secondary and I am pretty excited about it. I was able to max out all 15 strategist abilities with a surplus of specialization points the admiral had.
Honestly I do like the idea that Cryptic is far less “cryptic” about the skills. This new system is not only easier to respec and setup but much more transparent in regards to what the various skills will accomplish for your character. In fact the outcome is listed for you. No more nebulous numbers that don’t easily translate into an effect. Now if you take for example a shield capacity skill, the amount of shield capacity increase is stated right there. Bravo! So far it looks like a winning system. Don’t worry about your consoles and equipment that serviced old skills. STO has assured us that these consoles and equipment will be translated over to the new system so as to remain a viable tool.
I am absolutely delighted to see that the crew meter is gone! Woot! Now your ship’s ability to regenerate hull is based on the gross amount of crew. Having a ship with a higher crew count actually means you regen hull faster in combat regardless of your ship’s current health level. Although it appears to be a moot point now, I talked about the BS on crew count nearly three years ago in this post here.
As is typical when a modification is made to the skills system all toons have to undergo a respec. Cryptic will give all toons a free respec. That is fine, but I am a bit miffed that all the load outs are screwed up as well for some reason. Every ship’s ability tray is screwed up 😡
I have performed the respec on two of my toons including Admiral Sager and I was able to squeeze out a significant improvement to torpedo damage. Hmm… wasn’t that on last week’s top ten list? Overall it seems the admiral has improved nearly everything in space with the exception of damage resistance which is slightly less than it was before. That reduced DR is minor at worst and is as likely a result of my respec choices as it is a defect in the system.
I found another cool little add to the game experience. Now the they added a fourth tab when you select your active ship. The first three are the same as before, mastery, stats, loadouts. The fourth is called “visuals”. This allows you to equip any shield, deflector or impulse engines to get the visual effect without actually equipping to your ship. So let’s say you have the Adapted MACO shield on your ship and you love that shield. But you also really like the look of the Borg Assimilated Shield. Now you can have the MACO shield equipped with the look of the Borg Assimilated Shield. Bear in mind your toon must own the items. It does remove it from your bank or another ship. If you unequip the visual the item goes to your inventory rather than back where it was, but I noticed when you load the ship that had the item (if it was equipped to a ship and not in your bank) it will automatically load to that ship if there is a loadout. Pretty cool customization feature and could also be used to fool PVP players in to thinking you have different equipment than you actually have 🙂
Check out the new strategy specialization, I like it. This was a pretty damn good mid-season revamp.