Did I get your attention with that headline? Who the hell is Jack, anyway? Well the Jack to whom I refer, is the figurative Jack of all Trades. The mid-season skill system change has created an effect whether intended or not that seems to make it more challenging to have a true “do it all well” captain.
If this anecdotal observation is at all true, I am not unhappy about it. But this could also be my lack of practice with the new system. The previous system allowed players to make up to nine selections in 35 different skills for space and 10 skills for ground. This allowed for some very precision tuning of the character and created enough variables that in theory every toon in STO could be a little different. But that old sophisticated system was complex, it was difficult to keep track of prerequisite needs for higher level abilities, and the outcomes were not well indicated.
This new system is most certainly simpler and easier to understand. I have noticed and I mentioned above this is an early anecdote, but it seems the new system creates a greater divide in the career path and the dichotomy of strength vs. weakness. If my initial impressions prove to be true, then I think I like it.
I noticed this most with one of my newest characters, Rodax of Talax. He is a Talaxian scientist that joined the KDF because he wanted to be tough, and didn’t want to compete with “all those Vulcans in Starfleet”. He is currently level 58 and I have been working him a little each day to get to level 60. I have been switching his starships around so as to gain as many starship traits as possible. This includes flying ships that are unsuited to his skill set. For example he is currently flying a KDF Intel Battle Cruiser. There is only one science chair on the bridge and it is limited to a Lieutenant. I can’t help but notice that his engineering abilities are very weak sauce. When I activate an engineering team or aux to structural the heal is very weak. It is much less effective than in the previous system. This toon has a difficult time keeping the hull healthy. I am not flying any tough missions here, just Romulan patrols for the most part. It seems that the simpler system creates a more defined career path. I took 19 science, 12 engineering, and 15 tactical. This is a pretty neutral selection with a slight leaning to science, but when I play the character he has HUGE vulnerabilities on engineering. That said, if I took 11 engineering and one more point in science, he would unlock an additional bonus perk that either increases resistance to shield drain or increases resistance to power drain, either one by 10%.
I may not have noticed the engineering vulnerability had I not had this toon flying an engineering ship. If this was the intended result then I applaud the change. I never like it when the character classes are homogenized. I like having distinct variations in character development that require the player to build and equip to a specific desired outcome. Having a science captain struggle whilst flying an engineer’s ship makes sense to me. Just like having a rogue wielding a great axe doesn’t work well in D&D, having a scientist fly an engineering ship should be equally unrewarding 🙂
So that brings us to the build. As it was before, the new system gives diminishing returns the deeper you go on the skill tree. But we have far less critical control with only 2-3 levels versus the old system 9 levels. Also understand the old system had a total of 315 space selections that got more expensive as they got stronger and diminished in return as more selections in specific skill were taken. Depending on how you spent your skill points, it was possible to have 75% of those skills selected. That’s about 240 skill selections. The new system is limited to a max of 46/90 or 51% of the skills selected. So creating that well blended ‘Jack of all Trades’ is more challenging now.
That old system was complicated and I completely understand and agree with Cryptic’s decision to change it. But the old system was actually very logical and accurate in its design. It was for all intents and purposes a better system of creating a unique character. However is was so difficult to understand that casual gamers were turned off by it. MMORPGs must have a large player base to survive, so STO needed a simpler system.
I strongly recommend looking at the abilities and reading the information. This new system shows you the outcome of your selection when you hover over the ability. Understand that you have to decide how your toon wants to play before you set up the skills. With fewer “tweaks” available, the gaps between selections are much stronger. It is very important to plan out your toon in advance and this new system is much easier for pre-planning. The outcomes are shown and the path of prerequisites is clear.
Rodax has an aggressive play style, using single cannons and turrets on ships that generally manuever well. With science captains you can have a variety of combat styles. Science captains can fly bigger science vessels with a beam boat layout such as Starfleet’s Advanced Research vessel or a more aggressive ship like the dynamic Dyson series. They also of course can use a variety of so-called “exotic” attacks and deflector abilities with much better results than other career paths. Selecting 20 or more science abilities will leave the captain vulnerable on either engineering or tactical skills or maybe both. This requires me to rethink everything including equipment. The ships with larger hull now offer a true advantage on passive hull healing which for a science cap like Rodax is now more impactful.
Rodax has used Covariant Shields in the past effectively. His strong science skills always were able to effectively offset the Covariant shield’s inherent slow recharge. But the lack of hull regeneration he is now experiencing leads to a desire for less shield bleed through. Resilient shields may be a better choice for him the way he is currently set up. Resilient shields only pass though 5% of energy rather than the standard 10% other shield types ‘bleed’. Read about shields here. The new system will likely create gaps in you character’s defense or attack. The equipment and BOFF/DOFF selection has become even more important to overall effectiveness.
The new ability Long Range Targeting is awesome, but it may not be ideal for every toon. I think it is a must have for a big lumbering beam boat as those ships often target multiple enemies across the whole battlefield. Having a stronger damage output over long distance helps. If however, your captain is a control type, then taking those three valuable points elsewhere could be the wiser choice.
Looking at the diminishing return is also important, especially when trying to build a versatile character. For example, the first series of science abilities offer a skill boost to increase the maximum capacity of your shields. Taking the first skill gives a generous 15% boost in shield capacity. Taking the second increases the overall shield boost to 25.5%. This is still a pretty good boost adding another 10.5%. But taking the third only elevates the shield capacity to an overall 30%, thus meaning that 3rd skill point only gave a modest 4.5%, that point might be better spent elsewhere. If you are building the ultimate tank then that could be a well used point, but other than that why waste one of only 46 total points to apply on something so trivial? Now the Long Range Targeting ability has less of a diminishing return. The first point reduces the maximum distance penalty on energy weapons from 50% at 10km to 40% at 10km, taking the next point drops the max penalty to 30% and then 20% for the third. If this ability is important to your build then all three are wise as the diminishing effect here is nil.
One thing the game almost hides are the extra perks you get as you take more career specific points. Along the bottom of the chart is ability enhancements received for reaching various milestones in career paths. This applies to both space and ground. I missed these the first few days after the launch of 11.5. Each of these are passive abilities, but you get to choose between two different ones, you must choose one. Until you do, you get nothing. Click on the green, glowing, double lighting bolts along the graph at the bottom of the skills window to select your choice. These are pretty good buffs so be sure to remember to grab them.
If you take 24 points in one career path you get an active ability that is pretty powerful. To get to 24 in one career path however, will leave you quite vulnerable in the other two. Then taking a 25th, 26th and 27th point each unlocks a choice between one of three enhanced abilities tied to the active ability earned at 24. I took one of my 11 toons all the way to 27 points in the tactical career path, just to see how effective those abilities are. At 24 points you gain the active ability Focused Frenzy. This ability allows you to focus on the targeted enemy and each time you hit the enemy your weapon firing speed increases. There are three enhancements to the ability and you choose one of the three each time you take another point beyond 24 up to the 27th point. The enhancements are a stacking damage bonus, additional ‘frenzy’ buffs, and faster BOFF cooldowns.
I mentioned vulnerability and believe me K’Rod, a level 60 Starfleet Admiral who happens to be Klingon, is the classic glass cannon. In all fairness, this toon is one of my weaker toons, but he can’t soak damage at all and I found myself in danger a couple of times on simple patrol missions. His damage output however was very good considering he has mediocre Mk XII and Mk XI gear. His ship would just shred when using that Frenzy perk. The cooldown is 2 minutes but you can use BOFFs and DOFFs to help reduce that as well as a combination of traits. I think this Frenzy ability would work like a frickin’ boss with the Terran Withering Disruptor set that does increasing damage as the enemy’s hull is damaged. I may have to get that set for K’Rod to try. K’Rod is flying a Tactical Pilot Escort with a MACO resilient shield and a bunch of mostly basic gear.
I would definitely take the first rank of all the abilities in the Lieutenant category. These offer a solid boost and will help keep your toon balanced on hull, shields, and weapons early on. The first rank is the strongest boost. Then decide if you want your ship to tank and soak damage or if you want to use predator tactics with shock and awe DPS. Once you have all the abilities chosen, you can fly some basic missions and see how the ship fares. Any weaknesses you find might be overcome with a change in consoles or BOFF abilities and that might be better than a respec. This new system is pretty good, so go make like Duke Nukem and kick some alien ass.