Is Jack Dead?

2016-04-21_14-04-05Did 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.

2016-04-21_13-46-49I 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.

2016-04-21_13-34-44One 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.


16 thoughts on “Is Jack Dead?

  1. I decided to test Focus Frenzy with a tougher toon so Roddicka respeced to 25 points in Tac to get the focus frenzy and added the stacking damage bonus. She has the Terran Withering Disruptor set on this bird. She raped that battleship solo with out a full alpha strike set up, just a power system boost and the focus frenzy with rapid fire and torp spread. This vid sux, but it was an auto record next time I’ll plan the video better this was random game play on the new red alert queue. You’ll here me smacking the spacebar as I have my ship’s hull and shield buffs on a hotkey cycle.

    1. You can up your damage, I know you can somehow. Do it, your weapons are weak, alpha and tac fleet are supposed to be icing on the cake, to make sure NOTHING survives your volley.

      1. Didn’t use those. No AP Alpha, no captain’s abilities at all, just a power systems buff that bumps up pwerlevels, rapid fire, torp spd, focus frenzy and tac team. Saved the alpha for the dreadnought that was after the battleship, I didn’t solo the dreadnought though so made sense to show the battleship clip.

  2. If you’re not doing enough healing, I recommend the Sustained Radiant Field (Iconian Rep) + Regenerative Integrity Field (Kobali Samsar) + Biotech Patch (Personal Trait). With all those you have about +80% more effective hull healing.

    1. That regen integrity field is a great console I do have that on several toons ship’s. Healing is pretty important when flying the B’rel BOP as it has the weakest hull of any starship in the game and the fleet version that I was flying in the video has the weakest hull of any fleet ship in the game.

  3. So I hadn’t been playing the game for about 1 year and when I came back, I found a nice and fresh T6 Pathfinder Science Vessel, for free, to be claimed by my toon of choice. I’m a free to play player, I haven’t spent any real money on the game and I had one fed character, tactical, so I took the ship with that toon. I already had my skills set up for the most part since I was at level 42 when I came back, and well, back in the day I knew helluva lot less about how that works then I do now, so it was complete and utter mess. After 11.5 update, I had the chance to reskill my toon, and so I did, focusing on the tactical abilities. But I was thinking, since I am flying a science ship anyway, shouldn’t I reskill my toon and concentrate more on science, because with my bridge officers especially, I got a lot of exotic damage abilities that could need some enhancing.
    Would you recommend doing the reskill and focusing on science even though my character is a tac? I’m level 60 now and have played through all of the missions, plus I got Mark XI and Mark XII all VR setup going on, so I’m not that competitive on the PvE and PVP level yet, but am contributing to the fleet to get some fleet credits and buy fleet gear.
    Any kind of feedback would help!

    1. It depends on your personal play style preference. If you like to “run and gun” so to speak, the pathfinder might let you down. But choosing to use science based exotic attacks is a bit of an all in scenario. You will need to retrain your BOFFs, reskill your toon and take at least two of the three admiral level science BOFF cooldown enhancements in the new skill tree. Also look at the various ship and space traits as some of them offer reduced science cooldown when using a specific BOFF ability. Using exotic attacks as a primary offesnsive weapon requires quick cooldown on science abilities, otherwise you are waiting around too much for the ability to recharge. The t6 pathfinder has a reasonable turn rate so using 90 degree dual beam banks can help produce more energy weapon DPS and many science attacks require a 140 degree front arc as well. I wouldn’t use cannons on a sci ship as you likely wont have enough tactical to utilize the higher ranking cannon attacks. Beam BOFF abilities are available all the way down at the ensign level. Using control abilities like tractor beam, gravity well, etc can be a great way to kill NPC enemies. The new captain’s ability threatening stance can be effective. If you want to play a healer role there is an ability in the extra abilities along the “graph” at the bottom of the skill tree that reduces or increases the threat effect based on the threatening stance. You can have the NPC enemies practically ignore you while you heal team mates, set up gravity wells, etc. If you use dual beam banks up front, consider the omnidirectional beams aft. They are craftable and easily found on the exchange in a variety of energy types. Science vessels only get six wepons and exotic attacks are generally fore attacks so have some energy muscle up front isn’t bad. There are also a number of them as freebie rewards for various missions. Lots of options.

      1. Thanks for your reply! I do have a DBB and Omni Directional setup, though my aft still has one 250° Antiproton that I will replace with Borg Cutting Beam once I’m advanced enough in the Rep System. The other two are 1xAncient Omni and 1xNormal Omni bought off the exchange for 1.5 Million EC. I will respec, thanks for the advice! I’m planning to replace my front DBBs with fleet variants, those must be way better. I got one or two fleet consoles which is great. Also, I run on the Solanae set for impulse, shields and primary deflector. My secondary deflector is Mk XI very rare that has a bonus for exotic damage as well. The Warp Core is the ancient one, the second piece to the Ancient Omni set, so I got two space sets up and running.

        My Tier 5 tactical Escort parses at higher DPS, though I enjoy the game way less with that one. In every PvE, gets practically fried in a matter of seconds. Weak hull and weak shields for higher DPS doesn’t seem to work for me.
        Also, I have to try a good tank build on my T5 Assault Cruiser when I have some EC to spare, just for fun. Because up until now, with all the different ships I played on my fed, rom and klingon toons, Pathfinder has been the most fun out of them all and I gotta say it’s because of the science BOFF abilities and the one Intelligence Officer station. I trained one of my engineers in Intelligence as well and the abilities are pretty cool to say the least. Though I have done it only today so still got a lot of exploring to do when it comes to possibilities with an intelligence officer.

        Definitely got more learning to do though, since even though I’m level 60 I’m still a noob. Reading your blog posts really help me out a lot, and I can’t thank you enough for writing them! Very informative!

      2. Thanks, be sure to check the exchange sometimes there are crafted ultra rare weapons that compare to fleet grade. If you are using phasers, the fleet offers hard to beat elite versions but on the other energy type the fleet offers ultra rare varieties with 4 modifiers. There is a solanae secondary deflector that completes the solanae set, I cant recall how you get it though off hand, I wrote and article about it when the set was new, you can check the archives. You can make the tac escort pretty tough you just have to have good engineer buffs and take strategic engineering when you respec. At least take the first rank of hull and resistance in the engineers skill tree and take at least one rank in the science tree of shield and heal buff. There are some guys on the STO academy that have builds you can look at and try. the respecs are faster on this new system and if you play long enough you should end up with at least half a dozen free respecs.

  4. I think I have one free respec, but I’d have to check. And yeah, I’ve been looking at different builds on Reddit’s STO Builds subreddit and STO Academy and have figured out a couple of things. I use Antiprotons, and I think my fleet does have some very good ones. It looks as if I’m keeping the Pathfinder as my main ship, it’s too much fun, so I will respec a bit heavy on science this time to make it appropriate. After a couple of months (my daily playtime isn’t that high) I will end up with a pretty solid build. And afaik, the Events can give some nice ships as rewards as well, like the T6 Krenim Science Vessel that was a reward for the 6th Anniversary (didn’t get it since I only restarted playing about a month ago when the event was over already). Anyway, I heard summer events give T6 ships as well and I’m looking forward to the 50th Anniversary events as well. I think Cryptic must be planning something pretty huge, it’s the 50th anniversary of the franchice after all.

    1. Here is the article about tac caps in sci ships, it’s over two years old but still viable.

      also when you log on, check and see if the pathfinder was an account wide unlock. Sometimes they give you the full account wide and sometimes they don’t. If you got the full unlock any toon you have now or in the future will have access to that ship! The event ships that are NOT sold on the C-Store are also available as account wide after one toon earns the ship. This is done through the reputation event store.

      1. Thanks, I’ll read it now and take a few noties so that I can have a look at it again tomorrow when I play STO again.
        The ship was for one characters only, I especially created another fed toon, science this time, to pick it up, level the toon up and have a science toon with a nice science shil but turned out that cryptic gave it for one toon only. Anyway, I just respecced my toon, went heavier on science. 27 points actually, 6 points for tac and 13 engineering. I expected to see a massive dropoff off the DPS. Before I had about 20 points for tac. Well, coupled with a couple of other things I did, mainly getting a fleet DBB, retrain some abilities of my science officers (replaced viral matrix III with Gravity Well III and GW I with VM I, also scramble sensors with hazard emitters), now I get almost double the DPS. Before I would parse around 1.8k and now did 3.3k during the first run. I’d have to adjust a bit to the changes and in a couple of days when I have the Borg Cutting Beam and more Fleet Gear, I could easily see the DPS going up to 5k maybe.

        Through the respec, I also got 10k more hull and about 1k higher shield capacity. Regen is practically the same, maybe a tiny bit faster.

        What I want to do is, to get a good fleet warp core or a crafted one, with some modifiers to increase exotic damage even more. The Solanae and Ancient sets are nice but iirc they aren’t ideal for exotic damage. This weekend’s dilithium weekend and I should take advantage of it. Get enough dilithium for fleet gear and Borg cutting beam.

        Anyway, looking forward to the event ships. I missed the Krenim one by a month or two, I’ve heard it’s a pretty fun ship.

  5. I know that feel all to well. I hope neither of us misses the ships for the 50th Anniversary and Summer Events.

  6. It bears mentioning – and I’m missing this in this particular conversation – that the Science Ultimate ability is basically the “I WIN” button thanks to 50% CritH for 20 seconds. Anyone re-speccing towards science should keep that in mind.

    1. Not necessarily the “I Win” button, If you take enough points in science to get that ability you will not have enough in tactical to have your weapons boosted much and if you completely ignore engineering you will die before you can deal enough damage to “win”. So yes you hit every other shot a crit for 20 seconds but if your base DPS is half that of a tactical then your crits are at best equal to a tac officers regular hits. My science officer that has 24 points in science has all mk xiv weaps and consoles and still does only about 60% the damage with weapons as my top two tac toons do. So the science ultimate ability is not overpowered but rather allows a science captain to briefly deal tactical style damage, which if played properly can result in a solid win.

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