The following commentary is meant as a guide to a basic set-up for normal gameplay. It is assumed that one is familiar with the basic controls, etc. outlined in the manual and the on-line references at the STO web site.
Once you are commissioned to "captain" a starship at the beginning rank of Lieutenant, you are sent to Earth Dock to collect, outfit, name and modify your vessel. Admiral Quinn grants you the ship. The Shipyard is where the outfitting, etc. is done. As you progress, the upper floor of the Shipyard will be used to access subsequent ships and ship equipment which are earned by rank:
Lieutenant(1-9) = Tier 1 Vessel.
Lt. Commander(10-19) = Tier 2 Vessel where you must select between Cruiser, Escort or Science Classes (Hint: Many players seem choose the firepower of the Escort Class which exclusively mounts Dual and Dual Heavy Cannons). Any class can mount lesser cannon weapons. Cannons can only be mounted in front slots. Ship types are meant for certain careers, and you will get bonuses if you choose the ship in that career. The ships are: Escort = Tactical Officer, Cruiser = Engineering Officer, and Science Vessel = Science Officer. There are no penalties for choosing a ship not in your career e.g. Tactical Officer with Cruiser, however there are bonuses for choosing the ship in your career.
Commander(20-29) = Tier 3 Vessel of the types selected above.
Captain(30-29) = tier 4 Vessel
Rear Admiral(40-49) = Tier 5 Vessel
At Vice Admiral & higher(50+), you can purchase a Tier 6 Vessel, but you no longer get issued a new ship by Starfleet (or the KDF).
Outfitting the Ship
Ships are requisitioned from Starfleet and come fully equipped to complete your missions. You can and will add to the kit including the following items:
- Weapons - a must since nearly all of your ship missions will entail fighting.
- Shields - a necessary part of surviving a conflict. You generally choose between lower and higher capacity shields. Lower ones generally recharge very quickly; higher capacity shields generally have lower rates of recharging.
- Deflector Dish - this is used for detection, electronic countermeasures and tractor beams.
- Impulse Engine - includes power ratings and maneuverability.
- Consoles - each ship has at least one console of each basic type (Tactical, Engineering and Science). As you progress, higher tier ships have more consoles of each type depending on ship class. This equipment influences and affects the performance of the above equipment systems.
- Consumables - these are items that you can purchase, create (at a crafting station) or loot that directly benefit an equipment system. They offer a temporary boost to power generation and include:
- Auxiliary Batteries
- Weapon Batteries
- Shield Batteries and
- Engine Batteries
HINT: Start with basic weapons and upgrade with drops as soon as you can. Try to stay with one weapon type (phaser, disruptor, etc.) because you will be able to improve your skills with them much easier if you are dealing with a single energy type. Try to strike a balance between high recharge rate for shields and shield capacity. It does depend on your space combat style. In general, it is always better to select greater capacity shields because with skills, energy balancing and batteries, you can always supplement the recharge rate. Engines come with difference enhancements, but you can never go wrong with a faster rate of turning. Top speed doesn't matter so much in STO. Likewise, Deflector Dishes can feature all levels of enhancements, but the ones that provide the ability to jam an enemy's weapons are helpful.
As for the Consoles, there are many choices. Tactical consoles enhance different weapons. Use ones that improve the weapons you use most (energy weapons over mines and torpedoes). Engineering consoles also enhance a variety of equipment. Those that benefit power generation are especially helpful. Lastly, the consummables have different strategies. Mostly the Engine Batteries are not as useful. Shield and Auxiliary Batteries are the most useful. The Auxiliary Batteries are most helpful when used with skills that transfer power from auxiliary to another system (shields, weapons, etc.).
Set energy output for maximum weapons ("X" icon to the right of the shield strength indicator). This sets your weapons for maximum damage and faster kills. If you are in a battle with multiple enemies and your shields are taking a beating, change the setting for shield generation ("D" icon). Keep in mind it takes some time (about 15 seconds) for the effects to be realized. Escort ships and weapons perform better at this setting. Cruisers perform well too, but against multiple hard targets, the "D" setting can greatly improve one's survivability. Science ships lack the damage dealing potential of Escorts and Cruisers, relying more on buffs and debuffs, so the "D" setting is probably better.
Since most of your combats will be face-to-face, put your strongest energy weapons up front. At lower tiers, it is more important to maximize your ability to drop an enemy's shields and beam weapons have higher DPS than kinetic weapons (torpedos and mines). Basic space combat is comprised of using your beam weapons to drop a shield and expose the hull. Then torpedos and mines are used to deliver kinetic damage to the hull. It is not necessary to use kinetic weapons to damage hulls. Beam weapons can do an adequate job; it's just that a well placed torpedo does far more immediate damage.
Basic Attack Strategies
All weapons have a 10 km. range. Use your Full Impulse power until you are about 11-12 km. in range, then drop back to manouvering engines to bring yourself just into range to maximize your time on target. Use all beam weapons, fore and aft. Dual arrays and cannons can only be mounted in front slots. Place Arrays in all locations and attack target from an angle where all weapons can fire (analogous to a broadside attack). This is used more by Cruisers and Science ships.
Place cannons in front, but remember that your attack arc is reduced with higher power versions (duals and dual heavies) so the target must remain in front of you. Using manouvering to keep the target in range (reverse engines, stop, manouvering skills). You can place an array in the rear weapon location to attack when the cannons are out of range (arc). This is used more by Escorts which can use dual heavy cannons with a 45 degree arc but masive damage. Against slower targets, it is possible to stay on an enemy's "six" and pound away at it. Like you, the enemy can only bring a limited number of weapons against you at that location.
Place a torpedo launcher in the aft mount to attack as you turn away from a target. In this way you can expose a target's hull with forward firing beam weapons, then turn away to deliver a punishing torpedo attack on the exposed hull. Also you can attack and kill an enemy that stays in your "six", such as fighters.
Use the "Spider Web" attack where you continually drop mines and lead a target into the mine field. Although mines deliver little damage to shields alone, many mines can add up to high damage to shields. Note that mines have a lifespan before they self-destruct, but there is usually plenty of time to create a large minefield with faster recyling types (photon e.g.). Mines can also be used defensively. Some enemy torpedos can become confused and target mines instead of your ship. Also, an exploding mine can detonate an incoming torpedo or an enemy mine. Mines are another tool to effectively eliminate enemies on your "six". Mines can be dropped at any time so you may actually use your Full Impulse engines to close on a target and drop mines close, then cruise past to engage them with beam weapons.
Notice the placement of asteroids that can be used as shields from which to launch attacks or screen out attacks from other enemy ships. Note that STO will frequently have NPC ships lodge in asteroids where they can be easily dispatched or may not be targeted at all until they free themselves.
When attacking groups always reduce the size of the group by first eliminating the weaker targets before attacking the largest ships. This will dramatically reduce the number of weapons that attack you and increase your survivability. Note that the best drops come generally from the largest ships. If possible, use skills that affect a target's ability to attack you, first on the larger enemies, then switch to attack and eliminate the weaker ones.
Don't forget that you are fighting in three dimensions. Targets above and below you can be attacked but the shield you attack is not necessarily as specific as if you approach from a side. Your ship will attempt to strike the weakest and most prominent facing shield, but you cannot rely on the AI for consistency.
Basic Defensive Strategies
The number one rule when engaging enemies, as with any MMORPG is to not take on enemy groups larger than you can handle. Racing into a group of enemy ships with guns blazing will have you have you in a warp core breach so fast your head will spin.
Select your target before engaging; consider you approach angles to minimize exposing your ship to more weapons. If using full impulse engines, drop them before entering the 10 km range so your weapons have time to power up. Remember that your ship will come under fire from multiple weapons - beams, torpedos and mines - so consider the potential threats first.
The three basics are: (1) engage only the enemy ships you must and on your terms; (2) dispatch weaker enemies first and fast to reduce the number of threats and weapons against you; and (3) monitor and manage your shields continuously. Engage from the furthest distance you are able - in STO this is 10 km. Shields are managed in several places:
- Individual icons for each shield that are preloaded on to your skill bar. This is a rookie/noobie practice. Wean yourself from this and manage shields in the following ways;
- The shield strength indicator shows the 4 shields and a center section indicating hull strength. Selecting any shield will shift recharge energy temporarily to this shield before the others. Selecting the center hull section will redistribute shield strength allocation to even them among all four shields. Using this method potentially clears 5 spots from your skill tool bar.
- The power level allocation is to the right of the shields icons and allows energy to be routed on a priority basis to (shown left to right) weapons, shields, engines or balanced among the three. Selecting the "D" icon, the second from the left, for the defensive profile.
Enter a battle from distance facing your enemy and shift charging to the front shield. This will offset any initial damage you take. As your front shield strength lowers, reallocate and shift recharging together. You can use skills (Auxiliary power to shields) to fortify recharging. Lastly, if your shields are dangerously close to exposing the hull, consider resetting the energy profile to "D". Initially try to keep it at "X" to maximize your weapons' damage and shorten your weapon recycle rates. This works best against single enemies. Using a shield battery gives a boost to your weapon damage and recycle rates.
As you engage enemies, be mindful that it is sometimes easier to just turn a stronger shield towards your attackers than to shift shield strength to a facing shield. True shield management results in spreading the damage to all shields as evenly as possible. Eventually, your hull will be exposed, but by managing your shields in this way you will prolong your ability to stay in a fight and hopefully kill your opponent first.
There are some skills that can halt an enemy's attack (Jamming e.g.) or add a debuff to your attack that takes their weapons off line. A particularly useful skill is Shield Transfer (from an enemy). Using these skills liberally with the above can extend your survivability and even allow you to engage stronger multiple targets long after weaker players have been destroyed.
There are other skills that increase your manouverability and/or speed (Attack Pattern X or Ramming Speed or Evasive Manouvers) and they can be used to outrun a fight if it becomes too dangerous. This is another reason to keep enemy engagements at distance. You can activate each of these skills in turn as one expires and run away while shifting shield power to the rear shields.
Lastly, don't forget that you can always activate a shield battery to supplement your shield recharge rate temporarily. However, using any battery results in a recycle time of 2 minutes before another can be activated.
Ground, or Away Missions come in several types including combat and search variations. Most involve combat with other ground missions.
Outfitting Your Away Team
The key to ground missions is having your character and away team officers properly outfitted with
- Kit (character only) - think of it as a supplemental skill set
- Consummables and
- Skills that complement each other.
Try to balance equipment with your rank and the level of difficulty of the mission. For example, as a Commander, make sure that all of your away team are equipped with Commander level items regardless of their ranks. You ability to use equipment is dependent upon your rank, not your officers' ranks. Kit is a profession dependent (Tactical, Engineer, Science) suit that adds skills and abilities to your character only. They cannot be fitted to away team officers. You can rotate Kits to give you various abilities you think you may need on a mission and even change them whenever you like.
Ground weapons come in a wide variety of damage and energy types. Each weapon has 2 attacks, one is a standard attack and the other is a specialized attack with a longer recycle interval. The most helpful are those that do damage over a wide area (cone, split beam and cylinder attacks are the most common). Have at least one if not both weapons with these secondary abilities. Some weapons also deliver an Expose debuff. This is a short term debuff that multiplies received damage several fold and frequently results in a target's disintegration (a nifty graphic). Once exposed, a target needs to be hit with a Secondary attack from a weapon that takes advantage of the debuff. Read the characteristics of each weapon carefully and outfit one of each type.
Shields and armor typically include buffs and debuffs. Unlike ships, after your shields take damage, your health suffers. Some attacks can bypass shields so pay attention. One prevalent one is the gas grenade noted by the green smoke after it explodes which causes health damage over time. In general select shields and armor that reduce damage types you expect to face. Items that reduce energy weapon damage in general are better unless you know you are facing a specific energy type, such as Disrupter fire. Energy specific protection can be higher than general protection from energy weapons of all types.
There are many different consummables in STO. The main ones are:
- Shield rechargers (small medium and large)
- Hypos to add health (S, M, L)
- Energy batteries to add damage points to your weapons (S, M, L)
- Food items that add a variety of benefits, but mostly out-of-combat healing
- Tribbles, an out-of-combat healer, that is not really consumed on use
- Healing devices
Using any item causes a recycle interval before the next one can be used. The exception is the Tribble, a newer addition to the game that is a must-have for every character and away team officer. Try to keep stronger consummable items (shield recharge and hypo) for yourself and outfit your officers with the lesser varieties. The food items are generally worthless.
STO ground, or away, missions are generally combat oriented although some are simple retrieval missions. If you are prompted for a single away team member to accompany you, this is a good indication that there will not be any combat on the mission. Otherwise, outfit your team accordingly and have at it.
Most combat ground missions, assuming they are not Fleet Actions, drop at a location and lead you to an ending location along a path located on the map. This prevents you from wandering around the map looking for your mission objectives. Red dots on your map indicate enemies; gray dots are waypoints, but these are not on every map but only those with location specific objectives.
As with every MMORPG, aggrevating (agroing) a single enemy group (mob) at a time is the objective. The fewer enemies you must face the better. Be aware of your approach to the mob; if possible take the high ground and use cover to your advantage. STO will allow hits to a hidden target if it was targeted before it became hidden. It is a bug, IMO, but not one that is impossible to deal with. Just be aware that if you run to cover you can still take damage and so can that enemy you are targeting. The optimal range is about 30 m. for Attack 1 and a bit less for Attack 2 depending on the weapon. The sniper rifle actually has a better range on its 2nd attack, but we suggest using weapons with area of effect damage on their 2nd attacks (cone, split beam and cylinder attacks) and these have shorter ranges. Use "Crouch", the "C" key to enhance your aim and damage. Note that your team will do the same. Try to attack a single target until it is dead before targeting another enemy. Since you are allowed to carry 2 weapons (not available for your away team), rotate them to access the 2nd Attacks instead of waiting for a single weapon's 2nd attack to recycle. A pulse rifle and a split beam weapon are great complements. Keep an eye on the 2nd attack icon in your skill bar for the yellow "X" that signals an Exposed target. Hitting one will generally disintegrate it and occasionally you can disintegrate another with a split beam attack against multiple, adjacent Exposed targets - very cool animation.
In general you do not need to move too much against NPC enemies - PvP (player v. player combat) is a much different experience. Move only to hide or withdraw if you are taking too much damage. Don't forget to hit the "C" key again to release the "Crouch" or your movement will be painfully slow.
It is helpful to target certain enemies before others. Reserve high value targets (boss type enemies) for last. Munitions and "Pet Trainers" are high priority targets.
PROBABLY THE MOST EFFECTIVE tactic is to arrange for a Flank Attack against any target. This increases damage points immensely. One method is to just move to the sdie of a target to increase your hit points. Although purists decry this other tactic, you can Pause action (except for a Fleet Action) and direct your away team to location that will have them either flank your target or cause the target to turn away from you so you can flank them. Read the on-line manual to learn how to direct your away team. Pushing Pause again resumes the action. Most players resort to this tactic in only the most dire circumstances.