The STO Mostly Leveling Guide

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DISCLAIMER: This guide is based on information gleaned from playing in the Closed Beta. All of this information is subject to change based upon balancing changes made by the Cryptic team. This is merely an indicator of the best possible paths in certain situations, and should not be construed as "the gospel of STO". ;-)

Now that we've got that out of the way...

Welcome, one and all, to my (primarily focused on leveling) guide for STO. This is very very loose at this point, since the game isn't out, but is based upon my and others experiences within the game. Also, this guide is primarily Federation-based, as I haven't played the Klingons much yet (Anyone want to contribute Klingon content?). This has been written for the community in order to make sure everyone is equally well-informed on the ins and outs of how to play/level.

This guide is reprinted with permission from Drakmon on the official STO Forums. The original thread can be found here.

So, lets get started!

1.) Getting Started

Congratulations! You've created your character and have blasted and scanned your way through the tutorial! That's also the last time you'll be able to associate Borg with "easy". You've grabbed your first missions from the Admiral (remember, it's the door that says "Admiral's Office" over it!), and are likely sitting in sector space asking yourself "What now?"

Hail Starfleet, that's what!

The Hail Starfleet button sits in the cluster of buttons underneath your map. This button shows you who in Starfleet currently has missions or information for you. This is also how you will turn in missions after completing them. I reccomend the following good practice:

a.) After ever mission, Hail Starfleet and turn in your mission, plus check for any additional missions from your contacts (You'll see an icon indicating if they have a mission available). b.) Every time you move up a grade (level) within your rank, Hail Starfleet and check for the new missions available at that grade. c.) Every time you rank up, Hail Starfleet and check (especially for the mission rewarding you with a new ship!).

Now that we're keeping in touch with Starfleet, let's talk about rewards!

Every time you complete a mission, defeat a particularly difficult opponent, or happen to be in the right place at the right time, you can receive a number of different types of rewards. These come in the following shapes and sizes:

These rewards will be referenced throughout the rest of this guide, so without further ado, lets get into it!

2.) Skills and Leveling

There are 6 ranks in the game:

For each rank above ensign, there are 10 grades. So a couple hours into the game, you might be a Lieutenant 4, while a few months down the road you could be a captain 10. Where you are along this continuum is determined by how many skill points you have earned and spent. Yes, you actually have to spend the skillpoints in order to rank up.

If you go into your character information display and click on the "Skills" tab, you'll see a long list of skills you can train. Each skill has 10 ranks (0-9), with each rank costing 100 Skill Points (for 900 points for a fully-leveled skill). These skills will fall into one of two main categories: space and ground. The skills you train here do not typically translate into new powers or abilities. Instead, your character's trained skills increase the effectiveness of your equipment, powers and bridge officers.

Drak's Reccomendation:
I dump all my points into skills that improve my starship first, ranged ground combat second, and anything else third. Your play style may vary, but keep in mind that you'll be spending most of your leveling time in space.

When attempting to level quickly, remember that mission rewards that yield the largest amount of skill points for the least amount of time invested are the quickest way to level. We'll get into the details later, but the basic rank (fastest to slowest leveling) is as follows:

The rankings here tend to vary quite a bit depending on your level and the availability of allies/opponents. If you don't mind a "grind", the repeatable missions are well worth it for the ratio of Skill Points to Time Invested.

3.) Bridge Officers and Powers

You will rely more on your Bridge Officers (BOffs) than on anything else in STO (except, perhaps, the spacebar). Your choice of BOffs (Tactical, Science, Engineering) is up to you.

Each BOff has 2 sets (space and ground) of 4 powers which correspond to their rank (Ensign, Lieutenant, Lt. Commander, Commander). Each power has 9 levels (1-9). Each level costs 50 Bridge Officer Skill points. In order to promote your BOff to the next level (in order to access better powers), you must not only be promoted yourself (Lt. Commander to promote an Ensign BOff to Lieutenant), but must have spent the requisite number of BO Skill points and have enough Starfleet Merits available.

Drak's Reccomendation:
I prefer having one BOff of each type. Like with my powers, I usually level space first; especially any powers that recharge shields/hull. The exception to this are heal-type powers for ground.

Your BOffs are most-easily aquired via missions, and when leveling up(essentially free). The downside to this method is that you don't get to pick your BOff power sets... you get what you're given. You could, of course, buy your BOffs from the BOff Vendor at Sol, however you'll be spending 100 Merits per BOff. Thankfully, there is another option! There is a vendor that just sells BOff powers. If you have a power you want on one of your BOffs, select it (make sure the power is the correct rank!) and choose the BOff you would like to replace a power on. Easy, but remember that it costs Merit points!

Drak's Reccomendation:
You can have more BOffs than you have space on your bridge. Consider purchasing some extra BOffs and tricking out their equipment for a specific task. For example, have a Tactial BOff that has the best ground equipment/powers you can find: the BOff would be next to useless in space, but a beast on the ground.

4.) Equipment (Gear)

Throughout the game, you will pick up a ton of equipment from missions, loot drops, research, and the exchange. This equipment will fit into one of the following categories:

Note that there are many, many, many different varieties within each of these categories, each with their strengths and weaknesses. It will take a Thottbot-like site to catalog and describe them all, so I won't bother doing so here

Many pieces of equipment (like phasers or shields) come with a roman number after them indicating their power level. These correspond with ranks as follows:

  • Lieutenant: I and II
  • Lieutenant Commander: III and IV
  • Commander: V and VI
  • Captain: VII and VIII
  • Admiral: IX and X

So a Lieutenant may be able to loot a Resilient Shield Mk. III, but won't be able to use it till he ranks up to Lt. Commander.

There are 3 (observed) quality tiers for equipment in STO:

  • White (Common)
  • Green (Uncommon)
  • Blue (Rare)

The higher the quality tier of an item, the more powerful is is compared to items of a similar level. There is likely a 4th quality tier, but content at that high a level hasn't been run too much yet (if at all).

Remember that the stats for a piece of equipment as seen in your inventory are the stats *prior* to modification by your skills. A character with alot of skill points in shield-related skills can significantly increase the amount of damage a shield will absorb.

Drak's Reccomendation:
You'll find that the quality, level, and type of equipment you choose to use will have a massive impact on your playstyle. I reccomend spending the first couple missions experimenting with each new drop you get to see which equipment you prefer to use on your character/ship. Remember, you don't have to sell ground equipment you don't want... it might be a great upgrade for one of your BOffs!

Anything you really don't want can be thrown in the replicator to be sold for energy credits. You can then use those credits at a starbase to buy something you really have your eye on!

5.) Missions

A.) Episodes

Episodes are the meat of the content in Star Trek Online. Each episode is unique, although there is a general formula that most of them follow:

  • Space Combat
  • Scan Something
  • (Optional) Repeat the above
  • Beam down to surface
  • Combat against enemies/environment
  • Scan something
  • (Optional) More ground combat and/or boss battle
  • Beam back up
  • (Optional) More space combat and/or boss battle
  • End mission

This holds true for exploration missions and certain fleet actions as well.

Episodes are great for a number of reasons:

  • 20 minute to 1 hour time investment
  • Loot during the mission
  • Develop strategies and tactics which you can use in other game modes (like PvP)
  • You know what loot you'll be getting at the end
  • They move the meta-story along

The downside, of course (there's always a downside!), is that some of these episodes are wicked difficult. There is good news, though! You can be auto-teamed (or team beforehand) with 2-3 other folks doing the same mission. This can make some of the content a ton easier to get past (especially the bosses!). Most of the difficulty is found in space... ground (at the moment) does not have as many variables in motion that can trip you up.

Drak's Reccomendation:
Scenario 1: A group of tough ships that keep killing me before I can kill any of them
a.) On your shortcut bar, make sure you have shortcuts for Balance Shields and Recharge Shields (or a similar shield-enhancing power). Throw a Shield Battery on your shortcut bar if you have any in inventory.
b.) Equip (or purchase, if you don't already have them) dual beams/cannons in your forward weapon slots. Torpedoes in your rear slot(s).
c.) Set your power preset to Weapons.
d.) Approach the group of ships at 1/3 impulse.
e.) Target one of them, and begin firing at max range (10km). If you have an attack-enhancing power, use it.
f.) Keep hitting your shortcut to balance your shields. Recharge if nessecary. Shield battery if desperate.
g.) If you're within 3 km, turn around (use Evasive Maneuvers if need be), hit 100% impulse and fire torpedoes.
h.) Repeat. You may die at some point, but you've taken at least 1 of them with you. Respawn and continue if need be.

Flanders42's Reccomendation:
a.) Tactics, tactics, tactics. I've found it's much easier to pluck off the smaller ships first and keeping the larger ships at a distance, for example a group of three to four Klingon Birds of Prey and a Negh'Var Warship.
b.) Have yours and your Bridge Officers powers on your shortcut bar, mine for example are Emergency Power to Shields, Tachyon Beam and Full Spread as well as Evasive Maneuvers, also a Shield Battery and Weapons Battery can be quite helpful. Also, I've found that having your phasers set on auto-fire is quite nice (this can be done by right clicking on your phasers in the shortcut bar).
c.) Engage the Bird of Prey that's furthest from the Warship, make sure your perpendicular to Bird of Prey (BoP) this way you can hit it with both your fore and aft phasers (no use in using your torpedos as they're pretty useless while shields are up), hit him full on, then turn into him and use your Tachyon Beam weakening his shields further, and hit him once more with forward phasers, the BoP's facing shields should be down now.
d.) Turn into the BoP, activate Full Spread and fire your torpedoes. You'll notice that you fired two torpedoes, this should just about finish off the BoP, if not another hit or two from your phasers will.
e.) Continue this tactic until you've wiped out the BoP's and then it's time to move in for the big kill. If other BoP gang up on you, don't worry, keep on your target, use your arrow keys to re-enforce your shields and if necessary use your Emergency Power to Shields or similar power or even a Shield Battery if you've already had to use Emergency Power to Shields
f.) Again just like with the BoP approach the Negh'Var warship perpendicularly, firing both fore and aft phasers, circle the warship keeping pressure on him, and turning into him now and then to use the Tachyon Pulse. Once your broken through his shields turn into him, activate Full Spread and fire torpedoes. You'll be repeating this maneuver as needed until the warship is dead. .
g.) Remember to re-enforce your shields as they weaken, otherwise you wont last too long with your hull exposed.
h.) If the warship pushes through your shields, you can use Evasive Maneuvers to turn 90-180 degrees so that a fully shielded portion of your ship is now taking the brunt of the attack.
i.) This is my standard attack, and I use it constantly. It works against the Klingons, Orions and the Gorn, however the Gorn Battleship is tough, it's one that I've found that at least at my level I still can't solo.

Kalibos recommendation
while i agree with both styles i use a combination of phaser and disrupter on the forward slots and a mine dropper in the rear. i used the foreward attack and the tachyon pulse to soften them up and then drop mines as i pass them using shield reinforcement as neccesary i have yet to meet the enemy i could not take out like this.

B.) Exploration

Lieutenant Grall will send you to explore all these colorful unexplored star clusters. This basically boils down to approaching a contact and interacting with it. Sometimes it will be a star system, other times it will be a regular anomaly. Star Systems within Star Clusters will set you on a random mission. These missions won't always involve enemy contact, but they will involve alot of scanning and environmental interaction. The best thing about exploration is that it's repeatable. The only downside is that it's easy to get lost in those Star Clusters... you could keep exploring endlessly if you desired! Just make sure to keep picking up the explore cluster mission for the cluster you are in, so you can get the rewards.

C.) Patrols/Secure the Sector

Patrol missions come in two flavors:

  • Visit star systems X, Y, and Z in sector Q. Complete the missions in each system (basically brief episodes).
  • Visit sector X and defend it X number of times.

Patrol missions are level-based, although there does appear to be a progression. Doing patrol system missions is a great way to explore new sectors and get some decent rewards.

Secure the Sector missions, on the other hand, involve engaging an "Enemy Contact" you see while in Sector Space. You need to complete the objectives in the enemy contact mission a certain number of times before the Secure the Sector mission is complete. You will typically play these with a large group of other players, so they can go by quickly (5 minutes to clear the map, then wait 5 minutes for the reset).

Drak's Reccomendation:
Secure the Sector missions (and to a lesser extent, regular patrol missions) are currently the fastest way to run through the levels, if not the most exciting. They not only provide great skill point rewards, but also decent loot drops from the enemy ships. Make sure you are playing the mission that is best for your level. Secure the Sector: Sirius is level 4, for example, while Regulus is 8, with better rewards as a result.

D.) Fleet Actions

The first Fleet Action you'll encounter is Starbase 24. These missions consist of similar gameplay to Secure the Sector missions, except in a much smaller area with alot more targets. There can also be a ground component of these missions, which can (and should) be completed as a group. The rewards and loot for these are decent, and they are fun to play.

8.) PvP

9.) Lieutenant

10.) Lieutenant Commander

11.) Commander

12.) Captain

13.) Admiral

14.) End-game