STO’s New Skill System – Part One: Overview & Unlocks

Updated: The new system has not been scheduled for release.  My original assertion of a two week window for testing was based on misreading a forum post.  My apologies.

The big Skill System reveal happened earlier this morning, and between the ESD chat misinformation, and the forum hysteria we got a chance to take a first hand look at the new Skill System. Every time a game launches something as comprehensive as a new base skill system, there are bound to be issues and this launch is no exception.  What does stand out for me is the exceptional level of engagement from the chief designer Jeremy Randall (@BorticusCryptic) with the player base.

From the moment we were downloading the Tribble update, Jeremy was communicating via STO Tribble testing forum, Reddit (The Official Thread) and via Twitter.

Part One focuses on structure and unlocks, meaning I won’t be touching on actual numbers and skill choices.   As stated in the forums and on Twitter, the system is in a testing phase this week for new characters only meaning the order of ability’s and even the abilities themselves may change in the next week based on feedback.  A fair amount of work is still needed in terms language and consoles, and Borticus has already commented on possible changes.  For that reason we won’t get too deep in the skills themselves.

One point I should make is that the system as it stands is scheduled to be deployed as is to Holodeck in two weeks (note: this was from a comment from Borticus in the forums.  I will ask for a clarification.  As another hint 11.5 is closer than we think, pre-patching has already started)  Borticus clarified that this hasn’t been scheduled for release quite yet, and there’s time for review.. Any changes that might be made will likely be considered and locked in very shortly.  For that reason the order in which the skills are displayed in the system and the bonuses may change before moving to Holodeck.

The Skill System UI

The base UI looks and functions similarly to the existing Specialization Point system. Skills are broken into four basic tracks: Engineering Space, Science Space, Tactical Space, and on a separate tab the Ground Track.

Spaces Skills and Unlock tracks
Universal Ground Skills and Unlock Track


The main body of the screen shows the skill chains.  Each skill costs 1 skill point, and the player can get a complete description of that skill in a pop-up window as you mouse over. I don’t know about your experience, but I was always a bit confused over the value of 6 points in one skill versus 9 points in another.  The benefit of the change is immediate – one skill with one value – regardless of your career choice.   If you’re a fan of the Specialization points system, this will all seem second nature.

Skills have been merged, updated or in some cases outright removed.  Others have been converted into unlocks (see below) rewarded at rank increases for space skills, completing the professional tracks and with each point spent on ground.

New skills include Drain Expertise and Control Expertise giving science captains better control with exotic damage, drains, and subsystem abilities.  For ground combat Kit Performance enhances kits,  while Combat Specialist is open to all professions but is now limited to melee combat.

Attack Patterns and Threat Control (ground) have been removed.  Attack Patterns have been built in as if you’re already fully invested.  Threat Control (ground) was removed in its entirety.

Three entirely new skills have been added:

Coordination Protocols

  • This 3-point Skill allows players to increase the effectiveness of their Hangar Pets, by gaining passive bonuses to their hull capacity, shield capacity, damage output, damage resistance, defense and accuracy.

Shield Mastery

  • Purchasing the first rank in this 3-point Skill allows you to automatically negate the damage from one incoming Critical Hit every 20 seconds. Additional investments can be made to also have this negation trigger a Shield Heal and/or Reflect the damage back at the attacker.

Long-Range Targeting Sensors

  • Each rank purchased in this 3-point Skill will reduce the damage penalty experienced by being far away from the target of your energy weapons.


Every player will be able to reorganize their skills initially at no cost.  But given the wide array of new unlocks and our lack of fully understanding the impact of these changes,  I can see many of us going through RESPEC’s like french fries.


Skill Points

The number of points that you can use to build out your skill set is limited to 44 46 in space and 10 on the ground, but I’m already thinking that that total number may change at some point in the future.  For the moment it will match – point for point value – with the existing system.  Players can cross train between the three profession tracks, but the various unlocks and the new ‘Ultimate Unlocks’ are designed to provide the player with new build-types and options.


At the bottom of both the space and ground  panels is a track that shows additional ‘Unlocks’ that are opened as your reach predetermined levels.  The Unlocks are added abilities that you gain when you reach a certain point in development.  They are similar in format to the unlocks you get in a reputation track with one clear difference – all have two options for what you can unlock as you complete each rank.

The space skill tracks have a single unlock  at each rank improvement for a total of four. At each rank level you complete you will have 2 options to choose from.  The ground track is different in that as you develop, each skill purchased has a corresponding unlock with two options.

Lastly Star Trek Online has added new ‘Ultimate Unlocks’ for each of the three professional space tracks.  At the moment we do not know the value of these ultimate unlocks in terms of builds, or how preceding skill choices impact their use.

Tactical Track Unlocks

Click for HiRes Version

Science Track Unlocks

Click for HiRes Version


Engineering Track Unlocks

Click for HiRes Version


Ground Track Unlocks (1-10)

Click for HiRes Version
Click for HiRes Version

Ultimate Unlocks

Borticus has hinted the purpose of these ultimate unlocks is to encourage people to experiment with new builds and skills.  Given the number of skill points is limited, players will not be able to select more than one.  As they will impact the builds in as yet untested ways – and their descriptions are not entirely clear – it was the cause of much discussion online and in the game.  I’ll do my best to summarize those discussions as the changes are tested this week and next.

ultimate ultimates
Click for HiRes Version

I’ve started a new character on Tribble to get a sense of how the system works.  Next week we’ll port over actual Lvl 60 characters for comparisons.  So far I’m liking the simplicity of the new system, and I am very curious how this will impact my existing builds.

My Two Bits – for now 😉


6 thoughts on “STO’s New Skill System – Part One: Overview & Unlocks

  1. Just tried out the thing….
    The final thought is that either they have to remove respec token completely, or they need to provide alternative way to obtain them indefinitely…
    Some of the abilities (ie. pet related) tied heavily with ship, and with current trend of the game heavily discourage alts…. Every time you decide switch a ship with optimal skill layout will cost you $5.00…..


      1. YES! But unfortunately from Priorityone’s interview, highly possible they’ve already made up their mind about persistence of respec token as a way to monetize the system, which I personally think its a really bad idea base on current design.


  2. I’ve thought for some time that space skills are about how captains train their crews, not captains themselves. The hangar pet unlock emphasizes that point. This is probably too involved to move to a per-ship or per-load-out basis, like I want done with space traits, but a boy can dream.

    This reminds me of the skills revamp LOTRO had a few years ago; looks like MMOs are consolidating on the same ideas around skill trees.


  3. Can somebody explain how the shield hardening is supposed to work the tooltip made it seem like the shields would never go down, but that cant be right.


  4. I find the new system more frustrating then the last. The ability to try on a build before committing to it SHOULD exist since I’m being charged to change it if I don’t like it. Frankly – I’m starting to hate this game.

    There’s a name for changing the rules after play has begun – it’s called cheating. Which is effectively what STO is doing to its players – cheating them. Skill revamp – sure! bug fixes? nope. Unplayable lag due to new skills from that revamp? SURE! Well thought out? nope.


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