Captain's Log: Guide to melee combat in Star Trek Online

Captain to away team: Set fists to Obliterize! It's time again for Captain's Log, our weekly venture into the cosmos of Star Trek Online. Steel your nerves and ready your weapons, because we return this week to the front lines of ground combat.

When Captain's Log last discussed combat, we covered five of the most important basics of fists-and-phasers fighting in STO. With the fundamentals of Exposing and Exploiting firmly in mind, we'll move on -- by popular demand -- to the exciting world of melee combat. Punching out a Borg invader might not seem very Trek-ish, but it sure gets the job done.
Getting your hands dirty

Phasers are pretty rad and all, but sometimes you just have to knuckle under and put fist to face. A few commenters on the ground-combat column suggested I cover melee combat, and they were so right!

The beauty of melee combat is that it bypasses personal shields. You know how Klingon Swordmasters can hack your Federation captain limb from limb in seemingly no time? That's because his Bat'leth goes straight for your face, whereas phasers have to cut through your shields first.

So! It makes sense for you to use melee attacks on shielded enemies, particularly ones who like to regenerate shields.

Who should melee?

Short answer: Tactical officers.

Longer answer: The Tactical officer is the only class to receive melee-specific skills, such as Lunge and Leg Sweep, plus various kits and damage bonuses. Engineering and Science officers receive useful attacks and buffs, but they'll always be less effective at melee than their red-shirted comrades.

So if you want to play a melee character, make a Tactical officer. If you run into the occasional shield-regenerating enemies, however, feel free to melee the heck out of them, no matter which class you are. Just don't make a habit of punching everyone as a Science officer, because it's just not your specialty.

How to melee

If you follow the Federation tutorial's instructions, your character likely has two ranged weapons equipped. That means your melee capabilities are limited to smacking enemies with your phaser or rifle butt, which appears in the third slot on the default ability tray (mapped to your 3 key). But if you remove one of your phaser weapons, you'll open up a world of punchy possibilities.

Without a weapon equipped, you'll have three melee attacks automatically mapped to the 1, 2 and 3 keys: a left punch, a right punch and a palm strike, respectively. Using a Bat'leth offers similar attacks at considerably higher damage. Klingon players have access to a Bat'leth right away. Federation players at level 5 and above can buy one on Deep Space Nine or on the Exchange.

Each melee attack is weak compared to a phaser, but you can string them together for combos. Plus, each basic attack and most combos count as Exposes, and they're fast, so your chance to Exploit your target will skyrocket. And again, you're ignoring shields, so all that damage goes right to the mob's health.

Combos

Now think of melee in fighter-game terms. Just as you would in, say, Street Fighter, you can string basic attacks into combos. And combos, of course, do more damage than basic attacks alone. They also often cause side effects, such as roots or knockbacks. But to create a combo, you have to use attacks consecutively -- and quickly -- without mindlessly mashing buttons.

So, let's say you find a shielded enemy officer badly in need of a clock-cleaning. If you just mash your left-fisted attack -- 1-1-1-1 -- you'll be wasting time and energy. For one thing, you can only use the same attack twice in quick succession before running into a brief cooldown. Also, you'll be using the same basic combo over and over again. You're much better off either varying your combos or spamming a more powerful combo that won't run you up against a cooldown.

A fellow by the name of NahK put together an excellent guide to melee combat on the official forums. He covers all the combos for both fisticuffs and Bat'leths, including their possible side effects. There are quite a few, so check them out. Note than when he writes, for example, "112," that means the combo requires you to string together the 1 attack, 1 attack and 2 attack.

Despite the variety of combos, you can focus on just a few important mainstays.

Melee
  • 112 -- High critical chance. Doubles as an Exploit.
  • 212 -- A basic kick that can disable an enemy for 3 seconds.
  • 122 -- An AoE spin kick. Doubles as an Exploit.

Bat'leth
  • 122 -- Inflicts a stacking DoT. Doubles as an Exploit.
  • 121 -- An AoE attack.

Exploitation

As with ranged combat, melee combat relies heavily on Exposing and Exploiting. Again, one of the great advantages of melee combat is that almost every hit -- including each attack in most combos -- gives you a 10-percent chance to Expose your target.

The only exceptions are the handful of combos that qualify as Exploits, which you'll want to have ready for Exposed enemies. Conveniently, as the list above demonstrates, some of the best attacks to spam on enemies double as Exploits, so you don't really have to change your pattern of attack.

But for ease of reference, the available Exploits are as follows.

Melee
  • 112 -- Haymaker. Recommended for spamming.
  • 122 -- Spin Kick. Recommended for AoE.
  • 211 -- Knife Hand Chop.

Bat'leth
  • 122 -- Impale. Recommended for spamming.
  • 112 -- Chop. Basically the same attack as Impale, but you swing your weapon more slowly, so you have a greater chance to be interrupted. My personal favorite, but only if the mob is stunned or something to prevent interruption.
Some final pointers

That's about it, folks. Basic melee combat is really pretty simple -- combo until Exposed, and then Exploit -- but it can take some getting used to. These tips should help.
  1. Use your 3 attack as an opener. Its high chance to knock down your opponent makes it that much easier to string together some combos.
  2. The Physical Strength trait adds 10 percent to physical damage bonus, so any melee-heavy character should grab that.
  3. Don't make your Bridge Officers melee. Sure, they occasionally use rifle butts or leg sweeps, but Bridge Officers on pure melee won't use combos, which renders them all but useless.

I suggest reading NahK's forum post for some other helpful tidbits -- the Dylozene strategy is particularly helpful. And as you travel the galaxy with today's guide in mind, enjoy punching and stabbing where no one has punched and stabbed before.
This article was originally published on Massively.