DUST 514's character development system is very in-depth. Even in the beta, the game has about 100 different skills to train ranging from weapon and armor specialisation to vehicle control and shield and armor buffs. It would be understandable to be a little lost amongst all the options CCP has given you to develop your merc, but if you can take a few minutes to read over this guide, we can give you a bit of advice as to how to start off.
Getting down to business, we will run through some of the founding skills that you should consider training as you start your persistent soldier's career. This is all just advice based on the idea of building the core of your mercenary before working on the details. Doing it this way affords you the chance to explore the different roles in DUST 514 before ultimately defining your forte. Over time and with dedication you will end up levelling more and more skills so your proficiency across multiple battlefield arts will grow, meaning that you can change your loadout and strategy based on the ebb and flow of the confrontation. Initially however, finding your niche is important. Who wants to be a jack of all trades and master of none?
Here are some of the basic skills you should get no matter what your play style will be. They offer you great passive stat boosts that will aid you every second in battle. Skills that offer a 25% buff go up in increments of 5% and those with 15% in increments of 3%. The numbers below reflect the skills trained to level V, however, training most to level IV is sufficient for now.
Dropsuit Command V: unlock various tier dropsuits, -25% scan profile
Combat Engineering V: unlocks Shield Boost Systems, +25% powergrid
Shield Boost Systems V: unlocks Shield Control, +15% dropsuit/vehicle shield recharge rate
Shield Control V: +25% dropsuit/vehicle shield capacity
Field Mechanics V: +25% dropsuit/vehicle armor capacity
Endurance V: +25% stamina
Vigor V: +25% stamina, +25% staminastamina recovery rate
Circuitry V: unlock sensor upgrades, +25% CPU
Sensor Upgrades II: unlock profile dampening
Profile Analysis V: -25% scan profile
In the early days, you should think about what kind of weapon class you will play with; Sidearm, Light or Heavy. An important note is that Heavy Weapons can only be wielded by mercs wearing the Heavy class dropsuit. You will not be carrying a Forge Gun around the battlefield while donning your Scout armor any time soon.
For this reason, unless you KNOW you are destined for the Heavy road, you should work on Light Weapon Upgrades which will support you regardless of which of the remaining suit classes you choose. If you have already found your favourite weapon and know you’ll stick with it, then find your own the balance between weapon specific and class specific training based on your play style. Focussing on Sharpshooter is beneficial early on because it increases your weapon's max range by 25% at level V which can make a big difference in battle, especially if yours are the only bullets reaching their target. If you haven’t yet found your weapon, you should consider levelling the class specific skills first. With them you will be increasing the ammo, reload speed, range and CPU usage of ALL weapons in the class including sniper rifles, mass drivers, assault rifles, shotguns, swarm launchers and more. The following skills are the same for Sidearm, Light and Heavy weapon classes. When maxed out, each class can receive +40% more ammunition capacity, +25% faster reload speed, +40% weapon range and +40% reduced CPU usage.
Weapon Capacity V: +25 ammunition
Weapon Capacity Proficiency V: +15% ammunition
Weapon Rapid Reload V: +15% reload speed
Weapon Rapid Reload Proficiency V: +10% reload speed
Weapon Sharpshooter V: +25% effective range
Weapon Sharpshooter Proficiency V: +15% effective range
Weapon Upgrade V: -25% CPU usage
Weapon Upgrade Proficiency V: -15% CPU usage
Shield vs Armor
In DUST 514 mercenaries and vehicles have both armor and shield at their disposal. Both of these can be built up through skill training and modules but they act differently and have various trade-offs. While I have advocated boosting skills that raise your base armor and shield stats, you ought to consider which method of protection you will choose long term so that you can train to make that technology more effective and less resource consuming.
+ Regenerates without needing modules (passive healing)
+ It has a high recharge rate (passive)
+ No penalty in movement speed
+ Offers independent survivability in the field (you don’t need anyone to repair you)
- Scan signature increases with shield usage
- Higher CPU and PG consumption than armor
- Long recharge delay
- Lower overall increase (lower hp per module)
- You need more SP to get the +25% bonus shield capacity than you do for armor
+ It has module enabled active repairing of upto 5HP per second
+ Regen happens continually even in combat, unlike shields
+ Higher overall increase (more HP offered per module)
+ Lower overall CPU and PG consumption
+ Less SP is needed to get the +25% armor capacity
- Movement is hampered by the heavy armor plates
- Lower recharge rate (2-5hp/second v 20+ hp/second)
- Has to be repaired via repair tool or special hives
The repair tool can be equipped by anyone who has trained the skill, so while armor can't auto-regen quite as fast as shields, if you play with a good logistics mercenary you can take advantage of the cheaper nature of armor over shields, provided he/she repairs you between fire-fights. The best repair tool at the moment can repair 44 HP/s. Entry level models are able repair 25 HP/s.
That is also the downside of training in armor; its viability depends largely on others, or special armor regen modules. The active regen achieved with said modules pales compared to the passive regen of shields. The best module offers 5 HP/s which isn't very exciting, however armor regen doesn’t have a delay like shields and starts even while still in combat. In a nutshell; armor is cheaper to buff and takes less CPU and PG to support with modules, but requires more resources on the battlefield to repair and will decrease your movement speed. It is probably best used by soldiers at the rear of a confrontation where the logistic classes heal the damaged. Shields make you more independent and have no speed penalty, but they are more expensive to buff and will increase your profile reading on the battlefield and may be better suited to front line soldiers.
Once you have decided what's best for you, you'll want to think about investing in making sure that option is as efficient as it can be. Mechanics and Engineering skill trees will augment your armor and shields respectively and make module resource consumption lower so you can buff them further with modules.
This should be enough to give you an idea about how to move forward. Of course it goes without saying that there is no right or wrong way to develop in DUST 514. What I have shared here is just my thoughts about hitting those core skills that will build your foundation. By the time you have them well trained you should have a good idea about how you will continue with your upgrades.
My last piece of advice is to not head into the dust alone. Our members are friendly and helpful and would love to have you join our corporation and be part of the community here at PSU. The banner below will take you to our corp sign up thread where you can introduce yourself and get to know your fellow mercs.