Like many of you, I am opting in for the upcoming optional skill point respec. After the mistake of focusing on a shield tanked Gallente dropsuit, I’ve decided to make a much greater deal of thinking it through this time around. To that end, I’ve written up this handy skill guide to help out the newer players out there as well as those that need to brush up on their dropsuit skill-related knowledge with the upcoming respec. The guide is organized as to follow the skill UI in-game.
The principal means of combat in Dust, the dropsuit, is as familiar to the Dust mercenary as a second layer of skin. It is therefore important to choose wisely when picking a type of dropsuit to specialize in. When making that choice, it is good to remember the strengths and weaknesses of each size of dropsuit and also those of the different racial varieties.
There are three different sizes of dropsuit in Dust 514: light, medium, and heavy. The differences in size largely revolve around three things: agility/maneuverability, CPU/PG output, and shield/armor amounts. Light dropsuits are by far the most agile of the three sizes. What hold them back are their lack of fitting options (fewer module slots and less CPU/PG) and very little shield and armor strength when compared to the other sizes. Medium dropsuits are by far the most versatile of the sizes. The have the most CPU/PG as well the most module slots. Their shield and armor strength is more than that of the light frame but it doesn’t have nearly as much as the last size, heavy frames. Apart from their HP, the other defining feature of heavy dropsuits is their ability to use heavy weapons.
In addition to size, it would be prudent to take into account the different races of dropsuits available. Although all the racial dropsuits have yet to be implemented, there are some general trends that one can see when comparing them. Generally Caldari and Minmatar favor shield tanking, while Gallente favors armor. Amarr is unique in that it is equally equipped to tank with either shield or armor.
Upon reaching level three with your chosen dropsuit, you unlock the ability to learn to use specialized dropsuits. While these suits are similar to their non-specialized cousins, they come with a unique bonus that activates while you wear a suit requiring that skill. For example, the Gallente assault specialization will grant a bonus to shield recharge rate and reduce the CPU and PG used by hybrid weapons. At the moment, light frame suits are able to specialize to become scouts, heavy frames to sentinels, and medium frames to either assault or logistics. Each specialization has a unique bonus based on the suit's specialization and race.
Dropsuit Upgrades: Shield and Armor
Once you have your dropsuit chosen it’s time to fit it. This is where the Dropsuit Upgrades skills come in. These skills focus on the unlocking and fitting of modules and equipment, as well as improving your shield and armor. It is important to note many of the skills that unlock modules also will increase the effectiveness of the module they relate to. For instance, the higher you level up your armor plating skill the more the plates will provide you with extra armor, in addition to unlocking higher level plates.
First off, let’s discuss the differences between shields and armor. As mentioned in the section above, the different races favor either armor or shield. Both have their benefits and their weaknesses.
As an overall feature, shields favor mobility. They don’t rely on hefty plates of armor to repel damage, so shield tankers tend to be faster and more agile than their armor counterparts. Additionally, shields will restore themselves over time whether the user is shield or armor tanked. The downside is that in order to recover, shields cannot take additional damage. What’s more, if your shields are completely used up, it will take up to ten seconds for them to begin to recover. This inconvenience can make protracted engagements difficult for a shield user unable to fall back and recover. The modules in the shield upgrades skill tree focus on increasing the overall strength of your shields, improving the rate at which they recover, and reducing the time it takes before they begin to recover.
Armor is defined by its ability keep the user alive during a fierce firefight. It is much easier to increase HP using armor upgrades rather than shields. For instance, armor plates will increase your armor nearly twice as much as an equal level shield extender would increase shields. A downside of armor is that it will not repair itself without a specialized module, an aptly named armor repairer. On the bright side, armor repairers will continue to repair armor even when you are taking damage, albeit much slower than the rate that you shields will recharge. The final thing to note with armor is it will decrease your speed and mobility. Armor plates have the effect of increasing HP while decreasing speed. This effect increases as you use higher level armor plates. For example, the basic plate decreases speed by 3% while the complex plate decreases it by 10%.
So which should you go for, armor or shield? As a rule, it is generally a good idea to go with the tanking specialty that the race of your chosen dropsuit favors, so shield for Caldari and Minmatar and armor for Gallente. Amarr can go either way but it is worth noting that Amarr heavy frames can easily use both shield and armor tanking for max HP.