I have been playing DUST 514 for about one month now, and in that time I've created 4 characters and 2 separate login accounts on PSN, due mainly to ongoing realizations about how to take the best advantage of the game's framework and rules. While the shooter mechanics are pretty straightforward, the game is quite complex when you consider all the various options available to you as a player.
The first character I had created lasted all of 48 hours. I quickly realized that the starting 500,000 skill points were incorrectly allocated across too many items resulting in very little progress on any given front. There isn't much in the way of a tutorial for this game and you are tossed into an environment with a pretty steep learning curve.
The three main categories that would concern new players are Dropsuit Command, Dropsuit Upgrades and Weaponry. I quickly realized that I had wastefully allocated my starting skill points into too many skills. None of them made much of an impact at low levels and it would take me at least 2 weeks to get enough points to start to make corrections. Oops.
My second character fared much better and has been the main character I've been playing for the past month. I went with an Assault class and skilled into the Gallente Medium Advanced Assault Dropsuit off the bat. Truth be told, I'm not the best FPS player so I figured the Gallente dropsuits which emphasize more armor would be a good place to start.
While more armor kept me alive a little bit longer, I still got killed a lot. I came to the realization that situational awareness and cover are actually more important than how much shields and armor you have. Keeping track of where you are, versus where the enemy is, as well as making sure that you shoot from cover and have someplace to safely duck behind while your shields/armor regenerate is much more important to staying alive than being built like a tank.
This led me to making my third character about 20 days into playing DUST. As an experiment, I decided to switch things up a bit. Instead of going for a good dropsuit first, I decided to directly level my weaponry for more damage out of the gate. At this point I found that I was getting better at watching what was going on both in battle and on my HUD, so I figured I could give up better protection for more weapon damage.
The result was that I was actually scoring better early on as I was dealing more damage, despite the crappy basic dropsuit. The key was avoiding situations that would surely get you killed. This proves that playing smarter actually keeps you alive longer despite the fact that I had crappy armor. Again, cover and situational awareness are key to surviving.
Also, for my third character I went with a female since I was told that female characters are physically smaller than their male counterparts and therefore make them a bit harder to hit. In theory it sounded good, but in practice, I haven't noticed too much of a difference as most of the shooting is done at fairly close ranges. The hit detection in DUST 514 seems a bit suspect, to me at least.
I chose to go with a Caldari suit for my third character. Caldari suits emphasize shields over armor, which is the exact opposite of Gallente dropsuits. While the Gallente suit can make you a little tougher to kill, armor regenerates more slowly than shields. With enough shields and a higher level shield regenerator, you can quickly alternate between fire and cover. On a Gallente suit, once your shields are gone every hit penetrates armor and that takes a lot longer to regenerate.
And finally, I started my fourth character on a new PSN account today. The reason is that while you are allowed to play up to three characters per PSN account on DUST 514, only one character can be assigned to receive passive skill points. Passive skill points accrue at about 1,000 points per hour so you get 24,000 free points every day. With both my second and third characters on the same PSN account, I have to choose which one gets the passive SP bonus. Putting my fourth character on a separate PSN account means that it gets the passive bonus separately from my main account.
Also for my fourth character, I decided to make what is called an Assault/Logi. Logi (short for Logistics) characters can easily rack up a lot of points during battle by providing essential support services, other than just straight killing the enemy. Logis heal teammates, repair their armor/shields, repair vehicles etc. These actions give additional points not available to straight assault or heavy class characters.
Logis can be a little hard to play at the beginning. In order to be effective, you have more equipment you need to level up above and beyond your primary weapon. However, in the long run, you will consistently score more points than other character classes that score based only on killing the other side.
DUST 514 has a massive tech/skill tree for each of the 4 races present in the game. While choosing any particular race doesn't affect anything other than your starting location within the DUST/EVE universe, the dropsuits of each of the 4 races vary quite a bit. If you further consider the different classes such as assault, anti-armor, sniper, logistics and heavies, then there is a very wide range of options that you can skill into to optimize each of these classes.
As mentioned previously, the main categories important for the beginning player are Dropsuit Command, Dropsuit Upgrades and Weaponry. Dropsuit Command determines what class of dropsuit you skill into, i.e. light, medium or heavy; and also the level, i.e. basic, advanced or prototype.
You can choose the dropsuit of any race, but you really should focus on the suit that would be optimum for the class and role you plan to take on the battlefield. It takes a long time to move from basic to advanced and finally prototype suits so for the first 2-3 months, you're going to be stuck with leveling your one suit.
Dropsuit upgrades affect and optimize the different abilities of the various dropsuits. There are skills for increasing the effectiveness of armor and shields as well as core system upgrades that affect things such as available CPU/PG and allows you to use equipment such as active scanners, drop uplinks and nanohives or improve skills such as hacking which is required to capture resources on the battlefield.
Finally the Weaponry skill determines the class and type of weapon you can use. Weapons are separated into several categories including light weapons which cover the various types of assault rifles, sidearms which cover pistols and SMGs, and finally heavy weapons such as the heavy machine gun or forge guns.
As you can see, there is a huge amount of choice and customization available for every player to create a character suited to their playing style. In my next update, I'll get into the various classes and how they work together on the battlefield.