Star Trek Online has many unique features which differentiate it from other games, and one of them is the way character progression and leveling works. In Star Trek Online (STO) players can achieve five different ranks, the same as we’ve seen in Star Trek movies and series, except in the game you get to command your own ship as soon as you start playing.
The first rank players get is Ensign, however it is only available during the rather short tutorial. As soon as the tutorial mission is over, players are promoted to the rank of Lieutenant. Further ranks are achieved primarily by completing missions, which reward skill points. When those skill points are used you will get a grade (level), and ten grades upgrade your character to the next rank. At level 11 you’re promoted to Lieutenant Commander, at 21 to Commander, 31 Captain and at level 41 you gain the highest rank, Rear Admiral.
By progressing through grades and ranks you gain access to better equipment and more powerful abilities which can be used both in ground and space combat. On each rank you will be given a new ship as well, so make sure to visit Earth Spacedock to requisition it. Basically, this is the character progression in STO and while it confuses new players, it’s actually rather simple and you will get used to it quickly.
The easiest way to gain skill points and therefore level quickly is repeatedly doing exploration missions, but it gets very tedious and boring soon. With such grinding it’s apparently possible to get to Rear Admiral rank in only a few days of playtime but I hardly think any player can handle doing the same mission over and over. In order to gain a level you have to complete 3-4 missions, and every level you gain an average of three missions. It takes a bit more after level 20 or so, but by the time you are promoted to Commander rank you’ll figure out which missions you should do. If you do an extra Fleet Action or Defend mission you should gain enough “experience” for the next level.
You can also gain plenty of skill points by engaging in PvP combat if you prefer it, but I like to differentiate missions as much as possible. My favorite missions are no doubt Episodes (also called Campaign quests or storyline): they often last about 1 hour which might seem a lot, but they include a variety of encounters and are for the most part fun to do. The best things is they often award really good equipment so you might want to make sure to complete them.
If you have any suggestions on gaining ranks and leveling quickly be sure to tell us via comments below!