We all know this ability stinks. It does minimal additional damage to random targets and affects only one beam. That seems silly. What if, instead, Fire at Will worked slightly more like Rapid Fire? Here's what I'm proposing:
Fire at Will
15 second duration, 45 second cooldown (at 9/9).
Applies a buff to your ship. For the duration of this ability, each beam weapon on your ship will automatically fire at random targets in its range and firing arc, and do an additional X% damage (let X be some number that Cryptic believes is balanced).
Why do I want this? Here are some reasons:
1. Beam damage skills suck. Overload is occasionally useful, Fire at Will is just bad.
2. I'm personally annoyed that my weapons can only fire at my current target. Even if I have weapons that are ready to fire and there are enemies in the arc of those weapons, I cannot shoot them without changing targets. On a proper starship, I would be able to let my officers fire weapons independently at targets of opportunity. If my fore weapons are shooting at my current target, my aft weapons should be capable of shooting at other things that happen to be in range. Fire at Will fits this paradigm both conceptually and practically.
3. The ability to fire weapons at many different targets would be useful for threat purposes as well as flavor. Imagine a Cruiser jumping into the midst of a bunch of Probes and firing phasers in all directions. Visually it would look amazing, I think it would be closer to canon than what we have now, and because of the random factor I very much doubt that it would create balance issues. In a 1v1 situation, Fire at Will would just be a small damage boost to your beams over normal firing.
it does indeed effect ALL of your beam banks/arrays by randomly selecting a target for each one and shooting at it.
I do not believe this is true, and have spent a little time testing it. All you have to do is turn autofire off and shoot one beam at a time. Only the first beam following the activation of Fire at Will will shoot at random targets. It's relatively easy to tell visually, since the beam attack is shorter and has a slightly different sound.
I always thought FAW was a tanking ability. It allows you to keep agro on multiple target so the DPS can take them out.
It does nothing of the kind. To keep agro it would have to deal noticeable damage. All that it's good for right now is generating a tiny bit of initial agro on a few extra ships. As soon as you so much as throw a spitball at those ships, they'll forget about the Cruiser and come for you.
Personally I'd like to see FAW changed to be a 15 second buff, 30 second cooldown, 15 second shared cooldown.
Rank 1 could do no additional damage, maybe a small % increase for ranks 2 and 3.
Basically I'd like it to be a buff that force fires all of your beams at random targets within the firing arcs. If there's a target you need to focus on, let the buff fall off and focus fire, but when you're just trying to keep everything's attention, fire all beams all directions. Perhaps make the damage from this ability generate additional threat as well?
A 15 second duration is a long time for all your energy weapons to be at the mercy of the RNG. I agree that FAW needs an overhaul, and it should certainly affect all beams (heck, CRF works on all cannons, why can't we have our primary beam ability work on all our beams?), but 15 seconds of pure random fire is going to be somewhat hard to manage. It doesn't matter how much damage you put into your beam weapons, an escort will always be able to pull agro off a cruiser or science vessel. FAW seems to exist for the purpose of grabbing that initial agro, not for maintaining it. Also, if a hard target suddenly becomes vulnerable (i.e. a borg cube that just lost a shield facing) you'd want to be able to bring all weapons to bear on that target to knock it down while you have the opportunity. Unless you can manually disengage this version of FAW, you're going to be stuck hoping for some random shots to hit that particular target.
I do like the idea you've presented for FAW, but I think either Overload needs to be reworked as well, or a new beam ability needs to be introduced for raw damage output (nothing as powerful as CRF on an escort, but cruisers and science vessels do need weapon damage on occasion).