I can't talk about STFs but I have been in mirror events where we were all in the Oddy, they were the fastest ones I have played in yet. I like that event so much I do it whenever it pops up at a reasonable time for me so I have a general idea on how long it takes. It was only 10 levels later I realised it gave dilithium so that was not an incentive for me it was them being enjoyable.
As others have said it is really down to your playstyle and what you enjoy. Every ship has its strength and weakness learn to work with them and not around them is how you become a better player, and yes I am still learning soo this is not from some uber player perspective just some average player perspective.
At the moment I have a lv 22 tact who uses escorts, however I have been also leveling an engie who uses cruiser, since it seems like it might fit my rush in and open fire play style better. But reading the forums, it seems as though cruisers really do not serve much of a use at the moment, as they still die quickly, and will not do much damage. Are these statements true, or is it just people being bad?
I sense you may have read a few STF, (Special Task Force), threads. There you can overpower the space scenarios with pure DPS.
Listen if I can get a Garumba, (a high end escort), to tank a Borg gateway then some who have done the same would get the impression that cruisers are not needed. Add to that notion the many cruisers are set up for Kirk style solo play and do not set up to heal their teammates and you get this idea that cruisers are not effective.
I have a Bortas and an Odyssey both are built around tetryons that tank very well and can heal while they get a tac cube's attention over time. While they are not as fast as killing bad guys as an escort, that I have kept a couple of escorts alive during a STF and managed to get the final boss' attention so I can use those heals to tank without getting called a n00b implies to me that cruisers are still very effective at what they are supposed to do. Still need to test those ships on elite STFs though.
For the record I am a escort pilot first and always have been since initial launch.
This is most likely why the OP "sees" cruisers get blown to shreds in seconds. New players and those who think the cruiser should be an even heavier hitter than the escort are all too common. Most probably think in current terms. An escort is a "screen" whereas the cruiser is the real power in the fleet.
So you have escort fad being applied to cruiser where cappies are trying to max out damage on the cruiser with all sorts of weird combos and doing nothing to insure their survivability.
Once I hit 50 and started doing STFs... and began to learn... I found that there most certainly was good strategies and bad strategies to ship builds.
Don't think modern navy. Think rather swords and sorcery RPGs.
Escort = rogue backstabber, weak on defense
Cruiser = fighter tank, weak on damage
Science = cleric, good at healing and debuffing the enemy
However, there are builds to overcome in someways the weaknesses I listed. Most often this requires a sacrifice of something else, though. For example, a cruiser heavy on damage will likely go down faster than a "tank-cruiser" and probably have no heals for their teammates.
Take a ship you like, outfit it intelligently, and have fun! All ships can be constructed via equipment, BOs, consoles, and DOs to mimic closely some other ship. But you will find it easier to deal more damage with an escort, tank with a cruiser, and be support as a science ship.
The STFs are a poor design because they only focus on DPS. Most other MMOs have a reason for the Trinity in their end-game Raids/content but it's completely ignored in STO. You can have a lot of fun with Cruisers in leveling PvE and PvP play but they are pointless in STFs. Hopefully Gozer will come to the conclusion that STF don't need to be DPS grindfests; but even when he does come to that conclusion it will still take 6 months to a year for them to be changed.
It's not easy to heal yourself while trying to do some damage to your opponent - likely a escort - and healing a team mate at the same time in the heat of a battle. Moronic idiots who point their fingers to cruiser captains calling them useless for not healing should be shot in the head.
I switched from High Yield 1 + Fire at Will 2 to FAW 1 + HY 2, and I like it a lot. Now that I finally have 4 BORG antiproton beam arrays and antiproton damage console I do quite a lot of damage in STF. It's also somewhat effective in pvp; a salvo of 3 transphasic torps followed by a quantum torp, breen transphasic torp-mines and warp plasma often make some people run, giving me time to heal back to 100%.
The tac captained Oddity, (that's 5 to go Frans), the USS Raoul Duke, I flew in Cure elite did well. Yes it blew up twice, but I was able to put consistent stress on the Tac cube and gate plus was able to keep couple of teammates alive. No one complained about it at the end of the STF and I was even able to run lobo on the probes that were headed to the gate. Both times I blew up were before the last transformer was dropped and could be traced to me healing others at the expense of myself.
I would have to run the Raoul Duke in a PvP match to really get a feel for it's actual sustained DPS, (which it was not designed to do so I do not expect a good return in that arena), but from what I saw it was more than adequate for a cruiser.
All that said and I can relate that a Bortas would have been better.