Escort. Specifically the MVAM for its Lt. Com slot gives you escort level AoE damage with science crowd control.
I think this ship itself is the most effective PvE ship. Its an escort, meaning you can clear fleet missions, STFs, Romulan reputation missions, pretty much all PvE with ease. When you add in the Lt. Com sci slot, you have room for grav well or TSS III. If you didnt specifically want those, then you can still slot a tractor beam or repulsors without giving up your science heals.
I've honestly never lost a Cruiser on Normal in PvE outside of STFs. Never. I've only lost a Science vessel once to a Romulan plasma torp gank more likely due to a game bug or lag than anything (A plasma torpedo spread on Normal shouldn't one shot anything...). I've rarely lost any Escorts. I don't remember losing more than one after hitting Admiral.
It's not that I think I'm a particularly good player. I've seen good players, and outside events and STFs, they don't lose ships on Normal, period. Normal is a cakewalk, and the way the game is now, any Captain on any ship of the appropriate level should almost never die and get through content just fine.
Escorts can be close calls, but as long as you build a good balance of heals and pack in a couple of Tac Teams to keep balancing shields, it should buy you enough time to destroy any enemy ships.
Cruisers may take the longest of the 3...when Eject Warp Plasma isn't charged. It is perhaps the single most useful offensive power a Cruiser is likely to get.
Science ships only have to worry when plasma is involved, but one would assume a science ship would also pick up Hazard Emitters, which neutralizes that particular threat. Gravity Well is perhaps a poor man's Eject Warp Plasma, but it can be launched right away, at range, keeping your frontal weapons targeting your enemy for longer, as Eject Warp Plasma generally means you've flown past your target and need to turn to either broadside or get them in your forward cone for other powers.
Of course, there are a few ships at VA that can provide a good mix of these things. Most notably the Vesta and Odyssey.
My Vesta is set up weapons-wise like an Escort, but has the control of a Science ship, and with the combination of consoles it has, can tank anything but gigantic burst damage close enough to a Cruiser for it to not matter, and still has a shuttle escort.
With my Ody, I've kept the consoles but still managed to load up enough weapons to be a significant threat, and the universal BOffs allow me to load up with both Warp Plasma and Grav Well. If the Aquarius didn't get swatted out of space so easily, it too would easily cover its bases well.
Ultimately, though, on Normal, every ship should be able to do all normal content easily. That's how this game is designed. If you're having trouble with any content at all on Normal, you should be posting your build and getting advice, because frankly, if that's happening, you're doing something to gimp yourself somewhere. You don't even need max builds--a decent build that allows for personal taste or extra unnecessary toys is more than enough for all normal content.
For leveling simply use the free cruisers - can't go wrong with them - and at levelcap invest in an escort ( or when reaching 40 ,pick the escort) . There's no "best" ship class in the game . Anyone saying something different is lying .Each class has its merits and there isn't a class which is clearly better than all others .
When you're engineer or sci you might want to try a carrier as well - if only for the fun part of using carrier pets - as it's highly effective. But all of those cost RL cash - unless you're KDF,they can pick a free carrier at lvl 40 - so you might want to read up about them on the forums before purchasing .The whole escort vs. cruiser debate in this thread is ridiculous....
Last edited by rikwessels; 12-04-2012 at 06:09 AM.