I only recently started using melee combat (martial arts and bat'leth) with any regularity. It's more fun than I expected, and I'm glad to see that it's getting some love in the near future, at least with new weapons. It reminds me of the Warden gambits in Lord of the Rings Online: There are three basic attacks that the warden can combine into sequences that perform special attacks. It's a mechanic borrowed from Tekken according to Turbine, LOTRO's developer. Since ground combat's in the shop for an upgrade but no real details have come out yet, here are some things I'd like to see in the new ground combat to improve melee combat:
(1) There needs to be a visible representation of the sequence so far.
Right now in STO, it's impossible to tell what combo you're actually building. LOTRO has a dedicated UI element, the gambit builder. There are probably ways to get a similar result with less graphical futzing in STO since it doesn't have the "combos to nowhere" that LOTRO does--sequences that don't result in a special attack--and I'd keep that simplicity in STO melee combos since it's not the primary focus of the game.
I would probably keep some kind of countdown timer where waiting too long or getting stunned breaks the combo, but the current clock is too short and easy to frustrate with a sudden movement or knockdown. Ideally that should also be displayed. There should be a penalty for indecision, but there should also be enough time to think about the best attack for the current situation, perhaps on par with the Expose clock and also modified by traits or skills.
(2) A separate key should activate the special attack.
Deciding if you want the less-effective combo now or risk being interrupted while trying to build up to a bigger move would add some challenge and decision-making to melee combat. It also gets rid of the strange side effect of the current system where a martial artist always precedes a haymaker (112) with a chin strike (11).
I'd prefer an additional key (the 3 key could do double duty if Cryptic doesn't want to add it) so there's both a "do this combo" key and a "start over" key (which I'd assign to the 3 key). If your current opponent goes down or gets exposed by another attacker, the ability to switch attacks could be handy. The "execute combo" icon can change to reflect the special attack that's available and flash to indicate when an exploit attack is ready to go for an exposed enemy. It could also have a cooldown-style embedded clock to let the player know when the current combo will expire and be ghosted out when no combo is available.
Another reason I'd like a fourth standard attack option is to add a "switch between Expose/Exploit" action to gun combat. I'd much rather have the same weapon and switch modes than carry two different weapons to have both effects, and it would be a step towards ending things like double-sniper-rifle tactic that I both despise and use to maximize exploits. It's effective, but it's also a little silly; this isn't Matrix Online. Switching weapons should take more time than changing the mode on the weapon already in your hand(s), and neither should be instantaneous.
I'm on the fence about this new feature and BOffs: Maybe have a right-click menu item to set their mode like the hide armor option. Maybe make them smart enough to choose modes on the fly--someday. Maybe use the default mode based on the weapon's current type. Those weapons might remain a little better at their default mode, too
This comes full circle to melee combat by making it more feasible for a captain to use a single gun and be more willing to use melee combat. It might also be nice if captains default to martial arts if their weapons are holstered rather than automatically drawing their guns or blades on an attack.
(3) Deemphasize spamming palm strike, rifle butt, and bat'leth cross in melee combat.
It's just too easy to spam it on both ends of the melee equation. Yes, this is another mechanic I hate but have to use because it's effective. Spamming attacks like this really isn't that much fun on either end of the rifle butt. Either slow down the attacks, provide improved immunity after it hits, or add some risk in doing it too much, like ...
(4) Add a reaction skill or defensive maneuver for melee combat.
A miss or some kind of opposed close-combat skill check gives the defender using melee combat a briefly-available parry/riposte option that can either mitigate damage or even turn the tables on the attacker. The particular result might change with the type of melee weapon; e.g., martial arts throws (knocks down) the attacker, a Lirpa stuns the attacker with the club end, a Bat'leth damages and potentially exposes the attacker, etc.
I'd probably tie this into the default melee action (3 key) and have it flash (very briefly) when such an opening presents itself. Allowing a chance for reaction on palm strike/rifle butt might also help solve the problem in item 3 by making it risky to spam it with a melee combatant; spamming it might stun your opponent or open you up to something worse.
(5) Add a Batman Classic mode with "Ka-Pow!" and "Bam!" and "Ouch!" and ... OK, maybe four is enough.