UPDATED: These builds have been changed and updated since the changes introduced in patch 1.3.
Level 20 :: Level 30 :: Level 40 :: Level 50
Note: hovering over bright blue links with open a tooltip with a summary of the ability.
(You can find the original discussion on why I chose these talents up to level 20 here).
This build is for PvE play focused on single-target dps (damage-per-second). I may create a separate PvP build if Bioware ever allow dual-specs. My experience with dps builds in previous games has shown me that maximising critical damage and critical chance has had the most benefit, so I have tried to take that into account with my decisions, but I will be focusing mainly on the Sharpshooter tree.
At level 20 I plan to have my build at 3/3/5 (Dirty Fighting/Saboteur/Sharpshooter). The final build will probably be 3/7/31, but I wanted to spend some early points in the other trees to maximise critical and Cunning (a Smuggler's primary stat).
Steady Shots and Sharpshooter will increase the range, accuracy and damage of several of the primary and most commonly used single-target dps skills. Whilst I will eventually be putting points into Cover Screen I felt that I did not need it right now as my survivability is very good without it.
Streetwise in the Saboteur tree will increase my Cunning by 9% at tier 3, and this is my primary stat and determines my base damage along with my weapon. Finally No Holds Barred increases the critical strike chance by 3%, which is in line with my policy of increasing critical effects.
(You can find the original discussion on why I chose these talents up to level 30 here).
UPDATE: Following patch 1.2 I have removed the point from Percussive Shot to spend elsewhere, as it does nothing to add to my dps and only offers a very slight defensive bonus versus melee opponents.The saved point will be spent in Cover Screen to unlock the tier 3 abilities.
At level 30 I am still concentrating on the Sharpshooter tree, with just an extra two points allocated to the Saboteur tree. These will be used to raise Bravado, which will increase my energy - I've noticed that I am using energy much more quickly now; it's something I have to keep an eye on.
The way the energy system works is that it regenerates more quickly when it is kept between 60% and 100%. If it falls very low, below 20% then it takes a long time to regenerate. Therefore I am trying to keep my energy bar up above 60% during fights, using Flurry of Bolts to fill in the odd gap whilst it recovers.
The other talents I am taking are all on the Sharpshooter tree. I'm taking all abilities to maximum on the second tier except for Percussive Shot and Trip Shot. I find Leg Shot to be a very reactive ability that I only use occasionally - the vast majority of mobs that require it to keep them at distance come in large groups anyway.
On the third tier I'll be maximising Snap Shot as Charged Burst is one of the main abilities I am using in my current dps rotation. It's effective, and relatively cheap with regards to energy, and removing the activation time will speed combat up at the beginning of fights, front loading the dps more. I'll also be putting a point into Quick Aim for much the same reason. Aimed Shot is my highest dps ability but has the longest cooldown, so anything that can minimise the activation time will help greatly.
I will be maximising all skills on the third tier eventually, but won't have enough points to do that by level 30.
(You can find the original discussion on why I chose these talents up to level 40 here).
UPDATE: Following patch 1.3 I have rearranged my abilities somewhat as Burst Volley is now at the cap of the tree.
All of the points gained between levels 30 and 40 will be going into the Sharpshooter tree, to give a talent build of 3/5/23 Sharpshooter/Saboteur/Dirty Fighting.
I'll be completing the third tier of talents in the Sharpshooter tree mainly to unlock the fourth one. The third tier has allowed me to really tighten up my opening rotation in combat, with guaranteed criticals and a whole second shaved off the activation time for Aimed Shot (our highest damage but longest cast single target ability). The only reason I'm taking Diversion is to open up the fourth tier however - it's a very situational skill that I can't see myself using very often in PvE.
At tier 4 Slick Shooter is an easy choice as it increases the critical chance of three of my main skills, which is in lie with my policy of increasing critical damage and chance. Foxhole is another easy choice as it will increase my energy whilst in cover. I have also put 3 points into Rapid Fire in order to lower the cooldown on two of my main dps abilities.
That moves us on to tier 5, where Trick Shot is a great high damage skill to fit into a rotation after Aimed Shot or Charged Burst (both of which are the bread and butter dps attacks). Recoil Control will reduce the initial high energy cost of Trickshot significantly, as well as reducing its cooldown, so another easy choice.
(You can find the original discussion on why I chose these talents up to level 50 here).
UPDATE: Following patch 1.3 I have rearranged my skills as they were changed quite considerably.
All of the points gained between levels 40 and 50 will be going into the Sharpshooter tree, apart from a couple of points in Saboteur, to give a talent build of 31/7/3 Sharpshooter/Saboteur/Dirty Fighting.
So, dealing with the Saboteur tree first, I'll be using my remaining points after maximising the Sharpshooter tree by putting them both into Independant Anarchy. This should add a little extra to my dps, especially for AoE attacks.
In the Sharpshooter tree I will be completing all of the tier 5 abilities, maximising Deadeye in tier 6 to give +30% critical damage from my main dps skills.
I'll then put a point in Cover Screen on the tier 1 skills to open up tier 6, which will be maximised before finishing off with Burst Volley.