I'm a bit slow on the uptick, I hadn't caught the buzz about the new must-have trait for a while, not until a week or two ago when I saw one a ship in the arena that had "Trait: Hive Defenses" slotted. I gave the owner a terse "you realize that distress calls in the arena are generally considered bad form", and that's when I learned about the trait. I picked it up on the market that day and have been experimenting with it with my fleeties ever since.
For anyone who doesn't know what this is, Trait: Hive Defenses is a personal space trait (not starship trait or active rep trait) that gives you a 15% chance of summoning 3 swarmers per 5 seconds every time you take damage from any source, up to a limit of 9 swarmers. From what I can tell, the chance occurs every damage tick. So, every individual beam hit, every DoT tick, any feedback or reflected damage, anything. Simply being the target of 4-6 beam broadside maxes out your swarmer count almost instantly, and they replenish throughout - any time 3 of your 9 die, I have not been in any arena battle where the swarmer count was not maxed almost instantaneously and maintained throughout.
From what I've discussed with other people since I learned of it, there is some backlash against the trait. The proponents argue that the DPS is not high, so it's not unbalancing. The issue - the biggest issue, though, is not the overal DPS that it adds, but its cost.
More on that in a moment. First of all, though, let's talk about their DPS and their direct effect in combat. I've scored them at between 4000 and 8000 DPS with an average at a shade over 6k. That itself isn't terrible, not when big league ships start in the 100k realm. What makes them actively dangerous is that they are ever present, and they are double plus aggressive. Aggressive (and effective) like we all wish Cryptic made our hangar pets. They flock around the target, they nail heavy torpedoes, they hit your weak shield, they chase you, they hound you, and they attack not only the in-game ship, but the players C4I capability. By that I mean they interfere with the player's ability to maintain situational awareness and to manage their battlespace. It's well known that some abilities attack the player more than the ship the player is controlling. Jam Targeting Sensors and other placate abilities is a great example. They interfere with the player's ability to interact with their environment, force the player to retarget, and are generally annoying. The more you are personally annoyed in a combat, the more successfully the other player is likely interfering with your C4I.
So, they are a successful trait. What makes them unbalancing is the fact they have essentially zero cost. I'm not talking about their market value, I'm talking about their in-game cost. They occupy a personal (racial) space trait slot. These are the slots where things like Astrophysicist, Accurate, and Efficient Captain go. Warp Theorist, Impact Defense Specialist, and Elusive. See a pattern? They are personal traits that add a small amount of combat effectiveness to your captain, and they are ones you pick and choose so as to give yourself a personal flavour. When you pick any trait, it becomes a cost-benefit analysis. You look at what that trait gives you, versus the cost (meaning what you lose by not having another trait in that slot). Go over the list of personal space traits you have access to, and ask is there any one of them you would not be happy to lose in order to gain what I described above in the combat effectiveness paragraph? Just for strait DPS, let alone their harassment and C4I degradation effects, they are hands-down worth it. What does this mean? It means that one single trait is now a must-have in order for anyone to compete. This one trait takes a personal slot, which are populated with otherwise fairly innocuous traits that are easy to lose. If this trait took a valuable Active Space slot, or a Starship Trait slot, then it would likely still be in the top tier of all traits, though slightly more painful in that it would be knocking off something else of a lot higher value than "Accurate".
The fact that this trait has that kind of value for essentially zero cost makes it profoundly unbalancing. It needs to not be a trait at all, but a console (which is a better in-character frame of reference for what it does), and even then it needs nerfing.
This discussion is not complete without addressing why Cryptic put this in. Pay-to-win games like STO do things like this, but in the past they have been incremental and minor. A slow escalation of traits, weapons, consoles, etc, so keep people on the hook opening up lock boxes. Say what you want about this system, you have to grant that at the very least it's controversial. This kind of escalation, though, is almost unheard of. I can't think of any other lockbox trait, weapon, console, or ship that has been this shiny in the history of the game. It really is a must-have trait, in that without that one item you are clearly disadvantaged against anyone else who has it. It's almost a win tax, something that Cryptic has been reluctant to be so blatant about in the past. Whether or not they are trying to boost immediate cash flow I can't say. All I can say is it represents a fairly significant shift at Cryptic, and it's troubling.