At PAX East, I was a little wary of trying the new classes because I thought everybody else would be (I did anyway). At the ArenaNet Community Open House, I knew I would be playing the engineer. There was a lot to be learned from the most controversial profession in Guild Wars 2. Did it fit in with the lore? Was it too much of a commando-feel in a fantasy world? And, most importantly how did it play?
Quickly addressing the lore side of the engineer, I feel that fans upset with the feel of the engineer don’t have the proper frame of view, which isn’t their fault. During my tour I saw a few artists working on charr props and the Black Citadel, the charr capital city. One artist in particular was working on making the charr tank movable! The feel of what I saw was heavy, crude, and heavy engineering. There is definitely a fantasy vibe amongst it all, but there is also a strong industrial revolution feel. The engineer felt to me like a clockwork World War 1 soldier. There was definitely technology, but it had this archaic feel. I do admit that it is a bit of stretch to go from gunpowder to working pistols in about 250 years in the frame of our reality, but then in Guild Wars 2 the engineer pistols shoot lightning and glue.
Playwise I know this might be a stretch, but for me the engineer felt most like the warden class from Lord of the Rings Online. The warden uses gambits, which are basically combos gained from using a set pattern of skills to create the final pattern, and thus skill. The engineer is nothing like that, but the thought processes were very similar. I had to try and think one step ahead by quickly narrowing down a whole field of options. The only MMO class that feels like that, for me, is the warden. It’s almost a meta-game of speed chess built in to the class.
For example, an Ascalon ghost warrior is running at me. What to do? I could Net Shot him to immobilize him, switch to flamethrower to throw down a napalm wall near him and his ghost buddies, Air Blast him back through the flame wall, switch to a grenade satchel and throw down a Freeze Grenade right as he is standing in the flame wall, and then Overcharged Shot him to knockdown as he tries to heal. This is just one combo I thought up. Perhaps two are running at me, so I can’t effectively use Net Shot. Instead I could lay down a turret and overcharge it just as they get to me in the hopes the turret’s DPS and distance draws aggro, and go from there.
The engineer is very similar to the elementalist having four attunements worth of skills, but I feel the engineer is designed more to be the MacGyver of the battlefield, finding on-the-fly solutions to problems. The elementalist’s changing nature is going to be more in line with the tempo of the group and battlefield. Good engineers are going to be in the moment. The best engineers are going to micro-manage their skills with scalpel precision.
This is what I saw in the design and play of the engineer, but during my short play period I definitely did not have the mental agility to wrap my head around so many options. I played at a much slower pace. When I picked up a kit or backpack that changed all my weapon skills, I usually left it on for the rest of the battle. It worked just fine. I fell in love with the flamethrower backpack so much that I kept it on for most of the dungeon. I probably would have been a sharper scalpel if I had combo’d those skills with other, but running in like a kamikaze pyro also worked for the story mode of the dungeon. So an engineer can be skillfully played at a much calmer pace, closer to how an elementalist might play, but the potential for frenetic skill pacing is there.
During my playtime, my one disappointment was actually the turrets. They felt so inactive for such an active class. The Guild Wars ritualist focuses on and feeds off of it’s immobile spirits to a huge degree. The engineer’s rifle turret felt like a simple add-on that I dropped and ignored. Unlike the Team Fortress 2 sentry (and ritualist spirits), the rifle turret felt lifeless. I knew deep down that I had added some automatic DPS to the battlefield, but it felt incredibly passive. The only time I enjoyed using a turret in the dungeon was when it became an aggro shield. Hopefully ArenaNet can iterate some life and activity in to this mechanic because in ritualist terms turret abilities are definitely a favorite.
Regardless of this flaw, I fell in love with the engineer profession. I liked the feel of it, and I loved the potential of the profession. It truly will be the Swiss Army knife of the battlefield. In skilled hands it might feel almost like the engineer is choosing when to crit. Yet, part of me is unsure whether ArenaNet’s Jon Peters believes that this is going to be my favorite class or if the final reveal will have me clawing my way back to Seattle to play some more Guild Wars 2. I know engineer is definitely a contender for my first PvE character.
conundrums of philosophy