Guild Wars 2 - Hands-On with the Engineer at SDCC 2011
At SDCC 2011 we took the engineer profession for a romp through the norn starting area to see how the early level combat stacks up
Ever since the Engineer was revealed as the seventh profession for Guild Wars 2,
Ive been itching to get some hands-on time with it. At a very basic level, the
engineer represents much more in the world of Tyria than simply adding another
combat style into the mix. It gives us a very real sense of how much has changed
over the course of time since the Elder Dragons awoke and made a mess of things
for humanity and the other dominant races in the game.
Speaking of the other dominant races, the engineer also helps represent the
charr influence on the modern culture of GW2. Unlike the asura who have
contributed a great deal of magical technology to the other inhabitants of the
world, the charrs technological contributions are primarily mechanical.
With that said, it would have seemed a somewhat fitting choice to play the demo
as a charr engineer, however, I opted to play as a norn instead during my hands-on time with the GW2 demo at San Diego Comic-Con 2011 for a couple of
very important reasons.
The first, and most important, is that charr characters in the current demo
start at level 28, while selecting the norn allowed you to start fresh from
level one. You may be thinking it would give me a much better feel for the
intricacies of the engineer and its unique combat style if I dove right into
some near-mid level content and had more skills to play around with.
But if theres one thing Ive learned over the years in games media its that,
when it comes to MMO professions or classes, first impressions are king. Most
players can decide within the first few levels if theyll like a particular
combat style and want to stick with it, and I personally prefer experiencing
starter zone content with a new profession first when given the option to.
Its a tricky thing to balance, because you dont want to overwhelm new players
(or those new to playing a given class or even MMOs in general) with too many skills, or tactical
options when first logging in. But if you give them too few you run the very
serious risk of having them quit in frustration later on if theyve invested
larger amounts of time in a character only to have the flow of combat one of
the most dominant gameplay activities in most MMOs, GW2 included radically
change on them.
Crazy plot twists in the third reel might make for amazing cinema, but when it
comes to MMOs, the last thing you want to do is pull a bait-n-switch on players,
regardless of the gameplay mechanic involved. This is as true of combat as it is
for other areas of gameplay, such as presenting a 100% soloable leveling
experience only to funnel players into a 100% group oriented endgame. Thats one
of the biggest failings of the current generation of MMOs, at least those that
are based on the template.
Thankfully, ArenaNet is not building Guild Wars 2 as just another MMO based on
that aging template, and that's yet another significant aspect of what the inclusion of
the engineer in the game represents.
To a certain degree, the engineer plays almost like a very imaginative melting
pot of signature skills from various original Guild Wars professions. Even
though youll start out with some basic weapons and associated skills, switching
sets between a rifle or two pistols gave me a tangible sense of an old world
rangers divergent path based on the influence of technology.
While a ranger is still firmly rooted in the natural world and the beasts that
dwell within it, the engineer eschews nature for the sake of befriending a
single of its elements, namely fire. That sure sounds like how the charr would
advance tech to me. That's not to say that fire-based attacks are the only tools in the engineer's arsenal, but they are fairly dominant. The GW1 ranger as a point of reference can be most easily
seen in the skill Explosive Shot that fires a projectile that explodes on impact. This will be one of
the first weapon skills you begin the game with when using a pistol as your
Switching to the rifle youll be able to use Net Shot, a ranged attack that
causes the immobilize condition which hinders movement and prevents dodging. This can help you keep some distance from your target, and then using the ability to right click a skill to set it as an auto-attack also helps you stay focused on
mobility, which is key with most professions in GW2's combat.
This will perhaps be one of the biggest initial differences in combat mechanics
for players who are used to traditional PvE MMO combat where you stand in one
spot and spam a skill rotation. Skill rotations are still a vital part of
combat, but as you progress that rotation can become far more interesting and
complex since each utility skill, weapon swap, and unique profession mechanic
A way of thinking about the role movement plays in combat and this extends to
the other professions as well, not just the engineer is that you could liken
it more to how you might approach PvP combat rather than the boring PvE most of
us have grown accustomed to over the years. Thats not to say you cant approach
combat the way youre used to from other games, but it does become infinitely
more satisfying once you get into the more fluid, and dare I say graceful,
combat style of GW2.
Adding another layer of depth to the engineer, the various weapon kits you will
be able to slot as utility skills greatly expand the potential of the
professions available builds since the kits will replace your current weapon
skills with a set corresponding to the selected kit.
New engineers are gradually introduced to this aspect of combat, and the pacing
of progression in the early levels felt fairly natural during my demo run. In
fact, I was enjoying some of the dynamic event content in the area so much that
I had to force myself to run back and purchase new skills when they became
As noted above, making a class fun to play straight out of the gates can be
critical to the long term success of an MMO, and so far it seems that ArenaNet
has squarely hit that mark with the engineer. As they progress, the engineer
will definitely be one of the more challenging professions in the game, but its
also one that helps illustrate exactly how much choice players will have when it
comes to adopting different roles or styles of combat.
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