Updated Tue, Jul 26, 2011 by Sardu
Ever since the Engineer was revealed as the seventh profession for Guild Wars 2, I’ve 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 charr’s 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 there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years in games media it’s that, when it comes to MMO professions or classes, first impressions are king. Most players can decide within the first few levels if they’ll 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.
It’s a tricky thing to balance, because you don’t 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 they’ve 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. That’s 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.