WildStar Burst: Engineer Hands-On Impressions
In this WildStar Burst, I get my hands on the Engineer. This mech-suit wearing, cannon wielding tank has received nothing but praise during the Beta. Is it worthy of it?
I had two reservations going into playing the Engineer in WildStar. The first, that bots would die incredibly quickly (I've been burnt badly by the Ranger in Guild Wars 2) and whether or not the class would be capable of tanking, competently from range.
I'm pleased to say that the class does tank exceptionally well but saddened to say that bots, as predicted, are in a pretty rotten place. Up to level 15, you'll have access to the Bruiser Bot and Artillery Bot with the former providing a taunt and the latter an area of effect attack. As it currently stands both bots often get stuck on terrain, die easily in telegraphs, attack random mobs and disappear every time you mount. Worst of all, the user interface sometimes results in errors and prevents control over your bots (leading to many of the above problems). It's obvious that this is all a serious problem and one I could have bet my life on when the Engineer and its bots were first announced. I've played pet classes for many years yet it seems an area developers just can't get right. The positive side of me would hope that these issues will iron out over the course of the Beta and yet having now played a Ranger in Guild Wars 2 for over 12 months and still facing the same issues I was 12 months ago, I'm a little pessimistic. Thankfully you don't have to use bots as you get out of the early levels, though it seems a shame not to.
If you consider that these two bots are some of your first skills in the game and they're relatively broken, not only does it limit your choices at a skill level but also PvE progression. You end up relying on Pulse Blast and Electrocute a little too much between levels 1 and 9 but thankfully they're powerful and graphically appealing skills. Speaking of these two skills, there's a mechanic overlap with the Engineer and Medic in the sense that Volatility and Cores share similar functionality. Pulse Blast builds Volatility and Electrocute dumps it, the big difference however and key to the Engineers mechanic being much better than the Medic's, is the fact it's a percentage based bar (skills requiring X amount of it per second to be used). A single Pulse Blast builds 20% of your Volatility so thankfully you don't have to constantly use it. It's this minor change that makes an enormous difference to the fun of the class over that of the Medic.
Other skills you pick up on your way to 15 need sexing up or tweaking to a certain degree. Zap's a linear attack that has a minor animation (if not functional), Urgent Withdrawal doesn't really fire you back far enough (although you can use it twice) while Recursive Matrix isn't really noticeable. That then leaves Quick Burst which is barely used because your critical hit chance as an Engineer seems so low.
When it comes to the Engineers ability to tank (and being level 15 or less really isn't the best test bed for this) it's clear that taunting works incredibly well – even better when your bot is working – and your range puts you at a huge advantage over the likes of the Warrior. Not only can you avoid most telegraphs but swathes of damage because of it. I find it odd because of that, that the Engineer is a heavy armor wearing class and also gets Provocation Mode (that's a defensive mech-suit to you and I) which decreases the damage you receive by 90%. It feels a little upside down when the Medic, in contrast, has to be in the opponents face but only wears medium armor (with few ways to mitigate). I suspect though that a Medic's ability to heal would tip the class over the edge if its armor was increased.
In terms of damage and unlike feared by some, the Engineer is capable of huge numbers. It pretty much destroys any class in PvP and anything in PvE: it will likely see its damage tweaked very soon. If you stance dance (i.e switch between Provocation Mode and Eradication Mode) not only do you have massive survivability but also even better damage output. When your Artillery bot is working and your Volatility is 'maxed' from Eradication Mode, it becomes a game of “What CANT I kill?!”. Constant Electrocutes and the Artillery Barrage from your bot (if you time a stun from Urgent Withdrawl) is a wicked combination and one that has kept me well and truly entertained.
This all might sound very mixed but in reality the Engineer (alongside the Medic) was the last class to be revealed and to some degree this shows. The framework and design is all here and thankfully the design is absolutely solid. Hell, who doesn't like electrocuting people to death? What the Engineer needs is a little bit of time and polish from Carbine to bring it up to the high standard of the others. I have no problem with this and none of the above should put anyone off from playing the Engineer. It's an exceptional class and one that I can't wait to go back to. It plays much faster than I anticipated and offers a distinct variety of play by its styling and skill effects. I'd probably say it feels the most overpowered of all the classes I've played in WildStar as it's a little too amazing at what it does.
Suit up people, it's time to melt some faces.