Editorials

Technological Advancement in the Engineer

Too Much Of A Good Thing? – by Draxynnic

The Engineer was both the best- and worst-kept secret of the Guild Wars 2 profession lineup. It was the best because, unlike the other professions, we didn’t know what it was going to be until a leak a few hours before the official release, as ArenaNet had been canny about giving practically no hints that could confirm it – even if some are of the ‘obvious in hindsight’ nature (for instance, I think we can say we now know Kranxx’s profession in Ghosts of Ascalon). However, it was also the worst because despite this, pretty much all of the engineer’s features had been predicted before release. While there was still some reasonable doubt (and, it has to be said, a lot of unreasonable doubt) that it was actually in, wading through the profession speculation threads will reveal turrets, a variety of explosives, advanced weapon kits (although apparently we’ve missed out on the charrzooka), medical concoctions and exotic ammunition loads for firearms. All in all, it seems a success for the community’s speculation engine.

What did come as a surprise, however, was the highly abbreviated weapon list. One of the criticisms levelled against the engineer-related speculation is that the concept did not have an intuitively obvious range of melee weapons and, more importantly, melee skills in a game where every profession is intended to be able to fight more-or-less equally well in close or at range. ArenaNet’s answer to this question, apparently, is to eschew it altogether, giving the engineer the most abbreviated weapon list of any so far in the game (with three combinations in total). Like the warrior, the engineer’s ranged weapons appear to include skills for close-in fighting or helping to keep the enemy at a distance, but it seems that the engineer’s primary option for close combat is to break out the flamethrower.

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The Engineer's weapon of choice for the dirty infighting.

On the whole, the comparison with the elementalist is hard to miss. Both only have a single weapon combination accessible during combat by default, but have a mechanic that allows them to greatly expand their available repertoire despite this. For elementalists, most of their repertoire comes effectively for free through the attunement mechanic, but this comes at a cost in PvP – that as soon as a canny enemy player recognises their weapon set, they immediately know most of the elementalist’s available skills. The engineer, by contrast, appears to gain their additional weapon skills through their utility, healing, and elite slots – so while an engineer could theoretically have as many (or more) weapon skills available as the elementalist and an enemy won’t know what they all are until they’re used, each slot used in this manner comes at a cost.

However, I think ArenaNet might have missed an opportunity here.

The analogy has already been drawn between the grenades and mines of the commando profession revealed (and briefly playable in GW1) during this year’s April Fools event. However, even with a profession clearly inspired by modern soldiers, the commando we played relied on nightstick and shield as weapons. While the GW2 engineer will get the shield, the option to toss a few grenades before charging into the enemy and laying into them with heavy piece of metal (sharpened or otherwise) is one that apparently won’t exist in GW2. While thieves and charr have small selections of grenades, it just won’t feel the same. It might be possible to achieve with something like the norn animal forms, but the intent of elite skills in GW2 is that they appear to be something you pop in a crisis, not something you incorporate into your regular playstyle.

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A joke, yes, but one with no aversion to beating people with blunt instruments.

All in all, I can’t help feeling that despite being less overtly modern in appearance than the commando, the engineer is still just a little too… futuristic may not be the right word, but modernistic. Of course, this was always going to be a risk with a technology-based profession, especially one which, through weapon kits, has the potential to be several Team Fortress classes in one (demoman, medic, pyro – just look at those flamethrower skills – and, of course, engineer. The profession even seems to have rocket-jumping in its portfolio!). Part of this is the aforementioned lack of a dedicated melee weapon – historically speaking, such weapons continued to be used in serious combat even in the trench warfare in World War 1, making such a total reliance on firearms and technology a very modern attitude to warfare.

However, it also comes down to the visuals. While the concept of grenades have existed for a lot longer than many give them credit, the icon for the Grenade Pack could have been ripped straight out of a modern shooter. This is even more true for the mine shown in the Rifle Turret video, complete with what appears to be a flashing LED light well in advance of even the steampunky (or should that be clockpunky?) charr technology. On the whole, I can’t help feeling that ArenaNet could have been more creative in making their technology appear distinct from its real-world modern equivalents rather than littering their world with devices that appear a little out-of-place even in a steampunky early-Industrial-age setting.

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Doesn't that mine look just a leetle overly familiar?

Now, don’t get me wrong – the overall theme fits great into the new Tyria. However, I’d prefer if the grenades looked a little more like they came from the 17th century than the 20th, and the mines to look more like they came from Girl Genius than Modern Warfare.

In the meantime, one thing that the videos have shown is how well ArenaNet’s efforts to portray Tyria as a living world have been working out. I was especially impressed with the group of skritt gathered on the ruins of the Great Wall – in only a few moments of overheard conversation, they’d established enough character that I felt sorry for them when the grenades started coming down.

With seven down, this leaves only one profession to go – the highly-anticipated mesmer, that many suspect of being held back so that the means by which it counters the efforts of other professions can be demonstrated. Of course, by process of elimination the engineer release has already revealed at least one important detail about the mesmer – we can finally put to rest the theory that the mesmer may be appearing in adventurer armour. We can also put to rest some of the outlandish theories that the mesmer might be GW2’s gun-focussed profession to open the way for the third adventurer to be something a little less technological. One thing that did catch my eye, however, was the engineer’s Absorb skill, using his shield like Link’s Mirror Shield in Ocarina of Time to, well, absorb the attacks of his foes and hurl them back – a capability that struck me as being very mesmer-like in behaviour. Of course, with the number of effects that are repeated among other professions, this certainly doesn’t rule out the possibility of the mesmer having a similar ability.

One thing is for certain, though: It may not be the aesthetics they were used to, but in terms of playstyle, it seems that ritualist players have found their home.

For all you readers: Do you think that the Engineer fits in the time in which Guild Wars 2 stands? Can you believe that a profession like this could exist by keeping in mind that there’s a 250 years difference? How about all the technological gadgets, is it just right or over the top? Let us know!

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