Guild Wars 2 is the new massively multiplayer online role playing game from ArenaNet. It promises innovation in a time where most MMOs are too scared to take risks, and from what I saw at a recent press event, I can confidently say that it looks like that risk is going to absolutely pay off.
There are other action MMORPGs on the horizon, like Tera, Dragon's Nest, and BioWare’s long awaited opus Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as free-to-play MMOs that are out now, like Vindictus, that offer fast paced action and that graphically look quite spectacular, but Guild Wars 2 completely blows them out of the water. In our most recent look with Guild Wars 2, I got to go hands-on with the newly announced profession: the Engineer and came away pretty amazed.
It's not often these days that you try an MMO, and you don't know how a certain character class (called Professions in GW2) will function. For example, I knew going in that an Elementalist was probably going to deal magical damage. But an Engineer? How's that going to work? Guild Wars 2 does away with the holy trinity of MMO archetypes of tank, healer, and damage dealer (aka DPS, or damage per second), but as it turns out, depending how you want to play your Engineer, you can sort of pick up any of those roles.
Our Engineer, a handsome yet ferocious member of the cat-like Charr race, started out around level 30 wearing a rifle. Guns are a new addition to Guild Wars 2, and one of the main staples of the game is how changing your weapon will change which abilities you get to use. Engineers can equip pistols, shields, and rifles. With my rifle equipped, I started out with five main abilities on my 1-5 keys:
- Hip Shot – Basically an auto-attack that you can use while moving
- Net Shot – Launches a net at an enemy to root them in place
- Blunderbuss – Bleeds foes for more damage depending how close you are to them
- Overcharged Shot – Knocks back you and your foe
- Jump Shot – You aim where you want to go and leap there
These basic abilities will always be available to me as long as I have my rifle equipped. They offered standard play, which let me move around the battlefield as I shot my gun. Blunderbuss was quite unique, adding a shotgun feel to my gun, and Overcharged Shot allowed me to kite enemies very well, a tactic that lets you keep a mob away from you while still hitting it while moving. However, an Engineer is an extremely versatile profession, and you won't just be using those five abilities with it.
What's different about an Engineer, and it’s something I have never seen in any MMO prior to Guild Wars 2, is the way in which they use their utility skills to completely change how the profession itself is played. For example, with a Rifle equipped, I have the five abilities mentioned above on my 1-5 keys. On my 7-9 keys, I have utility belts and satchels (like Batman's) that, when used, will change all of my 1-5 abilities to something new, because they're changing the weapon that's equipped. The closest thing I can compare it to is changing druid forms in World of Warcraft, but as you'll see, the two are not exactly similar.
My Engineer had a Mine Kit, a Bomb Satchel, a Grenade Satchel, a Thumper Turret, and a Flamethrower Kit that I could have equipped in my utility slots. Yes, there are Flamethrowers in Guild Wars 2, and they are awesome. The point of the Engineer is not to use just one satchel or one kit or even just one weapon. To get the maximum potential out of the Profession, I was constantly switching from my Flamethrower to my grenade satchel to the mine kit back to my rifle then back to the Flamethrower again depending on what types of enemies I encountered.
Here's a breakdown of the abilities that you get when changing from a rifle to either another weapon, kit, or satchel:
- Explosive Shot – Shot that explodes on impact
- Dart Volley – Shoots a poisonous dart
- Static Shot – Discharges lighting and blinds enemies
- Glue Shot – Coats a target with sticky glue, immobilizing them
- Flame Thrower – Burns enemies, and the closer they are, the more damage it does
- Flame Jet – Sprays multiple enemies with fire while on the move
- Flame Blast – Fires a napalm ball that rolls towards enemies then explodes
- Air Blast – Knocks back and interrupts enemies
- Napalm – Burns and blinds foe with a wall of napalm
- Backdraft – Causes a back draft that pulls foes towards you
- Bomb – Sets a timed charge that damages enemies around it
- Fire Bomb – Sets fire to nearby enemies
- Concussion Bomb – Dazes foes
- Smoke Bomb – Blinds foes with a smoke cloud
- Glue Bomb – Immobilizes foes in sticky glue
- Grenade – Throws a grenade that explodes on impact
- Shrapnel Grenade – Throws a grenade that explodes into shrapnel causing bleeding
- Flash Grenade – Causes a flash that blinds foes
- Freeze Grenade – Chills foes
- Poison Grenade – Throws a grenade that explodes into poison
- With the mine kit, you get five mines that you can throw down and detonate. All of the mines in the demo were the same type, dealing normal types of damage with no special effects.
Engineers can also wield shields in their offhand, which give them the ability to absorb spells and redirect them at their attacker, or to deploy a ballistic barrier, which intercepts hostile spells. A shield can be used in the offhand spot instead of a second pistol, for example, so you'd lose the ability to use Glue Shot and Flamethrower, but you'd gain access to the more defensive abilities. Engis also have access to Turrets. In our demo, we got a Thumper Turret, which dealt a lot of AOE (area of effect) damage and drew enemy fire away from the players. When you overcharge the turret, it knocks down enemies as well.
In Guild Wars 2, you only have three utility slots available at a time, so I had to pick which satchels and kits I wanted to use before each fight. Once out of combat, you can change your utility skills at will, but in combat you can only switch back and forth freely with your chosen utility skills. It's quite a complex system to wrap your head around, even as a seasoned MMO player. I found that I was constantly using the Flamethrower kit, the thumper turret, and the mine kit. My favorite kit was the Flamethrower kit. Not only did I look exceptionally ferocious as a Charr with a flame jet on my back, but it dealt a lot of damage in a way that I've never seen before.
I played the Engineer two ways depending on the types of enemies I was fighting. If I was about to fight a single enemy, I'd lay down my mines, switch back to my rifle, shoot the enemy until it got close, blow up the mines, then switch to the Flamethrower to deal close combat damage until it died. If I was about to fight a large pack of enemies, I'd sometimes swap my Flamethrower kit for the Grenade Kit as the grenades dealt damage to enemies in a wider area than my flamethrower could. Laying mines always seemed like a safe bet, and I'm sure bombs would have done the trick too. The point being that there are tons of different ways that Engineers can approach enemies to take them out. There didn't seem to be a single best method, other than always using a Thumper Turret to draw the enemies away.
Engineers allow the player to choose what's fun for them and let them do it, rather than pigeon-holing them in to “the best” abilities that they have to use. I loved my Flamethrower, so I used it as much as possible, but I could have killed something just as effectively with grenades or bombs if I had wanted. The fact that you interchange all of the kits and satchels at will opened it up even more.
That said, the kits and satchels I got to play with are not the only ones that will be available. As there's no dedicated healer in Guild Wars 2, there will also be a Medical Kit for Engineers that will allow them to heal along with a Healing Turret.
As someone who loves a challenge, I found the Engineer to be a complete blast to play. The gameplay for the profession can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. If you want to play strategically in order to get the most out of it, you can. Or if you just want to light things on fire, that's okay too. While playing the Engineer, I was constantly thinking about how different the class was than anything I'd seen in a fantasy MMO before and how absolutely refreshing that was.
Guild Wars 2 will enter alpha and beta testing this year, and is expected to be released exclusively for the PC in 2012.