When I got the news that I would be participating in the WildStar closed beta and get to write about the just-announced Engineer, I almost keeled over from anticipation. Not only had I not had the chance to play WildStar in over a year, but I was dying to try out the Engineer as it, at least on paper, combines two of my favorite MMO roles: DPS and Tank.
After spending about eight levels with the Engineer, I can definitively tell you that it is a great and very fun class to play for those who love the ability to master pets, deal out massive amounts of damage and to occasionally wade into the mobs and wreak havoc. The Engineer is all that and more.
That's not to say that the class is perfect. In fact, and I am always hesitant to say such things, the Engineer feels a bit overpowered in comparison to other Mechari classes that were running around the beginning areas with me. In addition, I found that I could largely ignore monster tells due to the Engineer's incredible mobility and survivable nature. Granted that this is very early on in the game and from all that I understand from other Engineers, this changes a lot after about level twelve.
So what about the Engineer?
The Engineer is built to be a dual specialist in that they can take on a ranged DPS mode or run in and tank using the EXO suit. The WildStar team described it very well when they said that the Engineer is Inspector Gadget in a monster truck. It's a fitting description.
Most of the time when thinking about ranged and 'mechanical' type classes, we generalize that they are medium armor wearing, heavy damage dealing, glass cannons. Not so the Engineer in WildStar. The Engineer wears heavy armor, still deals heavy damage but is strong and tough enough to take on mobs of monsters.
The Engineer is also a pet class for those who wish to play as such and players will have a wide array of bots from which to choose on leveling up throughout the game. Engineers will be able to run with multiple bots simultaneously including tank bots, medic bots, repair bots, DPS bots, crowd control bots and others. In some ways, it reminded me of a Guild Wars necromancer though on the machinated side!
The bots are a lot of fun though I found them a bit troublesome in my early experiences in the game. My 'bruiser bot', the tank-class bot and the first one awarded through skill acquisition, would frequently disappear, seemingly at random, and just as quickly reappear close by. At times it missed the aggro it was intended to grab. When it worked well, it was terrific, though Bruiser wasn't able to hold aggro for long. I'd simply pop the EXO suit, a monster truck in armor form, and wade into the crowd to finish things up.
Speaking of the EXO suit, it's really neat to watch the armor pop up around your character before lunging into the crowd. The suit offers a huge amount of damage protection but does come with the caveat that it is a limited time skill with a two minute cool down. It will be interesting to see how end-game Engineers manage tanking, though the EXO suit may not be something that is always needed and not utilized often given the class's ability to wear heavy armor in the first place.
There's always a flipside, however, to any pet class and I ran into more than few Engineers who liked the extra challenge of playing without bots though, again, this was early in the game. I suspect that this changes drastically as the game progresses. Even so, the best part is that the class is durable enough to consider doing so, though as mentioned above, it's likely that some changes will be implemented over the beta run.
The Engineer has some interestingly shaped tells that offer a wide variety of choices when it comes to taking on groups of monsters. The primary "less than two seconds cool down" skill Pulseblast, is needed to generate Volatility, the Engineer's resource for higher damage skills. Some skills travel a linear path, others in a wide arc that can target up to five enemies at once. Pulseblast is one of the latter. The interdependent nature of abilities is really cool and opens up a huge variety of options tailor made for specific encounters.
On a general note, mobility in WildStar is effective and needed. While my Engineer didn't need to get out of tells for the most part in the early levels, it's obvious that developers have given players the ability to move and move now when needed. The progression through the earliest levels of the game are clear training grounds for later action. The monster tells are very plain and arrive early enough that getting out of the way, if such a thing is needed, is easy to do. Also, monster tells are generally single-area tells though I did run into a couple quest bosses that utilized AoE spells with multiple tells painted on the ground. I like the tell-system but it can get a bit overwhelming on the eyes at times since the world and everything in it is very brightly colored.
What's really terrific is the opportunity to save different builds that can be customized depending on the situation that you're in. The skill builds can be changed very quickly, a nice touch.
I had a great time playing the Engineer and am very intrigued by the dual-specialization that both DPS and Tanking builds offer. Veteran MMO players will need a bit of time to get used to the idea that this isn't any other MMO's ranged DPS class and simultaneously get used to the idea that it's a tank class as well.
While there will clearly be some changes coming to the Engineer now that the class is in the beta test, it is a unique class and one that a lot of players will be drawn to for its versatility.
Side Note #1: The music in WildStar is amazing.
Side Note #2: The sound effects are awesome from my bot's squeaky mechanical "voice" to the shooting of the blaster to the vacuum sound as drops are sucked into inventory.
Side Note #3: Speaking of the vacuum feature...SO cool.
Side Note #4: The voice acting, where present, is absolutely great.
What about you? Will you give the Engineer a try? Let us know in the comments!
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.