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One of the prizes you accumulate from playing Guild Wars 2 is items for quickly advancing new characters. I’d built up quite a pile, so I made an Engineer of the game’s giant cat race and made her look like the late bookshop cat from Powell’s Books’s old technical annex. I was expecting something that played a little like engineers do in Team Fortress or Firefall — a class that trades off its own personal attack power for the ability to build stationary gun turrets and team-healing devices.

Technically, Engineers can be played that way in GW2, but unlike in those other games, that playstyle barely scratches the surface. While I won’t say I’m hopelessly confused, I will admit that the complexity caught me by surprise. The Engineer’s true strength comes from its ability to pick and choose from more than twice as many powers as other classes have, which makes it excel at things like equipping multiple powers that all apply the same debilitating condition or mixing and matching obscure powers so their idiosyncratic, normally inconsequential side effects interact in potent ways.

Take this one example: the lowly healing turret. When you build a healing turret, it initially emits a single strong healing wave to nearby allies, then provides a persistent low-grade regeneration field. Every twenty seconds you can manually trigger another healing wave. A neophyte would build the turret at the start of the fight, to preemptively establish the regen, then trigger healing waves as needed as the fight progressed.

That’s about the worst possible way to use it.

A skilled Engineer ignores the weak regeneration effect. She’ll wait until the team is hurt, build it and overcharge it immediately for a back-to-back double heal, then manually disassemble it so she can do it all again once it recharges. If the team is really hurt, she’ll build it, overcharge it, then blow it up for a triple heal. (How is it a triple heal? Well, 1. Overcharging a healing turret also creates a water field around it. 2. Ordering it to self-destruct produces a burst effect. 3. Any time there’s a burst within a water field, all nearby allies get healed as a free bonus. This is a specific example of the game’s combo system, which makes certain pairs of powers stronger when used in tandem.)

A truly expert Engineer will do things like create a fire field before the fight (or use a teammate’s), then sacrifice a surplus healing turret to trigger a burst of bonus attack strength over the party. (Only the oldest field matters, so the detonation combos with the fire field and not the turret’s own water field.) Or customize themselves with a trait that puts a temporary projectile-reflecting field around every new turret they build, and build a well-timed turret purely to bounce a massive volley of arrows back at a raid boss’s face. Or….

So, yeah. I have a bit of a learning curve ahead of me.


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