Guild Wars 2: Engineer

Some of my friends playing Guild Wars 2 have engineers they are either leveling to 80, under-utilizing as storage space or thinking of playing one.  Instead of adding to a lengthy Skype message, some thoughts and information on building an engineer is going to be consolidated here.  It’d be impossible to cover every possible build so a basic overview of traits will be provided, as will an in-depth link to engineer skills.  Build philosophy will also be explained and some tips on equipment will be given.  The goal here isn’t to guide anyone into making the best engineer build ever.  Instead, it’s to provide some thought on what each trait line covers and implement the philosophy of “how to do what you like as an engineer and how to do it well”.

Also, this post is going to be written from the perspective of someone who primarily plays the base game (PvE) and world vs. world (WvW)…not competitive player vs. player.  I also suck at dodging so a premium is placed on toughness and mitigating damage.

Traits

While playing as an engineer, there’s probably been a few skills you’ve really liked to use.  Perhaps the idea of just running around with the flamethrower burning things is appealing.  Maybe you like throwing grenades and watching things blow up or chugging more potions in combat than a 90s JRPG protagonist.  What follows is a brief overview of the engineer trait lines.  I don’t pay much attention to traits that have long cooldowns or don’t occur often enough (33% chance on crit, for example).  With that in mind…

Explosives:  The majority of traits here augment the bomb and grenade kits, so if using those, 30 points is required here.  Forceful Explosives and Explosive Powder will get the most out of the bomb kit, Grenadier makes the grenade kit more viable than the mortar elite skill and Short Fuse reduces the cooldown for both.  Bombs provide access to fire and smoke fields but do less damage overall than grenades, who get a poison field.

Outside of bomb/grenade traits, Explosives doesn’t offer much outside of increased power and condition duration.  10 points in this line gives access to Incendiary Power, which places a 4 second burn for 10 seconds on critical.  Since a lot of engineer kits are based around condition damage, it’s a nice trait to have plus it augments condition duration by 10% so you do more damage over a longer period of time.  20 points in this line allows turrets to explode upon destruction or the ability to gain 3 stacks of might for 15 seconds when using a heal skill.

Firearms:  Definitely the 2nd best Engineer trait line in that there’s a lot here that’s really useful.  Obviously, traits here cover the pistol and the rifle.  What might not be so obvious is that the elixir gun and flamethrower also benefit from this line.  If using any of those weapons/kits, 20 points is pretty much required here (you could get away with 20 if just using the elixir gun).  Rifled Barrels increases the range of the pistol, rifle and elixir gun.  Hair Trigger cuts the cooldown for the pistol and rifle by 20%.  Rifle Mod increases damage by 10% while pistols get Coated Bullets to pierce targets with.

The elixir gun benefits from Firearms but a significant investment is required here if using the Flamethrower.  Fireforged Trigger reduces the cooldown for elixir gun and flamethrower skills by 20%.  Napalm Specialist increases burn duration by 20%.  A full 30 points in Firearms allows access to Juggernaut, which gives Flamethrower users +200 Toughness and stacks might up to 5 as long as it’s equipped.  The amount of might given can be increased with boon duration equipment and by investing in the Alchemy line.

10 points in Firearms is a good investment if a build centers around having a good crit chance.  Infused Precision has a 50% chance to give swiftness on a critical for 5 seconds although this can only trigger every 5 seconds.  Precise Sights is another good trait as it gives 50% chance to cause vulnerability for 3 seconds on a critical.  This works great with the Flamethrower’s fast, multiple Flame Jet attacks or the grenade kit’s barrage.

Inventions:  Possibly the worst trait line for an engineer.  The majority of traits here augment turrets.  Turrets kinda suck because they tend to die really fast (by combination of not having enough health and getting singled out in combat), don’t do enough damage and you get enough of them with the supply crate elite skill.  That said, Metal Plating (30% damage reduction to turrets), Autoturret Installation (turrets self-heal) and Rifled Turret Barrels (increases turret range and damage by 15%) will make them suck a little less.

Outside of turrets, Inventions has few worthwhile traits.  10 points grants Stabilized Armor, a 5% damage reduction when endurance is full.  Energized Armor, also worth 10, converts 5% of Toughness to Power.  Power Shoes gives +25% movement speed although getting that ability requires a 20 point investment.  Also worth 20 points is Reinforced Shield, which gives 90 Toughness if wielding a shield and 20% shield skill cooldown.

Alchemy:  The best trait line for Engineers to the point where a build without 20 here is unfathomable.  I use quite a few elixir skills so a trait line that augments their use is going to be favored.  Fast-Acting Elixirs reduces their cooldown by 20%, Potent Elixirs extends their duration by 20%, Cleaning Formula 409 allows any elixir to remove a condition upon drink/toss and HGH provides might for each elixir used.

Outside of elixirs, Blood Injection turns 5% of vitality into condition damage.  Invigorating Speed grants 5 seconds of vigor if the swiftness boon is applied.  Deadly Mixture gives 15% extra damage with the flamethrower and elixir gun.  Backpack Regenerator provides health regeneration as long as a kit is equipped.

Tools:  Tools is an odd trait line in that it has no focus like Firearms does with rifle/pistol, Alchemy with elixirs, etc.  Gadget skills would make the most sense but the only trait that makes them better requires just 10 points and reduces skill cooldown (Speedy Gadgets).  If making use of multiple kits, Speedy Kits for the extra swiftness it provides is worth a thought.  The tool belt can be optimized with 20 points here.  Other than that, only builds that maximize endurance regeneration or critical damage should dump points here.

Build Philosophy

When thinking of how to build a character trait-wise, I look at two things:  What do I like to use and how can I optimize it (reduce cooldown, have it deal more damage, etc.)?  This may not result in builds that dominate the metagame but it does result in the game being more fun for me.  So, despite using different kits for WvW and PvE, using elixirs is awesome no matter what so 30 in Alchemy is set in stone.  This boosts HP to a little over 18,000, increases boon duration by 30%, in addition to providing access to traits that make elixirs better.  It also provides traits that make the flamethrower/elixir gun better.  The rest of my traits go into Firearms and Explosives although how many points go into which depends on whether I’m playing WvW or PvE.

For WvW, grenades are the main kit.  There’s not many things that can out-range a fully traited (Explosive Powder + Short Fuse + Grenadier) grenade kit and most WvW encounters take place with two mobs shooting each other at a distance like it’s 17th century warfare re-enactment.  The poison field it provides is useful for choking up points, freeze grenade can hamper a zerg’s effectiveness (increases skill cooldown and decreases movement by 66%).  It’s also fun to just barrage people with explosives!  Thus, 30 points go into Explosives to maximize grenade kit’s effectiveness.  The remaining 10 points go into Firearms for either Infused Precision or Precise Sights.

The grenade kit is a little annoying in how much clickiness is involved with it.  So for PvE and dungeons, I’m going to rely on the NPC AI that doesn’t dodge as much as human players and make use of other favorite kits.  10 points will be left in Explosives for Incendiary Powder while 30 go to Firearms to maximize the Flamethrower and Elixir Gun.  Juggernaut makes the Flamethrower more powerful while increasing survivability, whereas Fireforged Trigger can cut the cooldown on flamethrower and elixir gun skills.  Alchemy’s Blood Injection, Deadly Mixture and HGH allow for more condition damage.  There’s a lot of traits to play around with here and I’m going to be happy with just about any combination.

Equipment

Once a decision has been reached on what skills you want to use and how often you want to use them, you can start figuring out what to do equipment-wise.  It’d be insane to cover every single armor, weapon, rune and trinket set and how they can relate to each build…so I’ll post some benchmarks and recommendations.

Power  and condition damage have their own advantages and disadvantages.  Power relates to how much physical damage can be done but high armor/toughness will mitigate it.  Condition damage bypasses that armor/toughness and deals damage directly to a target but has a cap (either at 25 stacks in intensity or via duration).  Some engineer kits scale horribly with power (flamethrower) or are better off using to inflict conditions (elixir gun)…so the fact that using 2 pistols or pistol/shield allows a build to take advantage of 2 weapon sigils suggests building towards condition damage.  Neither route is wrong, though.

Pump precision until critical chance gets to 50-51%.  Any more than that and it seems like overkill unless a build is focusing on power and/or critical damage.

Conversely, don’t go glass cannon!  Maximizing damage has an appeal but that can only be taken advantage of if you’re alive and not on the ground asking for a rez.  Build around toughness until your armor is at least 2400.  Any lower and you’ll die too fast unless you have some great escape abilities or endurance regeneration.

If increasing vitality, consider scaling heal power and/or toughness as well.  Heal skills are dictated by healing power so those skills will actually be diminished in effectiveness the more health a build has.  All that HP won’t mitigate physical damage so don’t neglect toughness either.  I don’t trait for vitality outside of the +3,000 HP the Alchemy trait line provides since the 18-20,000 HP amount (depending on how well the server is doing in WvW) has always been fine…but I also have at least 2700 armor (and over 3,000 if building around the flamethrower)

Don’t build around magic find unless you have a really good group of friends on-call!  Magic find equipment robs a build of a critical third attribute and judging from the reaction of people who have built around it, they never seem to get the drops they want anyway.  Compare explorer equipment to berserker’s or knight’s…all give power and precision but berserker’s grants critical damage while knight’s gives toughness…each stat contributes more to not only a group but yourself than the explorer set’s magic find.  See also:  Traveler’s vs. Rampager’s (Precision) or Wayfarer’s vs. Soldier’s (Vitality).  Even if magic find gear is mixed and matched, a build is going to end up neutered at doing damage and staying alive since magic find will always be the primary attribute.

Wrapping Up

My WvW Grenadier and PvE Flamethrower builds in case anyone is curious.  None of the traits are ever set in stone since it’s fun to tinker with every little thing to see what all is possible.  Rabid equipment is great because it suits the playstyle of being fairly tough while packing quite a punch.  For the flamethrower and elixir gun, all rabid gear works pretty well but I’m currently experimenting with subbing in Knight’s and Cavalier’s armor/trinkets because hey why not?

Iron Man 3

It’s hard to be excited about Iron Man 3 (and other Marvel character movie sequels like Thor 2) when we know most of the real developments are going to happen in The Avengers 2.  Sure, those movies could be fun character-driven romps but unless Marvel/Disney does something stupid like not renew Robert Downey Jr’s contract, Tony Stark’s going to be the same character.  There’s no tension involved when the audience knows the main character is going to survive or have little to no character development.  With all that in mind, the bar for Iron Man 3 was set at “successful summer blockbuster that is good if you want to escape from how much the world sucks for 2 hours.”

Iron Man 3 meets that standard.  It’s a fun movie to see in theaters that relies more on spectacle to impress the audience than its actual content.  That said, it’s a step up from films like Transformers where the movie is completely brainless.  Iron Man 3 has more substance to it than most summer blockbusters but I hesitate to say it’s a good movie.  The film’s similar to Dark Knight Rises in that it’s more of a Tony Stark movie instead of an Iron Man film.  The main plot is underwhelming but those looking for strong acting performances shouldn’t be disappointed.  A more in-depth review follows from here on out so if you hate spoilers, you should realize that knowing the ending to something doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it stop reading now.

The main plot revolves around extremis, an experimental chemical that increases strength and provides regeneration.  The film’s main antagonist, Aldrich Killian, uses this chemical to not only buff himself but provide it for disabled soldiers to fuel his world domination scheme.  However, extremis has the nasty side-effect of spontaneous combustion and total disintegration of a surrounding area should the human body reject it.  To cover up these explosions, Killian creates a terrorist called “The Mandarin”.  The movie follows Tony Stark’s investigation into these explosions.

Iron Man 3‘s focus on extremis is what ruins its narrative.  The idea of a chemical providing regeneration and super strength is viable.  The same chemical having a side effect of heating the body up to 3,000 degrees and giving the user some control over fire is not.  It’s strange to say this about an established universe that’s had otherworldly mythological figures show up but comic book movies are at their best when they’re grounded in reality.  Extremis crosses the line separating “believability” and “stupid” into “stupid.”  See also:  Tony Stark having to suit himself up manually at a designated point vs. Tony Stark implanting microchips in him and being able to summon pieces of his armor by gesturing his hands.

In contrast to the narrative, the character performances are awesome.  Ben Kingsley really steals the show as The Mandarin.  He was such a compelling figure for the first half of the movie that the film’s resolution should have been Iron Man vs. The Mandarin instead of Iron Man vs. Aldrich Killian.  The film’s main twist is that The Mandarin is not a sinister terrorist but a film character created by Killian to cover up extremis accidents.  Kingsley plays the roles of Killian’s Mandarin and oblivious British character actor superbly.  I was also impressed with the twist in that it’s surprising the film had the gall to go that route.  Initially, it was worth a smile but knowing the climax wasn’t going to be a show down with The Mandarin really ruined the second half of the movie.

Robert Downey Jr.’s performance would normally go without saying but I did like how the movie explored what’s going through Iron Man’s head post-Avengers.  It’s nice to see a guy who had a near-death experience have to deal with the stress that comes with surviving one.  I was also pleased with how they handled his scenes with a 10 year old kid.  Upon first impression, I feared they were going to cut back on Tony being a snarky jackass because he was interacting with a kid.  Instead of neutering his character, the film reinforced it.  The ending sequence provides some possible closure on Iron Man as a solo film series although the after-credit sequence with Mark Ruffalo isn’t worth staying after for.

The special effects provide enough spectacle to distract the audience from such things but they often stretch believability.  Towards the end, there’s a scene where Tony Stark falls hundreds of feet down the side of a crane-like structure on to a hard surface with only a few bits of his armor on.  Watching that sequence, I could only wonder how his unprotected arms and legs weren’t all broken and why he wasn’t knocked unconscious.  Another scene has multiple Jarvis-piloted Iron Man suits showing up for the climax…only for most of them to be easily destroyed (one of which had 3 people jump on a suit to tear limbs off with their bare hands…).

There’s been a lot more negative things said here about Iron Man 3 than positive.  It’s not a bad movie but there’s numerous issues that keep it from being good.  A serious resolution to The Mandarin would have gone a long way towards making the film more enjoyable.  The movie is a step up from Iron Man 2 but it’s not as good as the original.  People looking for a summer spectacle blockbuster with good character performances won’t be disappointed.  Those who see past the spectacle or go in expecting the film be will be less than thrilled.