There are a lot of reasons you might want to play the Quarian Engineer. Perhaps you enjoy elemental chaos. Or you’re just a fan of nomadic, technically inclined space gypsies. Or, more likely, you’ve just always been fascinated with Tali’s hips.
But your infatuation has always been looked down on by people who deride the Q.E. as a “bad class.” Today, we’ll look at why the naysayers are wrong and unlock the potential of this quizzical class. She may not be a point machine, but she’ll get you to extraction when it counts. Which is always.
Basic overview/race traits
I’m just gonna come out and say it: the Quarian Engineer has nothing interesting going for her in terms of racial abilities. Her health and shields are mediocre, as are her melee capabilities. While she does have evasive maneuvers (unlike Krogan, Turian, and Batarian fighters), they’re slow and highly vulnerable. She doesn’t gain any cool bonuses to movement speed or anything of the sort, so she’s basically a slightly gimped Human with funnier dialog. K’tah valek!
But don’t let that dismay you. She may not have any particular strengths, but your Quarian Engineer is a well-rounded fighter whose skills make her a valuable asset on almost every mission. Give her enough time, and this space gypsy will steal your heart, if not your wallet.
The Sentry Turret is a robotic contraption that attacks enemies and draws fire. Make no mistake, it’s not nearly as powerful as the tank that Cerberus Combat Engineers like to surprise your team with. Instead, it’s a baseball-sized hovering bot that can be thrown (underhand or overhand, your preference) into an area, where it quickly deploys and begins its work. It doesn’t deal a lot of damage, and it’s relatively fragile, but the cooldown is so low you can easily replace it the second it goes down.
Sentry Turret is definitely an all-or-nothing ability. Before its level six evolutions, its rate of fire and damage are so poor, you’ll spend more time recasting it than it will ever be active. Even with maximum point investment, your little deathbot must be placed very strategically to be of any use. For flamethrowers (recommended), that’s usually right at a corner, where it can blast enemies from behind as they walk towards you. For rockets, it’s usually at an elevated position with good line of sight on the entire map, so it can rain explosives down on any target it can acquire without wasting shots on walls or cover.
It is important to check on your Sentry Turret frequently, so you can ensure it’s alive or evaluate the efficacy of its current position. Sometimes you’ll want it in place to effectively warn you of flanking foes. At other times, tossing it at enemies’ feet or directly behind them will draw aggro long enough to save your life. Other times, you’ll be using the Sentry Turret to flush baddies out of cover, or pull fire away from a pinned-down squadmate.
Recommended evolutions: damage/shields (4), armor piercing ammo (5), flamethrower (6)
Without the damage/shield upgrade, Sentry Turret will be far too fragile on Silver and Gold to ever be of use. Cryo Ammunition specs very infrequently and is bested by the readily available Cryo Blast. Plus, Cryo Ammo has never been proven to work with either level six evolution, so Armor Piercing Ammo is always the better choice. While Rockets do huge damage, I find positioning them leaves your turret more vulnerable and therefore useless on higher difficulties. By contrast, the flamethrower upgrade can create charring chokepoints and synergizes well with your other elemental abilities. Paired with Armor Piercing Ammo, it can melt through protection quickly.
Cryo Blast slows and weakens enemies in its radius. While it’s not powerful in and of itself, it disables and exposes troops to your allies’ attacks. Targets without armor, barriers, or shields become instant popsicles, becoming completely disabled for a few seconds. Those that do have a layer of extra health will still be slowed significantly and, with the right evolutions, will also take extra damage.
Most of the time, you’ll start firefights by hitting a group of enemies with Cryo Blast, softening up one or two, then finishing a frozen target with Incinerate, triggering a Cryo Explosion (more on that later). In the meantime, your Sentry Turret and teammates will be dealing inflated damage to the group, finishing it off quickly.
Many gamers are hesitant to drop significant points into a skill that typically results in teammates getting all the points. Thankfully, it doesn’t friggin’ matter, since the score is shared between players. As long as you’re not desperate for the external validation of a bar filling with points, you’ll find Cryo Blast pays for itself in successful extractions. By spamming it, you’ll make enemies easier to target, easier to kill, and less likely to down your squad when things get hotter than a vanesh-ko’rah furnace.
Recommended evolutions: area (4), either (5), increased vulnerability (6)
Since Cryo Blast has such a short cooldown, extending its duration at level four or cutting its recharge at six are complete wastes. Being able to hit multiple foes and increase their vulnerability pay much greater dividends. The choice at five between increased susceptibility and decreased movement speed is much harder. In the end, they both make enemies easier to kill, so it’s up to you how you’d like your frozen dinners served.
Incinerate fires a ball of flame at your target, melting flesh and armor. While I wasn’t a fan of this ability on the Krogan Sentinel, it is significantly more powerful on the Quarian Engineer, thanks to a pairing with Cryo Blast.
As with biotic combinations, tech powers are also capable of comboing together to create explosive effects. While they’re not as powerful overall, they provide more utility than ezo-powered detonations.
In this case, enemies frozen solid by Cryo Blast (or by Cryo Ammunition) will explode in a huge Cryo Burst if hit by an Incinerate that kills them on contact. It must be the killing blow, which for most enemies will be around 75% health, assuming your took the right damage upgrades for Incinerate.
Enemies in the area of the combo explosion will be chilled or frozen, setting up new targets to detonate in a frosty blast. While this doesn’t do a lot of damage, it creates a domino effect of chain explosions that will debuff crowds of creeps, allowing for easy pickings by you, your teammates, and your Sentry Turret.
Of course, Incinerate is a strong countermeasure to armor and health in general, plus it’s great for damaging enemies hiding behind cover or around corners. Between Sentry Turret and Incinerate, you’ll be responsible for forcing foes into plain sight where they can more easily be finished off like the virtual vermin they are.
Recommended evolutions: damage (4), burning damage (5), cryo synergy (6)
While radius is a no-brainer upgrade for most other abilities, the burst damage afforded by the alternative at level four is more appealing for two reasons. First, it makes setting up Cryo Blast combo detonations much easier, since your Incinerates will more frequently 1-hit frozen targets. Second, it is more useful against Atlases, Banshees, and other high-armor targets you can’t freeze with Cryo Blast. Recharge time won’t be an issue with a light weapon loadout, and the Cryo damage synergy is a no-brainer with Area Cryo equipped.
Quarian Defender and Fitness
The Quarian Engineer is not a very robust class, and she doesn’t deal out thousands of damage, so your choices for her passives are fairly free.
For instance, when choosing between power damage and weapon damage in the Quarian Defender tree, both options lead to easier Cryo Bursts. It’s your choice whether you want a more powerful pistol shot to weaken foes before lighting them up, or making the actual fireworks more damaging. Cryo Blast doesn’t do damage, so it doesn’t count, and Sentry Turret is ultimately more of a distraction tool than it is a real mob-killer.
Fitness, on the other hand, will always fall into the “take more health when possible” category. While you shouldn’t be melee killing most enemies anyway, the Quarian Engineer’s melee attacks are especially pitiful, making any points into them a complete waste. Assuming you bring Fitness past level three, you should always opt for survivability over WWE-style beatdown attacks.
Quarian Defender recommended evolutions: power damage/weight (4), either (5), either (6)
Fitness recommended evolutions: health/shields (4), shield recharge (5), health/shields (6)
Weapons and equipment
Spamming powers all day will be the source of your success, so any weapon setup that leaves you with less than +175% recharge probably won’t cut it. Stick to a light-to-mid-weight pistol (Predator, Phalanx, Paladin), or perhaps just an Avenger X assault rifle. If you can actually hit things with SMGs, they might not be a bad option, either.
These weapons will keep your capacities available when needed, while giving you just enough firepower to get targets to the 70-80% health range for a Cryo Blast explosion. The Paladin and Phalanx pistols in particular can accomplish this in one well-placed shot, which make them my favorite picks. Just keep in mind that, with the exception of shields, your Cryo/Incinerate combo does significantly more damage than most light weaponry.
The Quarian Engineer is extremely vulnerable, so armor upgrades for her shields, shield recharge, or movement speed are all good picks. For ammunition, I’d highly recommend Disruptor Ammo for two reasons. First, it allows you to damage shields/barriers more easily, which is great since Incinerate can’t handle these protections. Second, it allows you to set up Tech Bursts by casting Incinerate on targets that become stunned by your electrified shots. Unlike Cryo Bursts, Tech Bursts don’t have to be killing shots, allowing you to hose enemies with fire, lightning, and ice constantly.
From my own experience, there are really only two ways to play the Quarian Engineer, with the first being significantly more effective in random pick-up groups.
Freezer Burn (elemental support)
As I described in most of the article, the most potent way to lay out the pain as our favorite veiled protagonist is by maxing Sentry Turret, Cryo Burst, and Incinerate. When specced for flamethrower/vulnerability/elemental synergy, these three skills can melt through small groups of foes quickly while weakening or distracting bigger targets for your squad to take out. You’ll be the perfect support unit at mid range, capable of debuffing anything and sucking suckers out of cover.
Going into most situations, you’ll toss a turret adjacent to an enemy cluster, chill them with area Cryo Burst, then pepper them with shots until your Incinerate can trigger a Cryo Blast. At that point, you’ll have your pick of frozen targets to use as explosion fodder, assuming your Sentry Turret doesn’t off them first. When larger enemies arrive, you’ll typically end up in a Cryo, Incinerate, Incinerate pattern, keeping an Atlas or Banshee weakened while burning away protections. In between abilities, try to score as many headshots as you can.
This build will force you to choose among 5/3, 3/5, and 4/4 splits of passive bonuses, all of which are viable and all of which still make you cannon fodder in Silver or Gold. The reality is the Quarian Engineer doesn’t have enough shielding, HP, or maneuverability to survive open confrontations regardless of stat allocation, so don’t feel bad about skimping on extra life. Make a conscious effort to stick to cover and get ready to use your Spec Ops med kits if necessary.
Cold Killer (long range assault)
Why let your mechanical augmentations have all the murderous fun? Ignore Incinerate, and instead max your passives, plus take slowing Cryo Burst and Rocket Sentry Turret for the long range advantage.
Think about it: you’re perched in an elevated position far from enemies. Your Sentry Turret can rain down death with high-damage missiles on anything that moves. In the meantime, lining up headshots with your Mantis X (or hell, even a scoped Carnifex) is ridiculously easy with Cryo Burst. Unshielded enemies will be literally paused until you open an emergency induction port directly into skulls. Tougher units will be slowed by 35% and take 15% more damage from your sniper rounds.
If it sounds like fun, that’s because it is.
While I still root for the more well-rounded master of elements gameplay style, the Quarian Engineer has tools that make defending the galaxy fun in any scenario. Watch your health, keep enemies well chilled, and remember that your Sentry Turret can and should be reapplied liberally as the situation demands.
As long as you don’t get cornered too often, you’ll find your team has a much easier time dealing with even the worst encounters.