I have a 50 Esper and a 42 Engineer. I’ve played both rather extensively, both in the DPS and alternate stances (healer and tank respectively). I’ve read about the classes and messed around with them. Only things I haven’t done are raiding and PvP. Though I do read that logs put the engineer at top level for DPS (all melee are in the top 3) and Esper just above the Medic in the bottom (the ranged are all drastically lower than the top 3). While there will always be a gap, and I am more than comfortable, the mean average should not have such significant deviation.
Engineers are heavy armor, mid range attackers with quite a bit of variety. While their Bot (combat pets) AI is junk they do however provide an extra target to soak a hit or two. More or less HP shields. Their cooldowns are mostly defensive and their skills have tremendous synergy and a rather simple rotation. They are somewhat simple to play, can take a beating, and dish out a lot of damage. Tanking is also quite easy.
Espers are light armor, long range attackers with little variety. The fact that their main builder “roots” you in place for the cast duration (the only ability I know of in the game that does that) it makes for a very immobile play style. Their cooldowns are offensive but they have alternate healing skills to keep them alive. That said, due to low armor, any focus attack or boss attack is usually a 1 shot (or dead in under 2 seconds). There is a high skill level required to play one. In terms of DPS role, they are essentially debuffers at this point. Healing is quite powerful but there are bugs with the way focus (mana) works on some skills. Very effective mind you and a lot of fun to play. The most fun healing I’ve had in a long time as keeping everyone topped is HARD.
I do know Espers are being tweaked in Drop #2, where their main builder is(?) becoming mobile. I also know that by Drop #3/4, the core stats should be tweaked which will change the way the power curve works. And there’s always class balance.
I kind of see this as the difference between Hunters and Rogues/Warlocks from WoW. Where a rather low skill level and pets to absorb damage we got many derogatory terms for Hunter players. Warlocks were either amazeballs or the worst players ever. You also never saw a Warlock due to the difficulty.
While in past MMOs, in particular WoW, ranged attackers have always been out of harms reach compared to melee, Wildstar is not like that. With few exceptions, melee (not tank) and ranged suffer the same vulnerabilities due to the telegraph system. Inversely, due to the telegraph system it’s harder for range to hit their target while moving. I mean, I don’t think an engineer can actually ever miss an attack.
There’s a perception, based on some amount of fact, that Engineers are simpler, easier to master, mobile, higher damage and higher survivability than Espers. Engineers are also seen as great tanks too. Espers are top of the healing pile. That isn’t the sort of view that goes away quickly as it becomes near cultural after a few months.
Oddly enough, I still prefer my Esper due to the skill level but have fingers crossed that with a few tweaks they can be made a bit more manageable. Either by taking advantage of that skill set (similar to old “stance dancing” in other games), by increasing the telegraph damage based on distance (less on accuracy), or by simply increasing overall survivability.