Back on the 14th December I made an up-in-the-air post about how cool the Mesmer looked. It had just been announced, and with it a few images had been released, as well as the official skills video. The GW2 wiki had also begun compiling information on the skills the profession has.
Since then there has been very little in the way of news specifically related to the class. More importantly, the one thing I was really hoping that would come out sometime in the month or so after the announcement — video footage of the Mesmer in play — has yet to surface.
Looking at lists of skills, figuring out what combos might work, what weapons you might choose for situations, and so and so forth are all useful and valid methods of getting to know a class. But without actually seeing it in action, it is difficult to form an opinion on how it is going to work!
In Guild Wars 1
I recently finished levelling a Mesmer character in Guild Wars 1 so that I could get four of them in my Heroes team to complete Glint’s Challenge. I took Ritualist as my secondary profession and basically levelled the first 14 levels as a Ritualist with gimped stats (and then did the Kilroy Stonekin’s Punch-Out Extravaganza quest repeatedly until level 20). Why? Because I couldn’t get the hang of the Mesmer style of play at all.
Compared to the Dervish, Elementalist, Ritualist and Necromancer (the other four professions I’ve levelled to 20), I couldn’t seem to get my Mesmer to do any real damage. Nor was she particularly useful at control, as I had very few AoE abilities to work with at that level as a Factions character.
I know skills like Ineptitude and Panic are brilliant when Heroes are using them, but that is one of the benefits of an AI: they can react and target and interrupt spells much faster than I could using GW’s UI.
So I’m hoping that GW2 can do Mesmer right. With the more action-focused play, it should certainly be possible to make Mesmers just as much of a pain in the ass as Gwen and Norgu are in GW1, but having them able to cope in solo play too. Without Hero/Henchmen support, I really don’t think my Mesmer would have gotten very far at all.
One of the great things about the Mesmer from a gaming perspective, is that it is something that hasn’t really been tried all that much before. In pen&paper roleplaying, having an illusionist character was perfectly possible — you often didn’t know something was an illusion until you caught the DM out or your character figured it out — but in visual media, it has never worked as well.
The same goes for mechanics like mind control. I remember a big argument on the WoW forums back in the day about how people hated the Priest’s Mind Control spell because they kept making them jump off cliffs in PvP. (Which I think is hilarious, personally!)
Specialists in illusions and mind control/domination are pretty rare in games — at least the games I’ve played — because visually and mechanically they are difficult to pull off. I mean, how do you actually represent an illusion? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in two decades of gaming it is that people hate having their time wasted. Spending five minutes fighting a monster only for it to be revealed as an illusion is absolutely no fun. But on the opposite end, making an illusion so weak that it dies in a couple of hits has the potential to make the illusionist incredibly weak in, for example, competitive PvP.
The Mesmer in GW1 bugged me, because it was one of the least exciting classes to watch. About the most visually exciting thing it did was Chaos Storm, which had some shiny swirly graphics, but generally speaking the Mesmer was so hard for me to play because so many of its abilities lacked visual cues.
ArenaNet seem to be fixing that for the sequel. The forums were in uproar on the announcement day when they saw how purple and pink and butterfly-shiny the Mesmer is, but I’d prefer all of those things to having to guess what they were doing.
Mechanically the Mesmer sounds pretty complex, with probably the highest skill ceiling of any of the classes. It revolves around the creation of clones and phantasms, and the shattering of said creations to inflict damage or conditions on those around the target. To me, this all comes across as very cool. But I’m afraid it will be too complex for me.
I’ve said in previous blogs that I’m unfortunately the type of person who can get quickly overwhelmed when playing complex classes. The reason I tanked as a feral druid in pre-Cataclysm World of Warcraft was because I found the gameplay and mechanics of the class simple enough to allow myself the spatial awareness for what was going on around my character. It allowed me to stop the big add chomping on the healers because I wasn’t having to pay attention to hotbars.
Protection Paladin, on the other hand, was a real challenge because I had to watch so many cooldowns.
GW2 seems adamant that it is moving away from watching cooldowns and allowing players to focus instead on what is going on in front of them. Watching the action instead. So it is possible that, if I get to grips with the Mesmer, it will actually be much less complicated and difficult to play than I fear it is.
I think until we get some more information — especially video footage — then I won’t really be able to make a proper assessment on the Mesmer in GW2, but at least I’m pretty certain it’ll be more fun to play than in the first game!