A great deal has been said about the final Guild Wars 2 class reveal. Undoubtedly the Mesmer, it is a class synonymous with Guild Wars and one of the most original within an MMOG…
For those who aren’t aware, the Mesmer is an anti-class. Its sole purpose is to prevent other classes doing their job. To shut players down, to prevent them attacking or casting spells; to debilitate and pressure others. To subvert energy from enemies for their own use. It’s an incredibly niche class and one requiring exquisite timing and high levels of concentration in order to interrupt, spread hexes and disrupt effectively. It was my ‘main’ within Guild Wars.
The removal of hexes from Guild Wars 2 raised eyebrows at how such a move would affect the fundamental role of a class entirely reliant on such skills. Hexes functioned similarly to all spells, but differed in that many weren’t immediate direct damage but were rather conditional, often triggered by others or gradual in their effects.
What questions now arise is how ArenaNet will evolve the class, based on 250 years having passed, alongside the removal of hexes. But first and foremost, and to truly assess the class and its evolution, it must be broken down, arguably, into its simplest of forms: a spell caster and illusionist.
The removal of hexes by ArenaNet is a distraction more than anything else. All of the Mesmer’s skills within Guild Wars could be attributed to any spell type; direct damage, conditional or area of effect. Removal of a skill set (hexes) by name alone does not change the principals of the skills themselves. Which leaves us to analyse the illusionist.
A master of illusion, misdirection, and control, the Mesmer subverts the damage-dealing capabilities of others, manipulating their perceptions to achieve personal goals.
– In-game description
Key elements which will affect how the Mesmer plays can be drawn from ArenaNet’s approach to the holy trinity and skill use. With no ally-targetable skills (only ground targeted), no dedicated healer, and a lack of crowd-control that physically affects a player’s control over their avatar (with the exception of the Necromancer’s Fear) narrows the focus of what the Mesmer will do, as opposed to won’t.
Picking out key points from the Guild Wars’ in-game description, there are three elements pivotal to the Mesmer: illusion, misdirection and control.
Control comes in many forms, from roots to snares and knock-backs to knock-downs. It would be simple of ArenaNet to approach these elements for the Mesmer and insert any Guild Wars skill into one of them. The community has gone to great lengths to transfer existing Guild Wars skills into applicable Guild Wars 2 variants: Spirit shackles could become a snare, Ethereal Burden a root, Panic a knock-back and Clumsiness a knock-down. But this remains an easy task, and one that does not address the root play style of the class.
ArenaNet have been subtly increasing the skill ceiling of classes they reveal (though this doesn’t mean the earliest of classes revealed will be ‘easy’). And we can draw from this, after the Engineer reveal, that the Mesmer is likely to be complex. I suspect based on 250 years having passed that Mesmers have changed a great deal, based on the difficulties the world has now come to know.
I’ve always envisaged Mesmers as individuals who were looked upon by others with suspicion. Mind games, trickery and confusion could in 250 years lead to segregation and a decline in the ‘profession.’ That they have become outcasts amongst their own kind but that many Mesmers, as a result of their gifts, have profited extensively at the expense of others; a case of when Mesmers visit towns or cities people are instantly wary for fear of being manipulated.
Whilst the riches they own through misdeeds, past and present, may allow them to retain a lavish lifestyle (and thus retaining the much loved Mesmer aesthetic) there is the possibility that they have evolved past the requirement to always use physical weapons.
I may be going out on a limb here, and it would be difficult to ever predict what the mechanics of the class will be, but I suspect that the Mesmer may not have physical weapons in a typical sense. That their weapon sets will be determined by Illusionary Weaponry that players can choose to wield at any time. Like other classes their first five weapon-skills will still be determined by the weapons they wield, but with Illusionary Weapons activated, they will have a choice to instantly turn these items from the physical to phantom, allowing them to take on entirely different properties based on the original items you were wielding; the player physically choosing whether the main, offhand or both item turns phantom (and thus resulting in multiple combinational skills).
Where this may get more complex is that Fast Casting (whether or not it’s renamed) may play a part, but will be activated based on you wielding phantom weapons and will as a result directly affect your remaining chosen skills. What this will also mean is that undoubtedly Mesmers will, unlike the other spell casters, wield projectile based weapons such as Pistols (though not rifles) as the potential for them to take on properties of the unknown in phantom form are infinite.
Between all the class mechanics though, I believe that ArenaNet have left little room for manoeuvre in surprising us with something truly original, but I have no doubt that Nightmares and Phantasms as temporary physical manifestations may make an appearance (don’t mention the word pets!).
Inevitably this all remains speculative and ArenaNet may yet surprise us with a mid-line, mind-blasting, phantom summoning, spirit weapon wielding illusionist. But if one thing is for certain, the Mesmer won’t be your standard ‘caster.’
What does everyone else think? (feel free to drop me a line now or in a couple of months time when I’m so completely wrong!)
Email the author of this post at firstname.lastname@example.org