Okay, so we probably didn’t catch you with Minstrel thing. Even if you somehow hadn’t got wind of the leak a couple of days beforehand, if you were paying attention to the evidence you probably pretty much already knew what it was going to be… or you were desperately hoping that somehow it would turn out to be a ruse.
If you were really paying attention, you might even find that some of their mechanics look quite familiar. I’m not just talking about Vassar’s Chaos Storm from Fan Day, either – there had been a lot of speculation flying around on how the mesmer could retain it’s feel when so many of the mechanics it had once relied on – interrupts, hexes, energy itself – had been removed. A particular focus came on the concept of ‘punishment’ demonstrated in Guild Wars 1 by hexes such as Empathy, Backfire, and Visions of Regret – which mesmer pundits suggested replacing by a special condition (Confusion) or an illusion that attacked the victim when they triggered the punishment (revealed in interviews as Backfire, one of the torch offhand skills). Also discussed were area invisibility spells, illusionary fighting clones to supplement the mesmer’s own fighting capability, and other clones that served primarily to confuse the issue on the mesmer’s actual location… all things that have come to pass.
Whether this has been a case of the company taking inspiration from the fanbase, convergent thinking from the same starting conditions, or simply the Infinite Monkeys principle in action is left for the reader to decide.
What I don’t think anyone called, however, was just how important these would turn out to be for the profession. The creation of these clones come from regular skills, and from what we’ve heard so far, it’s sounding like it might well be impossible to avoid having at least one or two of these on your bar. However, this appears to be a good thing, since the class mechanic revolves around these illusions, or, rather what you want to do with them when they’re no longer useful – detonating them for damage, control-based conditions, or protection (in case the enemy isn’t taken in).
Another surprise is in the mantra mechanic. A lot of speculation focussed on how mantras or fast casting could be reincorporated into GW2 mechanics, but most of them concentrated on something that was more along the lines of a class special mechanic, possibly a bit like elementalist attunements but… different. Instead, we have skills that effectively have long casting times, but when near completion can be held in potentia to be released at a moment’s notice. This allows the mesmer to prepare powerful effects in advance that can later be fired off much faster than skills of similar power would normally be able to be activated.
The armaments of the mesmer, possibly more than any other profession, have proven to be a matter of controversy over the months, possibly more than any other profession… and not just because it had longer to develop (and, some would say, fester). Primarily, this focussed around the pistol and the sword.
On one side of the firearm debate came those who felt that the aristocratic, duellist nature of the mesmer (primarily from out-of-game artworks from Guild Wars 1 – see below for an example) suggested an adoption of pistols as they were developed and possibly even that mesmeric magic, dealing as it does with the mind, needed something like a firearm as backup as a defence against those who refused to be manipulated. Others, including myself, felt that the mesmer’s own magic should serve as a sufficient offensive force, through bolts of chaotic energy should the mind trickery fail.
The end result seems to be a compromise between those positions. Pistols are available as an offhand weapon… but their primary purpose seems to be essentially as a ‘seed’ to generate a pair of illusory gunners to support the mesmer. In the video reveal, the pistol-armed mesmer is seen to fire the pistol herself as well, but the effect is currently unknown – and unless the mesmer’s pistol breaks the normal rules for offhand weapons, pistol-armed mesmers seem likely to remain primarily reliant on their sword or sceptre in combat.
This controversy, however, paled in respect to that regarding swords. Now, most Mesmer fans had accepted some time ago that swords would be among the mesmer’s armoury, most likely as their melee-range weaponry, largely as a result of this image from the original Prophecies promotional material:
Where the controversy grew, however, was in how that sword would be used. Elementalists and necromancers are both capable of fighting in melee with daggers and axes respectively, but neither actually physically strikes their opponent with their weapon – instead, they use their weapons as foci to cast close-range spells. Looking at the image above, some mesmer fans felt that that was not enough, and that Guild Wars 2 represented a chance to finally fulfil the promise of the image above of the mesmer as a fencing duellist, employing illusion to confuse the enemy before setting up a killing blow. Others feared that such an image might corrupt the image of the mesmer as a figure that concentrates on wreaking havoc on the foe’s thoughts and perceptions and doesn’t feel the need to resort to brute force.
Personally, I always felt that it was possible for the two to coexist – in a game where weapon choice makes such a difference to how a character plays, there is no reason to believe that what one mesmer does with a sword necessarily needs to impact on what another does with staff or sceptre. From what we’ve seen so far, that does appear to be something that ArenaNet has successfully pulled off – the duellists have their swordplay, the pure casters have a range of options, and so far both sets of players seem to be happy with the result.
One of the surprises, however, was the greatsword’s position in the lineup. Few people called the greatsword at all, but I don’t think anyone predicted its actual purpose – not as a melee weapon, but as the mesmer’s primary long-range (the one skill we’ve seen actually does less damage the closer you are to the target) weapon of destruction alongside the more support- or defence-oriented staff and sceptre. I guess it’s one of those things that makes sense in hindsight – as a magical focus, the greatsword can essentially be regarded as a sharper, pointier, more dangerous version of a staff.
Now we’ve discussed the weapons and predictions, the overall question regarding what we’ve seen is… is it mesmery?
I think the answer has to be yes. There are some dissenting voices, but we always knew adaption into the Guild Wars 2 system would bring changes, with some elements being left by the wayside while others are expanded on or completely new. There’s less of a feel of the subtle mind trickery and certainly a greater focus on blasting the enemy with the raw, chaotic forces of magic, but that’s to be expected both from the more visual-oriented form of the game, and the new philosophy that every profession should have a decent source of direct damage. However, the overall feel of the mesmer as the controller and deceiver has been maintained, and the new additions all serve to add to that rather than detracting from it. Certainly, there doesn’t appear to be anything that better fits another profession… although I dohave a sneaky suspicion that the reason Lightning Field and Storm got removed from the elementalist was so that it doesn’t compete with Chaos Storm.
I’d always thought (okay, since the guardian release) that unless the mesmer proved to be an outright fail that it would probably sit in among the top three, with the guardian and elementalist and above the engineer. Now that we’ve had a glimpse, I think I am comfortable slotting it into the top two (why yes, I am man enough to shoot pink lightning) – most of what I really like about the elementalist is also present in the mesmer and guardian, and I like each of those more. Whether it rises to the top or not will require more information and, likely, experience in play.
So, what are your thoughts on the release? Brushing up on your books of illusion, or planning out how you’re going to go about pinning one down and killing them? Have any correct predictions you’d like to claim (be polite now) or incorrect ones you’re willing to own up to? Comment below!