The Eighth Profession – And Now We Wait.

As promised, ArenaNet have finally revealed the eighth and final profession for Guild Wars 2: the mesmer. This will come as a surprise to very few people; what we really wanted to know was what they’d done with it.

No longer are mesmers required to be foppish.In the original Guild Wars, mesmers are all about control and denial, but have they got a distinctive style in Guild Wars 2? Signs point to yes. The new mesmer class continues its predecessor’s tradition of punishing your enemies for doing what they do – the sadistic pleasure of Backfire, magnified.

A skim over the new profession information finds plenty of familiar material. Mantras make a re-appearance, but rather than simple timed stances they have a whole new mechanic (one which I feel needs to be played to get a real feel for it). Set up your mantra ahead of time, then wait for the opportune moment to set it into instant effect later. Playing a mesmer has always involved a lot of delicate timing, and I’m not surprised to see that sort of thing turning up for GW2. Illusions get a much more involved and literal role with clones and phantasms, which allow you to project copies of yourself to fool and manipulate your enemies; I’ll be very interested in how that goes down in PvP, along with the theif’s stealth abilities.

And at last, sylvari make it into some skill videos!

A new condition is introduced called confusion, which to me feels like the biggest link between this profession and my experience of mesmers in Guild Wars. To quote: “An enemy with confusion on them takes damage each time they activate a skill. This condition stacks in intensity, so the more confusion an enemy has, the greater the damage.” The lose-lose effect by which an opponent can either act and be punished, or not act and leave themselves open, is very much in the spirit of the mesmer. It’s all about working indirectly until your enemies can’t do anything to you, even if you haven’t laid a finger on them yourself.

The ‘shatter’ mechanic is reminiscent of the enchantment tear-down which was made the centre of the original Guild Wars’s dervish profession in a major overhaul some time ago. As a melee class who rely on magic to shore up their comparatively low armour, playing a dervish can become a delicate dance between keeping yourself under the benefits of enchantments and destroying your own enchantments for more powerful effects. This kind of balancing act actually meshes quite well with the mesmer, although mesmers probably won’t rely on their illusions to save their own life quite as much as dervishes can. While the dervish is a holy warrior wading into battle protected by faith, the mesmer is a sneaky and agile caster, a “magical duelist” who needs misdirection and illusion to get through where they want to be.

The weapon choices are interesting, leaning somewhat away from the typical spell-caster set (though scepter, staff, and focus are available) and into much more melee-oriented weapons. For a ranged option the mesmer has a pistol (which honestly should look very cool with the general aesthetic), and on the heavy weapon end there’s the unexpected bonus of a greatsword. This weapon in particular gives the mesmer a potential look and feel quite different to the other scholar professions, elementalist and necromancer. I know of at least one reader who has always wanted a sword for his GW1 mesmer, so the variety should be welcomed.

Overall, the mesmer lives up to hopes for me, with a really unique feel to the mechanics, interesting play potential, and some kick-ass art and videos. We’ll need to hear from some people who’ve played the profession before we can really know anything about the style – like so much of Guild Wars 2. I can’t wait to hear about some of the combos that the mesmer allows.

And now… we wait. That’s five races and eight professions, not totally complete perhaps but in working order. I’m sure there’s still a lot to polish and test, and no matter how badly I want to play this game by now, I do encourage ArenaNet to continue as they started and keep working until they’re really, truly happy with it.

But I really want to play it. Seriously.

I’ll have my collector’s edition on order as soon as a date’s announced, and I’ll look forward to the possibility of beta-testing next year.

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