When you struck a poor unsuspecting foe with the spell Cry of Frustration in Guild Wars, their character let loose a cartoonish expletive like the one above. This was both a cute and amusing emote, as well as a telling one. For the Mesmer, it wasn’t so much about what you planned to do to your foe, but what your foe planned to do to you and gleefully screwing over their plans. A line of enemies has you in their sights, they rush in and prepare to smite thee down, only to land on their asses, cursing the ASCII Gods as you interrupt them with your fast casting counters. The Mesmer was like the blue tortoise shell of Guild Wars, it was great when you had one on your side but a real nightmare when one snuck up on you.
Somehow this mischievous element of the Mesmer has been lost in the transition between sequels. There are certain elements of the first game that are entirely gone from the second, such as hexes and an energy/mana bar. In the first game, Mesmers were a master of manipulating these elements to their advantage, so they’ve had to find new talents of unwonted persuasion in Guild Wars 2
The new class mechanic for Mesmers is split into two parts, which to be honest, are really three parts. The first two elements are illusions, divided between look-a-like clones and shadowy pink phantasms. Clones are low damage, low health minions that are easily summoned and easily killed. Their main purpose is to serve as a distraction from the actual Mesmer and as a resource for the Mesmer’s shatter mechanic. Phantasms are designed with far more specific purposes in mind. Many of these illusions have singular attacks or purposes, being either a crippling sword-spinning ghost or a meat shield that absorbs half of the Mesmer’s incoming damage.
The third element of this mechanic is the one that makes the first two a problem. The function keys correspond to shatters for the Mesmer, ranging from direct damage, to condition application, evasions and diversions. The direct damage element is the Mesmer’s hardest hitting attack with a maximum amount of illusions up. The diversion attack is the Mesmer’s replacement for the lost art of interrupts. Ironically, the condition shatter is currently termed Cry of Frustration, yet only frustrates the Mesmer and does not interrupt the target at all.
So why does this all not work? Because the Mesmer has become sort of like a night guard with a pack of dogs patrolling about the halls. The nightwatch looks daunting at first, but you wonder how easy it would be to deal with that guard without the dogs. Of course, you wouldn’t mistake the nightwatch for the guard dogs, and neither does the AI controlled foes in the game. But at least the dogs can be sicked on you correct? Yes, but unfortunately these are not German Shephards the Mesmer is handling, but more so than less so, a dazzling, sparkly trio of Droopy Dogs that mosey right up to their intended victim with all the urgency of a pack of teenagers crossing the street to the Mickey D’s. Bare with me for this diatribe on timing: While the Guild Wars Mesmer was attacking on broadband, the Guild Wars 2 is dialing up on 56k. We’ve gone from blue tortoise shell to three red tortoise shells, and people are plucking them off your kart’s bumper left and right.
There, that’s enough analogies for now right? So whats the exact issue here?
The problem is the combination of character based minions on a control class and the need for assured delivery of the Mesmer’s counter-acting abilities. When a Mesmer reaches for that Diversion shatter, it is doing so to interrupt and disable a foe for specific reasons at a certain time. While in the past, this sort of counter-move happened within a second, the current Mesmer must wait for its illusions to stop what they’re doing, acquire their target and then run towards it and blow up in their face. There is no consistent time elapsed between the button press and the diversion happening. It all boils down to the variables of where your illusions are in relation to the target, if there is any aoe along the way to gobble the illusions up and whether or not your foe is moving away from you at the time. It is perfectly easy for a foe to just outrun the to-be-shattered clones until they reach their range limit and stop moving completely. I know this is possible, because it happened to me many times during the beta weekend. I began to wonder if someone at ArenaNet had got hooked on Angry Birds and decided to turn their most iconic class into a janky game of topple-the-pigs. And while you’re flinging your illusions at your targets, you’re losing the beneficial aspects of your phantasms.
Back to the shores of Lake Constance
While I have complained about the Mesmer’s current shortcoming, and haven’t even touched the Confusion condition issue, there are some parts of the Mesmer that are working. Namely, melee combat and the more Mesmery utility skills.
The utility skill Null Field removes boons from foes and conditions from allies, working as a sort of two-way enchantment removal and cleanser. Being as the Mesmer originally had a lot of enchantment removal, its good to see this sort of ability renewed. The Phantasmal Disenchanter provides a similar tactic as well as a shatter charge. I am in particular a fan of Mirrored Feedback, which creates a dome around a foe that reflects all hostile projectiles back at their original source. This ethereal dome also works as a combo field, and leaps into the combo field create an explosion of chaos shields. What’s a Chaos Shield? The chaos shield is a staff ability, very Mesmer-like itself. This bubble surrounds the ally and causes conditions to enemies hitting the ally and boons to the ally when hit. This is the sort of counteracting magic that makes the Mesmer class valuable. The class just needs more of it and less of illusions, a better balance between direct control and AI controlled flops with a minion-bombing play style that causes so many issues with the entire purpose of there being a Mesmer class in the game.