So, those of you who know me know that I am A) a one character man, and B) a master Mesmer in GW1.
With these two things in mind, I set out in GW2 with the expectation of creating one character, a Mesmer, and remastering the art of Mesmerizing in its GW2 BWE1 incarnation. This thread is a critical reflection on that experience.
In Guild Wars, the Mesmer is an under-rated profession, in my opinion. It has been typecast generally into two roles--interrupted and degen-pressure. The lack of flexibility has left some Mesmer players, myself included, desiring a complexity to the Mesmer. The good news is, Guild Wars 2 largely delivers this complexity. While the Mesmer can no longer user many weapons that were usable in GW1, such as bows, and cannot use some of the new weapons in GW2 like rifles, the Mesmer is now a very pick-up-and-play-friendly class, which is easy to begin using and hard to master.
Do you want to wield a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other? Great! Your Mesmer can do that. Want to pick up a huge freaking broadsword and cause illusionary havoc? You can do that too. And each weapon has a variation to it depending on which hand (main or off-hand) you use it in--staves and two-handed swords obviously the exception.
This makes the Mesmer potentially a very dangerous class in GW2. Add to this the ability to make illusionary clones, and you have a reincarnated class that truly captures the complexity and mastery of the mind that the Mesmer seems to have always set out to be.
In this sense, the Mesmer is very much in the spirit of its GW1 counterpart, even if the form differs.
Despite all this, the Mesmer still suffers from a critical setback that its Guild Wars 1 counterpart also shared--squishiness. In GW1, this could be offset by the clever player, through a combination of energy management, interrupts, and proper usage of the secondary class. And if that failed, you always had monks to heal you.
Not so in GW2, so far. The monk class is completely gone, which means you are on your own for healing. The bad news here is that your self-heals are pretty weak, take forever to cast, and have a recharge time that makes them almost useless. Your squish will be your downfall in many a situation.
Also, GW2 has removed the ability, so far as I experienced, for a Mesmer to interrupt and degen-pressure. That's right, the two most crucial and stereotypical roles of the Mesmer in GW1 are completely absent in GW2. While I appalled ANet for taking a risk here and breaking the Mesmer out of the box, so to say, I can't help but think they may have gone too far. The Warrior still tanks, the Elementalist still nukes, the Ranger still uses a bow, but the Mesmer now lost two of the fundamental aspects of the class.
Sure, you can do a lot of condition pressure now, thanks to your exploding clones, but that won't help you much when you need those clones to make effective use of your heal and/but you need conditions to keep yourself from being squished. This is where degen-pressure and interruption are crucial to the Mesmer class. Also given the relative strength of the new enemies, and the cast-time of self-heals, the Mesmer absolutely has a role to play as an interrupter and a degenerator.
In GW1, I played a Domination Mesmer, and specialized in interruptions. While I certainly enjoyed cloning myself and fighting akimbo with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other like some kind of steampunk magic-god, as enemies came at me with moves that turned me into a glowing purple pulp, I found myself wishing I could do more than simply do a dramatic deathroll away from their attacks. I'm a Mesmer, gosh darnit! My GW1-self would simply throw a Cry of Frustration into your silly face and make you beat yourself up with Backfire or Empathy! Alas, not so in GW2.
Send in the Clones:
So what about those clones I've mentioned? Honestly, they're really cool. Especially when you make use of them with a singlehanded ranged weapon like a scepter. Having five of you all spamming attacks at the enemy while they fumble about trying to find the real you is greatly satisfying!
Yet, there is also something unintuitive about the clones. You can make them explode in a variety of ways, but these often require them to be in the face of whomever you are attacking, which they rarely will be. It also ends up being a measure of last resort as you actually need those clones alive to use some of your more effective attacks and self-heals, which, as I illustrated above, often puts the Mesmer into a catch-22 of squishy death.
Oh and if your opponent is using AoE--forget about it, you might as well just back off and hope you can dodge enough to get out of the way.
This is once again where the importance of interrupts and degen comes in. Imagine eating your opponents health away while they fumble blindly through a field of your clones, only to have their attacks interrupted while you hop about from clone to clone in an illusionary dance of death by a thousand cuts. This is the Mesmer at its most mesmerizing--but is currently not possible in the Mesmer shown to us in the BWE1, and if ANet's stated plans are any indication, will never be as interrupts and degen are gone forever if they have their way.
While everyone has to struggle and adapt to the changes in how classes and moves work in GW2, I can't help but feel that the Mesmer has taken the worst of it--this is not your great-great-grandfather's GW1 Mesmer. Maybe that's a good thing, but as I hope I have demonstrated in this critical reflection, a reflection on the core principles of the GW1 Mesmer might bring a lot to the table in GW2.
The Mesmer has a lot of potential to be not only a fun class but an extremely dangerous one. Yet, I have to conclude that what ANet has given us in the BWE1 is only a shadow of what the Mesmer could be--an incomplete portrait of the class at best.
Right now I'm forced to conclude that, like the illusionary clones so important to the class in GW2, the GW2 BWE1 Mesmer is just that--a hollow illusion of a class that has true potential to be great. I look forward to see what ANet does with it between now and release, and truly hope some of our feedback will be incorporated.
I look forward to your own critical reflection and commentary on the class so close to many of our hearts.