Phantasms and Clones and Betas OH MY!

Although it was already spoiled on Monday, today was the official release of the Mesmer! In fact, I have to admit that I was surprised by the level of detail we received and how much it improved my outlook on the final Profession. Without further ado, I’m going to dive right into the meat and potatoes of the Mesmer’s equipment and abilities.

  • Main Hand: Sword, Scepter
  • Off Hand: Focus, Pistol, Sword, Torch
  • Two-Handed: Staff, Greatsword

Illusions:

As noted Monday, the Mesmer is quite obviously meant to deal with illusions in various forms. Illusions make up half of the unique mechanic for this Profession, much like tool/weapon kits are half of the Engineer’s unique mechanic. There are two kinds of illusions the Mesmer has access to, each having a different visual style and purpose. The first type is a clone. Clones look exactly like the caster; they have the same name, same model, same coloring and same weapons. At a glance you can’t tell the difference.

As a rule, clones do little damage and are used primarily as a tool for confusion and Shattering (more on this later). As an example, many (every?) weapons have a pair of clone skills that do the opposite of one another. One may have you point at the enemy and send a clone out of you to attack the enemy while the other sends you at a foe and leaves behind a pointing clone. At a glance you can’t tell which skill is being used and where you should focus your attacks. I particularly enjoy these kinds of mind games because they add a very difficult to quantify skill level to the mix. If you have played League of Legends, characters like Shaco, Le Blanc and Wu Kong can be made or broken by their tactical use of clones and stealths. It has also been noted that clones are more frail, opting to be for sudden and quick bouts of chaos rather than long-term deception.

I’d like to take a moment aside here and say that I’m extremely glad that they made that decision. It has been my experience that characters that rely overly on AI-controlled deceptions have a really hard time in a competitive PvP environment. No matter how skillful the user is there are almost always tells that give them away and if they are expected to pass some of the damage off to clones they end up being too frail as players learn to see the tells or simply deal with clones too quickly. I asked them on Reddit whether the Mesmer was potentially too frail for having to rely on deception and they assured me that the Mesmer is not so much about deception as much as having interesting ways to disorient and set up their Shatters. Anyway, back to mechanical discussions!

As previously mentioned there are two types of illusions. The second type are called phantasms. We see phantasms in the skill video when the Sylvari Mesmer conjures two that are wielding guns and they shoot a bunch of pink lasers. Unlike clones, phantasms are immediately discernible from the Mesmer because all players see them as purple/pink and transparent. Phantasms are more hearty, meant to dish out and take more damage before going away. They are primarily used for specific abilities rather than deception, and they too can be shattered. Effectively they act as regular spells for other professions but they take the image of the caster and can key into the unique mechanic of the class.

Confusion:

With the formal introduction of the Mesmer we are informed of a new condition. Confusion is a stack-able condition that punishes you for using abilities. Basically, every time you use a skill you take damage, and the more stacks of confusion that are on you the more damage you take. This condition is essentially backfire and empathy packed into one neat little package, and better yet at least one other profession (the Necromancer) can use it.

Shatters:

Taking after one of their key signature abilities in GW1, Mesmers in GW2 will be able to shatter their version of hexes (illusions). Taking the role of their F1-4 mechanic, Shatters destroy all of the Mesmer’s illusions and provide some secondary benefit. The four shatters are as follows:

  • Mind Wrack: Deals damage to nearby enemies upon shattering
  • Cry of Frustration: Gives the Confused condition to nearby foes
  • Diversion: Stuns nearby foes
  • Reflection: Gives the Mesmer a reflective shield

As you can see, many of these effects actually tie in closely to many of the different versions of hexes from GW1. On-demand stuns and confusion are going to be extremely devastating and I see some really interesting possibilities with Reflection. For example, say that you see someone winding up a big spell. You could use the dash skill that leaves behind a clone, get in the enemy’s face, then pop reflection to blow his spell back at him. This can be used both as a dueling-type skill and as a way to support an ally by getting in the way of something intended for them.

Mantras:

The final mechanic that the Mesmer has at its disposal is the ability to use Mantras, likely through the utility skills. Mantras have a two-stage mechanic that makes them both tactical and interesting. First they require a long wind-up, say 2-3 seconds. Once “wound up”, you can hold it in as long as you need (presumably), and then unleash it instantly. And I really do mean instantly; it has been stated that you can use it while knocked down or even while channeling another spell. I’m not sure if they get around conditions like dazed, stunned or feared, but even if they don’t they are still very powerful. This two-stage system allows the Mesmer to front-load their casting times to prepare before a fight starts, while they are retreating or simply when they have nothing else useful to contribute.

How it comes together:

Of all the professions released thus far, I feel that the Mesmer has potentially one of the most engaging and cohesive skill kits. Some professions have lots of options, but many are sort of one-or-the-other, or simply good but without particular synergy. Take for example the Warrior- they have shouts, banners, stances and of course attacks and adrenaline bursts. While a Warrior can use any or all of these elements, most of them don’t have a particular combo other than “makes him stronger”, and that’s fine. The Necromancer can use minions, marks, wells, death shroud, etc. With the Mesmer though, all of these abilities really tie in together much more closely.

Imagine the Mesmer and all of his options at any one time. He will likely be in control of 1-3 illusions at any time, some of them being decoys, others being almost like minion summons. During that he can channel a skill to add more damage or control, and during that he can use a stored up mantra. Add to that the fact that he will have on demand AoE damage, stuns, confusion and a reflective shield, and the fact that using them will destroy all of the illusions, and the fact that the damage and confusion stack and the stuns can be spread out… that’s just a lot of tactical information to be constantly cycling through.

Take for example whether you want to use a stun or confuse. If you have all three illusions near one enemy, using the stun won’t be particularly stronger than using it when there is only one illusion next to him. Using confusion will mean that said foe will get 3 stacks all at once; that’s potentially a lot of damage if he doesn’t get rid of it. Alternatively, the Mesmer may have his three illusions spread out more. Now a stun can potentially stun tons of people, or he could be spreading confusion to everyone.

Let’s take another situation. There is an Elementalist that is hurling meteors at the Mesmer’s team. At the same time, there is a Warrior barreling down on the Mesmer. The Mesmer could use Illusionary Lunge to send out a clone to the Elementalist, then immediately use Diversion to stun the Elementalist and cancel the channel. Then he could go 1v1 with the Warrior about to be in his face and let the team deal with the Elementalist. Alternatively he could use Lunge to get in the Ele’s face and then Diversion his clone that the Warrior is about to hit, thereby stunning his pursuer. Yet another thing he might do would be to use Illusionary Lunge and create a phantasm near himself, and when the Warrior gets close use Diversion to stun them both and walk away. Oh, and we’re not even talking about mantras or utility skills like the Portal!

Overall, I think they have managed to preserve much of the spirit of the original Mesmer. The GW2 Mesmer can interrupt (stuns and daze), punish people for taking actions (confused), create spells that punish people for specific circumstances (various phantasms), and they are still dressed immaculately! Just as I am relieved that the Thief isn’t a stealth-reliant class, I am very happy that the Mesmer is not a clone-deception-based class. Illusions are pivotal, but more for offense and tactics rather than a way to defend yourself through trickery. They seem like they will have a very high skill ceiling and be excellent at sowing mass-chaos throughout the battlefield.

But wait, there’s more!

In the midst of all of this news, ANet Developers Jon Peters, Isaiah Cartwright and others did an AMAA (Ask me almost anything) on Reddit, as well as hopping onto guildwars2guru’s IRC to do a Q&A session. The most obvious big news was the official announcement of the Closed Beta beginning this Friday. Of course, this isn’t that big of a surprise if we are to trust ANet to their word that it would start this year, but nonetheless, it’s very exciting. Professionalism aside, you guys at ANet should really consider inviting me to closed beta! I kid, I kid… but not really. I’m sure they will hear that about a million times in the coming days, but what the hell, a guy has to try!

Anyway, the closed beta starts Friday and will be invite-only and under a strict NDA. Other tidbits out of the AMA were already covered in my article, but another cool one was that the scale of WvW was discussed, and as many as 500 players can participate in each map at once, and with a total of 4 concurrent maps that means up to 2,000 players per world set. I’m very excited to try this out, I have always loved large-scale PvP but disliked it being in the same place as PvE. To get the full list of Q&A from the AMA, just click here. Special thanks to Endemic for collating the information!

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One Response to Phantasms and Clones and Betas OH MY!

  1. ArcherAvatar says:

    Really enjoyed this post… fun read.

    I’m glad the closed beta is for actual TESTING, and not just a glorified demo at this point, and I’m happy that ANet is still keeping much of the game “close to the vest” until they are satisfied with it. Beta tests all used to be like this… I’m not certain when exactly that particular train went off the rails, but it certainly has in general for the industry. Kudos to ANet for going “old school” on this.

    The mesmer reveal certainly hit with impact here too… it went immediately to the top two of my personal list.

    I find myself most intrigued and curious about the combination of Scepter+Pistol for some reason I’m finding difficult to describe or explain…

    The class mechanic definitely rates at the top for me. The versatility of being able to choose on the fly between AoE nuke, AoE stun, AoE DOT, or a personal reflective shield for defense is simply amazing. That class mechanic alone would make the mez a must play for me, but I get some teleport style instant travel manueverability and some stealth too?!? Ya, sign me up for some of that!

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