“GuildWars”

History: In 2005 I won a copy of the online game GuildWars without really wanting it. Therefore, I didn’t examine the game for a month or so, figuring I didn’t have time for an online game, but the box artwork and some of the things I saw about it online convinced me to take a further look. Little did I realize what I was going to get myself in to.

Description: What I soon discovered was a very richly visual and literary world. The setting is lush with vivid locations, fascinating characters and interesting story lines. (And, during the semi-annual holiday events, several of the locations get a holiday-themed makeover.) The artwork convinced me to look closer, but it was the character generation system that convinced me to stay.

The character generation system is based on professions. Each profession has special skills or spells available only to them, plus the option of having a secondary profession to compliment the primary profession. There are six basic professions in the main game and two each in the later expansion campaigns: some are familiar to anyone who has played any kind of fantasy roleplaying games, others less familiar.

And one profession that immediately attracted my attention: Mesmer. Not many roleplaying games, online or not, allow for the opportunity to a spellcaster to specialize in casting primarily hypnotic-themed spells. I just had to try this game out.

The first thing to do was create a character. The game allows several dozen variations in creating a unique character appearance based on the campaign setting. The original campaign, Prophecies, is more traditionally Western European in nature, so characters from that campaign will have Western features. On the other hand, a character from the Oriental Factions campaign will have oriental features and their armor will have oriental accents, while a character from the Mediterranean and Northern African Nightfall campaign will be of darker skin and have more tribal appearances. In all my time playing, I have yet to find another character looking exactly like any one of my four different character. Having multiple options for armor sets and colors and weapons also helps.

Since the Prophecies campaign was the only campaign available at that time, my first character, Shiarra Draega, is definitely European in appearance: female, tall (for a woman and her profession) with red hair and pale skin. Her face is slightly triangular: I admit I was trying for a Fae appearance. That her hair is pulled back into a bun, with bangs across the forehead and a few curls escaping in back, was the best choice I had at the time, but it fits with the overall image I have of Mesmers as control freaks.

Then I started playing. The game starts beginning players in a bucolic world, where they are recruited by their kingdom to maintain the watch over the barbarian, cat like Charr to the north. Most of the missions here are to acquaint players with their characters and how to manipulate them. Once that is done, the real story line begins.

The Charr overrun the kingdom and the populace is forced to flee. Through that flight, they meet with various people, some of whom we help, some of whom we later learn were using them for their own advantage, and one who was the ultimate instigator of the troubles. The characters must grow and learn to overcome their adversaries to restore a semblance of order to their world. Essentially, that is the storyline throughout the whole game, in all three campaign worlds and the one expansion.

Over the past three years, I have taken Shiarra through all three campaigns and the one campaign expansion. And I’ve have a great time. I like the interaction between players during the game (even if sometimes they act like total idiots) and appreciate the visual and literary effort the creators have put into the game.

But enough about the overall game. What you’re probably wanting to know more about are the Mesmers.

Because Mesmers, as might be expected, cast mind magic spells, they are subtle spellcasters. In fact, they have few visibly manifesting spells at all. They cause enemies to destroy themselves through their Domination magic or cause them to suffer debilitating hexes through their Illusion magic while using Inspiration magic to control spells and manipulate magical energy. As such, a good Mesmer compliments their allies and defeats their opponents in quiet but extremely effective ways. About the only thing they cannot do, however, is actually control an enemy into fighting for them, which is kind of a good thing, because opponents have access to the same spells and abilities as the players. In fact, that’s sometimes the way to acquire new spells is to defeat someone with that spell and perform a capturing ritual to obtain it.

Mesmers are also specialists in understanding how magic works. Their profession understands magic so well they can take shortcuts during casting, thereby casting their spells much faster than any other spellcaster. That understanding also gives them several spells that interrupt rival spellcasters’s spells or cause the spells to overload or backfire. Interrupting spells is probably a Mesmer’s greatest asset to any mission team.

One thing that people will soon notice is that Mesmers are extremely attractive. Mesmers have at least the second-most flamboyant and certainly the most elegant looking armor sets of all the professions (the image above is my character’s first set of elite armor: I think it looks more suited for the bedroom than the battlefield.) Also, all professions have a dance routine they can perform on command: female Mesmers do a Flamenco style dance while the male Mesmers perform an Irish step-dance. And, if you find someone who bought the deluxe edition of the game, their character’s hand movements will be accompanied by trailing sparkles of light, adding quite a mystical flair to the performance.

The above image is one of the Mesmer hero characters in the game, Koro Sagewind. Again, flamboyant yet elegant. (Koro is apparently based on an anime series "Wolf and Spice" and the female lead, Horo, the Wise Wolf.) She is carrying a Mesmer staff: it appears to be the Trickster, possibly taken from a Charr Mesmer boss (not unexpected, as she is a member of the Ebon Vanguard, the Charr are her enemies.)

A lot of beginning players tend to dismiss Mesmers, mainly because they are so subtle and less showy than other professions, plus being difficult to master, so they are less prevalent in the game than many other professions. However, a good Mesmer can be a great asset for just about any mission. Their ability to cause opponents to harm themselves can take down some of the toughest opponents who specialize in dealing lots of damage to lots of opponents at once: Shiro the Assassin in the final “boss” in the Factions campaign, and has a special ability that can be a Total Party Killer, but with the right Mesmer spells on him, he winds up killing himself instead.

Addenda: As I am writing this, GuildWars 2 is in beta test stage. ArenaNet has not revealed whether Mesmers will be a profession in GW2 but only the standard professions from the original set have been revealed so far.

If anyone in GuildWars wants to whisper me, my primary character is named “Shiarra Draega”. Plus, if you’re a Mesmer without a Guild, you’re welcome into mine, named (of course) “Look Into My Eyes”.

(A previous version of this post was originally published in "The Transparent Hypnotist" blog under the title 'Esoteric GuildWars'.)

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