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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