Classy Characters, part 2

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Guild Wars has six core classes: Warrior, Ranger, Monk, Elementalist, Necromancer, and Mesmer.

The typical archetypes for the genre are, naturally, Warrior, Thief, Cleric, and Wizard. Thus the mapping isn’t entirely one-to-one. We have some splitting up and merging of roles. For example, the GW Ranger is a hybrid of typical Warrior and Thief roles. The GW Ranger has traps (Thief), a ranged combat focus (Thief), but is physically strong (Warrior) and can be built as a passable Melee combatant (Warrior). Warrior obviously maps onto GW Warrior, and Cleric maps onto Monk. That leaves us with three character classes derived largely from the Wizard archetype: Elementalist, Necromancer, and Mesmer.

I tend to favor support-style classes, and so when I was creating my first character in Guild Wars I was looking for a support-style character to play. It’s obvious that the Elementalist in Guild Wars is primarily a “Nuker” a direct-damage spellcaster utilizing D&D Wizard spells such as “Lightning Bolt” and “Fireball.” As such I was primarily interested in the Monk, the Necromancer, and the Mesmer.
* The Monk is a healer, and that’s an obvious support class. At the same time, I find the Monk somewhat boring in that so many of his skills are geared only towards healing other characters. Monks also are severely dependent upon other characters to succeed. As I expected to be playing alone a lot, this was a significant downside to choosing this class.
* The Necromancer seems to be a class that is derived from Wizard and Cleric archetypes: It incorporates a limited amount of the D&D Wizard’s damage dealing capabilities with the D&D Wizard’s summoning magic and enough healing magic to manage the minions summoned. I tend to find that in many games summons become useless in the end game, as enemies become powerful enough to destroy your minions in one hit. I also didn’t care for the art style used for Necromancer characters.
* The Mesmer is described as “master of illusion, control, and domination” and “supporting the entire party in battle with powerful, mind-bending magic.” Interesting. I’m not entirely sure what all of this means, but it sounds like they make use of a lot of a D&D Wizard’s utilitarian magic like “Charm,” “Mirror Image,” “Weird,” “Glamer,” and all those other unique spells and effects. I also liked the art style of this character class the most of these three classes.

I settled on a Mesmer character and have been enjoying the class, but of late I’ve become somewhat dissatisfied with my choice. For all the talk about illusion, control, and domination the skills the Mesmer actually employs are quite limited and very little have to do with illusion or [mind] control. I also found that the description of the class as “supporting the entire party” to be largely incorrect. The Mesmer has a support-skill branch, “Inspiration Magic,” but Inspiration Magic almost exclusively benefits the Mesmer alone and not the party as a whole.

I enjoy the character, but it’s not what I was expecting really. What I was expecting were skills that were like these hypothetical examples:

Skill Name: Invisibility
Description: You or target other ally become invisible for a period of time.

Skill Name: Disguise
Description: Your or target other ally’s appearance, name, and class are disguised. Your appearance or the appearance of target other ally becomes identical to a selected member of your party. (Disguise a Monk as a Warrior, or a Warrior as a Monk.)

Skill Name: Deception
Description: Targeted foe becomes deceived. Skills used by the target’s opponents are disguised as a random other skill. (Instead of seeing a Monk casting “Heal Party” he will see the Monk casting “Fireball.”)

Skill Name: Mirror Images
Description: You are displaced in one of eight random directions and surrounded by up to eight mirror images of yourself.

Skill Name: Mind Control
Description: You gain temporary control of target opponent, but are left defenseless.

Skill Name: Astral Projection
Description: You leave your physical form and can venture out in spirit form, allowing you to fly, pass through obstacles and possess weaker creatures. Your body is defenseless while you are projecting your spirit.

Skill Name: Polymorph
Description: You transform a target enemy into a harmless creature.

Unfortunately the abilities in Guild Wars are a bit more generic than that. For example, the skill “Conjure Phantasm” theoretically involves the creation of illusions that cause harm to the target. However, there’s no actual effect visible with the spell — no semi-transparent phantasms circling about the target, attacking it. What it comes down to doing is merely damage over time. While there are a number of unique Mesmer skills, too many seem to follow in the same format: damage over time, steal energy, interrupt an enemy’s action. What I was hoping was that the Mesmer would get a lot of the hard-to-define utilitarian spells in a D&D Wizard’s arsenal. Instead it seems the Mesmer only got a few of them.

For example, take a look at these mostly-duplicated effects:

Energy Burn – Spell. Target foe loses (Min: 4 – Max: 10) Energy and takes 8 damage for each point of Energy lost.
Energy Surge – Elite Spell. Target foe loses (Min: 4 – Max: 10) Energy. For each point of Energy lost, that foe and all foes in the area take 8 damage.

Energy Tap – Spell. Target foe loses (Min: 4 – Max: 7) Energy. You gain 2 points of Energy for each point of Energy lost.
Energy Drain – Elite Spell. Target foe loses (Min: 4 – Max: 10) Energy. You gain 2 points of Energy for each point of Energy lost.

Power Drain – Spell. If target foe is casting a Spell, the Spell is interrupted and you gain (Min: 1 – Max: 31) Energy.
Power Leak – Spell. If target foe is casting a Spell, the Spell is interrupted and target foe loses (Min: 10 – Max: 25) Energy.
Power Spike – Spell. If target foe is casting a Spell, the Spell is interrupted and target foe takes (Min: 20 – Max: 102) damage.

Now, duplicated spells with slightly different effects offer you a nice chance to get exactly the sort of effect you want, but the entire skill list is full of mostly-similar effects. There’s a whole set of Mantras with one Mantra dedicated dedicated to each of the four elements — The redundancy and unimaginativeness gets a little old after awhile.

The problem here is largely that the Mesmer has a plethora of effects dedicated to causing pain for enemy spell casters. I’m not sure this is what I signed up for when I created this character. I find that my character is capable in most Player vs. Enemy situations, but Player vs. Player is much more problematic. What if the enemy team has no spellcasters, or is all spellcasters? The Mesmer has no way of handling more than one or two enemy spellcasters at a time, and no real effective means of handling a team without spellcasters. This wouldn’t be a big deal if builds like IWAY and VIMWAY and Blood Spike weren’t effective, but they are. And in a more general sense there’s always going to be one or another builds that are favored and classes that are negatively impacted because of that.

What can a Warrior do against an Elementalist Ward Against Melee? Very little, except stand around uselessly swinging away, hoping the Elementalist will be foolish enough to forget to renew the ward. Now — Lets be clear, we’re talking about PvP here, not PvE, which is usually designed to be fun and challenging but beatable. PvP is a different beast entirely, with a few highly specialized builds dominating the majority of PvP games played. I estimate a good 25 to 50% of all PvP teams are an IWAY variant. What if one-quarty to one-half of all PvP teams utilized Ward Against Melee? Furthermore, you only learn this after playing the game for a substantial period of time. Would you want to play a Warrior class when your hard counter is so prevalent?

Because most games don’t offer you the option to reassign attributes, or reclass your character on the fly, this is a substantial problem for classed systems. You either give up PvP or do your best to break out of your class mold, or delete the character and start a new one. Guild Wars is exceedingly lenient in that it allows you to do almost anything except change your character’s primary class without penalty, but most games aren’t like that. Even with Guild Wars, I’ve built up an attachment to my primary character and have my own, limited as it may be, accounts of victories and defeats had while playing… A vague feeling of characterization and a story. Deleting a character I’ve played for over a hundred hours is out of the question. (Not to mention that my latest efforts in earning titles are all character-specific and thus not transferrable if I create a new character.) Starting up a new character is possible if you have open character slots, but in the long run is no substitute for being able to “reclass” your character.

In the long run, I’d just prefer no classes at all.

Previous: Classy Characters Part 1.

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