I’ll start by saying this. Mesmer is my favourite profession, and none compare to that spot for me. I love illusionists and enchanters, as well as spellblades, and the Mesmer seems to feel like all of them. However, the lack of refinement is incredibly clear, and thus the Mesmer, along with the Engineer, clearly need more work than any other profession before release, and numbers will not be enough to fix all of the baseline mechanical issues in each. I will warn you, it is by no means a light read, but please don’t let that dissuade you, I am trying to pour everything I can into ensuring the Mesmer becomes the best it can be on release, and there is a lot to cover.
So first off, Shatters as a core mechanic. There are now many threads suggesting to differentiate from this and go another route, and I have to say, I agree fully. Shattering is not a good mechanic to force the profession into using, if it is to stay, I highly recommend it is moved to traits and utility skills. There are many issues with it how it stands, but one of the main ones, is that currently it is not fun to do nor is it synergistic with the profession, and it’s existence as a core mechanic limits the variety that Mesmers can employ.
For the Shatter skills themselves, there is a clear issue with cooldown and level of power between them, as well as usefulness. Mind Wrack suffered a huge hit on it’s damage from last BWE to this one, and while I didn’t focus on Mind Wrack like some did, the current damage hardly makes it worth it. Cry of Frustration also doesn’t seem particularly worth it, especially in PvE due to how confusion works, but still true in PvP. I also fail to understand why it needs to have twice the cooldown of Mind Wrack, despite arguably being worse in most respects, if it’s meant to be an option for condition damage builds it would make more sense for them to have an equal cooldown if anything. Diversion is pretty awful due to it’s cooldown, other daze skills seem to have a third of it’s cooldown and don’t require you to sacrifice illusions to use it, as well as tending to come out faster leading to actual interrupts, not waiting for your illusions to close the distance. Distortion seems to be the only good Shatter skill at this point, and that’s only because mobile invulnerability of up to 3(maybe 4 with Illusionary Persona) seconds is very good, even on a 60 second cooldown.
Now for the problems with using the Shatter skills. First off, there is the obvious issue of making this profession reliant on AI pathing, Necromancer and Ranger are the two other professions who have to deal with it, however, Necromancer can completely ignore minions as they come from utilities, while Ranger has some direct control of their pets, and can pretty much ignore them completely and build to work without them. For a Mesmer to try to do that seems counter intuitive, due to how Phantasms and clones interact.
The fact that phantasms are shattered as well as clones makes the Shatter mechanic pretty much useless to any phantasm based build, which already suffers from enough issues with AI as it is. There’s also the fact that the Mesmer seems balanced with the idea of constant Shatter use in mind, which is one that I can’t say I like.
Suggestion on Core Mechanic:
Basically, here’s what I suggest, which is somewhat inspired by another person’s thread on changing the mechanic, but also something I’d though about a bit before. Instead of making swap a specific function of Illusionary Leap, why not give us F1, F2, and F3 as buttons to swap with clone 1, clone 2, and clone 3, represented by the pink circles that light up for a clone. Each clone could be given an icon over their head that only the Mesmer/maybe their team as well could see, showing a pink circle with a 1, 2, or 3 in the middle respectively. There could also be appropriate icons on the minimap, allowing the Mesmer to keep tabs on exactly where all of their clones are. Each use would consume the clone you were swapping to, making it obvious that you did it(at least normally) but still forcing them to find the real Mesmer again. F4 could very easily be the Decoy skill, moved from being a utility to being an alternative to swapping, for when losing your target is more important than raw repositioning.
Done this way, you could have swapping on a global cooldown, or a short global cooldown and a cooldown for each one. think like a five second global cooldown, 30 second actual cooldown. With traits, you could add effects like leaving a clone behind where you were instead of just consuming one, creating a shatter type effect, that sort of thing. I’d suggest also adding one second or even half a second of Distortion when you swap to allow it to still be useful in melee as damage avoidance, it could be a trait, but it’d probably be too obvious of a choice anyway.
Now, along with that, Phantasms would be distinguished from clones, thus allowing them to have a fair amount of power since they aren’t designed for misdirection in the first place, and they can also act as utility skills, much like the current Phantasmal Defender and Disenchanter. This allows Phantasms builds to work with the class mechanic, and doesn’t force clone factory builds to work with it either, though clone factories may become less necessary. This also works so much better with what the Mesmer’s playstyle is, which is to be incredibly elusive. Regardless of whether you play melee or ranged, or even support, being elusive and being able to reposition can benefit you. And by making their core mechanic strictly a defensive one, rather than being a source of their damage, you can afford to tweak regular skills, clones, and phantasms to deal more damage, possibly weakening a few defenses to keep the trade even.
I know that you guys are getting far into development and want to avoid drastic changes, but I very strongly urge you to do something like this. It will retain the Mesmer feel while restricting them less, and making them far less reliant on gimmicky shatters, which is especially important in PvP situations, particularly WvW, while also aiding them in PvE, which is a common complaint. If you still feel the need to include shattering skills, why not incorporate them into utilities, allowing someone to have a shatter build, which would keep a clone factory Mesmer useful, without being a requirement for all Mesmers? Since the swapping mechanic can cover Distortion, you could then retain Mind Wrack, Cry of Frustration, and Diversion, just tweaking them to make them work as a utility instead, while putting Distortion in the healing skill slot, probably replacing the mirror skill because it’s not that good at the moment. This allows you to ADD things to the profession, without really taking things away. A good trade, I’d think.
Confusion as a condition, I think is unfortunately a failure. It seems like no matter what you do, it will be impossible to balance, either doing so little that it’s worthless(particularly in PvE), or doing so much that it’s basically a 5 second daze or die, neither of which are really options for the opponent. I think Poison, Burning, and Bleeding have their place, but Confusion as it is, is simply a bad idea to begin with. There’s that and, it’s currently difficult to get much out of it anyway, due to the difficulty of stacking it to sufficient levels, so if it were modified, it would be missed in flavour only, not effectiveness.
So the question then becomes, what should the core condition(or boon) of the Mesmer be? Perhaps Confusion could remain in name, and act similar to Poison, perhaps even an effect like poisoning the targets mind, and like Poison, dealing damage, but also another effect. For example, it could deal damage over time(less than Bleeding or Burning though) and cause the enemy to deal less damage, similar to Weakness(or like an inverse Might?), but without the endurance regeneration effect. By doing that, or at least a similar effect, you make it much easier to balance for both PvP and PvE, with no high or low ends for it, as well as making it duration based rather than intensity based.
The weapon skills of the Mesmer are also something I feel needs some work, with some being simply too powerful, and others simply not useful enough. There’s also the issue of Phantasms, if the above types of changes were considered, it might be better to put Phantasms as utility skills instead of as regular weapon skills, which does also of course open up the question of which Phantasms effects are important to retain as utilities, and what the skill should be instead on the weapon.
Sword: The main hand sword is pretty much perfect for the Mesmer as is, the only thing that needs tweaking is of course the bug on Illusionary leap needs to be fixed. While at first glance the swap skills I suggested above would seem to make this skill redundant, I don’t think it’s a major issue, the sword will need a clone skill regardless and it does act as a gap closer. If it was found to be too redundant, you could always remove the swap part of it entirely and strengthen the clone a bit, allowing you to use one of your swaps as a gap closer instead, but retaining a similar effect.
Scepter: The scepter still honestly needs some work. The first skill is fine, but could probably use slightly higher damage, as it’s one of our only options for ranged use and it is rather slow to compensate for clone creation. The second skill, the block, could also use something, while it’s mostly fine and I would not suggest removing it by any means(particularly because of it’s combination with an offhand sword), I would suggest adding a damaging counterattack to the skill that can hit at range, it wouldn’t even need to deal a lot of damage, but it would make the skill feel more rewarding. Confusing Images needs a shorter windup, but otherwise would be fine, and with the version of Confusion that I proposed, instead of stacks of it, of course it would give a duration, requiring the full channel to get the full duration.
Sword: Similar to the Scepter, I’d suggest adding a damaging counter to the skill as well. The Illusionary Swordsman would instead become a clone that would apply vulnerability similar to how the clones used to act when they copied your Mind Gash.
Pistol: The pistol would probably require the most changes, Illusionary Duelist of course would need to not be a phantasm, it might apply confusion on it’s attacks. Trick Shot is simply ridiculous as a regular skill, it should Daze rather than stun, and be used as an interrupt more than anything. Think something like, each hit of it applies confusion, first hit is a 2 second daze, second hit is a 1 second daze, third hit is a blind.
With those changes to the pistol and offhand sword, it also makes them well suited to being used with the mainhand sword and scepter respectively, while still obviously having use if you mixed and matched.
Torch: The Prestige is amazing, don’t change it, but the phantasm on it’s second skill would need to be changed to a clone, I’d say let it act as a ranged vulnerability attacker instead.
Focus: The wall effect could probably use a damage effect for enemies crossing it, possibly confusion rather than raw damage. The phantasm would be replaced by a melee clone that would apply confusion and block attacks, allowing you to position yourself between the clone and the target as cover.
The tweaks to torch and focus are partially intended to give options for ranged raw damage and melee condition damage, giving some build variety.
Greatsword: The greatsword needs a bit of work, if only to make it not completely boring to use. I’m not sure what to suggest to do with the Spatial Surge, if anything, but it may need a bit more damage for how obvious it is. Mirror Blade is mostly fine, however I’d suggest having the blade return to where you were when you cast it before making the clone, that way you can generally predict where it will be and the clone can take advantage of range for it’s damage. Mind Stab is mostly fine, but could use a faster cast time. The phantasms on the fourth skill should be a clone, still causing cripple on it’s attacks, but being ranged. Illusionary Wave seems to be fine. Regardless of what I’ve said on this weapon, I’m really not sur eon how to make it more fun, so I’ll leave that to you guys.
Staff: Ah the staff, great weapon, but entirely too random. For Winds of Chaos, it should apply confusion and one stack of vulnerability per hit to enemies, and allies should receive fury and one stack of might per hit. Feigned Escape is perfect as it is, as is Illusionary Warlock, though it should be a clone, not a phantasm. Chaos Armour should apply confusion to them and a very brief blind, and while it’s active it should apply protection to you, and regeneration when you are hit. Chaos Storm should apply confusion and cripple to enemies, and regeneration and swiftness to allies. If you do that, the staff ceases to be random while still having the exact same feel. With those changes, I’d actually consider to be a very good weapon set.
Phantasms: Since I talked about moving Phantasms to utility slots, we should of course figure out what phantasms are important to retain as their own skill. Illusionary Warden is unnecessary due to the clone version working fine, and Mirrored feedback existing, Phantasmal Berserker was relatively useless and a ranged clone with the cripple effect covers that nicely, Illusionary Swordsman wasn’t special in any way, the Illusionary Mage could be kept in some form as condition phantasm, , Illusionary Duelist could probably remain as a high damage ranged phantasm, Phantasmal Defender could still be useful, and Phantasmal Disenchanter definitely has it’s place.
So we’re left with Illusionary Duelist, Mage, Defender, and Disenchanter, a fair grouping of phantasm options. Out of these, Duelist would be raw damage, Mage would be inflict confusion for condition damage, Defender would be good for survivability, and would counterattack attacks made against you, and Disenchanter would be similar to a constant Null Field, but with a weaker effect in exchange for dealing damage.
On a different note, but still related to utility skills, I’d suggest that Signet of Inspiration be made less random. I suggested this before, but it could be context sensitive, granting swiftness out of combat, might and fury in combat if you are above half health, protection and regeneration if you are below half health, granting both in each of those cases, though not for a long duration. It would still proc every ten seconds, it’s just that with this, it’s not random, and is more useful to what you are currently doing. Some kind of timer on the signet icon would also be really nice to know when to expect our next boon. With the changes from Shatters to swaps/decoy, the Signet of Illusions could instead refresh that set of skills. Also, obviously Decoy would be removed, due to it being the new F4. Mimic is currently pretty bad, it could use a lot of improvement or simply be removed.
Moa Morph: Put simply, get rid of it. This is not a good skill at all, it would be better to retain it as a part of a quest(similar to the pig or snow leopard quests) or an environmental, like the wand of Moas or something. As a class skill, while funny, it is too powerful of a disable, it obviously won’t work on bosses in a PvE scenario, and in PvP it is anti-fun for the opponent. I’d advise finding a replacement that actually fits with how Mesmers work, Illusion of Life would probably make sense as an elite skill to be honest, so it could replace this.
Mass Invisibility: This skill is great and all, but it seems to be basically the exact same as the Veil of Invisibility utility skill. Perhaps a short swiftness effect on it as well would make it more clear that this is an ELITE skill, not a glorified utility skill. Cooldown could of course be adjusted to be appropriate.
Time Warp: Easily the best elite skill at the moment, no issues with it, except it may or may not shorten the effect of distortion on Blurred Frenzy due to shortening the attack duration, not certain on this, but if it is true it should be fixed.
My opinion on the trait lines this time around isn’t as solidified, as I don’t know what the exact changes were to them, and can’t say what is too good or not with the new trait tiers, though I will say that I hate the current implementation of them. I’d really prefer at this point if we could have two selections per tier, basically adding minor traits into the pool, and changing that slot into one where you can select like a major trait. That would at least make me feel a bit better about what i can customize.
The only trait line I have a real issue with is the Chaos trait line. As before, I and many players HATE RNG in this, things should have clear effects always, especially for PvP. The traits of note, and what I’d suggest to do to fix them are as follows:
Bountiful Interruption: This needs to have a clearcut boon associated with it. Because it’s offensive, and interruptions are hard to ensure, I’d suggest making it either might or fury, but make it always be the one that you pick.
Chaotic Interruption: Same idea, because vulnerability is covered elsewhere, confusion is probably a good idea.
Debilitating Dissipation: Apply vulnerability when clones are killed I guess? Confusion is covered already.
Retaliatory Demise: Retaliation, much like the old confusion, is not a good idea, and in it’s current iteration simply sucks and will never help you ever. In this case, just apply confusion to any enemies that attack you while you’re downed.
Reviver’s Retribution: Same idea, but how about a short Chaos Armour? At least that would be useful.
Mesmer Downed State:
Simply put, the Mesmer downed state SUCKS. in PvP, you can’t actually interrupt enemies, and in PvE you don’t tend to be able to fight back properly.
Mind Blast, or whatever the first skill is called, would be fine if it applied the new version of confusion, at least then it’s still useful against slower attackers and still damages enemies who try to finish you.
The Illusionary Rogue is a great idea in theory, but he attacks so slowly that the blind doesn’t matter. I heard from a friend of mine that he might actually daze now, if that’s true, at least we get an interrupt now, which is good. I’d suggest making it so that he attacks once the instant he spawns, so that there’s no windup, but otherwise it’d then be fine.
The teleport is awful, I have literally never been saved by it, and the thief one is far better. I like the idea other people are throwing around of allowing you to teleport away with a short stealth and leave behind a downed clone to confuse your enemies. THAT would actually be useful to save yourself.
Now looking at all of what I have to say, it probably looks to you like I’m not appreciative of the Mesmer, or don’t know how to play it, but it’s anything but either of those. I really did enjoy the Mesmer, and it will be my main forever, but I’m also a critical person, I notice flaws easily, and this is beta, the best time to fix all of those flaws and turn it into a masterpiece.
Mesmer is an advanced profession, similar to the Engineer and Elementalist in my opinion. It is complex, and should feel rewarding. if people want to use trickery and misdirection, the Mesmer should be that profession, and I feel these changes would really help solidify their image into what they could be. These changes remove randomness, open up more build options, and allow true misdirection as a base part of the profession, rather than the misdirection only being in the lore, allowing it to be the core of their gameplay. As always, I leave numbers to you, but these are the sorts of ideas your team needs to consider when polishing the latest profession to arrive.
Anyone who actually reads all of this deserves some praise for their patience.