Mesmer is a bustling nation at first glance. However, something strange yet familiar lurks just underneath the surface. Nobles, merchants, artisans, underground, and workers make up the Mesmer society. Each group seems willing to destroy the other in order to make their agendas top priority for Mesmer. Quickly you learn Mesmer is full of social unrest leading it to become a police state complete with its own version of a secret police. Teri’s role is to win favor from each faction in order to start a revolution while avoiding the secret police’s “horsing.”
When a person receives a “horsing” they get a piñata looking horse head placed over their own head. It wipes a person’s mind and turns them into servants of the nation. This act is to deter others from inciting revolts. Squash the revolutionaries as you strike fear into the hearts of all Mesmer residents. It also functions as permadeath for your character. You will receive a “horsing” frequently.
A review code on Steam was provided by Rain Games for the purpose of this article. My first time in Mesmer resulted in a very quick “horsing.” The game does a fairly good job of marking quests with a red dot and allowing you to cycle through quests on screen. Starting out it would have been helpful to have a map noting all location names. Many future excursions allowed memorization of the opening map. When moving into a new area you are stuck learning new locations. On my third time a realization set in that the map issue is really just another part of surviving. It was here I started keeping a log to expedite my future runs.
Each play through starts at day one with a limited amount of time before it moves on to the next day. Teri’s actions dictate the speed of the timer which plays into the social and survival part. Police chase you down if spotted after curfew. If you have a nighttime quest then be ready to have your patience tested. Eventually, you have to start prioritizing quests due to the time aspect.
Things looked similar on my second run, so I began thinking each run through would not change. On the third time through things changed slightly. This could have simply been me realizing previous mistakes and making corrections. Opportunities to capitalize on building faction loyalties became clearer. This allowed my days to increase while delaying my eventual “horsing.”
Characters look like they would be at home in a claymation universe like Wallace and Gromit. Portions reminded me of A Kingdom of Keflings. It would have rivaled graphics on some of the best Gamecube or PS2 games. Nostalgia is hard to capture but the team at Rain Games did so in scaling back the graphics. They seem to truly understand the concept of less is more. Regardless of the graphics, multiple playthroughs allows the player to see nuances when you interact with the NPCs.
Each has an information window with their name, what faction they represent, character traits, and other pertinent items. Someone at Rain Games had fun with character names. For example, one location in the game is called The Rumor Mill and the lady overseeing the establishment is named Victoria Hearsay. Moments like this brought a smile or slight chuckle. Quest names sometimes brought the same reaction. The humor wasn’t like The Secret of Monkey Island but what is there is definitely a nice touch.
Music and in game sounds convey most of the story moments since the game has no voice work. Jessica Airheart will be the first NPC you meet on your journey. She has a nice pirate vibe and music which would be at home in a pirate movie. On the main menu screen, you are treated to some whimsical music before it takes a haunting dark turn. My immediate thought was whatever will happen in the game isn’t going to turn out well for my character. Once detected by the police after curfew the music fits in with the chase scenes. Some may find the music slightly goofy but in Mesmer it fits in accordingly.
The Learning Curve
Mesmer is about managing resources. Starting a revolution is not easy with limited resources. When you enter an establishment there are conversation prompts. Depending on the end goal you can spin what I began calling social wheels. Every wheel looks different. You could have one with all numbers. Others have numbers and a dislike face. Dislike is exactly what it sounds like for a social game. Spinning the wheels generate a sum total measured against a needed total. Resources like blackmail, bribe, provide food, or threaten grant more social wheels. Some NPCS offer missions as a resource generator. Missing the mark on spins may generate a side quest to earn favor with the NPC and their faction.
Time becomes a resource for side quests since most have a deadline. If not completed on time or not completed in the way the quest giver desires, then favor is lost with them and their faction. Just because you have usable resources does not mean you should use them. Experimenting with when and where to use resources appropriately will help speed up consecutive runs. More often in newer areas my time was spent doing side quests to earn favor and resources. Teri’s favor calculates at the end of each day for each faction. The total compares against the police’s suspicion of her.
Why did I keep coming back to Mesmer?
Unlike other games, Mesmer put a sheer desire to not lose in my heart. It punishes you in one run while rewarding you during your next adventure. Rain Games succeeded in making something which feels like a new genre. They labeled it social survival which is very apt. You will see pieces of other genres at play but when meshed together it creates something new. I wanted to keep pushing through to see how far Rain Games achieved their goal in crafting a new gaming experience.
Also, relenting to the “horsing” was not an option so finding ways around my mistakes was satisfying. Figuring out how to start a revolution was more appealing every playthrough even if it felt like a real-life job at times. One may possibly see this as a management sim but it is far deeper. A natural curiosity emerged to learn the truth of Mesmer. This was in spite of knowing it may not end well.
Is it worth trying out?
Yes, but each person’s mileage will vary. Rain Games is attempting to create a new style of game. If you are a gamer at heart, then you at least owe it to yourself to try out Mesmer. There is a free demo on Steam which provides two in game days which is a healthy amount of game time to figure out if it is worth a full purchase. Mesmer will release Friday, October 16 on Steam at $15 USD.
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