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by Becky Cunningham
Previously, we introduced some of the basic gameplay aspects of the upcoming blockbuster MMORPG, Guild Wars 2. In the second part of our four-part preview, we'll take a look at the races that players can portray in the game. The first Guild Wars game only allowed human characters, but things have changed in 200 years of Tyrian history. Four other sentient races have claimed their place as great civilizations in the game's world, and players can choose between all five when creating a character.
Racial choice is far more than cosmetic in Guild Wars 2. Each race has its own starter area and capitol city, determining not only where a character begins its adventure but the nature of that character's personal "home" instance. Race will also determine the kinds of questions that players answer in character creation, and will have a big impact on every character's personal story. Different races have special racial abilities and will be able to befriend less-civilized races during the game. These racial differences help give the game replayability as well as adding flavor to each character and its story. So what are the five races? Let's learn a bit more about them.
In a twist on Tolkein's oft-repeated theme in which the human kingdoms are growing in power at the cost of the elder races, Tyria's humans are living on the brink. The human race, which once dominated the known world, has been decimated by various wars and now has only a single kingdom left. This kingdom of Kryta is under siege by bandits, centaurs, and the ever-present threat of a mighty Primal Dragon off its shores.
Still, humans are an adaptable bunch, and are determined to keep their place in the world. The current human queen, Jenna, has made treaties with the other races in the interest of facing the greater threat that the Dragons pose to the world. Even the warlike charr, who were at war with humanity for many years, have grudgingly agreed to cease hostilities. With little more than courage and a faith in the human pantheon of gods at their side, the human race in Tyria faces seemingly impossible odds—but that's never stopped us humans before, has it?
During character creation, human players choose a character's social class, one of the character's greatest regrets, and which of the six human gods the character is blessed by. The human's home instance will be a district of Divinity's Reach, which will vary depending on the human's social class. Human racial skills are largely prayers to the human gods: Balthazar, the god of war; Dwayna, the goddess of healing; Grenth, the god of death; Kormir, the goddess of truth; Lyssa, the goddess of beauty and illusion; and Melandru, the goddess of nature.
The feline charr were the bad guys in the original Guild Wars, but it turns out their story is more complex than it first seemed. The charr lived in Tyria before the humans arrived, and were driven out of much of their homeland by invading humans. Now the charr have reclaimed most of their original lands, but at great cost. The shamans of the Flame Legion swore themselves to false gods and ruled over the charr with an iron fist until they were finally crushed by a massive rebellion. It was the female charr—oppressed by the Flame Legion and training in secret—who turned the tide of the rebellion. Thus, the lithe female charr now enjoy equality with the more muscular males, and often act in leadership positions.
Charr are taller and more muscular than humans, and are bristling with claws, horns, teeth, and tusks. They make formidable fighters even unarmed, but they are also masters of martial weapons and talented engineers who specialize in firearms and siege weaponry. Charr society is highly militaristic, with every adult charr swearing loyalty to the Blood, Iron, or Ash legion. The Blood legion is a traditional military order, the Iron legion specializes in engineering, and the Ash legion trains scouts, rangers, and spies. Each charr then joins a warband, a small troop which acts as the charr's family. Though the Flame Legion still exists, (it has been renamed the Gold Legion as a sign of disrespect) players cannot join it and will likely find themselves fighting against it during the story.
During character creation, charr players choose a Legion, a close friend who is a member of the charr's warband, and what kind of person the charr's parent was. The charr home instance will be a barracks area in the charr capitol of the Black Citadel. Charr racial skills are related to their military nature, including skills such as laying down mines and calling for support from one's warband.
The norn were introduced in Guild Wars: Eye of the North. Physically, they look similar to humans, except nine feet tall and with a tendency toward extreme beardiness in their males. The norn originally lived far to the north of most other cultures, but have been driven south by the awakening of the Elder Dragon Jormag, which has claimed the far north as its own. The norn now live in the Southern Shiverpeak mountains, where they have built new hunting camps and lodges.
Norn have an extremely individualistic culture, with each norn working to be a hero in his or her own personal epic. They live for the hunt, and the largest group of norn that one will see is a hunting band put together to take down a major foe. Otherwise, norn are fearless glory seekers who live to meet deadly challenges head-on. The norn worship totem animal spirits and have the ability to transform into these totem animals. Chief among these spirits are the Bear, Wolf, Snow Leopard, and Raven.
During character creation, norn players will choose what they believe is the most important quality of a great hero, a recent event that happened to the character at a gathering, and which of the four major spirits is the character's personal totem. The norn's personal instance will be a section of a great hunting lodge in the norn capitol of Hoelbrak. Norn racial skills include the ability to transform into totem animals, along with other totem-related skills.
The asura, also introduced in Eye of the North, are a formerly subterranean race that was driven to the surface by the actions of the Elder Dragon Primordius. Asura are small, grey-skinned humanoids with large, floppy ears, oversized eyes, and small pointy teeth. They are extremely advanced scientists and magicians, being the only race with the knowledge of creating teleportation gates and golems.
Asura are a forward-thinking race that values intellect and scientific discovery above all else. Their capitol city, Rata Sum, includes gigantic structures that levitate above the earth, both for protection and simply because it was possible to do so. Asura tend to dedicate themselves strongly to a particular field of study, and assemble themselves into temporary social groups called krewes in order to reach particular goals. Not all asura are ethical in their scientific pursuits, and asura players may find themselves working against the Inquest, a mafia-like krewe that has no compunctions about experimenting on sentient subjects.
During character creation, asura characters will choose a school of scientific thought to subscribe to, what their first successful experiment was, and the identity of their first adviser. Asura receive their own personal laboratory as a home instance. Their racial skills are magic and science themed, plus they have the ability to create a golem battle suit that can be used by themselves or others.
The sylvari are the youngest race in Tyria, having entered the world only twenty-five years before Guild Wars 2 is set. They are beautiful, noble plant beings who have grown from a great magical tree called the Pale Tree. Sylvari are born fully-grown, having learned about the world from dreams that the Tree grants them while they're developing. They are also granted the teachings of the ancient druid Ventari, a centaur who valued peace and honor and who tended the Pale Tree while she was growing. With very little history to develop from, many sylvari consider it their duty to fight against the Elder Dragons, deciding that the Tree bore them for this purpose.
Sylvari are a curious and somewhat naive race, but they are quickly learning about the world around them and becoming involved in Tyrian events. Although most sylvari approach the world somewhat like Arthurian knights, a group of them have given themselves to darkness and death, turning the sylvari dream into a nightmare. Sylvari players will be working against this Nightmare Court during their personal story.
During character creation, sylvari characters will choose the time of day they were born (important for their personality,) which kind of quest they dreamed of while growing on the tree, and which of Ventari's teachings they consider the most important. The Sylvari home instance is a part of the Pale Tree. Sylvari racial skills, naturally, are based around growth and plant manipulation.
This is only a short overview of the wealth of lore developed around the player races in the game. There's a race for just about everyone to play, whether one prefers the dogged humans, fierce charr, boisterous norn, brainy asura, or noble sylvari. Of course, racial choice is only a part of character creation. Next week we'll be looking at the character classes that players can choose from in Guild Wars 2.
CCC Contributing Writer