Trodamus

Guild Wars 2: Finally, the Sylvari

In Video Games on August 8, 2011 at 8:03 pm

 

If there’s one thing that’s absolutely infuriating about Guild Wars 2 it’s everything we don’t know about the game. It gives this horrible, wretched feeling, that the distance between now and actually playing the game is a long time indeed. While there are things we know literally nothing about, such as the last, as yet unrevealed class, the Sylvari were unique in that we knew a great deal about them leading up to this point. From the wikis, websites and novels, we knew they are a new race, literally the youngest in the world of Guild Wars. We know that they’re plant people, seemingly the child of an errant noble deed with a bizarre Jungian collective unconscious. We know they have the same propensity for good and evil, martial, magic and tech that every other race has. And we knew they were slated for a redesign, for just over a year now.

ArenaNet character artist Kristen Perry certainly has taken to the task and the result easily exceeds the quality of what we’ve seen thus far. She does make grand statements regarding her intent — that she wanted to rethink what we’ve traditionally accepted for the “plant people” archetype — and succeeds in her stated goals. What we receive is not green-tinted humanoids, or people with leaves for clothing, but a tried and true race, tied to a consistent artistic vision.

Now, I’m not an artist. My formal background is in narratives, so it is difficult for me to say with any authority what she’s “doing.” As a gamer, as someone who wants to play Guild Wars 2 and wants to make a memorable character, all I can say is that I’m happy with the addition. Too often where MMOs are concerned do you just see humans of varying shades, and this makes it difficult to really feel different from your fellow players. Races should exude their history and attitude with their designs, and you’ll notice that it’s the exception that a race in your standard MMO conforms to this, and even rarer —unheard of, really — that the designer successfuly navigates the blade’s edge between “non-humanoid” and monstrous.

The Sylvari are distinctly non-human. They are humanoid, but their models hold a wealth of details that make them interesting and unique to look at from any angle. Not just that, but the devs are following the logical extension of being a plant person, and offering “summer” and “winter” variants.

ArenaNet has stated once and again that they are not seeking to “beat” World of Warcraft, or even compete with it. If they were, however, this is how you would do it. Actual plant people, rather than elves living in a forest; bizarre races of magic, rather than more elves; hulking giants that stand half a body over the next tallest race; and a race of seemingly feral industrious warriors.

And, uh, humans. But they’re pretty cool humans anyway.

With this, we have one more class to reveal and a lot of filling in the blanks for what makes up the nuts and bolts for the classes we do know about, but this is one thing thad had been bugging me since the redesign was announced and I’m just glad we’re one step closer to actually seeing the finished game.

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