This weekend I wasn't sure if I should write a post about the final Guild Wars 2 weekend or not. To be honest, I haven't been really into a writing mood lately. Plus I figured there would be plenty of good coverage about it all around the internet anyway. But then again I already wrote about the other two beta weekends so I might as well do it for this one just for completeness sake.
So, the most notable additions to this beta weekend were the asura and sylvari as playable races as well as their respective starting areas. There was a good reason for that as ArenaNet explained in this preview for Massively. A large part of the the reason for them only appearing now is because they wanted to get a lot of people in concentrated areas of the world to simulate a launch. Makes sense since if they were added from the beginning people might have spread way too much for them to have a good sense of how many servers they will need for launch. And comparing all the beta weekends, I think it worked out well as everything felt just right.
Anyhoo, let's take a look at those two races, shall we?
Of the two races that became playable during this beta weekend, I think the asura were the ones I had the most anticipation for. On one hand I loved their concept of mad scientists where every individual thinks they are the greatest genius in history. On the other one I was a little concerned that this theme would be nothing but a setup for a whole race that exists to serve as a kind of in-game joke. Although there is a lot of humor to them, what with all their reckless experiments and big meaningless words, there is also a lot seriousness too in the right places. For instance, they were driven away from their original underground home to one of the Elder Dragons, a fact that they are all too painfully aware of and, as pointed out in their introduction video, it is something that they won't allow to happen again with their new home.
Another concern of mine was with the animations. Due to their short stature and different looks, I was worried that the animations would veer on the side of comedy and ridiculousness. Again, my concerns couldn't be more wrong as ArenaNet did an excellent job with their animations. They feel very fluid, very natural in the way they move and just plain fun. Just running around the map with them is a joy in itself.
Their architecture was something very interesting to see too. All I knew about it is that once they came to the surface they built their new home on some old magical ruins. My expectations were more of broken, old buildings where they just added their furniture. As it seems typical for asuras they went much farther than that. Their architecture do have a feel of ancient south american civilization, yes, but they also added all their own technological improvements to them, with glasses, machinery, laboratories and whatever else they need. Even better they integrated it so well that it all feels like the entire thing was built by the asura instead of just enhanced by them.
Lastly, there was the Inquest, the evil faction of the asura. While the evil counterparts of the other races where those often felt so far gone to have very little similarity to the good guys, the Inquest still felt very asura-ish. With them it would be easy to see as just a faction of the asuras composed of jerks. In fact that is the feeling I got on how the more traditional asuras view the Inquest: a bunch of jerks. Dangerous jerks, yes, but still just jerks.
All in all, it is definitely one of the most fun races in Guild Wars 2. So much that I became really torn about which race my first character should be since I expect to spend most of the time playing him. Before testing the asura I was certain it would be a charr engineer and then make the others as I felt the need for variation. After playing with the asura I just wasn't so sure anymore. Eventually I decided to just make both at the same time and then keep switching as I play the game. While characters from the other races I will just make whenever I feel the need for even more variation.
The sylvari was a race I already had a lot more knowledge about before getting to play them in the beta weekend. I just loved the idea of a very young race still making their own discoveries about the world. Tough what probably appealed to me the most was the whole idea of sentient plant life trying to mimic the appearance of humans, born fully grown with a certain knowledge of the world based on the collective experience of the rest of their races. Even their evil counterparts sounded fascinating with their misguided attempted to "free" their siblings and the Pale Tree, from which all sylvari are born, from what they consider an external imposition on how they should live. That external influence being the lives of a human and a centaur back when the Pale Tree was still a sapling. Their precepts were recorded into a tablet which set some very high standards of moral and ethics to the sylvari.
Anyway, this was another case where ArenaNet surpassed my expectations. I was ready to play a member of a naive and even gullible race. Although there is that too, the feeling I got the most from them was one of chivalry, of nobility that just comes naturally to them (no pun intended!)
Their starting area and city isn't just a lush forest either. There is a certain magical feel to the place with their whole architecture, furniture and even their wolves being a kind of sentient plant. The only thing I didn't like so much was that the Grove, their home city, was divided into 4 floors. This can make it a little hard to navigate. Specially for a guy like me who could get lost inside a wardrobe. Still, a small price to pay for the beauty and coolness of the place. 🙂
Then we have the Nightmare Court, the evil faction of the sylvari. Of all the evil groups of the game I don't think any of them made me feel like punching one of its members in the face as much as they did. See, the Nightmare Court aren't simply destructive or violent as the other evil organizations. They are outright cruel. Just infiltrating one of their bases of operation gave a good glimpse of the extremes they will go to fulfill their goals.
All these elements put together give a great sense of wonder about the sylvari. So much that if they were the only race I could play, I would happily do so. There is just as much to love about them as there are with the other races. 🙂