Flameseeker Chronicles: We're only human

Last week was an exciting one for Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2 fans, myself included. GW2 might be bringing us five playable races, but ArenaNet spent the past week delving into the original Tyrian playable race: the humans.

This was especially exciting to those of us who are longtime residents of Tyria, because we've got lots of new details set on a foundation of familiar history and lore. Here at Massively, we touched on each new piece of information with the promise of an overall analysis today, so here we go! Follow along after the jump and we'll take a look at the human race of Guild Wars 2.

Against the Wall

Unfortunately, this was my least favorite part of human week. Don't get me wrong; I didn't hate it. The bits of lore were fantastic -- I love reading and hearing snippets of daily life in and around Divinity's Reach.

However, I have always felt that voice acting is the Guild Wars series' weakest point. I will happily admit that the voicework we heard in Against the Wall is immeasurably better than the dreadful "Lyssa be damned!" and "Please don't hurt us!" With that in mind, I still have to say that it was still very jarring to my ears.

I can greatly appreciate the desire to bring 100% less forsooth to the voicework table, and I know that the ANet team has worked for a long time to find the right flavor of dialogue, so I want to be very clear that I am not stating unequivocally that "This is bad." (I've been very vocal in the past about my firm belief that one person's opinion does not constitute a blanket fact.)

The fact remains that the rhythm of speech used, the slang, and the general feel of everyone's discussions yanked me right out of Tyria and into a public place in my own city, circa 2011. While thinking over why this all bothered me so much, I went back and listened to the voice work in the Races of Tyria video. The dramatic difference between that and our newest samples of Tyrian voices can be attributed partly to the setting. The members of Destiny's Edge are stating their mission and are backed by Jeremy Soule's dramatic score, so it lends the whole thing a stronger feel.

However, the underlying cadence and feel of the speech -- the core of how the characters talk regardless of the circumstances -- has a much different feel. The voice work in The Races of Tyria thrilled me and pulled me right into Tyria. The voice work from last week's blog entry pulled me right out. We've got a ways to go before launch, and as with the battle quips from last year, I've only heard them in a very limited context. Thanks to that, I remain optimistic that I'll feel better about it inside the game.

Designing Humans

Going from a low note to a high one, this blog entry delighted me. I have loved every aspect of the art of Guild Wars since I first set foot into pre-searing, and that love carried easily into Guild Wars 2. ArenaNet has created a beautiful world and done amazing work on that world's inhabitants.

The attention to detail in character art, right down to the new dye system, is shaping up to be one of the brightest spots of Guild Wars 2 -- and the game isn't lacking in high points from what we've seen. My favorite part of the character design information was the news that armor will be divided by light/medium/heavy, rather than class. Aaron Coberly mentioned that it was a "slight drawback" not to have a unique look for your profession, but I have to say that it's barely a blip on the radar. In fact, I'm not even sure that it's a drawback at all.

To put it in GW1 terms, this is the equivalent of telling me that my Elementalist can wear the gorgeous Paragon Fissure of Woe armor. Yes please! In the end, this system will give us more choices, versatility, and individuality -- particularly when you combine it with the fact that we'll have six interchangable armor pieces and one or more dye channel for each one. I am very excited to experiment with the available looks in the game.

I was also very pleased to see Aaron address the "sexiness" of armor in this game and fantasy games in general. Several of us at Massively were discussing this last week, so it's been on my mind anyway. Heck, I've played an Elementalist primary for four years. Has it ever not been on my mind? I enjoyed and agreed with his point about body temperature vs. profession abilities. If I'm raining fire from the sky in the Far Shiverpeaks with merely a wave of my hand, I'm probably not going to risk frostbite because I showed some (OK, a lot of) leg.

Armor appearance is important in a game like Guild Wars 2 where the game's beauty is one of its hallmarks. The more versatility and choice you can offer to your fanbase, the better. You're going to have fans who want pure realism -- plate mail for the frontliners and so on. Many others are going to immerse themselves in the freedom that a fantasy MMO allows and go for beauty and style over pure functionality, so ArenaNet is very very smart to cover all its bases in this area.

Human history and video

This is the reveal that catapulted me straight into "squealing fangirl" land, so just bear with me. My favorite type of information about Guild Wars 2 is that which builds on the current game and lore, and that's exactly what this reveal was. The video score was typically beautiful, as were the ambient sounds.

The aerial views of Kryta and Divinity's Reach gave a sense of the vastness of these areas, both in height and width. I hope that we are able to roam and explore everything that we see, particularly the bridges and walkways high above the streets of Divinity's Reach.

The written information was just as good. The peek into the motivations of the six gods and the human response to their withdrawal caught my attention as a story that needs to be told. I mentioned this on Guildcast last week, so forgive me if you're hearing it twice, but so much of those lore bits demand more information. Kormir nearly brought about Nightfall with her mistake, we stepped in and saved the day, and the gods responded by making her a god and deciding that we needed to be left alone to learn to walk on our own? This has the makings of a fantastic story -- we need to know more!

The Line of Duty

Finally, we have the three military orders of Kryta and the human race. The potential for big change over time has been here, in the back of our minds, since the Seraph were founded at the end of War in Kryta. The Guild Wars novels gave further hints to changes in the Seraph, something that made a great deal of sense. A 250-year-old military order would naturally grow, evolve, and change dramatically in that time -- and not always for the better.

The continued existence of the Shining Blade, along with the addition of the Ministry Guard, opens the door for a storyline full of intrigue and political maneuvering. I'd love to see this woven into Guild Wars 2 gameplay as more than just a sideline. There is great potential here for thoughtful gameplay that goes beyond hack and slash. With that hope in mind, I'll be watching the development of Guild Wars: Beyond with great interest. I know we're moving into Cantha next, but I hope to see some ongoing Seraph and Shining Blade story to help lead us into this aspect of Guild Wars 2.

So there you have it -- our overall look at human week. There were ups and downs in my mind, but overall I'm happy to see the ArenaNet team address so many facets of the human race. Will the other races get this treatment? I have a pretty good feeling that they will!

Rubi is a longtime Guild Wars player and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column keeps a close eye on all the events in Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. It's also the home of a weekly summary of the travels of [MVOP], Massively's Guild Wars guild. Email Rubi at rubi@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.