That panicked, heart-pounding race back to the Wall was the moment I became hooked on Guild Wars. That's when I truly fell for the game, hook, line, and sinker. These days Bonfaaz Burntfur looks mostly like an angry Pomeranian in a cloth diaper to me, but back then, he and his army were truly fearsome.
What strikes me most, looking back, is how the Charr have evolved in every way, both within the story and without. Lore, design, characterization, ability... you name it and it's grown amazingly. Follow along after the jump for an in-depth look at how far the Charr have come.
I'm a sucker for good, detailed graphics in characters, armor, and environment. I'm a Kristen Perry fangirl, and when new Guild Wars 2 screenshots are released, the first thing I do is put my nose near the monitor and start examining the tiniest of details. When the Guild Wars 2 Ranger was announced last year, one of my favorite things about the reveal was the ragged edge on some of the armor in the screenshots. It fit so beautifully with who the Ranger is and what he does.
The point of this weird fascination is that it's given me a great appreciation for how the Charr design has evolved over the years. Look at those Charr in the image above. They're seriously scary, no doubt about it, and I still love their look. Compare it to this, though. Whoa -- these guys have used the past 250 years to get even scarier. These days I go into Great Northern Wall normal mode to amuse myself. I load my Elementalist's build saved as "Wish I were a Rit"; get to the end of the mission with Olias, Jora, and Dunkoro; drop a ton of spirits; and head out to explore the Charr camp while the spirits and Olias' minion army make short work of the Charr.
If this new version of the Charr came bursting through that gate, I'd turn tail and run, level 8 or no level 8. The early Charr were brutal and formidable, but now they're brutal, formidable, and very intelligent. That combination of brain and brawn makes the Charr 10 times more dangerous, and it shows in the design.
I'm sort of dancing back and forth between a lore and a design perspective here, but the two intertwine so seamlessly that it's hard not to. From a lore perspective, the Charr have evolved at a rapid pace. Even in Eye of the North, just a few short years after the Searing, an NPC warns your character that these Charr are much more dangerous than what you've previously encountered.
Their appearance has kept pace with these changes, and I realize that it's due in large part to advances in design technology. The ArenaNet artists can do a lot more now than they could six years ago. But the changes also reflect growth from a story standpoint as the overall Charr culture evolves. I really enjoy comparing things such as weaponry and armor in addition to the appearance of the Charr themselves. It's all much more sophisticated and effective these days.
I confess a sneaking sympathy with the Charr. They were in Ascalon first, just doing their thing, and we came along and decided to shoo them out of their home so we could have it. It's not that I don't think that the Searing and the events that followed weren't horrible -- I've expressed in the past that it makes me sad to see what became of Ascalon and that I understand why Gwen was so broken. She had every reason to be. (Presumably she's in a better place these days, fighting the good fight and thinking about little Thackeray babies.)
However, we humans came charging into the Charr race's homeland unprovoked and tried to take it from them. Our mistake was doing this to a race for whom the concept of mercy to the enemy is an idea to be rejected. I imagine the Charr's first reaction upon seeing this invasion of mice was "You have got to be kidding me."
We've got our own brand of ferocity and tenacity, and the Charr had a much harder fight on their hands than they originally anticipated. It was a long, hard battle that technically still isn't over, thanks to the Foefire, and the Charr learned some tough lessons.
The downfall of the Flame Legion was a huge blow to the Charr, and they learned some hard lessons about who and what they could -- and could not -- rely on. Intangibles such as magic and gods might work fine for other races, but the Charr were burned pretty badly by those things, and they know now that their own strength, intelligence, and organization are the things they need to rely on.
The technological advances that we've all been enjoying so much are great for more than one reason. First, they're just cool. It's such incredible fun seeing this sort of thing in a fantasy game. (And yes, before you even ask, I'm looking forward to Asura week for the same reason.)
Even more than that, though, I love looking back and seeing how the Charr arrived at this Tyrian version of the Iron Age. There's this underlying sense of "We relied on magic and worshipped gods before, and look where that got us. Forget it; we're doing it right this time." I love it because it makes sense. The Charr don't do anything by halves -- it's all or nothing. Magic and gods failed them, so they're going to the other extreme now.
The fahrar is another good example of this. A Charr cub is going to grow up to be a soldier, relying on his or her warband, so why mess around and waste time waiting until he's an adolescent or even a young adult? Get them started as soon as they can walk and your army will be that much better a few years down the road.
All in all, Charr week has probably been my favorite race exploration so far. ArenaNet took a race that all Guild Wars fans are already invested in and gave us a deep and thorough look from every angle. This is going to be a great race to play, and I can safely say that I don't think I'd want to come up against one in PvP!
Speaking of PvP...
Yep, I'm still learning the PvP ropes! This week's update is brief because it was more of the same: learning and getting used to this new playstyle. I decided to continue in RA for another week because, frankly, I was still really terrible. I wanted to learn to be quicker on my feet and recover more effectively when I found myself on the losing end of an attack.
It was exciting to see some definite improvement after consistent practice. I relied less on the "panicked flailing" strategy and more on planning ahead quickly and responding well. I stopped dying so much, and my random teams actually won a few battles.
This week I'll find out whether I'm improving at overall PvP play or I'm just improving at RA play, because I'm heading to Cantha -- It's time to enter the Jade Quarry. Wish me luck, and I'll see you next week!
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 email@example.com.