You know what won't be available in the beta? The Sylvari and the Asura, once again. ArenaNet's included Lion's Arch in this newest beta build, but that's about all that's new. I've gone on record as saying that I'm perfectly content to wait 'til launch for the Asura and Sylvari so that they're all pristine and new and ready to be explored, but I've got to say that that contentedness gets a little more strained each time we hear or see new stuff about the Sylvari. That's been true for months upon months, but it just keeps getting better. Eye of the North, it seems reasonable that most players (at least those who've played the expansion) would be able to take them seriously. The diminutive little geniuses have been changed for Guild Wars 2 so that they appear much more likable, cute, and even comical (there is no glee quite like that of seeing an Asura heft his hammer up on his shoulder as he jaunts about), but we as players remember that they're also devious, snarky, and brilliant. It's easy to balance their oddly adorable demeanor (mostly "oddly" because of the lizard lips, in my opinion) against the lore and stories that tell us that they're not necessarily to be trifled with... unless you relish the prospect of a huge protector golem crashing through your door.
The Sylvari were a bit of a different story, though, originally. While the lore behind their origin is awesome -- a human, world-weary and tired of fighting and heartache, finds a seed which he gives to his centaur (again with the centaurs!) buddy, who plants it, watches it begin to grow, then dies and leaves behind the Guild Wars universe equivalent of the Ten Commandments to to keep the budding tree company -- the original Sylvari were hard to take seriously. For one thing, we didn't know much about their personality. Before the companion novels reared their heads, in fact, we didn't really have characters to relate to at all. We had the origin story of the Sylvari, and we had their appearance.
I'm incredibly pleased with the Sylvari redesign. Kristen Perry, heavens bless her, took the Sylvari from being children who looked a lot more like brightly colored elves walking around with leaves and twigs attached to parts of their body to being much more fantastical humanoid plants whose appearance is less of a costume and more of a fundamental embodiment of nature. Not only does this give them a marvelous aesthetic that ties them much more closely to nature, but it also makes it easier to appreciate the Sylvari as complex and potent.
While the Sylvari are children, what little we've seen of them doesn't lend itself to the idea that they're all innocent. On the contrary, they seem to be spiritual successors to some of the less necessarily lighthearted fay found in myths. Given that, you can imagine my delight upon reading about Game Informer's experience in the Sylvari starter area. The personal story options and some of the gameplay described are wonderfully exciting to me. Minor plot line revelations to follow, so if you're spoiler-sensitive, consider yourself warned.
Part of the Sylvari character creation involves deciding what your character saw during his or her time in the race's mystical shared Dream, with a white stag, a green knight, and the shield of the moon offered as answers. Going down the green knight path, players encounter their own personal antagonist in the form of Bercilak, around whom the first 10ish levels of personal story seem to revolve. People were quick to make the connection between Bercilak, the green knight vision, and old tales of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The white stag and the Nightmare Court, among other things, are similar throwbacks to already-existing mythology. It's obviously not a direct transplant of the story, but there's evidently enough of the established mythology peeking through to convey some of the ideas and feelings that ArenaNet wants associated with the Sylvari. Since this race has previously been described as ArenaNet's chance to really show off the magical element of the world, this sort of stuff is awesome. It's leaving me itching to explore more.
Another fun element of the Game Informer article was a reference to a Plants vs. Zombies-esque personal story instance, where players placed seeds strategically to create mortar and trap plants to fend off waves of undead attackers. It's nice to see this sort of variety cropping up, and I hope that further exploration down all the races' storylines will turn up more examples of truly diverse content.
And other stuff
Again, this month's beta event is going on this weekend, from 3 p.m. EDT on Friday the 27th to 3 a.m. EDT Monday morning. The Massively crew, as ever, will be there. One of the particular delights of the openness of this event is that with no NDA restrictions on us, we (like everyone else participating) are able to share our experiences with you as fully as possible! Check out our streaming guide for this week to check out when we'll be livestreaming our gameplay. I can tell you that I'm streaming here at 3:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday afternoon. We'll hopefully check out one of the 15 to 25 zones together -- does that sound fun? I'll also be doing some streaming for Guild Wars 2 Live on Saturday evening. I'm sure this is an exciting time for the GW2Live team; it's the devs first chance to actually act out their title, which has just got to be gratifying.
If you don't have to limit yourself to vicarious experience, then congratulations! I can't wait to hear about everyone's experience this weekend!
This weekend is also Guild Wars' 7th anniversary, although the beta weekend seems to be rather taking the cake. I wonder whether the Guild Wars NPCs don't feel rather like older siblings, confused about why on earth people would be making such a fuss about the new addition to the family.
Elisabeth Cardy is a longtime Guild Wars player, a personal friend of Rytlock Brimstone, and the writer of Flameseeker Chronicles here at Massively. The column updates on Tuesdays and keeps a close eye on Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, and anything bridging the two. Email Elisabeth at firstname.lastname@example.org.