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Analyzing the newest Guild Wars 2 trailer

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

ArenaNet has a very early, very wonderful holiday gift for Guild Wars fans this morning: a brand new Guild Wars 2 trailer. (Take a moment to cheer, then we'll move on.) The trailer is amazingly beautiful, something we've come to expect from ArenaNet and particularly Guild Wars 2. But if you don't let yourself get distracted by the eye candy -- something that is admittedly hard to do -- there is a lot of new information here, including more details on people and places we've already heard of, and some fascinating possibilities to explore.

Take a look at the video here, then follow along with us as we explore this new information from ArenaNet. If you're unfamiliar with Guild Wars 2, this will help you get acquainted, but we also have some deep lore speculation for current Guild Wars fans. (The video can also be found at the official Guild Wars 2 site.)

This trailer is designed to give us a closer look at the five races of Tyria, and we get a chance to hear from each of them and get some insight into how they feel about their role in the battle they've found themselves in. We begin with the human warrior, Logan Thackeray.

Wait a minute. Thackeray? That certainly opens the door for some speculation, so we'll get the ball rolling: Keiran Thackery was the Ebon Vanguard soldier in charge of Wintersday events in 2008, and he took a special interest in the infamous Gwen. Once Wintersday was over, he could be found now and again in the Hall of Monuments, continuing to reach out to her: "At least I always know where to find you, if I should need...anything." Are these advances toward Gwen a sign of something more? Could Logan Thackery possibly be descended from these two, continuing ArenaNet's inclusion of Gwen in the storyline?

Well, speculation aside, Logan is a defender of Divinity's Reach. We get a good look at some areas of Divinity's Reach in this video, including what seems to be the main plaza, given the festive flags and confetti. (The main plaza is supposed to be the home of a year-round carnival.) Thackeray explains what we already know of the Tyrian humans: they're not having an easy time of it, but continue to battle on for their gods and for Queen Jennah, who makes her home in Divinity's Reach -- possibly in that soaring tower in the background of the main plaza. Not much is known about professions in Guild Wars 2, but the trailer contains some familiarly styled armor, particularly 40 seconds in.
The trailer takes a sudden and decidedly militaristic turn with the Charr reply to Thackeray's declarations of faith and perseverance. Rytlock Brimstone is the Charr Tribune who declares "Your faith is your weakness, human," as our introduction to this closer look at the Charr. The word "steampunk" has been batted about endlessly as a description of the Charr in Tyria's future, and it fits. An aerial camera view scans over the Charr settlement The Black Citadel and shows a primitive, rough, dirty sort of technology. Aesthetics are not the issue here; getting the job done is the issue -- a philosophy that suits the Charr nicely.

A huge arena amidst the furnaces, pipes, and gears is reminiscent of the arena in The Flight North and opens up several possibilities -- maybe a similar purpose on a much larger scale, or a venue for the aggressive Charr to fight amongst themselves in a show of strength. A close look reveals several items that open up even further speculation and hint at a multi-purpose use. Two large walls or barriers, a central pole (tether?), what appears to be some sort of vehicle, and even more interesting: "ground level" seating focused on something that looks like a large cannon on a swivel mount. Whatever the Charr are doing with this arena, they've progressed way beyond the days when Gwen threw rocks at a support pillar.

Strength is the Charr watchword, from the heavy industrial technology to the huge Charr effigies that we first encountered in Eye of the North, to their guns. Yes, Charr with guns -- we knew it was coming, and fans wondered how well guns would fit into the world that we were familiar with. Well, they certainly fit the Charr. Charr guns -- which seem to double as axes should the need arise -- are constructed along the same lines as the rest of Charr technology: effectiveness over appearance. "This is not a gun for hanging over the fireplace or sticking in the umbrella stand, it is a gun for going out and making people miserable with."

Enter Eir Stegalkin of the Norn, who is less than impressed with guns and the like. "Strength is nothing without wisdom", she declares. While the fiercely independent Norn value strength, they reject brute force in favor of wisdom gleaned from the spirits of the wild. "Becoming the Bear" is a concept familiar to Guild Wars players, and an ability we envied in the Norn. (Remember the disappointment when you found out that Ursan Blessing didn't actually turn you into a bear?) With the arrival of the Norn as a playable race arrives the ability to play a character that can truly shapeshift -- not only into a bear, but a raven, wolf, or snow leopard.

The trailer gives us a sweeping view of Hoelbrak, a Norn settlement that seems to stretch from mountaintop to mountaintop in the Shiverpeaks. Further inspection a moment later gives us a skirmish between a group of Norn and Centaurs. This was our second look at Centaurs in the trailer, and suggests a significant Centaur presence in Guild Wars 2, despite the fact that we've only seen one very brief mention of them so far. Given that the Centaurs were fighting the humans as well, we can assume that Ventari's efforts for peace were largely unsuccessful.

"Ignorant clods," snarls Zojja the Asura, leaving us with no question as to the Asura race's feelings about all of this. (Yes, you are hearing what you think you are hearing. That is Felicia Day as the voice of Zojja.) Brain over brawn is her philosophy, a feeling shared by most of her fellow Asura, and she has no patience whatsoever for those who don't share it.

Our look at Rata Sum reveals a much changed city and population. An Asura Gate or two can be seen in the distance, but overall things have changed a lot since the days when Oggy was tying Taro leaves to his ears. The structures are much larger and modernized, and Asuran wardrobes have moved from their Native American/Mesoamerican look into a more sleek, technical style. The Golems created by the Asura have undergone the most noticeable change, one already seen and commented on by many fans. They've gone from the hulking robot shape familiar to us through M.O.X. to a simpler, more rounded structure. Knowing what we do of the Asura, we can assume that this is a much more advanced design and that appearances are deceiving. After all, we never saw M.O.X.carrying Vekk around in his hand during vanquishes.

Interestingly, the old Golem style that we are used to may not be entirely a thing of the past. Watching the video closely will reveal that some of the Golems in the groups are reminiscent of the clunkier, more familiar style, and they are fighting against the new style Golems. Asura wielding staves stand outside of the fray, seemingly controlling one or both groups of Golems. Is it a testing area of sorts as part of the Golem creation process, staged fights to allow Asura to show off their creations, or an effort to subdue renegade Golems as we did in Zinn's Task? As with the rest, the possibility for speculation based on what we already know is wide open.
Finally, we meet Caithe of the Sylvari, the newborn race that is the biggest mystery to us. We know their origins in the Pale Tree planted by Ronan, their bond with the plants and land, and the hivemind they share, known as the Dream of Dreams. "In the grove we hear the land calling out for champions. We answer," says Caithe. Her declaration that "evil threatens Tyria" coincides with a brief underwater shot, resurfacing to reveal a group of Sylvari as Caithe asserts that the Dream will guide them through the darkness. We know the Nightmare Court is an evil faction of Sylvari, so the possibility of water-dwelling Nightmare Court Sylvari may have presented itself. The Sylvari are a young and innocent race, but one with courage and a willingness to fight, with Caithe foremost among these fighters. "Caithe was among the first sylvari to step upon the earth of Tyria, but where the others turned toward the sun, she sought shadow. She has never been afraid to gaze into darkness – or to seek truths that others fear."

Together these five -- Logan, Rytlock, Eir (and her wolf companion Garn), Zojja, and Caithe -- are Destiny's Edge, an adventuring group renowned for their bravery and skill. They serve as our introduction to the five races of Guild Wars 2.

Yes, the video is beautiful. But there is much more to it than that. The music -- thank you Jeremy Soule -- is stellar. The voice acting features not only the aforementioned Felicia Day, but several accomplished voice actors. The trailer gives extensive insight for all players: those new to the world of Guild Wars get a clear overview of what each race is like, and veteran players learn a lot about how things have changed in a few hundred years. The sheer amount of attention paid to depth and detail throughout the trailer means that it will be well worth your time to watch more than once and explore the background a bit to see what you can pick out.

In the meantime, familiarize yourself with the five races and start thinking of where you want to jump in to Guild Wars 2. As Caithe says, "It is time to fight. What is your story?"

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