I’ve tried to roll an Asura thief three times, and I just can’t bring myself to play the character. Why, you might ask? Story. The narrative elements in Guild Wars 2 have effectively barred me from playing a race and class that I would otherwise choose. That sounds harsh, I guess, but it’s true.
Let me back up a minute.
ArenaNet has accomplished something personally miraculous and made each class fun enough to play that repeating content doesn’t matter. In other games, repetition was always the barrier. Classes were fun to play each was close enough to the other that having to play through the same zones and quests really turned me off from the whole “altaholic” thing. Not so here. Going from a warrior to a thief is a polar shift in gameplay, as is going from engineer to elementalist or mesmer to guardian. And each class has an indefinable “something” that makes them stand out from one another; maybe it’s how their spells hit, how the animations sync up to the audio clips. I don’t know, I just know that it works and it’s magic. So much so, in fact, that I’ve been making new characters left and right because I want to consume it all right now.
And it’s introduced a problem I’ve never run into before: Some races just don’t fit the class choice. Hence the always a bridesmaid never a bride Asura. See, there’s something that just doesn’t fit with “high tech, inventor, genius” and “surly, underworld thief.” Why does he need to thieve and why does he want to? To my mind, the engineer is the Asura class. Anything else is just pigeonholing, and trying to fit that square peg into that circle hole breaks my immersion every time I’m reminded what the Asura are all about. Story quests are out because, well, they feature Asura. Culture is the enemy in this case. I mean, after all, why would an Asura bother being a warrior or guardian when a central story tenet is how tinkerly and gadgety you are?
The same goes for other races. I can’t see a Charr or Norn being a thief. They’re big and bold and need a big hammer or sword to seem “right.” I can’t see a Sylvari being a guardian; they’re lithe and elfy and seem more at home with a bow or magic staff than a two-handed halberd. These things require a cognitive dissonance that I just can’t stand. Ironically, the other big story MMO (SWTOR) didn’t suffer from this because your racial background was pretty much meaningless. Culture means something here and that’s both a plus and a minus.
In the end, I wouldn’t change the story elements, I just wish you could ignore it. I would play an Asura thief if I could get through the introduction and actually have that feel okay. But I can’t, at least yet, and it seems like a lot of people can. I do wonder how it all makes sense if you care about lore and setting. Maybe I just didn’t get far enough.