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[GW2] When Story and Class Collide

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.

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  1. Ettesiun

    My asura Guardian feet perfectly well with my story so far. In my group (do not remember the name of Asura research group), i am the one who care with other, have idea and give order, more than the man (or the asura, in fact !) that twiik things and turn that.
    I also think Asura Guardian is quit lore-filt also, manipulating Natural Energy without really thinking about consequences fit well with the Great Alchimy and Asuran poitn of view !

    Engineer obviously fit well with Asura, but at least one story of Charr (the Iron one, I believe) clearly display a Engineer : i have tried it with a Guardian, during beta, and it feels quite wrong ! The Charr stroy feature someone inventing a gun : totally ok with Engineer.

    The Norn also fit well with Ranger for exemple.

    But you’re right that some profession/class are worst than other : Charr/Elementalist, Sylvari/Engineer, Asura/Warrior, (or Thief), Norn/mesmer

  2. SKapusniak

    Okay, now I have to make an Asura Thief, to go with my Greatsword, Mace and Torch wielding Sylvari Guardian :)

    Actually, armored Light Court Knight protector of the Elven Grove, fighting Dark Court Elven twisters of the Forest with magic and sword, is such a hackneyed cliche for me, discovering that the first part of her personal story was going to be *just that* was a head in the hands groan-inducing moment. Sidhe vs Ban Sidhe *again*!?

    Also, she’s a walking tree grown as an offshoot of a huge hive-queen mother-tree, and I think that’s creepy and uncanny due to it’s physical body-horror aspects rather than any ethereal magical nature, so her taking one of the more physical professions makes sense to me.

    Thinking about the Asura Thief some more, I’m guessing more Radar O’Reilly, or Faceman from the A-Team or anyone played by James Garner, rather than surly organised crime, absolutely essential to any Krewe looking to procure those rare hard to find Magitek components outside *ahem* usual channels or acquiring ‘interesting’ sources of funding. Or maybe you amp up the Mad-Scientist and go straight Napoleon of Crime and name her Moriarti.

  3. Void

    I’m playing a Charr thief and it’s awesome. At first I just thought it was a hilarious idea, but I ended up picking the ash legion in character creation and it works great. Ash legion is all about stealth and subterfuge which fits perfectly with a thief. I don’t know if there’s any Asura equivalent, but you may just need to play around with options in the character creator.

  4. Chris

    Thanks for the comments, guys! I guess I should play around more to get a better idea for how well ANet has integrated the profession choice with the race cultures post zone-one. I think combinations like the Asura thief/Sylvari engineer/Norn Mesmer stand out to me most because from the outset they just seem wrong. Maybe with the right follow-up choices, like Void mentions with the thief and Ash Legion, it wouldn’t be an issue. Though that raises the question, if there is a right choice that fits the race/profession, there must also be a wrong choice that doesn’t make much sense. Like a Blood Legion Charr going thief for example.

  5. Green Armadillo

    My take on race/class restrictions is that the player characters are the “rare” exceptions to the normal rules of society. Ignoring the level above their heads for a minute, if every NPC were actually equivalent to a player character then there should literally be no soloable challenges left in the world – some NPC would kill the mob themselves rather than waiting for a player they can pay to do it for them. Once you have established that the player characters are, by definition, special, it makes sense that they might not “fit” with what you would otherwise expect (whether race, culture, or gender).

    The catch with MMORPG’s versus a pen and paper game is that there are generally more players than NPC’s (compared to a DM creating a fully fleshed out world with only four heroes in it). Options that should be “rare” may become common for various aesthetic or even contrarian reasons (e.g. Gnome Death Knights carrying two-handed weapons taller than they are and tanking mobs ten times their size). Even so, in games where I actually care about my characters and their story (e.g. EQ2), I have a much stronger view of who that character is and how they ended up where they are in life than I do in games where I’ve been handed the lore-writer’s culture-based restrictions (e.g. WoW) on what each race can do.

  6. Syl

    Hehe, I certainly agree that some race-class combos feel a ton more natural than others. that said, there were hardly any dwarf thieves or orc mages in WoW for a reason, too. I think we always assume certain traits with looks, loss that it may be in many places. then there’s also clearly the story and theme/setting the designers communicate, impacting further on our choices. It could be interesting to choose a more ambivalent combination on a RP server though; inventing stories for outlier characters tends to be very popular.

  7. Jeromai

    Green Armadillo hit it right on the head, one of the reasons ArenaNet didn’t include any race or class restrictions was so that all player characters are considered to be at least a little unusual and an exceptional case, different from the norm.

    It’s really how each person ends up justifying their background. An Asuran thief could be a kleptomaniac, perhaps from the College of Dynamics, “preferring to start a project immediately rather than ponder the possible consequences. They are known for creating swift solutions to problems that only last as long as necessary.” The other Asurans are misguided idiots for taking so long to tinker around on their lab projects and experiments that never get anywhere, a real genius knows that it’s faster and more efficient to “borrow” whatever is needed and act swiftly and appropriately to the situation.

    Or perhaps he’s from the College of Synergetics, and enjoys studying the nature of “politics, and social theory, among other things… Many of them believe they have a particular insight into the sentient mind, and their insight leads to the conclusion that other people are out to get them, so members of this college are typically more distrustful and secretive than others.” What is a thief but a defector in the game of Prisoner’s Dilemma? And how better to prove sociological theories than by actively experimenting with everyone he meets across the world?

    I had fun rolling up an Asuran ranger, mostly because I wanted a character about the size of his pet, if not smaller. I imagine him making little gizmos to plug into his pets’ heads to tell them what to do and when. “Living golems” are much more reliable than those archaic stone and gem monstrosities that can be hacked by the Inquest, after all.

  8. Rakuno

    Not sure if this is bad form or not, but I instead of doing my usual of just writing a wall of text as comment I decided it was best to make it into a blog post instead. Hope you don’t mind!

    http://shardsofimagination.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/guild-wars-2-justifying-the-off-beat-route-with-the-races-and-profession-combinations/

    1. Chris "Syeric" Coke

      No, totally fine! I’m glad to drive a little conversation. Great read on that post, by the way!

  1. [Guild Wars 2] Justifying the off-beat route with the races and profession combinations « Shards of Imagination

    [...] reading a post by Syl, from Raging Monkeys, I found this other interesting post written by Chris of Game by Night. Chris tells about his difficult in playing an asura thief [...]

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