It’s one of the recurring struggles of the gamer life. You buy the game, load it, click into it for the first time and then you’re presented with a selection of races to play — glorious!
Then comes the rub.
Which one do you play as during your very first experience of this new world you are about to boldly step into? Whether it’s just two or three choices to agonize over or a legion-like plethora of options that range across humanoid, bestial, insectoid or whatnot. Sometimes it’s almost worth hiring the debate club to wrestle over the conundrum for you…
The evil geniuses at ArenaNet have gone out of their way to make sure the players who flock to the fantasy world of Tyria don’t have it any easier. Guild Wars 2 diverts from its predecessor’s tradition of having players experience the world exclusively from the human perspective and offers up five diverse races, each packaged with a unique storyline intrinsic to their respective cultural backgrounds. If you thought it was hard to decide between a Night Elf and a Blood Elf, try weighing a Charr against an Asura or Norn … better yet, try a Sylvari!
Five years ago, when I started out exploring the lands of Tyria, my first character was a sylvari thief. While I eventually gave each of the races a whirl, enjoying their societies, values and traditions, I kept coming back to the idealistic sylvari. After taking a break for a while to explore other games, I returned and immediately whipped up a shiny new sylvari elementalist who remains my main to this day.
So, what’s a sylvari? Well, they’re plant people. Vegibles. Walking, talking, flame-throwing, snarky vegibles. Lovable ones! In general MMO terms, they’re the closest thing to an “elf” you’re going to find in Guild Wars 2 … they even have pointy ears!
If that hasn’t decided you, then here are a few more reasons to play as a child of the Pale Tree…
The Quick List:
Based on Arthurian Legend
Great Voice Acting
Unparalleled Variety in Physical Appearances
Meaningful Personal Story
Leading Role in the Heart of Thorns Campaign
1. Straight Out of Arthurian Legend
You’ll catch on pretty quickly to the fact that these “talking cabbages” aren’t just strange to us, as players, they’re oddities within the world of Tyria itself. The “children” of a massive sentient tree known as the Pale Mother, sylvari society is only a quarter century old and still alien to the other races. Despite their unusual appearance, their culture will immediately be recognizable to any player who grew up with stories of King Arthur’s court. Green Knights, white harts, star-crossed lovers, and noble knights on daring quests give color to this already vibrant people. As the main character in your personal story, you are born into the world with a calling and become a Valiant of the Wyld Hunt.
2. Some Familiar Fac….Uh, Voices!
Each race gets a pair of voice actors — male and female — to bring the player character to life. With such a wealth of accents and tones to contend with throughout the in-game environment, the PC voice actors have to set themselves apart in order to create the unique identity that is the Commander. To accomplish this for the male sylvari, ANet brought in Brandon Bales. You may recognize his voice from other titles such as Fallout 4 and The Walking Dead: 400 Days. He does a great job incorporating the natural cadence of the sylvari lilt (which is basically your stereotypical Brit accent), but infusing it with an independent identity all his own. And the female sylvari? Why, she is voiced by none other than the incomparable Jennifer Hale, famous for bringing us Commander Shepard in the original Mass Effect Trilogy.
3. Taste the Rainbow
All. The. Colors. All of them. Want to play a green sylvari with purple leaves (hair)? You can do it. A red one with black leaves? Go for it. Black with white leaves and red eyes like a drow? Yup. Any combination you want, you can have. And to top it all off, sylvari are bioluminescent, which means they glow at night … and you can pick that color, too.
4. A Personal Story That Has Meaning
When I play a game, I play for the story. I want to participate in a rich world full of adventures, fascinating people, and interesting quests that are significant to me as a player. I’m looking to invest myself, and though I tried and enjoyed the Personal Stories of the other four Tyrian races, none of them even came close to that of the sylvari in terms of depth. Remember how I mentioned sylvari culture is rooted in Arthurian folklore? Well, as the Valiant you get to play through one of three possible questlines that are heavily influenced by that background material! Take on the villainous Green Knight, rescue the White Hart, or defend the love of a noble knight and his lady fair from the treachery of the Nightmare Court. The choice is yours, but whichever path you take you will face experiences and decisions that are deeply touching and genuinely engaging.
5. Take the Lead
Guild Wars 2’s leveling system caps off at 80, but that isn’t anywhere near the end of the story. ANet released the MMO’s first expansion in 2015, reanimating the storyline that leaves off with your prophesied battle with the dragon, Zhaitan. With Heart of Thorns, you are drawn into the depths of the Maguuma Jungle, where you face a new and far more dangerous evil. As Commander of the Pact, it is your duty to lead the forces of Tyria against the dark monstrosity that’s awoken … but if you’re playing as a sylvari, the story is a little different. Though it will largely mirror those of charr or human characters, you will notice that there is race-specific dialogue that’s exclusively available to your sylvari. It is more immersive and makes your play experience personalized – a great touch!
A note on screenshots included in this post:
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© 2018 Sarah Easley – All Rights Reserved.