With all of the Betas and talk about Guild Wars 2 over the past year there are two races that still have not seen the test environment. This past week, Bill and I got a chance to see one of them for the very first time. The Sylvari come into Guild Wars 2 with an amazing story line and even more amazing features… the physical kind I mean, not the gameplay sort. They are essentially the answer to Dryads in the game, or I should say a mix of Dryads, Elves, and Fairies. If that is your cup of tea then you are in for an amazing treat. I was a skeptic, but I came away really loving the lore and aesthetic. Read on!
Something that ArenaNet does very well is to take conventional designs and change them. The idea of a woodland style race with high magic on the surface looks and sounds like elves. I know it, you know, we all know it. Combine that though with a very plantlike and natural feel and you have the Sylvari, a race that is born in from the eaves of a massive tree, they are awoken from their dreams to enter this world hatched from a pod. The Sylvari embody all things sylvan. The customization at character creation is very detailed. The strong color designs and faces bring you into their world right from step one. They look like their own forests: mystical, colorful, and beautiful. Do not take the word beautiful wrongly. They are very much an eye candy race, but again with ArenaNet’s amazing spin on fantasy design. I didn’t feel less manly for running around as a beanstalk. The idea of leaves for hair is a simple example of how amazing the Sylvari truly are… and don’t get me started on the pollen that springs from them as they run. It sounds silly, but watch the videos. It’s absolutely awesome looking.
The opening story line and zone bring you straight into a mystical forest being overrun by the Nightmare Court, the forces of darkness that plague this lush and fruitful land. The environment is a masterpiece painting in its own right. The colors stand out at you and honestly while I joked about it in the video… your girlfriend will definitely play Guild Wars 2 with you because of this race. It really is beautiful from an art direction standpoint.
You can choose any class to play, as is the convention in GW2, and I chose an Elementalist this time. I guess I just didn’t see how a Sylvari could be a Necromancer? You can play as one, don’t get me wrong, but the feel of the race just did not fit for me. Now, a Sylvari Ranger on the other hand is a very great concept. Bill played one of those and will give his impressions in another article. My Elementalist started with Fire, but quickly moved to Air as my primary form. It just felt natural to play it that way. I liked the race/class combination but after playing the Ranger and Warrior I found myself dying quickly.
The zone itself fells not as linear as the others in terms of event progression and layout. By this I mean that the general “fern gully” feel of the place makes it seem dense and packed with nooks and crannies. The heavy mystical forests and plants really fill the screen. However, the map does a great job of getting you around to where you need to go. I did find myslef checking the larger map more in this zone than any other. That said the quest lines and points of interest were fun. The unlocking of events throughout the zone went very quickly. Before I knew it I was killing giant fireflies that tried to kill me, which later spawned much larger threats. The pregression felt smooth through the areas, although I once found myself going down the wrong path into a batch of Level 4 monsters, giant grubs to be exact, when I was only level 2. I steered clear of them until I grew up a bit and could squash them properly.
The personal story for the Sylvari Elementalist led me into a troll cave. When I saw the trolls I immediately wanted to play as one. The battle was fun and the quest was easy enough to figure out. A lot of what you do in your story follows the themes that tie into the style of the race. Preservation, healing, growth are all aspects of the Sylvari that you find in the quest line as well. One part of the zone I also enjoyed was clearing the nasty spider caves. This was a great public event and moved quickly with a lot of fast-paced fighting. I also learned not to challenge the spider queen on my own. Other players came in and the battle was definitely fun for such a low level event.
I think the Sylvari will appeal to that type of player who enjoys the sylvan races in any game. The dryad parts of the race really are the most fun and I had a blast with character creation. For those of you who like to get lost in the forest, the Sylvari are very much your bread and butter. You will love the world Guild Wars 2 has created and it is worth the all important quest they each share to preserve it.