Like just about any fantasy MMO, Guild Wars 2 features a cute diminutive playable race for the folks out there who, for whatever reason, home right in on those types. In Guild Wars 2, they are the asura, an inquisitive and technologically proficient race who were forced out of their underground dwellings 250 years prior to the events of Guild Wars 2 by the powerful Great Destroyer. The clever asura have since found their place in Tyria as the most technologically advanced of all of the races.
I’ll be blunt; I’ve never been interested in the asura. In fact, I’ve loved to hate them since ArenaNet announced that they would be a playable race in Guild Wars 2. They’re little alien-esque, mice-like, Raz-from-Psychonauts-looking creatures, and I was going to have none of it. At the same time, I do admit they’re probably one of the more interesting smaller races one can find in a fantasy MMO, especially since they’re basically replacing dwarves and gnomes in Guild Wars 2, and I hate those two even more.
Naturally, I was a great fit to tackle our asura assignment during this weekend’s beta event, right? Honestly? Maybe! I came in biased and left it to ArenaNet to overcome those biases. I feel a little dirty saying this, but I honestly came away much more impressed than I would have expected.
Right from character creation, the asura will get you laughing with both their ridiculousness and charm. Asura feature the same breadth of customization options as Guild Wars 2’s other races, including ridiculous hairstyles such as the afro for the male or the appropriately zany Mickey Mouse afro (double mini afros that look like giant mouse ears) for the female. If you’re not quite into the cute, you can even make a pretty menacing looking asuran (shown below with my asuran thief, Mouseter Assassin!).
Once done tweaking your character, the biography section asks you to select your first invention (a cocktail mixing golem, a weather machine, and a hit-or-miss future predicting device), one of the three asuran colleges you belong to, and your mentor. Like the other races, these choices will play an important role in your character’s personal story quest.
I kind of went in between balking at the cuteness of the asura and appreciating their uniqueness while creating my own. Once the intro cinematic begun, I was drawn a bit more to this little race. Not only are these guys clever, but they’re incredibly arrogant about it, and this arrogance pretty much pervades the entire asuran culture. My adventures kicked off with malfunctioning and rampaging golems that needed to be dealt with. Of course, my own character noted that these golems could not have been a product of his own work; he’s, of course, far too talented to be responsible for this mess!
The asuran starter area of Metrica Province (located in the Maguuma jungle region) was equally impressive for the themes of its various events as it was for its appearance. Being a jungle, you’re going to be seeing a whole lot of green, but the environments vary a bit from fields of grass to somewhat dense jungles, to lakes covered by a low-fog. Of course, all throughout the landscape were many massive asuran structures, which often feature distinct angular shapes and many carvings. These structures look both ancient and technologically advanced at the same time and as a result they stand out quite well in the environment.
The types of events I encountered while playing my asura were immediately impressive and different from what I’d experienced playing as the human or norn in the past. For example, as a human, you may be helping Farmer Diah feed her cows. As an asura, you’ll find yourself playing chess-like games featuring mini-golems (1v1 against other players, too!), experimenting on golems, testing out blasting rod technology, or even fighting giant sharks unleashed into the wild by one of the game’s recurring krewes (sort of like clans), the Inquest. These asura don’t hold to typical asuran ethics and seek to run the world.
The asuran capital city of Rata Sum can be best described as a massive floating multi-level cube. Unlike home cities such Divinity’s Reach, Rata Sum is much more densely packed. Instead of a wide sprawling city, you’ll find everything neatly tucked into its own corner on each level. It’s extremely easy to navigate and find whatever you’re looking for. In fact, it kind of reminds of a mall in terms of function. With that said, its densely packed design ensures that you’re always taking in amazing sights to marvel at, often too much to absorb at once! Rata Sum is simply gorgeous, so I’ll let the video attached below illustrate that far better than anything I could possibly say!
Combat as an asura is probably one of the most consistently amusing experiences you’ll find in the game. ArenaNet plays up the short stature of these guys at every chance they get. Carrying all this heavy tech as my engineer did, he would often lose his balance making quick movements and have to catch himself, all the while his big ears would flop about. Doing a whirlwind attack with an asura wielding a greatsword will have him fall on his ass at the end of it. It’s pretty whimsical, comical, and as I mentioned earlier, constantly amusing. I don’t think you’ll feel like a badass doing battle as an asura, but you may find yourself going “Aww!” a good deal of the time. Asura just exude cuteness from their personality to their appearance and even into combat. While this is normally not my cup of tea, I can maybe see myself creating one of my own at launch. Maybe!
Did you enjoy playing the asura this weekend? What did you appreciate most about them? Let us know in the comments below!