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Columns: Humanizing Tyria

By Alexander Wilkie on August 30, 2017

Humanizing Tyria

In the original game of the franchise, Guild Wars 1, players could only take on the role of the Humans, struggling against the many trials faced by their species. It’s sequel, however, flag shipped the ability to play as many of Tyria’s races, and came with a story that impacted not just humanity, but the world itself, igniting the many factions to come together despite their histories and fight against the cataclysmic threat of the Elder Dragons. In the last few story episodes- and indeed in the upcoming Path of Fire expansion- Guild Wars 2 has slowly been sliding back in to a human-centric story, pushing the other races to the side.

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To explore the either untold or unfinished stories of Guild Wars 1 that players have been so desperate to hear about, the game has had no choice but to focus on the actions of humans both past and present. This has been for many a wonderful direction to take, bringing back Mursaat, White Mantle and the gods to the forefront of the Living World. Fighting against old enemies and giving some closure to otherwise open ended stories has been a wonderful experience, filling in the 250 year gap between games. Where the story began to slide down was when the focus became completely upon these human issues, taking players almost exclusively to human occupied areas and using only the humans of Tyria to resolve many of the problems facing the world.

This growing involvement in humanity’s role climaxed with the Pact Commander (who for a majority of players is a non-human) joins the Shining Blade, taking an oath that binds them with their life to both keeping the secrets and maintaining the best interests of Kryta. This went beyond the scope of just dealing with human issues, which is an absolutely fine story direction to take, to making the story all about the actions and motivations of the remaining humans, a race supposedly in great decline struggling to maintain their place in the world.

To me, this is such a noteworthy issue simply because of how big a focus the game initially put in to the individuality of each race, as well as the underlying conflict that was the motivation behind all of their actions. Take for example a Charr of the Blood Legion. A race that is raised on and thrives in battle, the Charr are a conquering force responsible for the deaths of thousands- if not millions- of humans across Tyria. The Blood Legion itself is a Legion that prides itself on war and conquest, and the only reason they do not instigate further violence with the remaining humans is because the Iron Legion (another Charr faction) has an uneasy alliance with the Krytans, and since they control Ascalon, the Blood respects their laws. A player character aligned with this faction, raised and bred in their tradition, is then expected to take a binding oath sealing them to the fate of Kryta, and their life long enemy.

Each of the races has their own reasons not to join the Shining Blade, and to me this story chapter was just another step in disregarding the game’s past traditions. The Sylvari, left in confusion and, for a time, leaderless without the Pale Tree, have been almost completely untouched in the game’s story after Heart of Thorns. Even now, with an expansion in the Crystal Desert, we are heading even deeper in to human occupied areas to take on the human deity Balthazar, without so much as consulting with the world leader, all of whom have a great deal of investment in what is about to take place.

As a sequel to a game that is centred almost entirely upon humanity, it’s no surprise that the issues we are facing have a large focus on humanity. The issues lie not in the plot lines themselves, but rather in the way that the game has chosen to ignore the amazing potential for conflict and motivation that stems from having such a diverse world involved. The motivations of the Charr, or the Norn, or any of the races, can each give unique twists and conflicts to the story and add a great deal to the immersion of players. Would you rather see a bigger focus on the other races, or are you happy with the current human focused direction of Guild Wars 2?