It’s Wintersday and that means one thing, my annual search for the Ho-Ho-Tron begins again. If you’ve not seen the Ho-Ho-Tron this little fella has been with us for years, an unfortunate victim of Scarlet’s days and one of the friendliest things to come out of Rata Sun in a long time. It also got me thinking, that apart from this hovering light show and a few other exceptions, I don’t like the Asura that much. I mean, Waypoint tech is convenient, sure, and Super Adventure Box is one of the best annual events in online gaming but I still find it hard to say thank you to the Asrua. I don’t particularly love playing them, come Wintersday I’m rarely tempted to seek out Tixx’s Infinirarium, and I rarely marvel at the Architecture of Rata Sun. After years of apathy towards the marvels of the Asura, one moment gave me a reason to reconsider my reticence. Simply put, a little Golem stole my heart. That’s right, a glimmer of humanity among these walking inferiority complexes sprung into Living World episode, A Bug in the System made me look at the Genius Operated Living Enchanted Manifestation in a different light. For the first time that I can remember, I actually liked an Asura.
Taimi Aside, I’ve always felt that the Asura are difficult. Even Taimi’s quips grates with many other players. Their drive to know, create, and control makes them distinctly unlikeable as a people. They are a reflection of our own hubris, a stark reminder of the human race’s drive to progress at any cost. The Inquest, while a great go-to antagonist, are simply the logical extension of this self-serving attitude and, again, a not so subtle warning about mechanics without a human touch. It’s not a particularly subtle conceit, but how many of Tyria’s core races really are that complex at their core? Each of the central races started out as a simple idea, easy to navigate in a sprawling open world and eventually, over time, these ideas have become less stringent. Yet, the image of an Asuran people that are smart, sarcastic, and ignorant of others still seems to stick with me.
Throughout the last six years, ArenaNet has taken steps to show another side to these core races. Particularly poignant are the Olmakhan who also arrived during the second episode of this season of Living World, alongside Blish’s entry into Tyria. The Olmakhan are an obvious way that ArenaNet chose to undermine the traditional stereotype of the Charr. The Charr suffer from some of the same accessibility issues as the Asura do. This makes the Olmakhan entry into the world both poignant and timely. The Charr tend to break up family units and serve the greater good of the pack. They are all cogs in the war machine, making them almost as accessible as the Borg sometimes. It is also the reason that one of our main protagonists, Roxx, becomes such an outsider in her own world. The Olmakhan, however, chose to settle down and build communities instead of weapons of war. Crafting bonds of family make them much easier for us to understand as distinctly social animals and make them separate from the armies of the Flame Legion. They provide an opportunity for Roxx to find a family unit that fits her and allow players to better explore elements of the Charr mentality in a new light. Their placid village, perched on the shores of the Sandswept Isles, also acts as a very visible contrast to the clinical precision and massive cold architecture of the Inquest megacomplex, Rata Primus.
Blish’s introduction into Living World episode two comes shortly after this and draws some clear parallels to the Olmakhan people. While the Olmakhan are a very obvious contrast to the Charr and Inquest machines, Blish is a much more subversive move. Initially a colleague of Taimi’s, and a graduate of the College of Synergetics, Blish finds himself working under the authority of the Inquest. Trapped alongside brother Gorrik and in a failing body, this fearless little scientist took the leap from a decaying Asuran body, into the cold calculating gears of a Mark I golem. Upon rescuing Blish, however, it quickly became clear to players that he was no Inquest lackey. In fact, Blish turned out to be one of the most unusually warm Asurans I’ve met in Guild Wars 2. His appearance even seemed to draw Taimi’s affection, dulling her sardonic chirps and comedic value, instead rounding her into a more relatable person. This unremarkable-looking Golem quickly became the most relatable Asuran that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
His humanity, buried beneath a stone shell puts me instantly in mind of similar constructs in Science fiction, Star Trek having a fantastic example in Data. The writers even briefly skimmed past the perils of not being considered a living being, when Blish was packed away in the city of Amnoon and eventually rescued. The loss of his arm, and eventually his life, during the final moments of A Star To Guide Us was an event that even apes the final moments of Star Trek’s own android. It also leads to a heart wrenching reveal for Taimi, a character that has far too often been all bluster and front. Blish’s an act of self-sacrifice is something that we recognize as human. Among our ecosystem, we are one of the few meat bags capable of making that kind of choice and it is an act that sets Blish apart from the self-serving, sarcastic, genius level overlords that we’ve come to know.
This is how I learned to love the Golem. Blish didn’t just upturn the idea that Asura are all self-serving pompus comedy foils or foolhardy know it alls. Blish was a subversion of this idea, taking the cold hard exterior of a Golem, much like the Asura themselves, and giving it heart. He pulled down much of Taimi’s defenses, something the narrative team started to do during her Kidnapping. In the end, this little Golem made me reassess the Asura. Maybe it’s time I enrolled in the College of Synergetics.
What’s your opinion on the Asura, are you similarly stunted or have you loved them since day one?