As we approach the final days before we can get our grubby little paws all over Guild Wars 2, it’s time to zero in on what characters we’d like to play at launch. One of the key decisions players will make is which of the five races they’d like to be: asura, charr, human, norn or sylvari. For some, this determination will come down to an arbitrary split-second decision on the character creation screen. For others, it is a painfully difficult choice requiring the weighing of a multitude of factors. Unlike many other MMOs, your choice of race in Guild Wars 2 can have a profound effect on your overall experience in Tyria.
The first and most obvious consideration of choosing a race is the physical appearance of your character. Do you want your thief to be a lithe and graceful sylvari or do you want to go counter archetype with a hulking norn? The Guild Wars 2 character creator is extremely robust, allowing gamers to go nuts with all of the adjustment sliders on their quest to create a unique avatar. The good news is that every race can be any of the eight professions, so bring on the asura warriors and norn mesmers!
In the same physical appearance vein, there are also cultural armor and weapon sets to consider. There are three tiers of cultural armor that can only be equipped by the members of the appropriate race. These sets are purchased with gold at vendors located in the corresponding capital cities. While the armor sets have level requirements (35, 60, and 80 respectively), you can use transmutation stones to obtain the appearance of the cultural armor earlier in your progression. Keep in mind that there are dozens of other armor and weapon sets to acquire, so don’t boycott an entire race solely based on the cultural gear.
The next consideration for choosing your race is your personal story. These instanced events are specific to your character and largely influenced by your race. According to our latest information, personal stories will have eight chapters with three branches each. Each race’s story will be wildly different and made even more unique by the answers selected in the biography section of character creation. Do you want to play an Iron Legion charr that tries to protect a special ghost-fighting invention or do you want to play a human searching for your real parents? Your race also determines which starting area you will be exploring and the capital city you will frequent. Each character will have a home instance in the capital city, which will change based on the outcomes of your personal story. While it may be difficult to know in advance which story, city, and starting area you will like best, realize that starting over with a new race can alter all of these experiences.
Racial skills are another way of distinguishing your character from others. Each race has access to six skills that ooze with cultural flavor. For example, the snarky asura can summon golems to pound your enemies flat, or don a mechanized power suit capable of firing missiles. The charr can buff allies by roaring, or whip out a rocket-launching charrzooka to nuke their foes. Since racial skills cannot be equipped during structured PvP matches, there are no balance implications. That decision allows ArenaNet to create some really interesting and fun mechanics that are unique to each race.
In PvP, race choice can have a direct (but minor) impact on your performance. The smaller and thinner races will find it easier to hide behind terrain, while larger races may find themselves targeted more often. Thankfully, hit boxes in Guild Wars 2 are all the same size, but a gigantic lumbering norn is going to stand out much more than a wily diminutive asura. However, if your character is built defensively, drawing fire by being massive and obvious is a great tactic.
As you can see, there are many considerations to filter through when deciding on a race. There are no wrong choices, but each culture will appeal to different personality types. But whether you’re drawn to a militant hot-tempered charr or an inquisitive new-to-the-world sylvari, your experiences in Guild Wars 2 will reflect your racial decision.
This article was inspired by a video I made on the same topic. If you want to hear more of my thoughts, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGeWCwNQyR8