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The Good, the Bad, and… well, no. They’re All Bad.

September 15, 2012

Dear Reader,

I’ve enjoyed the design of Guild Wars 2 quite a bit.  I’ve enjoyed the heart system, the exploration / map completion, the daily achievement awards, and the mobile combat style.  However, one thing has troubled me throughout all of my personal quest lines.  It seems like all the NPCs I work with or against are bad.  I won’t go so far as to say they’re evil, as some of their actions, like murdering a murder, are morally neutral, but they’re certainly not good.

I can only talk about my human and sylvari story lines, of course.  It may be that the Asura, Charr, and those big dudes story lines are populated entirely with fairy godmothers and angelic martyrs.  But I doubt it.  Let’s take a look at why.  Be forewarned that there’s a fair amount of early story line spoilers (nothing past level 20 or so).

Sylvari:

Caithe

She might appear to be a heroic first-born, but she seems to murder everyone she comes across who she disagrees with.  She kills otherwise helpless prisoners, stabs people in the back, and constantly suggests to take the most brutal course of action possible.  She does this in multiple story lines, too, as I’ve played through two of them.  She’s a very neutrally aligned character who, were we to apply some Star Wars morality, would clearly be a Sith.

Now, to be fair, her personal philosophy based on her experiences is that the bad guys we come across – Sylvari who’ve turned to the Nightmare – cannot be redeemed.  By that logic, death is the only “cure.”  That’s a cheap plot trick, honestly, to explain away bad deeds.  Still, I’m not sure how I feel about her sneaking up on people and killing them without warning simply because they’ve got a different political philosophy.  I’m not sure about her killing people who could be let go, and I’m certainly not sure about her constant suggestion we leave people who’ve been captured to die and instead pursue our quests elsewhere.  I really just don’t like her.

Narratively, it may be that she’s meant to be a foil for our potentially more heroic characters.  She might supposed to be the jaded veteran, like Haymitch from the recently-popular Hunger Games series or the American in Bridge Over River Kwai.  However, it’s not clear if she is, and instead she just comes across as a bit of a monster.

The Twins, Arlon and Pellam

After dealing with Caithe, I thought that the comical twins Arlon and Pellam would be a bright spot.  Perhaps they were supposed to be, but instead they’re two more monstrous Sylvari who’ll do whatever it takes to get their way. In dealing with them, they routinely threaten, sabotage, or outright destroy their enemies or their property.  To “compel” a frog person into giving us some information, one of them torches her wares and house.  The other threatens the leader, then repairs a golem that then “mysteriously” goes berserk, all in the effort to force people to give up information that might be dangerous for them to give up.  It’s akin to saying to someone afraid of ratting out a gangster that it doesn’t matter if the gangster might kill them if they do rat, because you’ll kill them if they don’t.  That’s pretty bad.

Again, their hijinks might be meant to be comical, but the type of comedy is very base and juvenile.  More on that later, though.

Humans:

Logan Thackery

This captain of the city guard seems pretty upright and good until he decides in the showdown with the first chapter villain to simply kill him instead of capturing him and taking him to trial.  I didn’t realize that the justice system was only used when convenient.  He doesn’t just agree to but actually suggests creating a death trap for Two-Blade Pete, during which he participates in the slaughter.  Yes, Pete is a terrible villain, but that the captain of the guard would so easily throw away the law really made me cringe.

Quinn

This lovable moron keeps getting himself into trouble.  He repeatedly agrees to help Pete commit crimes, then changes his mind.  I understand that we’re supposed to feel sorry for him, but if he’s so easily swayed to criminality, then the decision to save him OR stop Pete’s gang from poisoning a well is really no decision at all.  This character seems to be another cheap plot point to motivate the main character into wanting to get a revenge killing on Pete, but the lack of substance in the storyline makes it quite unconvincing.

So overall, it seems that most of the NPCs are designed to appeal to our most base motivations: power and revenge.  In a game that has dialogue options available based on a score for each option, I simply don’t understand why everything has to be about destruction and violence.  I’ve begun to avoid the storyline – which I know I will complete at some point – simply because I feel like it’s pretty poorly done.  How about a chance to be a hero and rescue someone (Yes, I got Occam out, but that’s 1 in 10 maybe, and it was directly against the NPC’s advice) instead of murdering them or leaving them behind.  How about a chance to talk out a problem – a solution that exists in some nightmare sylvari hearts, but not in the main story line?

I feel like the target audience for the story of this game – not the game itself, which I find very well done and enjoyable – is angry teenagers – I’ll be a little sexist, too, and say boys, since the conflicts are often of the physical instead of mental or emotional nature.  Or perhaps I think too much of society, and really a lot of people like this sort of revenge and power fantasy.  I’m not sure, I guess, but I am sure that a much more deeply emotional investigation could have been done.  I mean the Sylvari are tree people; the best we could come up with for them is killing one another?

Sincerely,

Stubborn (and sated).

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2012 10:28 am

    Hmm, I’m neither a teenager nor an angry one, nor even a boy. Does this mean I won’t like it??? 😛

    • September 15, 2012 11:03 am

      I don’t know, to be honest. I know too little about your tastes to be sure. WoW was often – but not always – about power, and some quests were certainly about revenge, so you’ll have to decide what you think based on your feelings towards those WoW scenarios. Also, the personal storyline is only one small aspect of the game, perhaps 5% – 10% of play time, so the overall enjoyment will be largely based on other things.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. September 15, 2012 3:30 pm

    The Asura storyline I went through is bizarrely cartoonish. James Bond villains level of cartoonish. And then, as you mention, suddenly we are slaughtering people. I was/am having a hard time telling what the intended tone was supposed to be.

    • September 17, 2012 2:28 pm

      Yes, “intended tone” – it’s precisely the phrase I was looking for. The game’s intended tone is indecipherable as it seems to be all over the place. At times it’s comic, at times it’s juvenile, at times it’s somber, at times it’s mysterious. I get that a good story goes through a lot of phases, but not so much in so short a time. Excellent wording, thanks!

    • September 23, 2012 6:19 pm

      I think this is partly because of the modular nature of the personal story chapters early one, where different choices can lead to different scenarios that may not always mesh with the mood of earlier chapters. But since it’s impossible (without resorting to spoilers) to know the type of story you’ll get when you make a choice, the result ends up oddly disjointed.

    • September 24, 2012 2:16 pm

      Yes, that makes a lot of sense, but I still think that they could have better prepared the modules to mesh in tone if not in each character’s behavior. Then again, I complain about the story in almost every game I play in one way or another, so it’s probably just a peril of teaching English.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. ari_ permalink
    September 16, 2012 2:29 am

    re Caithe, I think some of her outlook is explained by her backstory (which I pretty much guessed in beta during one of the personal stories, the one where you help a male sylvari free his female lover from the nightmare court).

    Personally, I’m mostly giggling at the *huge* drama queens Rytlock and Logan are being when you do dungeons.

    I didn’t have any problems with the Norn storyline I did, and Eir’s never gone into “sudden killer” mode.

    • September 17, 2012 2:27 pm

      Yeah, I guessed her backstory at the same spot, which lends credence to the idea that she’s the “jaded veteran” archetype. Still, jaded and vicious don’t have to be the same thing, and her constant insistence on leaving people behind seems silly at times, as it did with Occam (the Green Knight’s armor maker). It makes no sense that we not try to rescue him, as it’s pretty clear he was taken by force – not choice – and only very recently, so he shouldn’t have yet fallen to nightmare. It comes off more aloofly uncaring than jaded, I guess.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. João Carlos permalink
    September 16, 2012 8:02 am

    You really need try the asura storyline…

    • September 17, 2012 2:25 pm

      Is that because it’s particularly evil or particularly good? I’m interested in all of the story lines, but I don’t know if I’ve got enough steam left in me to level multiple characters again. Since I never finished the 10×85 challenge in WoW, I think my alt days are numbered.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Nina permalink
    September 17, 2012 6:11 am

    I’m only mid-30s with the Norn, but I haven’t run into anyone who ticked any of my evil buttons except the Vigil representative, who’s more of a dumb berserker than actual evil. My objection – Eir is written as an old retired mentor type, but her art is way too young and sexy to fit her storyline. Needs a scar and a couple of gray hairs.

    • September 17, 2012 2:24 pm

      Yeah, it may be that I just ended up with two 1/2 “morally gray” story lines. I’m not sure how many characters I’ll level, but I’m certainly interested in hearing more about the more “good” stories. Thanks for the comment!

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