They’re tiny, cute, and filled with razor sharp teeth. No, I’m not talking about a legion of killer bunnies from Monty Python. These are the asura of Guild Wars 2.
During the game’s final beta weekend, this race of magically adept know-it-alls became playable for the first time ever. Since their introduction in Guild Wars: Eye of the North, I had to make sure I rolled a character to see what it’s like to join them, and to discover just what they’ve been up to these past 200 years.
Unlike the human’s medieval renaissance or a steam-punk-inspired industrial society like the charr, asura bring a style that mixes ancient South American architecture with near-futuristic floating buildings, cities, and more; thanks to their large noggins and greater understanding of the workings of Tyria’s magic. Their surrounding landscape echoes the former of the two architectural designs. Tropical forests pocketed with swamps and lakes litter the area. The entire concoction feels familiar enough to make it easy for the player to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves.
Each race in Guild Wars 2 has its own personal story that then deviates based on choices made in character creation. The one I chose for my asura mesmer showed me several aspects that make them unique. My krewe and I had just put together a revolutionary personal teleporter, one that didnt’t require the game’s dominant asura-gate technology. Another krewe, known as the Inquisition, bribed its way into convincing the asura council that we had stolen the ideas – something not uncommon amongst competing asura, even within the same krewe. This led to a quest line where along with the help of main character Zojja, voiced by Felicia Day, my krewe set out to expose the Inquisition for their illegal acts and re-obtain possession of the teleporter. There are several witty quips, intelligent mumbo-jumbo that we “bookahs” – a slur asura use towards all other races – wouldn’t understand, and backstabs along the way. It all acts as a great look into just how the race’s society functions.
Perhaps the crowning achievement of the asura is Rata Sum, its capital city. ArenaNet has done a splendid job of making each home city breathtaking, and this temple-like metropolis in the sky is no exception. It floats miles into the air and is only accessible through asura gates. Once inside, one doesn’t just walk about on the surface, but down through the levels of this massive cube. On top are the three colleges that players are made to choose one of when creating their character, as well as transportation to several locals in the city and out. There is also a gate that will take you up to the asura council’s chambers. Going down players will find shops, craftsmen, banks, trainers, and all other typical hubs of a city. The real gem though is the prison, where each inmate locked up has a reason why next to their cell, including a chicken.
What sets each of Tyria’s five cultures apart when it comes to throwing down in PvE or PvP are their racial skills. The asura feature an interesting selection when it comes to utility racial skills. Many of them focus on meditation; once the meditation is complete, an event will occur, like extra damage, status conditions, etc. It also appears that causing, removing, and transferring boons and conditions are the main forte of asura racial skills, making sure your allies have plenty of the former and none of the latter for enemies. There are also a few that will take damage given to you and reflect a certain percentage back on a foe. Elite skills show the golemancer side of this race, or asura that can summon these bi-pedal tanks and do battle in them. All of these skills show the asura are intelligent beings who will outsmart with you clever tactics over brutish, straight-forward attacks.
Though my time with the Asura in the final Beta Weekend Event was short and I didn’t get to fully explore its starting area in entirety, I was certainly impressed and wowed by what I saw. My curiosity to roll one of these small in stature, big in mind intellects has grown. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the race has to offer in just under a month when Guild Wars 2 releases on August 28.