[GW2] Asuran Intricacies

I was a little silent over Asura Week. Usually my goal during those weeks is to find some different angle to push and provoke thoughts along different lines. I just wasn’t finding it with the asura. I wasn’t finding anything of depth. I would easily say they are the most superficial player-race in Guild Wars 2. What you see is what you get.

I first looked at their history. Ree Soesbee’s lore-filled post had a smidgen more. The race owned the underground with the skritt gnawing at the edges. Legends say that there were six prosperous asuran cities as grand as the monstrous Rata Sum. This civilization fell to the destroyers in a mere moment as the enemy used the asurans technology against them. Some fled to the surface, and those smartest of asura are now the ancestors of the asura of today.

Yet the same thing happened to the humans in a couple punches to the face rather than a world-tearing roshambo. The human’s fall from Tyrian lordship is one of stories and legends. Their fall from grace is felt, and now we do see a surviving human race standing against all odds. Even though the asuran lost everything too, it’s irrelevant. What you see is what you get. If there were lost technologies from the destroyer cleansing. They are lost. Stories of their power and legend won’t help an asura weld a bactobattery cell in to a phytosluice golem.

Even in the 250 years after the sunlit world met the asura, the stories have been few. We get stories of Kalla Scorchrazor beating back the Flame Legion so that charr society may once again be whole. We get stories of the Firstborn sylvari going in to the world and feeding the Dream with adventures, emotion, and death. We get tales of the mass migration of norn while they bore Jormag’s tooth in equal pride and shame. Yet, for everything the asura have done for the world there is nothing to tell. If an asura gate went up in the Black Citadel. That’s what happened. What you see is what you get. Stories of backhanded dealings with the lesser races and how the Imperator almost got sent “Elsewhere” when he demanded to be the first to step through the Black Citadel’s gate won’t help an asura install yet another waypoint in backwoods Sparkfly Fen.

There current culture too seems to be missing so much depth. All other races are inferior. Check. All other asura are inferior or rivals… that are also inferior. Check. Magitech that doesn’t make sense to anybody but an asura. Check. What you see is what you get.

I used to think that asura were the most human-like of all races. They were so easy to understand, and that still might be true. Yet, no human can act like there is nothing going on beneath the surface for very long. The asura that ArenaNet have imagined are logic defined. They are individualistic Vulcans without humility. If they have more culture than the distillation of the battles of real life academia, I just don’t see it.

Perhaps in Guild Wars 2, the depth will come through as players explore the personal storyline and events surrounding the diminutive race. This is not to say I don’t love the little guys. I think they have personality gallore. Perhaps I am just missing something.

–Ravious

21 thoughts on “[GW2] Asuran Intricacies”

  1. Bookah, bookah…. bookah. I know that you think all those words you’ve written above seem to cohere in to meaningful sentences, which imply that you have something going on beneath the surface. Let me say you cannot understand asura. You still seem to keep bashing your misused head against the wall trying to figure the mursaat out, judging by your meager post history here. You humans don’t even understand your intellectual superiors the dolphin! How can you possibly hope to understand an asura? Just leave it as “what you see is what you get.” It will be easier to deal with you morons.

  2. Oh calm your head, little one. I sometimes think the asura get so worked up because if they don’t shout they fear that they won’t be heard.

    Anyway, I see what you mean, Rav. I hadn’t considered it during the week itself but the info released did seem a little less “epic”. However, in Ghosts of Ascalon you get a good idea of the asuran legends etc. What with the bone golem story etc. (Carefully skating the spoiler territory here just in case someone hasn’t read it).

    I think this is a similar post to my one regarding how every asura of any note seems to be a golemancer.

    1. There are stories for sure, but they only seem to matter in how they relate to /the now/. There seem to be little, or no, stories that are just stories to be told. It appears to the asura that the past is a pile of facts.

  3. I think what you’re missing is that the Asura aren’t a united people, so there may be no racial or cultural story to tell besides their emergence from the underground.

    Thanks to their overweening sense of superiority over everyone and everything, the only one championing themselves is themselves. They’re possibly far more inclined to tell cautionary morality tales about other Asura than to celebrate their works, assuming they even remember what the other guy did.

    We may start forming more elaborate pictures and getting more depth from the Asura when we look at their individual legends and personalities in-game.

    Then again, it may just be too tricky for a writer to form a coherent emotional story from a bunch of inventors lusting after pure knowlege and magi-technical mumbo-jumbo.

  4. How would a race of near-sociopaths be able to develop a history of other people’s accomplishments? The Asura are, as a culture, practically incapable of recognizing other people’s worth or contributions. This is probably a major plotline as one of the themes is working together to beat the dragons.

    1. Yeah I wonder if asura joining The Vigil, etc. see themselves as joining a megakrewe like Inquest. Only they can leave The Vigil.

      I mean we do get that nice laser cannon shooting at Tequatl’s head… so there’s that.

  5. I think most of their current intrigue wraps around politics… and politics in a fantasy setting, well, isn’t that epic. As you say, they have their hand in everything in a lot of backhanded dealings. They may be ridiculously smart, but moreso they’re very secretive. Everything for an asura is on a need-to-know basis. I completely agree with Reggie above, too. Cooperation seems forced, and working with the other races is simply because its the most efficient way, and only if they are still in control.

    All I know is my first character will be an asura engineer.

  6. Alright Mike, I’m sorry but I have to disagree that “politics in a fantasy setting” just aren’t that epic. IMO if that’s the case, it’s because the writer is doing it wrong…

    I would argue that the politics of mythic and ancient Greece were very epic. Same with Rome and the British Isles. Not to mention Shogunate Japan, imperial China, etc.

    Again, I apologize for picking on that one part of your post specifically. My point here is that if the Asura don’t excite, it’s not because their society is political and academic rather than focusing on princesses and legions.

    *

    Back on topic, I think perhaps the individuality of the Asura makes them less suited to fantasy story telling tropes than the other races. We are used to fantasy settings being broad stroke affairs, where continent spanning cultures can be described with a few archetypal images. I mean, the Charr ostensibly run an empire, yet seem to rule no conquered peoples or even show regional differences in tradition, costume, etc.

    But beyond that, I think the OP and following comments (Mike for example offers a great observation about cooperation being forced and unlikely) make really good points: The Asura as they’ve been described seem to be somewhat unfinished on the lore and fluff end. There are a lot of details that are cool but don’t make sense. I.e. given how their culture is described, I don’t understand how Rata Sum ever got built in the first place! I mean, wouldn’t they all just make their own ornate villas and mansions in an attempt to outdo each other?

    Nor do I find it credible that the *entire species* of Asura are universally hyper intelligent, and they all live out lives of research and tinkering (except for a few who get roped into politics, yet somehow never think to abuse their positions for power and further tinkering opportunities). Even given their golem slave class to do most (all?) of the labor, who does the paperwork? Who runs banks and designs high fashion and writes history or the news of the day?

    To me, the Asura feel like a culture that should collapse from population loss, or due to their untenable economy, not one that is thriving after losing the majority of their population in a cataclysmic event. I’d be much more interested in them if they were backsliding due to all the trauma into a more “barbaric” or decadent culture, as happened during Rome’s collapse. It would give them a few much needed flaws aside from egoism and smallness.

    1. Personally I feel it’s the contradictions that make up an interesting race. All Asura are individualists, but not so much that they wouldn’t recognise a common goal that offers advantages for everyone (like building Rata Sum or defeating the dragons). Likewise, they feel superior to everyone else, but somewhere one of the devs hinted that this might be a way for them to avoid being the ‘loosers’, displaced from their century-old cities into a totally different world. And although they are extremely rational, they (or rather: most of them) have something like a morale that forbids certain things although they might seem logically appropriate. If the Asura always behaved according to a certain set of strict rules, I would find them right away boring. In my opinion, Asura week has done a great job at introducing a bit of confusion into the stereotypical Asuran world, therefore I found it just as interesting as the other weeks.

      By the way, Jeff and Ree gave an answer to the non-academics issue you highlighted in a guild-wars2.info interview:

      “Are there any non-academics among the asura as well, like ordinary workers?

      Absolutely. But those workers are in turn seeking to improve their own tasks through innovation and experimentation (‘I’ve just re-organized all the books in the library. BY COLOR!’)”

      As far as politics, I would agree that it can be fascinating if done well. For the Asura we have the theme of a society being taken over by a powerful conspirational organisation that subverts it far more subtly than some Flame Legion shamans simply attacking this and that fort. This sort of gradual undermining of a community can be highly interesting if fleshed out appropriately.

  7. “It appears to the asura that the past is a pile of facts.”

    Very true. Everything is facts and formula. Thats what the universe is made of, bookah, facts and formulas.

    Asura are more like Norn than Human. While there are minor nuances from individual to individual, they all have an overriding need to prove their intellectual superiority. Norn all have an overriding need to prove their epic heroism. Most of their culture revolves around this competition from childhood games to national politics.

    Even grouping together to accomplish large goals you can see that the Asrua Krewe system is very similar to a party of Norn joining together for an epic hunt. Once the project is done, the krewe breaks up like a hunting party after the hunt is over.

  8. Clearly you are not in the same boat as MMOGamerChick, she had a field day with Asura week. Also, is it just me, or does that sounds very akin to most dwarf legends of modern gaming. They live underground, they build contraptions, they were forced out by some ancient evil, and now the remnants make do with what they can on the surface?

  9. I laughed during Asura Week. A lot. During Sylvari Week I oohed and aahed and got excited about all the intricacies of the race, but the Asura make me laugh. I think the key to the race is the comment “just because the Asura take themselves seriously, doesn’t mean anyone else does.”

    The Asura are something of a comic relief race. They’re there for light-hearted fun, easy jokes, and comical characters who don’t seem up to player-character heroics, and yet manage it. The thing is, this is ArenaNet, so they were never going to be JUST comic relief. Making them see themselves as innately superior makes them easier to mock. I think that’s why Asura Week included less in-depth lore and more amusing examples (Hey Bookah!, Mr Sparkles etc).

    That said, when it comes to role-play – and possibly the individual stories – Inquest has the potential to highlight the depth to the Asura. On the one hand a corporation is a logical step for the race, but on the other hand, it’s totally antithetical to their customs and morals. How Asura react to and interpret Inquest should say a lot about their culture.

  10. I think the case with the asura is that they don’t believe in keeping a formal history and documenting it like the sylvari, charr, norn and humans do.

    The other races seem to write down their tales in legend, in learning and in scope of the defining history of Tyria, but asura believe that the Eternal Alchemy is Tyria and not a lot else matters.

    Documenting how brave an asura may have been to face the Great Destroyer like Vekk won’t help them solve the next riddle, build the next great machine or become better. Obviously, the tales are known but I believe that is outside influences documenting the greatness of individuals of the asura and not the actual race. I took it as if the asura believe that history IS just a string of facts and that it doesn’t really matter a whole lot.

    I mean, they’re so one-tracked minded on just being the best and knowing that they are the best, so why would they really care about what another asura has accomplished unless they are in direct rivalry with them? And even that I only think it is knowing about them so that they can become better than them.

    Obviously, there will be some that divert themselves from the main belief system and actually document and believe, and I’m sure we’ll meet them and you’ll find your depth, but I really think trying to find a depth in their history would be impossible since they don’t believe in keeping it on paper or stone like the other races.

  11. Two things. First, I think you misunderstand the Asura. They are not totally allergic to working together, learning from others, or giving credit where credit is due (though it might irk them). Their society is built on working together, in krewes of various sizes; and, according to lore, a krewe is started and lead by a respected Asura. Not only is there only one Rata Sum, there are only three colleges, rather than a separate college for each Asura who felt like teaching. So they work together, they learn together, and they definitely remember great deeds and inventions of the past: Flummox invoked Vekk’s name, and at the end of “That Old College Try” Dlixx boasts that the krewe members his invention rescued will now be forced to praise him for saving their lives.

    It makes sense, if you think about it. Which is the better way to show off your genius: re-inventing the wheel; or drastically improving upon the wheel your neighbor invented last week?

    Second, even if they are as shallow as they seem, that’s not necessarily a vice; in fact, it might be a virtue. Anyone here think Phineas and Ferb would be better if it were more like a soap opera? I rest my case.

  12. I actually think you just voiced exactly how I felt after Asura week. I’ve always liked the Asura a bit — they’re smart and snarky, so I can relate to that. After asura week, it seems to have… degenerated.

    For the brilliant race they are, they don’t seem to have accomplished anything world-changing in the past 250 years — Rata Sum is apparently inferior to their ancient cities, they already had Asura gates before, Charr are apparently the ones who developed most of the Engineer class… As a guy who’s a scientist at heart and an aspiring engineer, they just don’t seem to do a lot but brag about how clever they are.
    I mean, let’s take Blimm as an example. Sure, his bone golem was apparently a great feat. But why did he keep the knowledge to himself ? Yes, we know why — paranoia, doesn’t want to share to avoid his enemies knowing as much as he does, blah blah blah. The problem is — at some point, when you create a new technology, either you give it to more people, or it was useless to develop it in the first place. Sure, you’ve proven to yourself you could do it. What was the point beside it ? The technology had no impact on the world, no matter how awesome it was.

    That’s my problem with Asuras, post-Asura week. In GW1 they were self-centered, smart and snarky, but even a loner like Oola did stuff in the end for the greater good. In GW2 it’s like they have fallen into horribly self-centered, autistic and haughty. Their intelligence in completely covered in all the layers of paranoia and haughtiness, and they think so much of themselves they don’t think they have to actually change the world, because, “Meh, what’s the point ? I’m a genius anyway. The world shall admire my genius ! Even if it has given the world nothing !” I’m being caricatural with that last sentence, but that’s mostly how I feel about them.

  13. I beg to differ to some extent, The asura knows that the past matter, simply that they are to busy to keep their minds on it. For them the past matters more if there is some sort of legendary gizmo from some legendary inventor.
    Personally I think that the asura is one of the more intricate races, fun and games, def so,but I also find them very interesting, as they seem to be very openminded concerning the subject of what is good, and what is evil

  14. Out with the old and in with the new, Bookah! It doesn’t matter who invented the printing press; what matters is that yesterday’s lexiconicalinceptor will soon fall to my own pixanolverbosination! Old stories are like old inventions — only good for spare parts.

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