Saturday, 5 May 2012

A Cow Bunga : GW2

Let me tell you some things about the Charr.

"The charr race was forged in the merciless crucible of war. It is all they know. War defines them...Their culture has developed into a military state where they are raised as warriors from birth"

Source: GW2 Official Wiki

Words not enough? Go see for yourself.

How odd, then, that last Sunday morning my Charr Ranger found himself sitting down beside a Lonely Cow to cheer her up before bowing to a Dignified Cow to enhance her sense of self-worth. All this after catching wasps in a jar and feeding them to a cow who Wanted Something.

The opening Charr tutorial zone is manic in the extreme, all martial commands and chaos culminating in a hectic fight with a powerful undead Duke. The level 1 to 10 zone around the spectacularly militarized city, The Black Citadel, is torn by war from end to end. As you'd expect.

Then comes Diessa Plateau, the next zone over. They do a lot of farming there. Charr are giant cats, after all. They eat meat. A lot of meat. It has to come from somewhere. So the Charr raise cattle. I don't have a problem with that. It's how they raise them...

Cows, huh, yeah! What are they good for?
Almost as soon as I stepped out onto the plateau someone warned me there was a farm where boviculture had taken an odd turn. Listen to him. Odd scarcely covers it. This farmer, by reputation the finest on the plateau, feeds his cows on insects and runs them in races. When you meet him you find he also segregates his cows by emotional state. Naturally he wants your help. I imagine it's hard to find agricultural workers up to his exacting standards.

Leaving aside the question of how, given that all Charr are supposedly under military discipline and orders at all times, my ranger is free to come and go wherever he pleases ad lib and ad infinitum (a question which deserves no more consideration in an MMO than "How can I swim in this full suit of steel plate armor?") we come to the less-easily brushed aside question of whimsy.

Sunbathing after dark. In a bikini and boots. Whimsy or a cry for help?
All MMOs have some but how much is too much? GW2 has a lot. I have a very high tolerance for whimsy indeed but even I found myself questioning just exactly what I was doing chasing wasps with a Mason Jar so I could feed them to a cow.

No such qualms disturbed the equilibrium of the truly inspired cow-launching event, which to me exemplified everything ArenaNet are claiming on behalf of their world. Alright, not everything. I couldn't swear it was "dynamic". But I did stumble upon it and become caught up in the jaw-dropping insanity for fifteen or twenty glorious, disbelieving minutes.

I won't spoil the whole thing. Just go watch this. It's short, we'll wait.

There, don't you want to go do the whole event now? That is Charr-appopriate whimsy. In spades. The Meatoberfest I alluded to in an earlier post is another example of something amusing and unserious that still fits what we think we know about the Charr.

Charr butcher likes to work naked. Gonna argue?
I'm not saying I didn't enjoy the farm-related tasks. For me as a player they were entertaining enough to spend half an hour on, although I doubt it's content I'd go out of my way to revisit. The twinfold problem seemed to be that the basic tasks (farm labor) were too mundane to be of concern either to me or my Charr avatar and that, realizing this, the developer had perhaps gone into whimsy overdrive trying to gussy them up into something less...Farmville.

I'm up for whimsy. When the Asura show their handlebar-eared faces I'm expecting plenty but I think the Charr sense of humor should be a tad more robust (although come to think of it the Asura are about as funny as a cabbage patch doll stuffed with broken glass when you get to know them).

How much whimsy is too much may come down to a matter of taste. The line between what's whimsical and what's plain daft may change with the light. I wouldn't like to see a halfling prang a live cow two hundred yards into the sky over the Shire but my only concern as a Charr would be the waste of all that meat. On the other hand sitting next to a cow to cheer her up sounds like quite right and proper behavior for a halfling.

Let's remember who we're supposed to be and try to get all our whimsical ducks in a line, shall we?

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