Planting A Seed – A Sylvari Week Review

The Sylvari Week is over and soon, we’ll all be able to see them in the demos at GamesCom and PAX. To sum up the week: great. And to sum up the things we discovered: it’s all in the details.

The week began with a look at the redesigned sylvari and the path taken towards it. I was happily surprised to see the new design. Like I said before, the old design looked merely “fine” to me, and could be better, but the general idea was fine. After I saw the redesign, I saw what a terrible mistake the first design was. From a distance, they may look kind of the same, but up close, they are what the always were meant to be. And the article also said perfectly what had changed. The first design was a bunch of humans covered in leaves and painted green or brown. Now, they’re plants that grow in a human form, remaining plants. Before, they looked like parts put together, while now, they are one single plant, grown in one piece. And not just that, they look more polished and fit better into Guild Wars 2, and, most of all, they became a work of art. When looking at the first pictures of Caithe, I can’t see the difference between the in-game model and the concept art.
In the article, Kirsten Perry also talked about the clothing. She says that before the redesign, the clothes were just normal clothes, but with a more natural texture. When redesigning the sylvari, they choose to make the clothes look like they grew with them, giving them a more natural, plant-like look. The outfits grew instead ofbeing made.

When I saw the new Caithe, I was also surprised. To be honest, it didn’t fit into my idea of her. She looks older, wiser and less jumpy and quirky. But, after a while, I realized that she isn’t jumpy and quirky, and is supposed to be older and wiser. She isn’t Killeen, she’s Caithe. And, when looking at the first concept art of her, she looks more like it. Although, I do miss the stringy hair.

The second day, we got an idea of what it means to be a plant. Because they are only 25 years old, they are a very straight-forward race. They have 5 keystones, which are honor, curiosity, empathy, the Dream and philosophy.
Their goals are, again, straight-forward, as is their jurisdiction. They solve disputes with duels or the wisdom of an elder sylvari, instead of using long and complicated courts. And even the evil sylvari have a hatred toward the Elder Dragons and the undead from Orr, because they are constantly terrorized by them without provocation.

It is apparent that they’re not just a young, naive race when looking at these facts. It is very surprising for such a young race to already have such a society, build upon solid foundations. Instead of stealing the idea’s from other races, they have developed their own ideas for their society.
Because they are so young and have experienced nothing for their own when they emerge fully grown, they are very curious. They are adults with adult knowledge, but have only learned everything instead of experiencing it. That’s why they can be surprised with details that are apparent for everybody else. They want to experience and learn new things, seeming a little childlike. It’s only natural. How would we be if we had learned everything but never experienced any of it. We would go out, explore and be delighted with the experience of everything, just as they are.
Being a mystical, magical race, they have a special connection with plants and grow their needs from plants, reminding me of the elves in the Inheritance Cycle of Christopher Paolini. They also feel strong emotions from other sylvari, making them able to help each other to a higher degree.
They also explain how the Dream and the Pale Tree work, although those who have read the novels already knew this part. The Pale Tree stands in connection with all Sylvari and learns from them, so it can pass on its knowledge to the Dream in which “unborn” sylvari “live”. In the dream, the sylvari learn what they would’ve learned as a child and teenager before becoming an adult. They learn about the races, the world and threats. But sometimes, they feel connected to a person, place or mission. This becomes they’re Wyld Hunt and they give it great importance. It’s a very unique and beautiful concept in my opinion, a push given by nature to insure that nature’s sylvari can survive in this new, dangerous world. It is as if the sylvari were created to fight the Elder Dragons.
And last of all, all of this is build upon the foundations of Ventari’s Tablet, and, through it, their ‘father’ Ventari. The peaceful centaur wrote down his ideals on this Tablet and lay it by the Pale Tree, where the sylvari later found it and saw it as a perfect concept to base their society upon.
Everything that made and makes this race is meant to make them peaceful, outgoing and fierce, perfect to fight injustice in this world. They are the friendly race that helps everyone in need that deserves it, yet remaining innocent and happy throughout the whole ordeal. They are just perfect for me, and many others I can imagine. Even if they would never have been redesigned, I would still have chosen to be one because of their concept: friendly, happy and innocent, yet fierce plant-people.

Wednesday was a rather slow day with a video that explained the redesign again. But it also emphasized how unique the sylvari are. Before, they were just nature-friendly humans or elves, but now they are unique in the fantasy genre, looking at their society, their Dream and their appearance. It is really something that has never been done before, making Guild Wars 2 the best game of the decade: they are changing the MMORPG concept and inventing new things, like the sylvari.

Thursday, as usual, the sylvari page at the official website was renewed with a video of footage of the Grove. What we saw of the Grove in the previous videos was only a small part of it. The part we saw was, to summarize it, green. But we saw in the new footage that the Grove is actually very colorful, reminding me a little of Pandora at night, but unique in its own way. The colors are so vibrant, I really think that it’s going to be a magnificent place to get a good feeling of how arty Guild Wars 2 really is. The sylvari strike me as a race that is really into art and they themselves can be considered to be a work of art, so their capital is, again, perfect for them, forming a whole with how they are and what they look like. I think you could hide a colorful sylvari in its colorful capital if you wanted to, blending it in with the scenery.
The page itself repeats what we already know about the sylvari, but also gives us a few, undiscovered details and even gave us some bigger details. We get to know how the cycle of the day influences their character, how they seem to be less accepted than initially thought, and how the nightmare in the Dream really influences they society.
The nightmare is to most sylvari only a swift disturbance, but the heroes of their race saw the shadows of the dragons in the nightmare and devote their existence to fighting the threat they oppose. They are perhaps the race that suffers most from the threat Zaithan opposes because their land borders with the Sea of Sorrows and they often have to fight Zaithan’s minions, who emerge on the sylvari’s beaches.
On the bright side, the sylvari can’t be turned into a minion of the Dragons themselves. No one knows why, but some say that it is because the  sylvari are meant to fight the Elder Dragons while others say that the strange biology of the sylvari is too new to be corrupted. I think that it’s a mix of those two. I believe that the sylvari are the action of nature against the abominable Elder Dragons, making them immune to the corrupting powers because nature was clever enough to develop a new race that would be unknown to the powers of the Elder Dragons, which renders them immune.
Even within their own race, they can’t find peace. Some turn away from the teachings of Ventari and turn toward the shadow in the Dream, saying that this is the true side of the sylvari. I think that some sylvari wanted to be free to develop themselves without the foundations they just had to accept. To separate them from the rest, they embraced what the other sylvari fought, the nightmare, and say that it isn’t the Elder Dragons, but the true “being” of the sylvari, uncorrupted by the ideas of Ventari, which have seeped into the Dream and oppresses the nightmare. They are cruel and do everything to corrupt fellow sylvari. Well, every race needs a villain within their own race. And Duchess Faolain, which some of you might know, is apparently the leader of the Nightmare Court, the organization that worships the nightmare. Well, Faolain had to be a big guy, hadn’t she?
Also, sylvari seem to be able to communicate with the Pale Tree, which they consider to be their mother, after they emerge and seek guidance from her with the most difficult problems and tasks. Plant-people talking to their mother tree. Well, that just has to be interesting and new.

And Friday, everything was clarified and all my mistakes were set right. The Firstborn are really the head of their race, guiding and ordering the other sylvari. The second-born came a while after the Firstborn, but since then the race has been growing like weed.
When the sylvari are grown, they communicate with the Pale Tree, but after they are born, the connection is severely weakened. It seems that only the Firstborn are the ones who have a stronger connection with the Pale Tree.
The Cycle in which a sylvari is born, is indeed an important business. A sylvari’s character is strongly bonded with the cycle in which they are born. For example, a sylvari born during the Cycle of Dawn is a natural talkers and planners. The sylvari are ruled by the leader of their cycle, and fulfill their own, specific duties. A Dawn sylvari works around affairs with other races or does something that fits a talker or planner.
Their body may look like a human’s, but they don’t have internal organs, and thus don’t have a pulse. It’s currently unknown how long a sylvari lives, nor if they are able to reproduce, although they have tried. They grow their clothes out of their body and can shed them like cutting hair.

And then, there is the evil Nightmare Court. Once a sylvari joins the Court, they get the lowest rank, and serves a more important sylvari. They advance and get more important titles, but once they find what their good at, they keep doing it and often invent titles for themselves, adapting it when their title changes.
The goal of a sylvari that serves the Nightmare Court is to fill the Pale Tree with evil, corrupt emotions and memories, by either creating them themselves by spreading fear and enjoying it, or fighting their fellow sylvari and making them feel terrible, thus feeding the Tree with bad, corrupt, fear-like emotions, and in that way enlarging the nightmare that grows in the Dream. They hope that, in this way, they can persuade the Pale Tree to be on their side, while now it chooses the light and persuades the other sylvari to follow the Dream instead of the nightmare.
And why do they create the nightmare. Because the Nightmare Court thinks the true nature of the sylvari is corrupted by Ventari’s Tablet. And I kinda have to agree with them. They believe that the sylvari should have the choice to do as they want, killing that what is bad to them. If the asura attacked them in the beginning, they should’ve attacked them back. If there is a cave full of Krait babies, they should kill them. That’s what the Nightmare Court believes.
I believe in what the Nightmare Court stands for, or at least a part of it. If something happens by accident, they should forgive a race if they show regret. But when an enemy is weak and vulnerable, they shouldn’t hesitate and it should be slain where it stand. Striking low is for preservation of our own safety. We should not only look at ourselves, but ignore our enemies’ wishes at all times, except for peace. As they say: A true sylvari should have two hearts: one soft and pliable as hot wax, and the other as hard and impenetrable as an icy diamond. The first, he should show to his companions, the second, to his enemy.

 

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