Are Sylvari Unique?

August 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Guild Wars 2, mmorpg | 25 Comments
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So many good wallpapers from GuildWars2.com.

I’ll admit what many are saying. The sylvari resemble elves or dryads, especially at first glance. What happens when you go beyond the first glance though? It’s easy to generalize and compare sylvari to basic concepts, but do they compare similarly when you go into detail?

I guess a few people in particular were rankled by Ree Soesbee at the end of this video.

I read a gentleman who was adamant that sylvari are not original.

What makes the Sylvari different from Dryads?

*Plant people- Dryad

*Born from a tree- Dryad

*Wears plants- Dryad

*Embodiment of the forest- Dryad

*Strong link to mysticism- Dryad

The concept of a living intelligent plant based being is not new, but can we really simplify the sylvari down to the examples above?

They are a plant people yes, but the similarities to dryads stop there. Dryads are above mortal concerns, they are not a race of people but a type of minor nature deity.

Sylvari are born from a tree, but are Dryads? In Greek mythology they were born of gods, spirits of nature, and even in the multitudes of incarnations in modern times they are rarely born of a tree, though I’m sure there are examples.

Sylvari wear plants, but do Dryads? No. Dryads have no need of clothing for the most part. In art they are often depicted naked, and when clothing is portrayed it is often simply to satisfy the needs of modesty. Sylvari wear clothes and armour as is necessary. They are a civilized society, not wild nature spirits.

Dryads can certainly be referred to with the broad term “embodiment of the forest”, but can the same be said for sylvari? Forests are filled with plants, and sylvari are plants, but beyond that what is the connection?

Sylvari have a strong link to mysticism. So do virtually every fantasy race I’ve ever encountered. Not a great argument for originality but certainly not a comparable link to dryads.

I don’t think sylvari look like elves either. When I think elves I think pale, tall, thin, elegant, and sophisticated. Not short, colourful, naive, dirty tree hippies.

I think Arenanet is certainly using some hyperbolic descriptions to maximize excitement for the race, but I also think I haven’t played a game with this many original races in a long time, especially in an MMO.

Any other game company would take a plant based race, make it look like humans with plants on them, write up some gobbledygook on a webpage describing their history in 5 paragraphs and be done with it.

Arenanet goes much much further. Thought is put into the whys and hows of sylvari, not just the whats.

The details are what make sylvari unique.

Few other things.

1. Have heard at least a few lady friends commenting that the male sylvari makes them want to play a male avatar. A rarity if you ask me.

2. Syp your close minded trash talking of sylvari on twitter has been noted and I am awaiting my moment of vengeance.

3. The updated sylvari race page.

4. Those avatars look fantastic, Tiger was raving about the blue female, I really liked the light green pony-tailed sylvari. Honestly these are some well done designs.

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25 Comments

  1. I love the sylvari with the plant-ponytail.

    And personally I think the sylvari are probably the most unique thing to come out of fantasy in a long time. Yes, they’re still based on things from mythology, like just about everything from fantasy ever is, but they also take it in a new direction. Maybe not 100% original, but unique, certainly.

    • I agree, unique is not the same thing as original, and even shakespeare ripped other writers off. A bit of an overstatement to compare arenanet to shakespeare, but my point is made.

  2. It’s all relative. Sylvari are just different dryads. Sylvari are dryads with a bit of borg. Sylvari are fae elementals with strong sidhe influence.

    If I spent time and research I could easily create a pie filled with slices of various fantasy/sci-fi races until I created something close enough to the sylvari.

    It’s direction that matters. Norn are just bigger vikings with some animism, but they feel awesome. So who cares if they are just overgrown humans, it’s the depth and direction that counts.

    I would say sylvari would get as much, if not more (because new GW2 race) love as any other.

    • This is the sort of thing I was trying to get across. I almost at one point wrote that ‘what makes sylvari unique is that arenanet are doing them” and I think thats true to an extent. The details matter not the surface appearance.

    • i dont see any similarity between the sylvari and the borg.. do sylvari assimilate people?? are sylvari linked by a hive mind throughout their lifetime?? do you see anything robotic about the sylvari?? are the sylvari driven to grasp perfection??

      funnily enough i dont think there is any link to borg..

      i can see how the original sylvari were familiar as elves or nymphs or even dryad but at the same time i can put a firm wedge between any of those names and the sylvari especially with their new design.

      for starters there are many interpretations for elves..
      elves1: ancient pale tall humanoid creatures, wise and knowledgeable, regal and mystical, flesh and bone
      elves2: similar to wood sprites, wise, still having pointy ears but none the less flesh and bone
      elves3: little people dressed in colourful clothing with bells on, working in a workshop for a fat man in a red suit.

      which one of those in any way describes sylvari?? sylvari arent tiny, nor are they tall, theyre not pale, theyre not regal, theyre not wise so much as they are intrigued, theyre not ancient and theyre not flesh and bone…

      Nymphs and Dryad: pretty much the same thing from two different European religions. DIVINE SPIRITS that are at one with nature, born from nature and live through nature, both of flesh, neither wear clothes.. they are mystical almost deity in status, compared to the people who depicted them..

      Sylvari are the fruit of a sentient tree.. they are new to the world, they are in no way any more advanced than the other races of the world.. The sylvari are a curious people. They are formed in the image of man but in no way are they of the same physical makeup.. Sylvari could be related more closely to an animated plant, an ent but of a more humanlike and aesthetically pleasing variety.

      no sylvari is more than 25 years old, nor are they born as infants but full grown. Sylvari arent at one with nature nor living through nature so much as they are living amongst nature, sure they have some sort of influence, but in a more empathic way. their animation of nature is no more impressive than a necromancer animating bones and sinew.

      yes the sylvari are derived and born from nature, thats not original

      yes the sylvari are animated plants, thats not original

      yes the sylvari are humanoid, thats not original

      but you could not grab any one label and slap it over the top and claim that they are exactly the same.. and as such the sylvari are unique

      • I can see ravious’ comparison though, the borg have a collective, the sylvari have the dream. But i agree the comparison doesn’t go much farther than that, and I don’t think ravious means it to.

        Sylvari are unique because of the depth and detail of their lore. Few game companies put in this amount of time on something.

  3. I think the story of the Sylvari as a race will be where ArenaNet can really differentiate them from expectations. I don’t know if I’m reading too much into the Growing the Sylvari video, but I see hints of a darkness in the race which may surprise those who assume they’re going to be the sort of nature-loving elf/dryad/fae/nixie that we’re all used to.

    “They are an expression of the land as much as anything else.”

    And perhaps that land is really rather miffed at what the other races are doing to it. At the end of the day, we won’t really know until the game releases, but I’m certainly hoping that they will manage to put a twist on things somehow.

    • Yes, definitely looking forward to the story and arenanet capitalizing on the immense amount of lore they’re building up. Not sure if you’re familiar with the nightmare court lore, but its yet another hint of a darkness in the race which I hope they jump through story hoops to deal with.

      • Funnily enough I was just reading the discussion on the Sylvari – Incorruptible? article over at Under the Pale Tree. Certainly looks like there’s a strong story arc to be followed there with the Nightmare Court. My only hope is that it turns out to be a bit more than the standard Good vs Evil: perhaps more a ‘shades of grey’ sort of thing.

        • If you read edge of destiny (the 2nd gw2 novel) there is a bit of strange sylvari interaction between the nightmare court and our lead sylvari npc caithe. I don’t think anything really becomes clear from reading it, but there definitely seems to be a lot of backstory, and yes, shades of grey.

  4. I have a hypothesis about what are sylvari that make them really diferent from any other race. They are plant people, but a specific kind of plant: they are fruits, they are structures of a plant that contains seeds.

    The descryption to how the sylvari are born make me think they are fruits from the giant tree, it is possible the sylvari have that trees seeds inside.

    As other plants fruits, their function is disperse the giant tree seeds. For example, an apple is a fruit, we eat it and the seeds aren’t destroyed inside our digestive tract and we poop the seeds at other place with some… mmmmm… fertilizant. We animals are used by the apple tree for disperse its seeds, that is the reason that the apple tree will produce a fruit we like to eat.

    The giant tree is using a similar strategy for disperse its seeds. It is making walking fruits that are friendly to humans and when that fruits die, humans bury them at places with lot of organic material (cemiteries). Then the seeds germinate and sooner or later we will see all world covered by giant trees…

    Well, that hypothesis can be tested. I know that there is a place where a sylvari necromancer was buried and that place problably have a giant tree growing now…

    So, the sylvari aren’t dryads, they are agents of world domination for a giant tree overlord. And the boobs are a trap!

    • you sir are brilliant!!

    • Or maybe they just want to watch the world fern. The Dark Knight.

      • Well, maybe the Pale Tree just want the world peace… so, it need conquer the world for make the world to live in peace.

        I fear the sylvari are just big tomatoes…

  5. I wonder, do people compare Green Giant with dryads and elves too?
    a Sylvari is a Sylvari, no need to allways compare everything.
    Let things be what it is and what it wants to be!
    Its basic artistic freedom.

    • I agree, the way people compare races the sylvari may as well be the green giant for all the “similarities”.

  6. Bring it on, baby!

    • Oh it is already being brought!

  7. I understand and agree several reasons for liking the sylvari, and I believe that they are visually better than the original design, but I kind of believe that most of the people that are in love with the new design/voicing/philosophy that we’ve seen so far are mostly fanboy-esque love devoid of any real critique. Can people truly like every single aspect of them after critiquing?

    I don’t think so. I like their new look when compared with the old, but they still seem a bit too cartoonish or childish. They have a nice concept with plant features making up body features but I don’t believe it shines through. It’s very vague.

    The voice-overs are simply hideous. Arthurian-esque just seems silly to me, and after hearing them I really couldn’t imagine there even being a Nightmare Court. I think that every Sylvari should show the vulnerability and subtle darkness that is necessary to be lured to the Nightmare.

    I really like the idea of the bioluminescent markings, but I’m skeptical that not only do we still have elf-like creatures, now we’ll have elf-like AND Avatar like creatures. It pains me on the inside to think of playing a race that could be so utterly over-populated with people blatantly styling their characters after said subjects.

    Oh well.

    • You’re just talking about your own personal taste, and theres nothing anyone can do about that.

      Personally I’ve seen far more cartoony races in games, and sylvari certainly aren’t the first race to come to mind when someone says cartoony.

      The voice overs are, once again (i can’t believe i have to say this for the umpteenth time) background conversations. These are not ever going to be the top notch voice overs in any game ever. There isn’t time or resources to pour into something that is just in the background.

      English accents or arthuruian styled speech doesn’t bother me. GW2 takes place on another planet, with magic, and many sentient species, gods, monsters and they all speak english, who cares if they have an english accent. Either suspend your disbelief or stop playing video games.

      I don’t hear the same complaints about humans, the most over used race in fantasy settings ever. Why is that? To me sylvari go a long ways towards something new, but humans don’t.

      Look, like I said, it’s all down to personal opinion, so if you don’t like sylvari, nobody has a gun to your head forcing you to play one.

      Also, just because people disagree with you, doesn’t make them fanboys. Thats a cheap and old argument that doesn’t convince me of anything.

      • First off, I understand that it is personal opinion. That is, in fact, the very point of your blog and the point of comment sections. Having said that, I posted my opinion, and then I explained it.

        Don’t tell me that “fanboy” arguments are cheap and old, (again) I explained how I thought that most people that are shouting out how awesome the Sylvari are do not seem to be doing any subjective criticism. This is, by definition, what defines a “fanboy.” I gave my reasons.

        This isn’t about other games, or comparing races from other games to Sylvari. Sylvari just happen to be one of the few original ideas in MMO’s and I felt like most of Sylvari week was underwhelming. Voice overs do matter, because if you are explaining how awesome GW2 is to someone, you might mention the fact that there are 60 full-length feature films worth of voice-overs to them (or you might simply say there’s a ton) so it’s a valid point of concern if what you are going to spend all your time listening to is quality material or not. I will brag to people all day and all night about the fact they got Steven Blum to do voice-overs, and I guarantee you anybody who doesn’t know him will complain much if any at all about his work in-game. Also, having him in-game tells me that there is a)time AND b) resources to make something “background” quality work.

        Nobody ever said I had to like Sylvari, so your posturing on anti-criticism to me is simply the opposite of what your entire blog is about. Rather than construct an entire response that sounds like “NO U,” you could have written a rebuttal that you, or others on here have actually looked at the sylvari subjectively. I even said that they are better (graphically) than originally, it just so happens that I wanted to like the Sylvari.

        Sure, I posted polarising opinions, but I explained my reasons.

        • …anybody who doesn’t know him will ‘not’ complain much if any at all about his work in-game.

          edited for clarity

        • I’m sorry if you don’t like the weak points in your arguments pointed out, but I’m not sure what you wanted my response to be. I disagree and stated why, just as you have done twice now, but apparently I’m not allowed to.

          And I’m sorry that it offends you that I had the nerve to suggest that complaining about fanboys is an ad hominem attack and has nothing to do with the sylvari or anything to do with their good or bad qualities.

          I’m allowed to like the sylvari, how they came out, and not see much wrong with them. Fanboy or not it has nothing to do with it. Just because people disagree with you doesn’t mean they’re fanboys or even if they are that doesn’t make their opinions any less valid. Don’t

          I’m not anti criticism, I’m just saying why your criticisms don’t matter to me.

  8. Sylvari don’t even wear plants, the plants are part of them. Just like they don’t have eyebrows, leaves have grown in such a way and place creating the illusion of eyebrows, making them look even more human, and… NORMAL!

    • Making sylvari look human without actual human anatomy is a clever move by the designers.


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