Flight of the Tengu

At PAX South this Saturday, a major announcement is planned regarding Guild Wars 2’s future. From the teases we’ve had regarding Heart of Thorns, speculation has grown that this might be to announce an expansion – or something that will shake up the existing game in a similar manner to an expansion. If this is accurate, the package may contain one or more new races and/or professions.

Among those possibilities, the tengu have attracted particular attention. There are a number of reasons for this – the most obvious being that, sometime around release, ArenaNet acknowledged that they had considered making the tengu a player race, but did not have the resources. While there are few tengu that can be seen in-game, there is plenty of evidence that ArenaNet at least planned for the possibility – space has been set aside for their home region, and tengu culture has been significantly developed for a race that played little part in the story. Politically, the organisation of the tengu into four houses is analogous to similar structures in other races – the four cycles of the sylvari, the four major spirits of the norn, or, if it turns out that one of the houses has gone rogue, the charr legions. (More details on tengu culture and society is planned for an article in GuildMag’s next magazine.)

A group of Tengu strut their stuff for the latest issue of Birdmen Weekly.

A group of tengu strut their stuff for the latest issue of Birdmen Weekly.

However, their current signature trait is their isolation, hidden and protected from the world by the imposing Tenguwall. So, what could cause the tengu to emerge and contribute to the defence of Tyria?

The Personal Story does contain some teasers that the tengu might consider opening the gates. Izu Steelshrike, one of the three master smiths recruited by Trahearne, expresses the opinion that the heroism of the Pact in defeating Zhaitan might inspire the tengu, individually or as a nation, to join in the fight against the dragons. However, no evidence of this has been forthcoming, and if anything there has been less evidence of tengu joining the Vigil and other orders now than before the formation of the Pact.

Another hypothesis rests on the information that destroyers are active both within and without the Tenguwall. While so far the tengu seem to be handling their destroyer problems themselves, an upsurge of destroyer activity might force them to accept outside assistance; either because the destroyers have torn a hole in the wall and they need reinforcements to contain them, or simply that they are overwhelmed and have no choice but to take the risk of asking for help.

One of the few places where the tengu accept the help of outsiders is in containing this destroyer nest at the base of the Tenguwall.

However, there is one flaw in this hypothesis – presently, Mordremoth is the focus of the story, not Primordus. While the original Personal Story did pay some attention to the other dragons before the focus of the orders was fixed firmly on Zhaitan’s increasing aggression, it would probably be more suitable for Heart of Thorns if the introduction of the tengu as a playable race happened through the actions of the current Big Bad.

Fortunately, the jungle dragon is particularly suited to this role. We’ve already seen that Mordremoth can strike pretty much anywhere in Tyria with massive vines that make a mockery of fortifications… and much of the Tenguwall is already covered with jungle vegetation. All it would take is for something to draw Mordremoth’s attention to some section of the Tenguwall, and it is likely to be breached by a sudden eruption of vines shortly afterwards.

Nice wall they have there. Be a shame if someone were to... accidentally... leave a tasty-looking but otherwise valueless artifact at its base...

Nice wall they have there. Be a shame if someone were to… accidentally… leave a tasty-looking but otherwise valueless artifact at its base.

Such an event would provide both a psychological and a physical impetus to break the tengu’s isolation. While the tengu might still be able to defend the physical breach, the attack would demonstrate that the isolation of the Dominion of Winds is no guarantor of safety, and the only chance of victory will come through banding together with others to fight against the dragons while there are still allies to join. Like the demolition of the Berlin Wall, the toppling of a piece of the Tenguwall would not only be the destruction of a physical object, but a symbol of the destruction of the old ways of thinking and the heralding of the new.

This breaching would also provide for a good opportunity for a tengu starter instance where a tengu PC first earns their reputation by slaying the Mordrem champion responsible for the destruction, similar to Defending Shaemoor for humans and similar instances.

Mr. Mordremoth, tear down this wall!

Mr. Mordremoth, tear down this wall!

The complication, however, is where to go after that. Currently playable races only have racial personal stories that extend for about thirty levels before plugging in to the larger story of the orders, the Pact, and Zhaitan. However, the Zhaitan campaign concluded with the tengu still in isolation, so it would be appropriate to have a horde of birdmen suddenly proceeding through the Zhaitan campaign. To maintain story integrity, tengu PCs will need an alternative to simply pushing through the original storyline.

The obvious, but most resource-intensive, choice is to create a new personal story. Creating a whole 1-80 story for one race would be a large investment, but would perhaps be worth it given the likely expectation that most players will roll a tengu when the option becomes available. A somewhat more efficient option could be to have a new story that applies to new characters of all races, replacing the original personal story – such an arrangement would also cover any other new races, as well as any new professions that were not available during the formation of the Pact. This would also help to avoid some of the confusion that can arise from playing old story content on altered maps (such as any story step that occurs in Lion’s Arch…). However, such a choice would naturally be drawing resources away from developing new content aimed at characters who are already level 80.

The easiest choice would be to simply allow the open world to be the levelling playground for the tengu. Controversial as the new trait acquisition mechanics are, they do provide guidance and incentive to explore and visit various parts of the world in order to acquire useful traits. Thus, rather than an extended personal story, the “midgame” for the tengu could involve exploring the general world of Tyria in order to gain the skills, traits, and experience they will need to join the established heroes in fighting the threat of Mordremoth head on.

For a third possibility, I shall, with apologies to the readers, invoke That Which Shall Not Be Named.

Aaaagh! Make it go away!

In one of World of Warcraft’s expansion packs a new character class, the Death Knight, was introduced. Instead of starting at level 1, this new class started at a level close to the game’s cap at the time – to prevent this from allowing players to ‘shortcut’ straight to maximum level without learning the mechanics (read: being subjected to pay-per-month grind) along the way, only players with a pre-existing character at or above that level were allowed to create a Death Knight. With their higher starting level, the Death Knight could be given a relatively short storyline to follow before being plugged into endgame content, including the main story for the expansion in which they were introduced. A similar approach could allow a relatively short personal story – similar to the first three chapters for existing races – to establish the tengu character’s place in the world and bring them up to maximum level before throwing them into the same HoT storyline being followed by established characters. Given the number of level-to-20 experience scrolls and Tomes of Knowledge that most veteran players have likely acquired, it can be expected that newly made characters on established accounts will be booted up to high levels regardless, so this might as well be made an official part of playing a tengu.

So, with all that, can we expect to see an influx of feathered heroes into Tyria in the foreseeable future? Join us on our PAX stream on Saturday as we all find out!

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