I don’t want to be that guy that claims he can do so much better than the writing team Anet already has, so I won’t. That’s essentially the point of this long ramble I’m about to go on. It’s not that I think I can do better, but I think that they can do better, by showing that they already have! One thing that I’ve come to the conclusion on when playing the game during the BWEs and post-release is that the Charr simply have the best personal story. In order to illustrate this, I will be comparing their stories to the Norn stories for convenience, since Norn are the other race that I’m most familiar with. Most of what I say will apply to the other races as well, however.
It goes without saying that this will include spoilers for the 1-30 personal story steps. Without further ado, a list, in no particular order, of reasons why the Charr storylines are simply better:
1. Cohesiveness. One of the first things that you are greeted with once you’re out of the tutorial is a greeting by your warband member. Talking to him/her will get mention of Howl and his amulet, and you may wonder what this has to do with anything. Then, lo and behold, that point is suddenly brought back up again in your third story arc. That’s not really the only point, either. The truth is that the Charr storyline just feels much more cohesive than the others. Things that you do in the first arc have an impact on the following, due to the warband members that you recruit staying with you in the second and third arcs.
Compare this to the Norn storyline, which has three arcs that feel incredibly disjointed. The only unifying theme here is the growing friendship with Eir, which…has its own problems that I’ll get to shortly.
2. Meaning. Right from the get-go, the Charr personal story has things that actually impact the character and shape how he grows as a person. The first arc has you learning about your legion and building up a stable of friends that will be with you for the rest of your racial story arcs. In the second arc, you have your warband dealing with your character’s father in some way. In my opinion, these arcs have some of the best writing present in the personal story. Even if they don’t really go too in-depth, these stories end up covering some interesting and deep themes, like the meaning of family and what one would do for that family. When you chose to side with your father in “Sins of the Father” (Sorcerous Shaman) and believe that, despite once being a Flame Legion shaman, he’s truly repented and wants correct his past mistakes, there’s something powerful and personal there. When you choose to trust your father despite his deception against his own warband in “Thicker than Water” (Honorless Gladium) you have a character weighing in on the importance of family versus the importance of his duty. (Also, I don’t normally care one way or the other about voice acting in video games, but props to the guy who was voicing the male Charr PCs. He was definitely channeling something during the end of “Thicker than Water.”) That can be some pretty powerful stuff. Then the third arc comes and you have to deal with the risen corpse of your former leader. That’s definitely personal.
Compare this to the Norn storyline. The first arc introduces us to the Sons of Svanir, so I suppose it does the job the first arcs usually do in introducing us to the racial enemy, but that’s about it. The first Norn arc has no real meaning as to who the Norn is as a person. All it is is some crisis that the Norn PC comes in to save the say with. That’s fine and all, but at that point it’s not really a personal story, and just becomes an event with cutscenes. The second arc is selectively okay. The “Blacked Out” storyline has some witty writing, but ended on a fairly lackluster conclusion that really didn’t have the comedy that carried the first parts of the arc, nor introduce any sort of meaning for this arc for the character in question. The “Lost a Fight” storyline is basically just the Norn PC going through some fights so he can win a grudge match, and the attempt at making it hold a deeper meaning comes off as fake (did the Norn PC really learn about when fights should be fought, just from fighting in a tournament? Really?) The best arc was probably the “Lost an Heirloom” arc since it provides some nice meaning in the ruminations of what it means to honor a legacy. Then the third arc comes in, which is just to stop some dredge for reasons that never seemed adequately explained to me.