So I never expected the other thread to blow up so much, letalone be misinterpreted so hard on reddit and twitch. I just wanted to rant a bit and vent my frustration with a particular part of how the story is being told - or rather, how it isn't.
I'd like to give it another go, but this time provide proper feedback instead of ranting.
TL;DR The human-Charr conflict is a rich and perfect setting for people to get invested in different sides and could be the best place for telling a gray story in GW2. Unfortunately I don't think Anet's doing a good job at exposing the playerbase to both sides of the conflict in GW2, instead we are being spoonfed the Charr narrative endlessly and the whole thing comes off as too black and white. Not only that, but instead of building on what was set up in GW1, GW2's narrative works to undo and invalidate its predecessor.
It's pretty clear that Charr were never supposed to be likeable at the time of GW1. They were some of the earliest and most ruthless villains of the story with absolutely no redeeming qualities, and many players got invested in the Ascalonian side. When Anet decided to make Charr playable in GW2 they felt it necessary to change how the playerbase viewed the Charr. Thus began the problems.
So Anet took a conflict that was perhaps the most black and white in the entire lore, and seemingly tried to turn it into a more "gray" one. But the way they did it was the following: they painted it just as black and white as it was in GW1, except switched which side is supposed to be in the right which only alienated some of the established fanbase.
When such a story is told right, both sides have valid points and the audience is split on the matter in a good way, allowing people to get attached to either of the sides and make arguements for their favorite.
Problem with GW2 is that Anet is trying to heavily overcompensate for how evil the Charr were in GW1. They are basically giving them amnesty for the Searing, genocides, child slavery, burning women alive, eating prisoners / forcing them to fight to the death for entertainment, and more. They even get to be vindicated for their whole conquest of Ascalon by the "we just wanted to take our land back" narrative which Anet wasted no time hammering home before GW2 even released. They shoehorned this into the cinematic of their very first dungeon and released it before the game even came out.
It's a very consistent theme since before release to paint the Charr as the victims of humanity. First, this goes against everything that was set up in GW1, creating a rift between the narrative and communities of the two games. Second, I think it doesn't even do justice to the Charr because it makes them appear way more tame, heavily downplaying their warmongering nature which is supposed to be their cornerstone as a race. Since when do Charr need a valid reason to go to war?
Meanwhile Ascalonians get reduced from tragic victims of a brutal invasion, to mindless villains for the most part.
What I'm trying to say is that this "conflict" is way too onesided in GW2. Charr are never held accountable for their sins, and Ascalonians are expected to just roll with it - because those who don't are portrayed as evil and get killed off.
I keep hearing that GW1 was human centric so GW2 merely gave us the Charr's (biased) perspective and we are supposed to take it with a grain of salt. Problem is, not everyone played GW1. New players - and especially the more casual ones who started off with GW2 - never ever get exposed to the atrocities of the Charr, and the Charr POV never gets challenged even for a second.
If you want to sell a gray story, then tell the story from both sides IN ONE GAME. That way fans of neither side feel betrayed by the narrative.
Each side telling biased half-truths could be a great narrative tool IF we spent time exploring both sides, but that's not happening at all. Those who started with GW2 never really get exposed to anything but the Charr side, the Charr truth. Since their story is never challenged, it becomes THE truth. Players shouldn't have to go back and play a 14 year old game if they wanted to get the full picture, but without doing so the story becomes much more bland and black and white.
I'm glad that we are getting a character like Bangar. He represents what Charr should be: warminded, constantly on edge, seeing enemies everywhere - yet intelligent, calculating, and even rational in his own way. Truly a hero of his own story and we need more characters like him.
The line that set me off however was him complaining about how "Ascalonians used to wear our fur as armor". Don't get me wrong, it's in character for him to say such things!
Again, my problem is that this is just yet another continuation of the Charr victim narrative that's been going on for 7 years, completely undisputed. GW2 players aren't going to know the circumstances, they won't know that this happened after the Charr commited genocide against 3 human kingdoms. They lack context.
Anet's painting a completely distorted view of the whole conflict to those who never played GW1. They aren't creating a divide between people who agree with humans and those who agree with the Charr (which would be good storytelling), rather a rift between those who played GW1 and those who didn't.
This is from the original manuscript for GW: Prophecies.
Once, Ascalon was a beautiful, fertile land of rolling green countryside and magnificent cities. Her people were viewed as grim by their neighbors. This was perhaps, to be expected, given their never-ending war against the aggressive Charr. Indeed, it was their unfailing vigilance, their Great Northern Wall, and the blood they shed each year to defend it that had protected not only Ascalon, but also Kryta and Orr through the ages.
This was the original story. The whole "we just came to take back our land" is a GW2 retcon that Anet wasted no time to spoonfeed it to new players over the years. Most people today use this reasoning to justify basically everything the Charr ever did. Anet took one of the best and most iconic conflicts of GW1, decided they want none of it in GW2, and then made the aggressors seem like the good guys in the sequel with no room for debate. I think that was a huge mistake and a waste of potential for great tensions.
This excuse doesn't even hold up, because events unfolded exactly as the manuscript said they would: Charr invading the other human kingdoms the moment the wall was breached. What happened to the "we are just here to take it back" narrative? Are we supposed to believe that Kryta and Orr were also originally Charr land?
Because of all the retcons GW2 doesn't really expand on the story told in GW1, rather tries to replace it. Again this creates a situation where, instead of the GW2 playerbase being divided on the human-Charr conflict in a good way, the true divide lies between GW1 and GW2 players. I think that's bad storytelling.
If the intent was to flip the narrative on its head, drag Ascalon through the mud and justify the Charr's genocides and whatnot, alienating a large chunk of the former playerbase then I guess it's a success. If however the intent was to provide a gray story, then they've failed, but maybe it's not too late to salvage the situation and this saga is the perfect opportunity for that.