Dak here, with an in-depth look into one of my surprise favorite elements of the game.
So I briefly mentioned the skritt in my last post talking about the asura. Now, I’ll be… not so brief.
The skritt are a ratlike race who, along with the asura, were originally living in the depths of Tyria but were driven upward by Primordus and the Destroyers. They are opportunists, but not scavengers – rather than dig through your garbage, they’ll mooch off you instead; doing their best to convince you you don’t really need that neat shoulderpad, or if your backpack is really heavy they’ll be happy to relieve you of any unnecessary items. They’re also exceptionally curious, so if they get their paws on an unknown device, they’ll eventually sort out how it works and why.
Now, what makes the skritt so interesting? They communicate in a high-pitched, almost inaudible chittering, through which they can relay a vast amount of information in a very short time. While a single skritt is only capable of basic tasks and survival skills, through this chittering a group of skritt can work together to solve a problem. The larger the group, the more complex the tasks it can tackle. While a single skritt is rather dim, a big enough group could potentially rival an asura in intelligence.
Over the beta weekend, the skritt were available for interaction at last. I first encountered them in a fort just south of Artergon Woods: a pair who had been trained for the simple task of guarding supplies. I was instantly enchanted when I heard them concentrating so hard on guarding that they were, in fact, saying “Guarding. Guarding guarding!” back and forth to one another. My amusement was interrupted by a sudden hylek attack on the fort, which a group of players and I managed to repel. (one thing to point out, I love how whenever an event begins, a group of players seem to materialize from nowhere to join in and make the event more… eventful). The invaders successfully routed, the Lionguard commander in charge of the fort decided it was high time to take the fight to the hylek and regain their stolen items, and sent a single skritt named Rikkiti to a Lionguard assault force near the hylek village. The event is then to escort her as she runs the message to attack.
Rikkiti started out dutifully enough, but soon was distracted by the much more interesting moa nests by the side of the road. “Stuff stuff stuff!” came her shrill cry, until an angry moa (which we swiftly subdued) scared her off and she fled back to the path.
Imagine, if you will, the sight of some 20 people of all races chasing after an eager, innocent skritt as she quite accidentally attracts the ire of a giant grubs, a golem, disgruntled krewemembers, hungry raptors, and a full pack of apparently teleporting jaguars, with shouts of “Ooh, shi-hi-hinyyy!” and “What’s that!” It was quite the unexpected quest, and a ton of fun centered on a surprisingly endearing individual.
“Sheriff want shinies back. Rikkiti get shinies! Teach hyleks stealing bad.”
“And did our ineffectual sheriff offer any thought on how precisely we might accomplish that?”
“Yes… no… what?”
“(sigh)Sheriff say how we get shinies back?”
“Oooh. Deputy talk like Rikkiti stupid! Rikkiti not stupid!”
All the more surprising was when we reached her destination, and it flowed smoothly into a more traditional event: Destroy the hylek village and essentially burn -everything-.
Rikkiti joined us for that, too, and soon she had gathered all the “shinies” from the decimated village and returned to the fort while we taught the hylek chieftain that stealing was bad.
That event chain left a great effect on me, and I was delighted when I moved north into the Brisban Wildlands and found that there was, in fact, a massive skritt city called Skrittsburgh dug deep into a mountain. While none of the skritt there were as singularly endearing as Rikkiti, it was interesting in another way: With so many in close proximity, these skritt were, in fact, more intelligent. They were able to speak about more complex ideas and offer rewards for tasks, and as I delved deeper I found among their piles of hoarded items full, working tailoring and smithing stations. Only a short way away there were even shops run by entrepreneurial skritt. In the deepest reaches of Skrittsburgh, skritt soldiers held back encroaching Destroyers from underground. It was a full, living city, and the race isn’t even a main one! Kudos to Anet for this sort of dedication and the masterful way in which they fully realized this concept.
While I’m looking forward to the entirety of the game, when we hit launch I’ll be putting aside time to spend with the skritt, whether it’s helping them defend what they’ve rightfully stolen, or just chuckling at their more innocent antics.