The theme of Phantasy Star Universe-2 is set near the beginning of the first chapter, with the very first stirrings of the SEED having disrupted the unification ceremony, shortly followed by unification of another sort entirely. The world focuses on a family of three planets called the Gurhal System, as well as the humans and their various offshoots that live there. The major powers include the CAST-dominated Alliance Military, or AMF, the Neudaiz-based religion/government Communion of Gurhal, and the all-purpose, all-inclusive Guardians. Due to various factors, the Guardian Colony is probably the easiest place to visit for those from the multiverse at large.
The Gurhal system contains three known, as of this time, major planets, and several artificial space colonies of various sizes. The foremost of these colonies is the massive Guardian Colony, in orbit around Parum. Many of these colonies are quite populated, so for purposes here they will be included.
The most heavily populated and developed planet in the Gurhal system, this world was once quite Earth-like, but much of the surface is now covered in extensive urban sprawl. A few patches of blue and green mostly represent vacation areas and wildlife preserves, but the towers and lights of some city or another always seem to be just on the horizon, making it difficult to truly 'get away from it all'. Humans once flourished here, and are still numerous on its surface, but have mostly been supplanted in the military and political world by their robotically enhanced creations, the CASTs. The Alliance Military has their headquarters here, as well as the industrial giant GRM, the firm that produces all officially licensed CASTs, Partner Machines and has a special relationship with the Parum government.
A watery world, dominated by wetlands, jungles and island chains, Neudaiz's population is primarily Newmans, though a few individuals of other Gurhal races can be seen. The culture and architecture is reminiscent of Japan and China of Earth, but mostly the former, and that extends to the religion that was founded there and has quickly spread across the star system, the Communion of Gurhal. The COG, as it is often abbreviated, also serves as the defacto government for the planet, and is comprised almost entirely of Newmans. Perhaps the reader would be sensing a trend by now. It is perhaps second only to Parum in distrust for outsiders and non-natives. This is the home base for Yohmei, a manufacturer that focuses as much on style as it does functionality, producing elegant equipment that seems like it might break if you swing too hard, but never seems to.
A desert planet that nonetheless manages to show a large variety of surface conditions. Dotted with sporadic springs and oasis, most of the surface is dry sand dunes and rocky canyons, though in stark contrast the frigid polar regions have extensive water ice locked away. This is one planet where the SEED invasion was not necessary to make its wildlife extremely hostile, and life on Moatoob has always been brutal in many ways. When the Beasts overthrew their human masters centuries ago, they formed bands of outlaws that would become the closest thing Moatoob has to a government: The Rogue families, and their leaders known as Dons, control most of the commerce and flow of wealth on the planet. At least one company has sprung up from the desert to produce arms and equipment, Tenora Works, and the many places for illicit trades to hide means this is home to much of Kubara's foundries, as well. One of the most distinctive features of Moatoob from a distance is its ring system, the remains of a moon that was destroyed in the long war that ended 100 years ago.
Originally constructed to house the Guardians Headquarters, as well as the Guardians themselves and their families, the colony has grown both in scope and in population over the past several decades. Those tired of war, of the political climates of planetary life, or even just wanting to make a fresh start of it in a more diverse atmosphere, have migrated, and today the Guardian Colony is one of the most active hubs in the Gurhal System. There is extensive housing, shopping, and entertainment available for residents, and it is probably the most open and friendly environment visitors to Gurhal can find, as well as being the central stopover for Flyer transport traffic. The president of the Guardians, Ohbel Dallgun, holds up the colony he oversees as an example of the kind of future Gurhal can have, through cooperation between its races.
The official modern teaching is that humans are the original residents of the Gurhal system, and created the other races to assist them, and to cure some kind of loneliness as a species. This is only a partial truth, however, created to help keep the peace that was fought so hard for. In reality, it seems, the humans created them to be their servants in different capacities, Beasts being created for purposes of hard labor, for example. There are also hints that the humans did not do so completely of their own will. Most of those born in the last 80 years are unaware of why the war in Gurhal was originally fought, because of this intentional withholding of information.
The most numerous and oldest species extant in the Gurhal system today. They once ruled all three worlds, but lost this control to their 'children', sometimes voluntarily to put an end to the bloodshed that lasted for centuries. Through system-wide efforts to promote peace, most humans have long since forgotten their animosity or any claim to primacy in the star system, but even now there is some dissatisfaction with their lot in life, especially on the world of Parum, where the CAST government is seen as cold and lacking understanding. Physically, the humans of Gurhal are 'average' in most categories, quite capable and flexible, and so they're found in almost every occupation. A few have even managed to excel enough to enlist in the Alliance Military, a predominately CAST venture.
Of the peoples of Gurhal, Newmans are likely the ones that most resemble the humans that created them. In comparison to their forebears, they naturally possess a higher dexterity and nimbleness, both of body and mind, but are slightly more fragile in the less refined arts of durability and muscular strength. They are also distinctive for their elongated, pointed ears, which would call to mind elves of other worlds. Most Newmans are also born with a high concentration of photons in their bodies, which makes them particularly suited to the use of Technics, which are essentially magic. After assuming control of the planet Neudaiz, they created an insular society built around faith, thought and discipline. Their skill in diplomacy has proven a good advantage, but the Newman government is sometimes seen as stubborn and uncooperative by others, a rival to the CASTs.
While all CASTs are humanoid, they resemble their human creators only to varying degrees, some even donning full helmets and elaborate armors that make them seem even further away from the concept of human. However much they might claim, though, no CAST is completely mechanical; they still require regular nutrition, and are not an absolutely rational group, having as wide a range of personalities as any other race. While not having a majority, they have all but completely seized control of politics on their home world of Parum, and form the majority of the Alliance Military forces. Their physical strength is second only to Beasts, and their inorganic parts enable them to take quite a beating in combat, but they are also cumbersome. Another side effect of their composition is that they are lacking in Photons, which is found in all organic life of Gurhal, and are accordingly the least gifted in Technics of all the races. CASTs do get an ace up the sleeve, though, in the form of SUV weapons, gigantic armaments which they can use to turn the tide of battle in an eye blink.
Real bruisers, Beasts come in two forms, Big Beasts and Small Beasts. Big Beasts tend to be physically imposing specimens with above average human physiques, while Small Beasts are a bit more childlike in their adult sizes. Despite those differences in form, their capabilities are almost identical, and it would be a mistake to underestimate a Small Beast. While lacking the refinement and agility of other species, their strength is top-notch, and they are surprisingly capable with Technics, only barely trailing Humans with that talent. While Beasts closely resemble Humans, they also carry marks of their more bestial heritage, such as subtly animal-like facial features, as well as their ears. Their usual personalities not lending itself well to politics, Beast society has risen to regard traits such as power, cunning and wealth as things of importance, so it should come as little surprise that many end up in dangerous, high-risk and high-reward occupations, such as hunters, rogues and even Guardians. Be careful when provoking a Beast, as they also have the ability to temporarily revert to an even more powerful form, a process called a Nanoblast.
Additional Note: This isn't to say every individual is going to closely resemble these norms. A Newman that trains their strength can still make quite a powerful melee-oriented warrior, for example, and be just as hot-tempered as a stereotypical Beast. There is a lot of variation within each race's norms. This is only an 'average'.
No overview of the Gurhal system would be complete without a look at its major thematic elements.
Somewhat similar to the classical notion of 'The Force', photons are present in every living thing in the Gurhal system to varying degrees and affinities. It is through the photons in their bodies that its citizens are able to use the local flavor of magic known as Technics, and those with a higher concentration of photons are similarly more gifted with Techcraft. Photons transcend this use, however, and are found in almost every facet of life in the star system. Much of the native technology relies heavily on photons for both an energy source and to actuate it to some end, and it is also used to give weapons an edge that will never dull. The Communion of Gurhal even enshrines the all-important photon as a sort of divine will of the universe, that becomes stronger with the faith of the believers, though there is little evidence to date that photons are intelligent.
Recently, some applications have begun to use A-Photons, a variant that was excavated from Relics sites, and contains much more energy in a smaller space than traditional photons. This is of particular interest to certain branches of the military, and there are already those proclaiming A-Photons to be the future of Gurhal. There are also those that have misgivings about an unproven and untested technology that is poorly understood, as is much of the culture of the ancient people that built the Relics, but their voices are much quieter compared to the A-Photon hype train for now.
A portable, bulk storage device, and so much more with a little creative application, the nanotranser has been a fixture of Gurhal life seemingly for ages. Taking the form of a small clip or buckle, it can store items, clothing, food and other common articles a person might need, as well as re-materialize them later. The models issued to Guardians and Alliance Military members are higher capacity than civilian units, being capable of carrying larger amounts of items, or larger individual items. Some specialty models made for evacuation or medical teams can even store a person in stasis until emergency care can be rendered, freeing the rescuer from having to carry them.
In addition to enabling a quick change of clothing, some versions can also change a user's looks to a limited extent, such as hair style or length. Some have been modified to create a disguise that is difficult to penetrate, but those are typically only used by less savory elements for espionage purposes. Regardless, when switching clothes in this way, the user is briefly enveloped by a bright halo of photons, so it is a perfectly PG process. Nanotransers can be swiped, however, leaving their hapless users in their (tasteful and covering) default underwear — a common prank in some of Gurhal's more juvenille circles. To the combat-oriented, nanotransers are also a common method of switching weapons on the fly, or having curative items ready for use at a moment's notice.
You obviously can't make CASTs as domestic servants anymore, so what is a company to do? In GRM's case, you cut down the CAST AI core to more fundamental levels, put in a lot more fail-safes this time, and also make them considerably smaller than an adult human being. You then market these creations as Partner Machinery, personal secretaries that can assist with house work, balancing the checkbook, or whatever tasks their master sees fit. You also reduce reliance on organic parts even further from the CAST base, just to avoid any further legal or ethical liability.
Partner Machines take many forms, depending on how they've been treated as well as developed. Some are little more than a spherical, floating body with a face, optionally with two arms. Other forms include small dragon shapes, stylized mecha-angels, and in their most advanced forms, they can even resemble miniature, human-style CASTs. Regardless, their maintenance capabilities are the same, being able to maintain a modestly sized home in their master's absence, perform shopping tasks, synthesize items (provided they have an appropriate recipe to do so), and coordinate messages and information. Only the advanced CAST-form PMs are strong enough, and have the dexterity required, to accompany their master into battle.
Because they are meant only as personal assistants, their nominal personality has been reduced to only being helpful and cheerful. Despite GRM's best efforts, though, it seems some variations manage to appear, and there are scattered reports that some Partner Machinery possesses quite different mannerisms. Even with this concern, they remain useful enough that each licensed Guardian recruit receives a PM with their quarters, to help with their workload.