Dwarves. Elves. Humans. Halflings. Er… Dark Elves. Light Elves. High Elves. Low Elves. Space Elves (aka “Vulcans”). Elvish Impersonators.
If it’s a fantasy MMO — heck, even if it’s not — chances are you’ll be hit with racial choices that include one or many more of the above. It’s as if creative thought in regards to fantasy races died a brutal early death with J.R.R. Tolkein, and we haven’t been able to move on since.
So I thought I’d dedicate a list to six great non-traditional MMO races that represent ingenuity and imagination on behalf of the developers or the IP (yeah, LOTRO isn’t going to be on this list, FYI):
1. Forsaken (World of Warcraft)
Undead Tim Burton-ish zombies with an attitude? Check! With WoW’s release in 2004, no race captured the immediate mind’s eye of players quite like the Forsaken, intelligent undead creatures who escaped from slavery to rebel against, well, pretty much everyone. They’re dark, they’re edgy, and they do air guitar solos.
The Forsaken sport interesting visuals to underline the decaying nature of their people: brains held in by leather straps, mouths ripped off, spines and joint bones exposed. But don’t tell that to China, which had a problem with the spooky ooky nature of the race and demanded that they get an art overhaul before the game went live.
2. Gibberlings (Allods Online)
Looking something like smaller versions of Snarf from Thundercats, or perhaps the hallucinations following a hard round of paint huffing, Gibberlings not only corner the “cute” market in Allods, but offer players a very unique race to test out. Specifically the fact that Gibberlings come in packs of three, and the player controls all three at once as a single entity made of three little furballs.
3. Warforged (Dungeons & Dragons Online)
DDO is stocked with many of the same racial staples that D&D and Tolkein held dear, with one notable exception: the Warforged, a race of intelligent mechanical golems that were bred for war and then freed for… more war, I guess. It’s just a shame that DDO didn’t utilize the Eberron setting more, as it has even more bizarre races like the Changlings.
4. Ratonga (EverQuest 2)
On paper, EverQuest 2’s races seem to be a concerted effort to drive one Syp as far up the wall as possible. They have no less than four (4!) elf races, as well as the full assortment of furry magnets: tiger-people, lizard-people and frog-people. But there’s something undeniably awesome about the Ratonga, the little rat people who remind me of Reepicheep from Prince Caspian. So I’ll let this game continue operating… for now.
5. Goblins (Warhammer Online)
In a game full of strong personalities and wicked takes on fantasy tropes, WAR’s goblins (or “gobbos”) rose to be the quirky standout face of the game. Like their bigger orc brethren, the goblins come from mushrooms (and hence, have no distinguishable gender to speak of), but the goblins lack the orcs’ height and sheer power. Their answer? Being a crafty little bugger, that’s how. I love their armor designs (throwing pieces of everything together all willy-nilly) and their personality is first-rate (“Not in the face! Not in the face!”)
6. Mon Calamari (Star Wars Galaxies)
Honestly, SWG alone could comprise most of this list, considering that every race outside of the humans are bizarre aliens from George Lucas’ playground. But how could you resist being some bulging-eyed fish-thing that should, in all right, terrify you, but instead makes you smile everytime someone says the phrase “it’s a trap!”?