6 Most Exciting Races
by Tyler Edwards, July 25, 2012
Not so long ago, we did a list of some of the lamest playable races in MMOs. But it's not good to only look at the negative side of things, so the time has come to cover the other side of the coin. For this list, we will chronicle some of the most interesting playable races in the MMO genre. Some are original, some have great backstories, some just have that indefinable cool factor, and the best combine all of these factors, but they're all exciting for one reason or another.
Native to Allods Online, Gibberlings don't have quite the same level of visual appeal or epic backstory claimed by some other entries on this list. But there is one thing about them that's so totally unique that it earned them a mention. When you play a Gibberling, you play not one character, but three.
Gibberlings are very small and resemble hamsters, cats, and monkeys all at once. They are known for their optimism and perpetual curiosity, and they are the race credited with discovering travel through the Astral, a key part of the gameplay and story of Allods. They are born in litters of three and rarely separate from their siblings, which explains the gameplay mechanic of the player controlling three of them at once as though they were a single character.
Some might be put off by the obvious attempt at cuteness the Gibberlings represent, and it can be hard to maintain a feeling of epic adventure when accompanied by a small horde of cat-hamsters, but you do have to admire the creativity of a race where one character is actually three.
Gibberlings also offer a special appeal to the crueler PvP fans out there. Can you imagine anything more humiliating than being ganked by a gang of tiny hamster-men?
Everyone likes killing zombies. There's something uniquely cathartic about massacring hordes of mindless Undead - and game developers realize this. As a result, most MMOs will have you slaughtering Undead fiends sooner or later.
But in a few games, you can take on the role of the Undead yourself.
World of Warcraft launched with Undead as a playable race for the Horde faction. These undead belong to the Forsaken, a splinter group who freed themselves from the mindless army known as the Scourge. Twisted by their horrible deaths and even more horrible resurrections, the Forsaken are often as wicked as the Scourge masters they escaped from, but they are evil on their own terms and refuse to bend the knee to anyone.
In 2010, the venerable MMO Asheron's Call added the Undead to its list of playable races. Similar to the Forsaken, their playable Undead escaped the service of a greater society of the risen dead, but unlike WoW's undead, they do not seek to subjugate or kill the living, preferring to live among them as equal members of society.
Aside from being a bit more original than the usual Elves and Orcs, Undead are an interesting race because of the ways death impacts their culture. Those who have long since died will inevitably have very different perspectives than the living, and that makes for some interesting lore. Plus, you really stand out in a crowd when you don't have eyes, hair, a lower jaw, or a full suit of skin.
Hailing from Dungeons and Dragons Online, the Warforged are a unique race among fantasy MMOs. Constructs of living wood and metal, the Warforged are, in essence, robots.
As the name would imply, the Warforged were created by the other races for use as soldiers. Originally mindless killing machines, they gained awareness as their creators sought to make more intelligent fighters. Now, they struggle to find their place in a world that largely still views them as living weapons, often turning to adventuring as the only way to serve a purpose in greater society.
But more importantly, robots. Who wants to be a Halfling or a Gimli look alike when you can be a metallic killing machine? It's a refreshing change of pace from the usual fantasy archetypes with a nice steampunk twist, and not something you will see in your average WoW clone.
The only downside to Warforged is their unusual game mechanics. They receive a reduced benefit from healing spells, leading them to be stigmatized by players who view them as a potential liability. On the plus side, they have strong base resistances and defenses, making them hardy and good for soloing.
It's a pretty common practice for MMO developers to come up with new races by anthropomorphizing animals, creating humanoid cats, bulls, or even frogs. It's not so often that you see a developer go outside the animal kingdom for inspiration for a new race, but that's exactly what ArenaNet did when they created the Sylvari for Guild Wars 2.
The Sylvari are people, but they are also plants. They begin their existence in the mysterious realm known as the "Dream of Dreams" and then spring fully formed from the fruit of the mystical Pale Tree. They then explore the world around them with a childlike curiosity, as well as a determination to rid the land of evil's blight.
The Sylvari are one of the more visually unique races on the list, seamlessly blending human and plant biology. Leaves and roots take the place of hair and beards, bark and vines are their flesh, and even their clothing is made of living plant matter. Also, they can have a mushroom head instead of hair. You have to love that.
Due to their nature as plants, fans often affectionately refer to Sylvari characters as "salad." This leads to rather odd statements such as, "I'm totally going to roll a salad necromancer!"
You can be forgiven if you're not familiar with the MMO, Istaria: Chronicles of the Gifted, even by its original name Horizons: Empire of Istaria. It was never a very popular or successful game.
However, there is one notable thing about it. In Istaria, Dragons are a playable race.
Dragons are so common in MMOs that most players probably feel that if they never see one again, it will be too soon. But Dragons are always enemies or at best friendly NPCs. They're not something you see as a playable option, and even the most Dragon-weary player would have to admit the appeal of personally taking on the role of one of these mighty beasts.
Istaria didn't cheat with their Dragons, either. No creating a lizard race and calling it a Dragon. This game offers the full Dragon experience, including flying and breathing fire.
1: Blood Elves:
You can say that Elves are overused in MMOs, and you'd be right. But the fact is there's a reason so many people gravitate to them. Their elegant power is very compelling to many people. And there's something to be said for taking an old idea and making it new again, and that's exactly what the developers of World of Warcraft did when they created the Blood Elves.
At first glance, the Blood Elves may seem like a generic example of the archetype, but dig a little deeper, and you'll soon realize they're no Legolas clones.
Not so long ago, the Blood Elves were called the High Elves and lived in peace in their enchanted kingdom of Quel'thalas. Then, they suffered a devastating invasion by the Undead Scourge. Nearly all of the High Elves were wiped out, and the source of their power, the Sunwell, was destroyed.
The handful that survived renamed their race as a memorial to their slaughtered families, but the Blood Elves' trials didn't end there. Their allies betrayed them, and their addiction to magic caused them to suffer agonizing withdrawals in the wake of the Sunwell's destruction. The Blood Elves had to make questionable alliances and commit terrible crimes just to stave off extinction.
All of these things have given the Blood Elves a ruthless commitment to their own survival, as well as a "devil may care" attitude and a desire to live their remaining days to the fullest. They indulge all pleasures and addictions, including everything from dark magic to the narcotic bloodthistle. They might as well be called "Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll Elves."
Despite all they've been through, the Blood Elves refuse to give up their pride or let their pain break them. Their strength makes them admirable, and if nothing else, you have to respect people who make pacts with Demons and undead monsters in order to kick the asses of other Demons and undead monsters.
For being a unique take on an old classic, the Blood Elves earn the top spot on our list of most interesting MMO races.