Top 6 Character Origins

by Tyler Edwards, January 9, 2013

Odds are that your MMO character is not some ordinary Joe Shmuck. If you're like the vast majority of MMO players out there, you're probably playing as some daring hero. They possess fantastic physical strength, incredible magic, superhuman agility, or some combination of the above. With thousands of amazing heroes running around, many games seek to explain how this came to be, providing epic backstories for why their worlds are crawling with such powerful fighters. This list will cover some of the more clever and compelling backstories MMOs give their players.

death knight

6: Death knights, World of Warcraft:

Generally, World of Warcraft is not a game that provides good origins for its players. For the most part, players are just random adventurers with no explanation as to how or why they become heroes. But there is one notable exception to this rule: the death knight hero class.

Death knights begin life - unlife, really - as powerful, level fifty five heroes with a pre made epic backstory. In life, death knights were great heroes of the blessed army known as the Argent Dawn. They fought against the evil Lich King and his undead Scourge, winning great victories for the Dawn at the cost of their own lives.

But those who fall to the Scourge do not know the peace of death. The fallen Argent soldiers were taken by the Lich King and made into his new champions. Now the embodiment of what they had once fought against, player death knights begin their new lives by sowing slaughter and chaos for the Lich King in an epic quest chain that sees mighty fortresses shattered and entire towns slaughtered.

The storyline ends with an epic event called the Battle of Light's Hope Chapel, in which death knight players attempt to destroy their characters' former Argent comrades. The assault ultimately fails, and the death knights are betrayed by their master, the Lich King. The death knights swear to defeat the Lich King, freeing players to join the game's major factions and begin playing normally as would any other class.

secret world agartha

5: Chosen by the Bees, The Secret World:

Characters in The Secret World were not born exceptional, nor did they earn their power entirely through vigorous training. For unclear reasons, they were chosen by mysterious entities in the form of honeybees. The game's introductory cinematic shows your character swallowing one in their sleep and immediately being granted strange visions and fantastic powers.

Yes, you heard that right. You get magic powers from swallowing a bee. It's a bit bizarre, but it gets points for originality.

Make no mistake, though: this was no ordinary bee. This was one of the Bees, enigmatic creatures who appear throughout The Secret World. They swarm in Agartha, the magical realm within Hollow Earth that is the game's main travel hub, and they provide all of the game's background lore in the form of honeycombs.

The really strange thing about the Bees is that it never seems to be terribly clear what they want. Their opposition to the evil Filth seems to paint them as a force for good, but yet there are many aspects of the Bees that are openly sinister. The unwelcome who stumble into Agartha are said to be stung "in their minds."

It makes you wonder if the players aren't just pawns in some greater scheme to serve the desires of the Bees.

aion daeva

4: Immortal Daevas, Aion:

In Aion, everything begins with... Aion. The game's title character was a benevolent god who ruled over the world of Atreia from the wondrous Tower of Eternity. His servants, however, were not so kind.

The Balaur, created to help Aion rule Atreia, became too fond of their power. Their rule became one of cruelty as they sought to further their own ends rather than serve Aion's divine will. This sparked the Millenium War, in which Aion and his fellow gods sought to free the world from the Balaur's cruelty.

To help fight this war, Aion began choosing certain humans and elevating them, creating the Daevas. Daevas are immortal beings of incredible power. They are stronger and faster than ordinary humans and capable of greater feats of magic. They will simply reincarnate if they are killed, and most dramatic of all, they have feathered wings that allow them to fly.

When you play Aion, you play as a Daeva. You will experience your initial quests as a human, but around level ten, your divinity will manifest, allowing you to fly and granting you increased powers in the form of a choice of one of two more specialized versions of your chosen class.

Why play as some random adventurer when you can be an avenging angel?

city of heroes logo

3: Origins, City of Heroes:

Every superhero needs a good origin story. It's what separates a superhero from a regular old everyday hero. No one wants to hear about some guy who just randomly got the ability to shoot webs one day, but everyone loves the story of a nerdy teenager who was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spider Man.

The developers of the dearly departed City of Heroes knew this, so they included a good selection of possible origin stories for their players. Whereas most games standardize origin stories for all players, CoH offered you a choice of several.

The potential options were mutant, technology, magic, science, and natural. This covered pretty much every kind of superhero origin you could dream up.

Choice of origin was somewhere between a standard MMO's choice of race and class. It determined your starting abilities and also helped shape what powers you would have access to as you leveled up.

Sadly, with the recent closing of City of Heroes, there will be no new origin stories being created in Paragon City.

rift ascended

2: Ascended souls, Rift:

Rift has one of the more interesting explanations for its player characters out there. Rift characters are heroes twice over. Each is explained as the reincarnated spirit of an ancient hero who helped to defeat the evil forces of the Blood Storm long in the past.

These reborn heroes are referred to as "Ascended souls," and each of the game's two playable factions has a slightly different explanation for their Ascended. The pious Guardians gain their Ascended through an act of the divine, ancient heroes miraculously returning to life in the world's hour of greatest need. The techno-magical Defiant have stolen the art of Ascension from the Guardians and automated the process of Ascension through their own ingenious technology.

This origin story also ties into the gameplay. The Ascended soul class system allows players to mix and match a variety of "soul" trees from within their chosen calling to create a unique class of their own design.

The only problem with this backstory is that it may be too good. Ascended are set up to be such wondrous things that it becomes somewhat ridiculous that there are so many of them running around. Each NPC continues to shout in surprised tones at every player they meet as if they've never seen an Ascended before, despite the fact that they just gave the exact same delivery quest to twenty other Ascended in the last hour alone.

gw2 biography

1: Character biography, Guild Wars 2:

Most games don't give you a choice as to your character's backstory. You're stuck with the standard background for your race, class, or faction. If they do give you a choice, it's between vague, generalized backgrounds.

Guild Wars 2 already boasted one of the most impressive character creators around, but massive physical customization wasn't good enough for ArenaNet. They also offer players the opportunity to customize their character's personality, origins, and beliefs.

GW2 players of all races can choose the personality trait that defines their character's interactions with the world: strength, dignity, or charm. The following options are unique to each race, but usually have to do with a character's early life, some crucial past event, and the character's core beliefs.

For example, humans choose their class of birth - poor, middle class, or noble - then pick their character's greatest regret, and finally choose which of the human gods their character most reveres.

Unfortunately, the choices ultimately don't mean much, and they stop having an impact on the personal storyline at about level twenty. But to be fair, this is still far more impact than character backstories have in most any other game.

For giving players the greatest control over the character's past, Guild Wars 2 earns the top spot on this list.