Top 6 MMO Enemies
by Tyler Edwards, June 12, 2013
No MMO is complete without hordes of foul beasts waiting to be vanquished by the mighty blades, spells, arrows, and bullets of players. Combat is a crucial part of the genre, and there's no combat without enemies. But for all the many different worlds and settings of MMOs, there are few types of foes that just seem to come up over and over again. No matter the game, you can pretty much guarantee you're going to end up mopping the guts of these critters off your boots sooner or later. These are the top enemies of the MMO genre.
Elementals are thinking beings composed out of the raw elements of the world. In MMOs, they usually conform to the traditional "four elements" - fire, water, earth, and air - but you can also find embodiments of more exotic "elements," such as shadow, lava, magic, or life.
For some reason, elementals always seem to pop up in MMOs, and they're usually not very friendly. Fire elementals, in particular, are always popular baddies to fight. Sometimes, certain types of elementals - usually water or earth - will be friendly, but just as often, they're out to mess up our days, too.
Perhaps the popularity of elementals stems from the awe and reverence we all feel in the face of the power of nature. Even with all our modern scientific knowledge, there's something mysterious and frightening about the power of things like tidal waves, wildfires, and storms.
The idea of these forces of nature suddenly developing the ability to think and deciding they didn't like us very much is pretty damn terrifying, so maybe that's why MMO developers keep making us get into fistfights with living fires.
"Ho, adventurer! I require thy assistance with collecting twenty boar gore." "Hail, hero, I need help. Venture into the forest and collect for me thirty wolf pelts." "Oh, mighty warrior, please aid me by collecting thirteen and a half bear sphincters."
One gets the impression that not many MMO developers are members of PETA. For some reason, just about every MMO in history inevitably sends players out to slaughter the local wildlife in numbers that would cause mass extinction in the real world. Every MMO world's economy is apparently based entirely on harvesting the local wildlife and run entirely by workers too lazy to do it themselves.
The really odd thing about the endless animal killing is that it's just not that exciting. Every other entry on this list has some kind of intimidation factor that makes them interesting opponents. Not so for wild boars.
And MMO developers realize this. No game has ever used its thrilling wolf pelt collection quests as a selling feature. Many MMOs have, in fact, done their very best to convince people you won't just run around killing rats. Yet they do it anyway.
With so many potential fantasy and sci-fi foes out there, there's no need for developers to keep leaning on animals, but still, we find ourselves harvesting coyote ears. There's no understanding it. The MMO fixation on slaughtering wildlife is doomed to remain a terrible and inexplicable mystery, like the Bermuda Triangle or Amanda Bynes.
Fact: No one likes spiders. Maybe some biologists do, but obviously they're just weird, so we won't count them. Any sane and good natured person hates spiders. They have too many legs and too many eyes, and are just about every kind of creepy imaginable.
Pretty much anyone will react to seeing a spider one way: "KILL IT!" MMO developers know this, and they often capitalize on the fact that the sight of anything with eight legs is likely to send the average person into a murderous frenzy. It's all but a certainty that any MMO will see you slaughtering giant spiders at some point.
The omnipresence of spiders in MMOs can get pretty uncomfortable for arachnophobes. It's not unheard of for people with severe phobias to just avoid quests that involve killing spiders. But on the other hand, if they can master their fear, it's a great way to vent their frustrations on spider-kind.
For some strange reason, spiders seem especially common in low level zones. You can still find them near endgame, but it's almost a right of passage for every MMO to send players into a cave full of giant arachnids sometime within the first ten levels or so. Perhaps they're considered scary enough to be exciting, but mundane enough to suit the early game.
3: Other players:
Sometimes, we as players get tired of killing bundles of code and pixels. Sometimes, we yearn to do battle with something that can think and react to us… and feel pain. It's at this time we turn on each other, and PvP is born.
Some MMOs give PvP more attention than others. For some, it's the focus of the game. For others, it's a neglected minigame. But you'd be hard pressed to find a major MMO in recent memory that didn't at least include it in some capacity.
Fighting other players is a welcome respite from slaying dragons, and for some, it's the only thing that appeals to them in the world of MMOs. An MMO cannot be considered complete with at least some option to do battle with your fellow players.
PvP isn't the only area in which other players can be your greatest foe, though. Another crafter beating you to all the resource nodes, a poor tank who keeps getting your group killed, or a griefer interrupting your role play session can all be enemies as implacable and dangerous as the greatest of raid bosses.
When you think about it, players spend at least as much time fighting each other as anything else, even if they never enter PvP.
Where would the video game world be without zombies? Countless popular games and franchises have revolved around shooting, stabbing, burning, exploding, and chainsawing these shambling corpses into oblivion, from Resident Evil to Left 4 Dead, and even MMOs have capitalized on the eternal joy of massacring the undead.
There are MMOs based entirely on killing zombies, such as DayZ and the much maligned The War Z, and games with killing zombies as a major part of gameplay, such as the horror themed The Secret World.
But even games in traditional fantasy settings almost always involve skeletons, zombies, vampires, liches, and countless other forms of undead. Is it any coincidence that World of Warcraft achieved its greatest success during Wrath of the Lich King, an expansion focused on battling the Undead Scourge?
Why are undead such a timeless favorite for death at the hands of players? Partly, it's probably that there's a certain visceral horror associated with the animate dead that anyone can identify with. But more importantly, you just don't feel bad for the undead. You can commit any act of violence imaginable against them with no need for guilt. After all, they're already dead. It's a mercy to set them on fire and hack them into tiny bits.
There's a special warm comfort to obliterating hordes of the mindless dead, so they're an enemy we'll probably continue to slay for countless years to come.
If you were to design a terrifying monster, what would it look like? It would probably be giant, because nothing the size of a house cat is going to threaten the world with annihilation. It'd need claws and fangs, of course. Probably something not furry or cuddly, so a reptile would be good. It would probably need funky magical powers, and maybe the ability to fly. And just to make it extra horrible, how about it can breathe fire?
And thus, the dragon is born.
Dragons are the ultimate fantasy monsters. They're massive, they're powerful, they're deadly, and they're usually intelligent. They're a surefire recipe for epic conflict.
In fact, they're such a good enemy for players to face that they've become a pillar of the MMO genre - some might even say a crutch. Every fantasy MMO seems to invariably end with a few dozen players dog piling a giant dragon for glory and riches.
The concept of dragon slaying has become ingrained in the MMO culture. Raiding is invariably referred to as killing Internet dragons, even on the rare occasions where you're not fighting actual dragons. In the end, the most terrifying thing about dragons may be how overexposed and omnipresent they've become.
Uncreative or not, there's no more ubiquitous or iconic foe of MMO players than the dragon, so it earns the top spot on our list.