It’s an objectively known fact that Warhammer Online’s squigs were the peak of MMORPG pet design and functionality. Giant balls of attitude and appetite with a mouth to match, squigs made me proud to be a gamer. Before and since, there have been no better combat pets in existence, which is why it is a tragedy that they went down with that particular sinking ship.
Yet as an MMO pet expert and the best-selling author of “For the fiftieth time, turn off your pet’s taunt, Kevin!” I am here to share my wisdom about the rest of the companions that may trot, fly, or slither alongside your character in games. Which are best? Which are worst? Why are you picking on Kevin? These are the questions that I will answer today as I rank common MMO combat pets from best to worst.
Two billion little kids can’t be wrong: Dinosaurs are the most awesomest things ever and we all dearly wish we had one at our beck and call. That would solve just so many of life’s daily problems, from traffic snarls to breakups. Everyone knows that if you have the option to bring a dino along in an MMO, you will access god mode and automatically win at any encounter. Transcendent multi-dimensional titan of the ages standing between you and that loot chest? Denver the Last Dinosaur might have something to say about that.
If dinos are out of stock (and due to popular demand, they usually are), you might need to turn to manufactured companionship — and that means robots. Oh, you might say that your willowy gazelle is all you need to face down pure evil, but when you actually confront it, you’d easily trade it all in for an Iron Giant or lethal droid of your own that fights with pure loyalty and no concept of pain. Plus, in your downtime you can teach your robot how to feel love and solve Rubix Cubes.
Man’s best friend is oddly somewhat uncommon as options to be combat pets in MMOs, and I cannot understand why. Every post-apocalyptic movie automatically comes equipped with a dog to pad alongside the hero, and it’s not like you see police employing squads of trained gerbils or ferrets to take down criminals and sniff out drugs. A dog pet makes you feel protected and loved, because you know that it will never abandon you or fail to slobber on your face when the nights get cold.
“Don’t play with dead things!” your mother always told you, and with good reason. Necromancy is a gateway magic to darker things, such as running for political office or running a YouTube channel where you unbox things. But can we make an exception for in-game pets, Mom? This zombie, he just followed me home and I fed him some leftoever brains and now he is bunking . Sure, the bad guys might roll their eyes that I’m deploying decaying cannon fodder against them, but they’ll soon find out what terror is when they can’t kill what is already dead.
I’m placing bears in the middle of the pack here because they have as many things going for them as they do against them. In the pro column, bears are huge, terrifying beasts that logically should be your trump card against any foe. They personify strength and solidity and “feel” like a bulwark against whatever wants to bash you in the face. In the con column, bears are far too common as both a low-level foe (seriously MMOs? Bears should be raid bosses.) and as pets for newbies. If you’re rocking a bear, you’re apparently broadcasting to the world that you have no imagination and can’t leave your childhood teddy behind.
Pigs suffer from much of the same problems as bears, being just too common to be cool and too frequent a target for “kill 10 of Mother Nature’s dearest offspring” quests to be taken seriously. Personally, I like them. I had a pig in one game that I called Monkey just to keep my opponents guessing. And people really do underestimate how terrifying a boar’s teeth and tusks are when all they see of pigs are these fat pink slugs lying around on farms.
This is the point of the article where I lose all cat lovers and prompt a massive letter-writing campaign to the editor (click here to participate!). But seriously, cats are pretty much the worst idea for a combat pet that can emerge from our domesticated options. For one thing, they hate people and are always looking for an opportunity to stab their owners in the back. For another, cats don’t have the discipline to trot alongside and be at their owners’ beck and call. You look away for one minute and then, whoosh, that cat is gone and you are fighting the Stalactite Monster with nothing more than a spear and regret.
I think a lot of game designers and players don’t quite understand the purpose of a combat pet. A combat pet is there to shut down the enemy by clawing, biting, or vaporizing it hard and fast. A combat pet is not there to be a fashion statement of how adorable it is. Cute widdle things might have their moment of “aww” when they waddle into combat, but soon after everyone feels bad: The master feels bad for sending this poofball of a mascot to its death and the enemy feels ashamed that this is where its life has led it.
I’m putting snakes so low on this list not because they don’t have the potential to be great combat pets, but because they almost never achieve that potential. Most snake combat pets are just sad things: physically unimposing and attacking by spitting. Sure, there are some spitting snakes, but you know what should really happen? That snake should grab its destiny by darting right at the enemy’s head, sinking its fangs into the eyeball of the ogre, coiling its entire body all around the foe, and then dislocate its jaw so that it can slowly consume and digest the creature. That would be incredible and some game designer needs to read this and make it happen.
Flap. Flap. Flappity flap flap flap flap flap flap flap.
I shouldn’t have to say more here (flap flap), but I will, because when you’re thinking of intimidating, capable pets to aid you in your campaign against the injustices of the world, you’re probably not thinking of things like hollow bones, a body weight that is less than a newborn child, molting, and pooping on your head three times a day, minimum. Alfred Hitchcock already used the one exception given to the entire world to make birds intimidating. You don’t get that luxury.