Perfect Ten: Ranking MMORPG combat pets, from best to worst

    
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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.

Best: Dinosaurs

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.

Robots

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.

Dogs

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.

Zombies

“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.

Bears

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

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.

Cats

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.

Adorable Mascots

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.

Snakes

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.

Worst: Birds

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.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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But birds are descendants of dinosaurs. Also, birds are great for taking out towers. Just look at this carnage!

butterpanda888
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butterpanda888

I laughed so hard. Thank you.

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Tanek

Birds are the worst? My Lore-master would disagree every time an archer is shut down and has to run over to take a staff strike to the face. :P

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Anthony

An eagle, a gryphon, a tiger or a werewolf!!!!!!

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Estranged

HK-51

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Paragon Lost

I used to have a perma macro that I had that basically I’d hit to put into party/raid chat when I tanked with “Please turn OFF your pets Taunt/aggro abilities” I love playing pet classes, but man do I find myself quite irked often with those who play them because they won’t actually control their pets well.

Forgot to mention, my favorite pets tend to be the various cat type pets and yeah my least favorite are the flying pets. Cats tend to have the smoothest moving animations in my opinion. Which makes the problem on the part of developers who don’t develop better pet movement animations.

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Robert Mann

Hmmm, this wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I must say, I am disappointed with most of the games balancing things like bears equal with things like slightly large rodents. I think that was one of the joys I had with Life is Feudal, the bears weren’t just like killing a pig (and the pigs with no gear can be deadly!)

That said, I disagree with this list. Dinosaurs and zombies are at least as overdone as bears and pigs, and quite as frequently involved in kill quests. Similarly are robots and dogs (wolves.) This is, of course, counting dinosaurs and robots as part of the game. I would much rather have something new and interesting.

The problem with most combat pets is that they rarely hold their own. They are never the focus, merely something which has some utility and is required for you do compete with any other class, making you and the pet both weaker than anyone else. Where that is somewhat required for game balance, it removes any feeling of being awesome as a whole. My only solution to this is to have the pet class change, where the player really plays the role of master rather than a combatant, directing a pet or multiple pets in battle.

For example, imagine a beast master with a small menagerie (say, a tiger, a bear, and a snake.) Have various tactics and abilities for each, with the beast master basically using their time to control and combine effects. In one case, the snake is strong enough, so it wraps up an opponent which the cat then swipes at, while the bear rears up. As the snake lets go, the bear stomps the foe. In another, the snake bites an ankle, limiting mobility and inflicting poison while the cat harasses the foe and the bear gnaws on an arm and reducing attack damage from that foe. All under the full control of the beast master, who can then act as a variety of roles depending on how they combine the abilities of different pets.

That would be interesting, rather than having a single player and pet where the abilities are balanced at about 75% player and 25% pet (as it seems to be in most games, with some variance in numbers) that dps and sometimes offtank minor things with a different pet.

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Bryan Correll

I miss CoX’s Mastermind archetype something fierce. They had (once leveled) six independently controllable* minions in three tiers. Masterminds could take attack powers of their own, but they were pretty weak and usually skipped except for ‘flavor.’** Otherwise an MM would stick to healing/buffing/debuffing while letting the minions bring the pain.
* You couldn’t instruct them to use specific abilities, but you assigned them targets, moved them to specific locations, etc.
** There were ‘petless’ masterminds, especially those using the thug power set before the dual pistols power set was added, but those were known to be gimped and just done for fun.

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Doubleplusgood

Nothing beats City of Heroes with mastermind pets, having your own private army. I think the robots were the best with flame throwers, full auto lasers, missile launchers.

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Bryan Correll

There were only two drawbacks with the robots. 1) they didn’t work well with some secondary power sets because they did so much knockback (especially the assault bot) and 2) their walking noise was so damn loud.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Out of all pets I had on my hunter I liked spider the most. Especially when it had immobalizing net

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Bryan Correll

You left out giant space hamsters.

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Dagget Burmese

Anarchy Online Slayerdroids, Rhiwans, and Carlo Pinnetti (legal muscle) are top pets.