Perfect Ten: The top 10 non-traditional MMO fantasy races

    
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Elves. Dwarves. Humans. Halflings. Gnomes. Hobbits. Dark elves. High elves. Half-elves. Wood elves. Keebler elves. Elvish impersonators.

Are you as tired as I am of the endless regurgitation of stock fantasy races in our MMOs? It seems inconceivable (I do not think that means what you think it means) for a new fantasy title to come out without most of the above races infesting the character creation screen with moldy unoriginality, putrescent stank, and dusty boredom.

That’s why today I’m standing up to praise 10 MMOs that dare to go above and beyond the stale by offering mostly unique and different races than the rest of the market. Hopefully future games will learn from their example and throw off the yokes of generic oppression to give us something bold and refreshing!

EverQuest II: Ratonga

Little rat-people aren’t a huge staple of fantasy, but they are there — for example, Narnia’s Reepicheep or Warhammer’s Skaven. However, most MMO gamers think of EverQuest II’s Ratonga first and foremost when anything small, furry and tenacious is mentioned.

Now I’m a little leery of EverQuest’s habit of merely anthropomorphizing anything the SOE crew saw at the zoo the weekend before, but I have to admit, rat-people are pretty cool. Really, any victory on your part as a Ratonga means utter humiliation for the forces of darkness — “Dude, you got your butt handed to you by a RAT!” — and that feeling never leaves you.

Lord of the Rings Online: Spider Weaver

This may be a bit of a cheat for this list, as the Spider Weaver is only playable in LOTRO’s PvMP (Player vs. Monster Player) area, but it is a character class that can be grown and developed — so I’ll let it slide. I’m so very generous to myself.

While giant spiders are an extremely tired MMO cliché at this point, it’s a whole new bag when you’re allowed to pilot one. Playing a spider — is there anything more wicked awesome? Spins a web any size, catches Hobbits just like flies — look out, here comes a Spider Weaver!

Win or lose in the Ettenmoors, at least you have the knowledge that your mere presence will send a good chunk of the population into arachnophobic fits.

Allods Online: Gibberlings

If Allods Online is known for anything these days, it’s for the Gibberlings. Sure, that word sounded like you were talking shop with a preschooler, but the concept was — and is — pretty far-out for a playable race.

Basically, any player who rolls a Gibberling gets not one, not two, but three playable minions under his control, three minions who fight and act in concert. It’s like you have your own party of sword-wielding guinea pigs, and if children’s television taught us anything, it’s that the smaller the package is, the more unstoppable it becomes.

World of Warcraft: Draenei

For such a stock MMO, World of Warcraft does fairly well in offering up a few interesting alternative races, such as the Forsaken, Tauren, and Worgen. But for my money, it topped the charts with The Burning Crusade’s Draenei — space-demon goat-people.

Sure, the Draenei were as much mocked as they were loved, interstellar blueberries they, but they brought an aura of refined technological power and strength to a game populated by mostly naked Night Elves gyrating on postal service property.

Dungeons and Dragons Online: Warforged

Constructs. Robots. Golems. Totally boss. DDO’s Warforged are all of these and more. While the Eberron campaign setting offered a number of unusual racial choices, Turbine stayed pretty traditional save for the iconic Warforged. Not only does this race have quite a few excellent bonuses (and oddly enough, it’s one of the most preferred Wizard races), but the “look” sets these characters well apart from the Elves, Humans and Halflings. They even have a pretty tragic backstory to boot.

Dark Age of Camelot: Kobold

Seriously, what’s up with fantasy and sci-fi races being blue? I guess green looks too reptile-y, red too demon-y, and yellow too lemon-y, so authors and creators look at the few remaining Crayons in their boxes and pull out blue on a consistent basis.

Even so, the small blue Kobolds of DAOC not only take tiny races in a new, not-photocopying-Hobbits direction, but also give props to one of fantasy’s most endearing races. Kobolds are everywhere in MMOs, but only this game lets you play one. Excalibur!

Ultima Online: Gargoyle

Superheroes may perch on them to look all stoic and broody, but gargoyles are spectacular in their own right. Fortunately for us, Ultima Online took the initiative to make them a playable race, which means that animated dolls (Class Skill: Bed Wetting) are not far behind.

Fun fact: Gargoyles have no hair. Not that you were asking.

Asheron’s Call: Undead

During the long course of our in-game combat careers, I think that many of us look at the mobs we’re fighting and occasionally wonder what it would be like to play as that race instead of the one we’re currently manning. Asheron’s Call, like most fantasy titles, was replete with undead creatures — but the game also allowed you to become one, full on shambling corpse and everything.

It’s nice to see the formerly evil Undead try to become upstanding members of society, but I’d imagine that there are a few stumbling blocks to being truly accepted by those around you. One small misstep by jokingly saying “Braaaains!” at a potluck dinner, and out come the chainsaws and cricket bats.

Guild Wars 2: Charr

What’s a Charr? Imagine a kitty cat that got fused with some sort of beast that specialized in outfit clipping and then took a minor in steampunk. It may not be the most popular race of this game due to its unusual posture and propensity to spit hairballs everywhere, but people who do play Charr in Guild Wars 2 swear by them for how delightfully different they are.

Istaria (Horizons): Dragons

I’ll admit, for an MMO that disappeared off the radar almost immediately after launch, Istaria aka Horizons had one incredibly nifty idea in its noggin: playable dragons. One might think that a Dragon would have a hard time with normal MMO conventions — wearing armor, visiting gift shops, entering populated areas without becoming the target of a 72-person raid — but somehow Istaria-formerly-Horizons made it work.

After all, who doesn’t want to be Puff the Magic Dragon or Falcor the Luck Dragon?

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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McGuffn

Tauren, sylvarri, ferengi.

that last one is a cheat. and didn’t everquest have butterfly people?

Dahkeus
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Dahkeus

Kind of a shame I don’t like much of anything about Allods Online because the Gibberlings are a really cool and unique idea for a playable character(characters?).

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Robert Mann

YAWN. How about… something non-humanoid in any way? Then we start talking.

Otherwise, these are really just skins on humanoid XYZ.

Only thing even close was Istaria, but dragons are so proto-typical and usually feature a humanoid transformation ability, so I’m not sure they are really worth much in regard to this. TBH the spider monster in LOTRO is less of a reach on ‘standard’ and spider monsters are just about everywhere.

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Ken from Chicago

Um, did you read the player spiders?

Also, I seem to recall PROJECT GORGON had a player cow?!! 🤔

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Bryan Correll

Player cows that you could actually milk…..

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Robert Mann

Yeah, I noted them in this. Sadly that’s a PvP only thing.

Project Gorgon had more than just cow options, and is one of the very few where this is done. Sadly, it’s also a class not a race. You get them from curses, and where your appearance changes it plays like a class instead of a race with different classes. You have one skill line, locked to the design, and can change back and forth with special items to curse/uncurse yourself (or going and having a boss curse you again).

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SmiteDoctor

I think Sylvari should be added to the list as well, I’ve never seen plant people in other MMOs.

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Sarah Cushaway

Yeah but they were basically elves, so not all that unique really.

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SmiteDoctor

Elves are made of meat, they tend to be long lived. Sylvari are plants, The oldest Sylvari is in their 20s, they are also uncorrupted dragon minions which makes them draconic in a way as well.

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Motherball

I always liked the Iksar from EQ. Evil lizards that everyone hates.

Horizons has to be my all time MMO disappointment. The original concept of playable races like giants, angels, demons, and vampires was really thrilling. Think they ended up having only about half of the races playable at launch, and only a few of the cool ones besides dragons, which were just a draw/gimmick.

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Ken from Chicago

Cats rule! 🐱🐱🐱🐱🐱👍

Welcome our Feline overlords!

Guild Wars 2 has the Charr.

EverQuest has some kind of lionfolk.

Star Trek Online has Caitians and Ferasians.

When you think about it, Elves are the catfolk of fantasy genre. They are super agile, fast, lean, have nine lives (if not more). Plus they have that quirky, quixotic, mysterious personalities that can one moment help you, hurt you or watch you die like an insect in the Sun.

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Natalyia

The Charr? You pick Charr from GW2? I’m not even sure they’re the second most unique race in the game. Unless we’re just going by character model.

The Sylvari are pretty clearly unlike anything else in an MMO. Plant-beings who have (within the common history of the world) just arrived in Tyria. They’re just discovering the world and their place in it, unlike the vaunted ancient wisdom of traditional elves. They’re part of a collective “Dream” that some rebel against and others try to ignore.

We’ll even leave out the spoilery implications of how and why they appeared on Tyria, which have *nothing* in common with Elves of any sort anywhere.

The Asura seem more unique than the Charr do too – “stereotypical” gnomes are steampunkish mechanics, and on the comic-relief side personality-wise. Asura? The arrogant, magictech race with levitating cities driven from the depths of Tyria by the first attempt to rise of the Eldar Dragons? Responsible for the global teleportation network? Yeah, they’re small and so are gnomes, but… c’mon.

The Charr are about the essence of stereotypical cat-people. Sure, GW2 gives them some steampunk, but the actual race itself? They’re classical cat-people. They did give them an in-game model that’s more cat than person-with-furry-skin, but the race itself is gob-standard cat-people. Aggressive, tribal, militaristic individualists.

Heck, the Humans of Tyria are – as a race, visuals aside – odder than the Charr. Humans in most games are the young, vibrant, expanding dominant race in the world. Humans on Tyria are the race the gods brought from beyond, who they helped gain power, then misused it and lost it, and are now a threatened, possibly dying race, a shadow of what they once were. They have more in common with the Elves of most MMOs than the Humans of most MMOs.

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Sarah Cushaway

Sylvari are basically elves though :/ they really aren’t that unique looking and their lore is just very elf-y in their “we’re bound to nature” aspect. It doesn’t matter if they’re new elves vs. ancient old elves–there’s not much difference there, either.

To be quite frank, I never found ANY of the races in GW2 that unique. Asura are just gnomes with a slightly different appearance. Charr are orcs, but cats (and a lot of games have cat races). Norn are just vikings, humans are humans.

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Utakata

11. Wait, no love for Chua’s? :(

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Bruno Brito

Here’s my particular top five in groups, from best to worst:

1- Goblins, Asura, Halflings, Kobolds, Gnomes, Gibberlings, Chua.

Anything that is a diminute race that is underestimate gets my approval. I love the small peeps. My main OC is a goblin. Greatness is achieved, my frands.

2- Orcs, Trolls, Tauren, Charr, Pandaren, Kodan, Worgen, Werewolves.

My tribal vein is strong and i really like the beast/savage races to a close second of the diminute races. I actually like the theme so much that most of my smaller races are actually tribal in theme, like my Goblin Barbarian/Shaman.

3- Undead, Arisen, Mordesh ( Wildstar ), Zombies, Vampires.

Gothic stuff/forbidden science stuff is a strong third for me. Can’t pass them up.

4- Norn, Norse, Vrykul, Barbarians in general.

Thought barbarians are mostly a class less than a race, you could make the argument for the northern warriors in most games, which is what i’m making here, but i can’t disagree that it’s mainly humanoids.

5- All the other humanoids. Elves, Half-breeds ( all of them, orcs included ), Humans. They’re just not as interesting. I personally put Sylvary, Aurin and any elven subrace from WoW here. Anthro races also go here, most of them are just ungodly uninteresting. Also: All ESO races are here for me. ESO has absolutely no animation diferences between races which robs from them most of the fun in categorizing them, at least for me. SWTOR has the same issue, where all races are basically Humans with some minor features.

Fisty
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Fisty

I really just want to play a Keebler Elf now.