My pet theory of MMOs is that they exist in a gaming multiverse with scores of unseen connections. This explains why so many of these titles claim to be boldly original and yet carry the same monster DNA that exists everywhere else.
Today we’re going to carefully unpack our ancient collector’s edition of stock fantasy enemies. Blow off the dust and smell that nostalgia, mhmm. Sure, they’ve seen better days, but they’re still good, right? Still solid. Still capable of entertaining us, even if we’ve slaughtered their kin a thousand times over.
Let me show you my collection of 10 stock fantasy enemies that we encounter all the time in MMOs. Just for fun, I’m going to order them from crummiest to coolest. I would be number 11, by the way.
There’s just nothing, nothing cool about fighting a slime. It’s as though the game’s telling you that it doesn’t think you can cut it in the real world, so here’s a semi-intelligent glob to hack away at while the big kids do Important Work.
Slimes are never satisfying to hit or kill. Slimes always split into smaller slimes because games like to teach us about basic asexual reproduction for some reason. And slimes eat your armor and belch rust. Not cool, man. Not cool.
Forget rats; what do MMO developers have against pigs that they push us to wipe them out in ever-increasing numbers? They’re pigs, dude! Ugly, yes. Smelly, sure. But great sources of bacon and stars of children’s books and movies everywhere.
Maybe the pigs kidnapped the devs’ parents when they were young. Maybe the pigs call once a year just to taunt them. Maybe the hatred seethes into the very programming code, and we as bewildered and unquestioning players exact virtual justice on the devs’ behalf.
Birds and bats
Fighting any bird or bat in an MMO is a lose-lose proposition for the player. If you die, well, you should probably stop playing games altogether and live out your life in a shameful exile on an island somewhere. If you kill it, well, congrats. You’ve slaughtered a one-pound beast with hollow bones. You have truly passed your rite into adulthood.
You may never have thought about gators and their ilk permeating the fabric of MMOs, but I can assure you that they’re in quite a lot of them. I think they’re forgettable as a whole because they’re like short stumpy dinosaurs in worlds that deliver actual huge dinosaurs. That sends gators to the back of the classroom, where they’re destined to live out their lives in obscurity. When gators aren’t fighting you in MMOs, they’re making tacos for minimum wage at fast-food joints and talking about their former days of glory playing on their high school football team.
The thing about dragons is that their perceived coolness by developers and writers is way out of sync with what little tolerance the public has for them. Seriously, dragons were overdone by the time Trapper Keepers rose to prominence in the 1980s, yet every dang MMO feels the need to put them up front and center as if we’ll poop our pants in fear/happiness that we’re fighting another surly giant lizard. Sometimes devs just think that putting the word “dragon” into a title makes you auto-awesomesauce.
Hint: It does not.
OK, admittedly, if I saw a skeleton walking toward me in real life, I might have a bit of a panic attack. But that’s real life. In video games, where skeletons are as common as mana potions, it’s the exact opposite. Digital skeletons have long since lost any semblance of fear or intimidation, much like how a scratch ‘n’ sniff sticker loses its smell after you’ve rubbed it one too many times.
Being attacked by skeletons usually feels like being mobbed by a very skinny paparazzo, and if I give them any thought at all, it’s usually just a mild musing about to how they can move, see, hear, have feelings, or anything else while lacking everything but bones. The answer is “a wizard did it,” and I move on.
I’ve often lamented how lazy devs seem by going to the Well of Giant Spiders whilst making their MMOs. And while I take back not a single word of complaint in that area, I’ll admit that there are moments when decking out an area in spider decor actually works.
For one thing, many people have a very real and visceral reaction to spiders, and any way a video game can evoke emotion is usually good. For another thing, while the spiders may be predictable and dull as dirt, I find their nests pretty interesting to explore. Plus, it’s always fun to make bugs go squash and stop writing in to me to tell me that spiders aren’t bugs. They’re bugs. Shut up.
Don’t you sit there and try to argue with me that wolves aren’t totally boss. Don’t you dare. Just one wolf, with its slavering jaws and keen predatory sense, is enough to give me a decent fight. But wolves don’t play fair, and where there’s one, there’s 10 of them ready to pounce on your butt and introduce you to the inner workings of their digestive systems.
If I have to die in a game, I don’t mind if it’s to a wolf. You get respect at funerals if it’s a wolf instead of from, say, a spleen infection.
Kobolds may be the whipping boys of the fantasy world, the barely combat-ready creatures that you’re supposed to steamroll at level one and feel good about yourself. What sets them apart in my book is their attitude, however.
Kobolds don’t know that they’re at the bottom of the pecking order; they just act as though they’re on top. They’ve got spunk and drive, always throwing themselves into combat no matter how much of a mess their 20 closest friends made dying while doing the same thing. They’re fiercely possessive of trash, and they see the world through goggles of wonder.
I love Kobolds, and you should too.
Sure, zombies are as overplayed as romantic comedies and reality TV, but we still eat them up. As they try to eat us up. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
I always welcome a good zombie or two in my MMO because they’re an excuse for the developers to channel their inner five-year-old and get gross. Creating freakish-looking shambling corpses who vomit green goo on you and give you an up-close look at the inner workings of the human anatomy is a noble profession indeed.