Dragons are ubiquitous. When I wrote a Perfect Ten describing every single MMO bestiary, I noted that no matter what game you’re playing, no matter the setting, you were eventually going to wind up fighting dragons whether you wanted to or not. It’s just the way things go. Somewhere in our primal brains there is a need to fight a big lizard with wings, and MMOs are going to fulfill that basic primal need even if it kills its servers. It’s how things have to be.
But “we’re going to go fight a dragon” can mean different things depending on the game you’re playing. In some games it’s a surprising or momentous event; in some games it’s just what you do when you have nothing better to do on a Wednesday. And that means there are a whole lot of different kinds of dragons to think about. So let’s take a sampling of the different dragons you’ll deal with across the MMO sphere.
1. World of Warcraft
Even if you normally pay about zero attention to World of Warcraft, odds are good that you’ve picked up on the fact that the game’s next expansion is titled Dragonflight. The whole idea of the dragonflights in the game’s setting is that each one is meant to be a guardian of a fundamental force, like time, the land itself, life, magic, or dreams. I’m not sure how “dreams” count as a fundamental force there, but let’s just go with it.
Anyhow, the point is that the five colored dragonflights are each headed by an Aspect, and they’re the allies of the mortal races. Unless one of those Aspects goes crazy. Or gets corrupted by an Old God. Or gets enslaved and used to breed dragons as weapons of war. All of those things have happened or will happen, which means that the dragonflights are not very good allies to have around. Which, considering how well the average alliance works out in WoW, puts them in good company.
2. Final Fantasy XIV
Dragons are space aliens who fled to the planet after losing a war against robots. That’s not hyperbole. You carry around the sire of the First Brood (the dragons who were brought to the planet) as a pet and you can ride him as a mount. He also tried to kill you once. One of the First Brood summoned a super-powerful version of her dead husband, who tried to blow up the planet.
Dragons are weird.
3. Secret World Legends
Yeah, here a Dragon is just a guy. A guy who believes in a particularly chaotic theory of control. Dragons aren’t real in this setting, not like zombies or wendigos or strange tentacled monsters from beyond the depths. Don’t be silly.
4. The Elder Scrolls Online
As many of you may know, my knowledge of the overall franchise around The Elder Scrolls Online is lacking because I don’t enjoy the games and I don’t care. Our editor-in-chief, on the other hand, knows a lot about it, so I asked Bree to tell me what the deal was with dragons in Tamriel.
She proceeded to explain that dragons are big stupid jerks who will ruin your Skyrim playthrough as they swoop around and show up and set quest NPCs on fire for no reason other than being stupid jerks, and she modded them out of her version of the game and never looked back. Her rant explained at length why dragons were stupid jerks and did not actually leave me with much additional insight about the lore or have anything to do with ESO, but I do know I’ll need to return that dragon plush I had gotten her for her birthday.
Also, I seem to recall there weren’t actually supposed to be any dragons in ESO based on the time period when it occurs, but then the developers added dragons anyhow. Presumably being jerks.
5. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Hey, why isn’t there a Krayt Dragon world boss at this point? Sure, it’s just basically a big lizard that eats stuff, but that’s reason enough to fight one. Couldn’t some developers have made this into a fight during all the development time saved by making Legacy of the Sith last for fifteen minutes?
6. Lord of the Rings Online
We know for a fact that there are dragons in Middle-Earth. Bilbo Baggins (who Leonard Nimoy has told us is the bravest hobbit of them all) extensively dealt with one of them. But the fact of the matter is that compared to all of the other stuff going on in Lord of the Rings Online, dragons are just not a big deal. They’re just really powerful and really dangerous jerks who hoard treasure and make people miserable, but compared to Sauron they’re kind of small potatoes.
Dragons would probably find that rather insulting if they cared.
7. Guild Wars 2
I like the idea of dragons in Guild Wars 2 better than I like the reality. The idea of having these gigantic world-ruining creatures awakening from long slumbers and causing problems all over the place is a neat one, making dragons themselves into their own form of cthonic horror more than just the usual “scaly thing you have to sword in the face.” In practice, though… they’re mostly just scaly things you have to sword in the face. Kind of underwhelming, especially when each of them maps pretty cleanly along with the actual deities that already existed in Tyria.
Oh well. We’re done with dragons now. Maybe we can actually get a guild war going, which would be novel since GW2 has featured zero wars between guilds and about a million wars against dragons. I’d say they should retitle it, but Dragon Wars is probably taken. (And yes, we know Guild Wars wasn’t named for this reason. You don’t need to tell us. Promise)
Look, when your game is based off of Dungeons & Dragons, you have dragons. It’s right there in the name. It’s not Dungeons or Dragons! You’ve got dragons, and they’re intelligent and manipulative and hoarding and probably not all that interesting despite the fact that D&D has influenced basically every other game on this list due to coming out before most of them. (Not all, though, Tolkien predates D&D.)
It doesn’t help that this is set in the Forgotten Realms, which I find pretty forgettable anyway. I request better dragons, darn it. More interesting dragons. No, not dragonkin. That’s a different discussion altogether.
9. Pokemon Go
In some games, a dragon represents something metaphorical or powerful. In this franchise, a dragon represents a need to avoid Ice-type attacks because those are super-effective against Dragon-types. This feels like it is perhaps underselling dragons, but since you’re talking about dragons who are otherwise cool with being shoved into tiny balls and thrown at whatever you want to fight, maybe these are not the brightest dragons to begin with.
Seriously, you think Smaug would put up with this crap? I don’t.
10. Dragon Raja
Apparently this is some kind of cyberpunky thing that has also had an Evangelion crossover, and apparently it also includes “lolita” as a playable gender, thereby wildly missing the point of that book and also being generally ick. So I don’t actually want to learn where the “dragon” part of the game comes into play; I want to burn down the servers. Thanks I hate it.