For the Horde...?
If you can't tell from the artwork at the top – that Blood Elf on the left is me – I'm a Horde player. I was an Alliance player for all of seven levels before I made the switch, and made the switch for good. Now I have my Blood Elf paladin main, a Troll mage and an Undead warlock alt, and scattered other random characters (I know I still have a shaman somewhere). I picked a server, I picked a faction, and I stuck with it. I rolled Horde side on Draenor and I never looked back.
Or did I?
Sometimes...I...I'm not sure I feel comfortable saying this. Sometimes...
I wish I had rolled Alliance
Is that weird?
I've mentioned in a
how completion anxiety can interfere with your enjoyment of the game – or at least with
– so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised if I find myself struck with a bad case of 'faction regret'. Maybe the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and the only reason I find myself thinking this is because I've never really
Alliance. But how do you tell?
The thought occurred to me (not for the first time) a few days ago, when I was clearing out the last few quests in the
. I was up north near Winterhoof Village, doing a quest (I'm pretty sure it was
), and I wandered a little too far north. I walked right up to the edge of Fort Wildervar, and I stopped dead and just stared. That whole town is
, I had to take a moment to stop and look.
It's not the first time I've had cause to stop and look around me in Howling Fjord. I distinctly remember doing some quests around
, and wandering down that mountain path that goes through Valgarde. I hopped down early and explored the area surrounding Utgarde, all the while thinking, "This is great! I can't wait till I get a quest to go down here!" Only...that's an Alliance questing area. As far as I could find, the Horde don't
any quests to go down there. The huge Vrykul town, the big boat that sails underneath Nifflevar through a huge,
Pirates of the Caribbean
style cave...all that was made for you Alliance guys out there.
And this is just Howling Fjord. So many of the coolest locations in the game have been built for Alliance characters.
are absolutely beautiful locations.
is one of the most beautiful zones in the early game.
series of quests is one of the coolest quest chains in the game--even if it
unfinished, and the
just decided to show up one day. And where did the Horde ever get a quest as cool as
Take Down Tethyr!]
Now I know, objectively, that the Horde has their share of awesomeness as well. The
, are both just as cool as any Alliance area, if not cooler (Why is it still called 'Silvermoon', even though everything in it is red and gold and named after the sun?).
is probably even cooler than The Missing Diplomat chain, and it's, you know,
. I love the Horde – I stuck with the Horde faction even though a lot of my close friends are on the Alliance side. This is where I belong.
So what is it? What is it about the Alliance that makes me doubt my choice?
A World (of Warcraft) of Your Own
I think the root of the answer lies in something that
touched on in an earlier
. Here's what he has to say:
Since so many people play the game at different levels, there's no unified narrative...The experience I'm seeking when I play World of Warcraft is not necessarily the same one that you're after. If your family gets together to play Monopoly, it's virtually guaranteed that everyone's there for the same reason, right? Nobody plays Monopoly to tell a story, or to socialize with new people, or to work together with lots of other people to accomplish a difficult task. You play Monopoly because you want to play a board game (a social activity) and you want to pit yourself against other people in a big game of “whoever has the most wins”. Monopoly is about having the most. That's it; there's nothing else to it. World of Warcraft is about...what?
Did you ever look at all the toys on the shelves when you were a kid, and wish that you could buy toys that
have saturday morning cartoon logos on them?
Everyone approaches the games they play through the filter of their own imagination. Let's face it – nearly all of us are here because we like to play pretend. Some of you (like, uh, me) were tabletop RPG nerds before we were World of Warcraft nerds. All of us, to one degree or another, are escapists. WoW is fun because it lets us slip for a few hours into a world that for whatever reason, we find more interesting than our own.
When I was playing the first Diablo game, I remember quickly getting bored with the story the game forced upon me. I didn't want to be the mysterious brooding hero from parts unknown, sent to save the innocent townsfolk from the evil brewing deep under the Earth. Instead, I found myself becoming increasingly amused by the idea that my Diablo character was just a regular guy trying to make a living – he rolls into town, punches the clock, and heads on down into the cathedral for a long day's work of killing goblins, stealing their stuff, and then tromping back up to the surface to sell all the goodies to ol' Griswold.
Obviously, this isn't the way most people choose to approach the game. It isn't the way that Blizzard intended for the game to be approached. I would venture to say that I was, uh, kind of a freak. But for
reason I derived joy from playing the game this way, and I enjoyed the game more because of it.
All games can be treated this way to varying degrees. But here's the important thing:
The more of a "vision" that a game has, the less that my own imagination is able to participate in the experience.
The difference between the Alliance and the Horde, and the reason why some part of me will always prefer the Alliance, is this:
Blizzard has spent more time and effort creating their own unique vision for what the Horde should be.
Let's face it--The Alliance is not terribly original. Humans, Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes
(and, uh, space aliens)
are all fantasy staples. Blizzard has a good lore team, and their re-invention of the traditional fantasy classics is always an interesting one. But you don't need to be a fan of the Warcraft lore to walk into Stormwind and go "Hey, I'm playing a fantasy game!" If you don't look too closely, it could just as easily be
. Orgrimmar is different. Blizzard has built Orgrimmar from scratch to suit
vision--there's no mistaking Orgrimmar for any other fantasy location.
I would venture that for some people – even for most people – this is a good thing. But on some level, this drains just a
bit of the fun from the game for me. Some part of me wants to hang out in that archetypal fantasy world that began with Tolkien all those years ago – the one that lives on today in
Dungeons & Dragons
, and in
The Elder Scrolls
series, and in
. I don't
living in Azeroth. It's one of the most beautifully realized fantasy worlds in video gaming history. But being a part of the Alliance gives me an opportunity, just a little, to transcend that world and to live in
worlds, and every now and then...every now and then I feel like I'm missing out.
So now the question:
Do you prefer the Alliance or the Horde?
Why? What about one particular faction do you find most attractive? And what are the little games of pretend that
play when you enter Azeroth?
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