WoW: Enter Oleari

I’ve been doing a little more experimentation, and I seem to have found another race/class combo that I like, judging by how much time I’ve spent with it: Oleari the Tauren shaman is almost as advanced as Pleasance now. Admittedly, this is in part because I know how to do things more efficiently now, and I’m over the stage of metaphorically standing around staring at the skyscrapers like a tourist. But it’s also because I’m finding it a pleasant thing to play.

Shamans in WoW are generalists, competent in buffs, ranged damage, melee, and healing. This pretty much covers the needs of any combat situation, from stalking prey to helping out a comrade in distress. Their one unique mechanic is spells that drop “totems”, which produce an aura that buffs friendlies within a certain radius. A totem can only be in one place at a time, so they effectively create a variation in the terrain. I foresee this getting interesting. Playing the early stages, it makes sense to drop a totem somewhere relatively safe and then pull enemies towards it by angering them with ranged damage spells. But this won’t work as well against monsters with their own ranged damage, or ones that take you by surprise.

Tauren have turned out to be another surprise. I knew that they were a minotaur-like race with great strength and stamina, the giants of their world. I didn’t know that they were also Plains Indian stereotypes. Their architectural style is all totem poles and hide tents (raising the troubling question: what kind of hide?), their ethos is one of spirituality and reverence for nature, and their chief enemies are greedy companies (run by goblins, it seems) that want to exploit the natural resources on their sacred lands. Some of the NPCs even say “How”.

There’s a question I’ve considered before: should RPGs that feature significantly different character races be considered racist? And it was something of an abstract question when I posed it in the past, concerned with whether it encouraged the habit of considering race as the defining feature of a person. Here, the same concerns are overlaid with an actual depiction of an existing race, disguised as cows. As a white guy, this isn’t really my battle to fight, but there have got to be some Native American gamers out there playing this and rolling their eyes. But I’ll say this: at least they’re not portrayed as bad guys because of their race. Which is a contrast to my other recent experiences: the Undead are definitely bad guys through and through, chiefly concerned with murdering the living as efficiently as possible (when they aren’t distracted by infighting, anyway), and so evil that even the Orcs feel uneasy about them. So after that, it was a bit of a surprise to see a Horde race whose actions are at least as justified as anyone else’s. Where Pleasance had a quest chain about spreading plague, Oleari had one to cleanse the tribe’s tainted wells.

At any rate, exploitative or not, it feels nice to be adventuring in the fantasy version of western America that they’ve set up for the Tauren: wide-open spaces, rolling hills and sparkling waters, a bright sun, prairie dogs and cougars supplementing the more exotic fauna. Warcraft was definitely stuck in the Tolkienesque pseudo-medieval mold, but World of Warcraft is larger than that.

2 Comments so far

  1. malkav11 on 16 Jan 2011

    The Undead are really the only genuinely evil player race in the game. And even there… there’s a definite gap between the evil of the Forsaken (the playable undead that joined the Horde), and that of the Scourge, the main undead faction that’s controlled body and soul by the Lich King and, at least until recently, was entirely and completely devoted to the extinction of all life on Azeroth.

  2. Starmaker on 16 Jan 2011

    The Horde Undead faction is evil. Even then, there’s a certain number of decent Undead NPCs.

    You’ll notice how every race has a villainous faction, which is rather unusual for a MMORPG, which tend to have PC Races and Monstrous races. For example, Lineage II has ugly villainous orcs and pretty PC orcs, but no monster counterparts of any other PC race (or it didn’t last time I checked).

    In WoW, there are demon-worshipping orcs, outlaw humans, genocidal blood elves, mutated draenei, leper gnomes, cannibalistic worgen and trolls, Venture Co, dark dwarves. More often than not, the PC race is hell bent on exterminating the respective monster faction with motivations varying from accepting the responsibility to “this-is-what-we-could-end-up-like”-hatred of their evil counterparts.

    Remarkably, the druidic races are exceptions of sorts. The evil Tauren are represented by the Grimtotem clan, which is quite entrenched in lore but doesn’t have a specialized slaughterhouse instance (with them as the main villains). The most “good” race are the original pretty pointy-ears, the Night Elves. Their dark side is represented by Highborne (undead magicians; the Night Elves got over the racial guilt by shifting it on the Blood Elves; Cat even introduced NE mages) and a few insane Druids of the Fang – whose leader got better as of Cat, so yeah, Night Elves are Good.

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