When you create your World of Warcraft character you must pick which of the major factions you want to belong to: the Horde or the Alliance. Or rather, the choice is implicitly made by picking the race of your character. Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and Darnei races form the Alliance. The horde on the other hand consists of the Orc, Troll, Undead, Tauren and Blood Elf nations.
If you decide to create an Alliance character you pretty much are playing the traditional RPG game story wise. Everything is pretty much cannon here – Elves live in great forests, Dwarves live in the hills, Gnomes are the crazy inventors and Darnei… Ok, so these dudes are new, and actually sort of weird but whatever. You get the point.
I was instantly drawn to the Horde for one reason: it allows you to play one of the traditional RPG antagonists. This is something different – something new. Few other games actually allow you to become an Orc, and visit Orc settlements, talk to Orc elders and visit places sacred to them. This is a bold new territory WoW is exploring here. In most games Orcs and Troll’s don’t even have towns and settlements – they are usually depicted as marauders or nomads or bestial barbarians who exist solely to raid human towns and be a nuisance.
So when you roll up a Orc, Troll, Tauren or Undead character you can experience a whole new kind of world. Orcs are no longer savage barbarians but honorable, trustworthy and reliable warriors – but rather poor craftsmen and bit lazy when not fighting. Tauren are not towering snarling beasts, but rather gentle, nature loving and peaceful giants. Undead are not mindless shambling corpses but makeshift nation of people who succumbed to a terrible curse and are trying to come to terms with their fate, and search for a new meaning and purpose in their life.
The art direction in the fame is quite amazing, and each race has a unique architectural look and feel. You can instantly spot which buildings were built by which race. Tauren for example are heavily inspired by Native American influences. They either live in leather tents or build sturdy wooden structures decorated with tribal carvings. They also are very fond of various totem poles. Their starting area is just beautiful, and if you have a chance visit the Tauren capital city of Thunderbluf. It is possibly one of the prettiest low level accessible locations in the game so far.
Trolls apparently all come from Haiti and dabble in Voodo. There is so few of them they don’t actually seem to have a city of their own – there is however a very neat Troll village in Durotar (Sen’jin Village) which is having a pesky problem with a rouge Witch Doctor living on a nearby island.
Orc architecture is rather crude, often lopsided and built so that it could be easily defended. You can clearly see that they are warlike people, but they do have more depth than that. Their capitol city of Origmar is an impressive, impenetrable fortress from the outside. The city seems to have a vaguely organic, haphazard layout. It almost seems as if it slowly grew into the current state as Orcs built their shacks and houses in every available position inside of the walls – creating impressive multi-level, convoluted and disordered and claustrophobic fortress. It is in stark contrast to well designed, ordered Thunderbluf overlooking impressive scenic vistas.
I have yet to visit the Undead and Blood Elf areas but I’m sure they are equally impressive. As I explore the game world I keep discovering the little pieces of fluff that make this world more alive. For example the coastal town of Ratchet is governed by neutral goblins and has sort of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme to it. The pirates in the area are a motley crew of humans, trolls, dwarfs, undead and other minor species. The goblin owned Venture Company active in the Barrens and Mugolore has equally diverse employee base.
And all of this is set in areas that are usually not that well explored in RPG games. The Barrens for example are a spanning savanna populated by lions, zebras, giraffes and various lizards. Durotar area is a rocky desert. Mugolore is a vast prairie land. The island near the Sen’jin Village are lush tropical jungle.
Exploring that rich and detailed landscape is both rewarding and interesting. This is why I’m drawn to the Horde more than anything. Some people I talked too have a different opinion. Some say they don’t like playing a Troll or an Orc character because they would have a hard time identifying with a such character. You can sort of figure out what are the goals and aspirations of a human, dwarf or an elf. Horde characters are much more alien to us. But if you play them you will see that identifying with them is not so difficult. When you play Horde you are not playing a “bad guy” – you are playing a good guy living in an ordered (even if somewhat troubled) world. The only Humans and Dwarfs NPC’s you see are pirates, riders, colonialists taking over your territory and disrupting the life of your people. And alliance are the assholes who constantly ride Crossroads town killing all the guards and quest givers for fun. You begin to look at them as barbaric monsters, and Orcs, Trolls and Undead as inherently peaceful people with rich cultures who for the most part just want to live their life away from strife and war. It’s an interesting role reversal, and yet another example of the unexpected depth of WoW.
I mean let’s face it – most of the quests you will do in this game are really of the type “Kill X of Y” or “Fetch quantity X of Y” – but most of the time, it does feel like there is more to it.
So here is a question to any WoW players who read this blog. Do you usually play Horde or Alliance? Which one do you prefer and why?
[tags]wow, world of warcraft, the horde, the alliance[/tags]