Yes, I prefer to play elves. They can be over-serious and depressed, but they seem to suffer a lot, so I don’t blame them.
Elves have taken some light-hearted hate recently. The Global Agenda MMO actually launched with a popular anti-elf campaign, and Syp (Justin Olivetti) has made elf-hate posts (here and here) on his BioBreak blog.
We love our fellow pointy-ears here at Kitty Kitty, and like elves themselves, we have long and vengeful memories. Justin’s written and vocal MMO commentary is wonderful, but the hate rhetoric must stop!
(Do I sound like a whiny, crying elf? Probably.)
The World of Warcraft experiment is going well in its third week! My stable of intrepid Night Elves and Draenei have conquered all wings of Scarlet Monastery by dual-boxing roughly on-level (feral tank more like at +8), and my elf warrior led the charge to complete a three-box of the Deadmines on-level last night.
I added a second (free) account and leveled a gnome warlock to do the three-box, and it was really, really fun and challenging, but I probably won’t continue that as a playstyle. WoW is ginormously time-consuming, and it’s well-documented to be soul-sucking as well as abnormally expensive for an MMO. Three accounts is almost two too much.
On the other hand, random Dungeon Finder people sometimes also suck.
Back on topic, today I finally finished all quests in the Teldrassil elf starting zone (after skipping them), and ended impressed. I realized that after only a few weeks, the Night Elves are already more real and deep to me than the Tolkien elves in LotRO or the Kelari elves in Rift. The Blood Elves in WoW are also well-written. I played a pair of those to L18. They definitely come across as an arrogant and power-driven race.
So I found myself asking the question–how did this happen? How did the Blizzard writers accomplish such quest-writing prowess? Magic. No, really. And giving elves their very own starting zones.
A sense of mystery and enchantment is big for elves–maybe even more important than sleek curves and sensuous lips. LotRO hints at elven amazingness, but we don’t see much of it. In all of LotRO’s vast terrains, the only place I can think of that seems magical and mystical is Galadriel’s garden. Pretty much everything elven in WoW seems magical.
The trees carved into big bears are just goofy, but I can look past that. You have the Emerald Dream, the mystical pools, the unique architecture, the moon priestesses, and of course Elune, the moon goddess herself.
The racial starting areas are huge in WoW, just like in Dragon Age: Origins, and this is an overwhelming playability asset that WoW will always hold over Rift. These are just so critical to get immersed in your character through learning about your people and where you came from. Elves don’t have anything like this in Rift, and LotRO is minimal with the dwarves featuring more in the mini-story.
In LotRO, you can spend a lot of time in higher-level elven regions, but Rivendell frankly doesn’t have much story going on–we focus more on Bilbo and Frodo while we are visiting there, probably, as much as anything else. And by the time you reach Mirkwood and Lothlorien, your experience of interacting with those elves feels distant and informal.
You are asked to do several quests to prepare for a big feast in Lothlorien, for example, but in the end do you get to join in with the elven culture? No–your final quest is to watch over the partying elves as a detached observer and scold them if they get too crazy. The best parts of Lothlorien for me are the ones made fun of sometimes–yes, singing to trees and delivering flowers. It’s what elves do.
The LotRO writers are geniuses–steeped up to their stubby human ears in Tolkien lore–and their writing in Isengard is particularly powerful–but the subject matter and ambiance are very serious and somber in LotRO. Curiously enough, the Shire isn’t, and based on unofficial LotRO forum polls over the years, the Shire seems to be the statistical favorite starting area for LotRO players because it breathes with the spirit of its people.
Dragon Age brought a really interesting and intimate twist to elves by portraying them as former slaves of a conquered civilization who are now either downtrodden slum-dwellers or wild, distrusting hill-folk. Unfortunately, Bioware decided to forsake race altogether in Dragon Age 2 and force you to play as a human. This was for the purpose of focusing on story (and economical, of course), but it was also a little unfortunate.
Like DA, Rift brings a similar story of an elven people whose home was destroyed, and in the most recent Ember Isles patch, players get to visit and attempt to retake the old home of the Kelari. This is a redemption for elf-lovers in Rift, and one I hope to experience in the the not-too-distant future. Will I see a spiritual and magical depth for the elves, or will I mainly see dynamic action and holding control points?
I don’t know, and right now I’m hoping to see SWTOR next Thanksgiving weekend with my beta key, unless there is some unexpected glitch. Keeping my fingers crossed on this one. Please send me my email and keep the turkey away from the server room, Bioware.
WoW seems to be widely hated today for shaping the industry in certain ways–such as the gear-tier grinding format. I will probably hit the road in WoW if and when I hit that painful rut, just like I did in Rift. In some cases, however, WoW gets things right–and right is concise writing that conveys culture and emotion, and a design that speaks to your character’s sense of identity, ethics, and spirituality.