The worlds of MMORPGs would be nothing without the many, many races that help to make character creation such an enjoyable yet time-consuming process. To the most indecisive gamers, the intensity of labouring over the choices upon starting a new game can often outweigh the in-game challenges.
“What if I make the wrong choice and only realise after days of gameplay?” “Does this haircut truly reflect who I am on a spiritual level?” “Why would anybody choose to be a boring human?” These are some of the questions that plague the mind of the most hesitant gamers out there. So we’re here to pinpoint those races that we think are the most unique and, therefore, most deserving of your attention.
We already covered 7 original MMO races back in 2014, so before condemning our criminal exclusion of the fantastically original Gibberlings or adorable Popori be sure to check that out first! That said, if we have forgotten other truly one-of-a-kind races regardless, be sure to give us a piece of your mind in the comments.
The examples on this list may share some common features with MMO character tropes, such as scales or magic powers. However, each brings to the table something different that we feel deserves the hype.
Barakas - TERA
Descended from giants, these lumbering pacifists tragically lost their homeland thanks to the warmongering of their more scrappy relatives. With nowhere to call home, they began to wander the world, establishing libraries and amassing the collective knowledge of TERA’s many races.
Though unique for lacking an intact homeland, being technically genderless and, let’s face it, their abundance of clothing compared to the other races within TERA, their striking style is what earns their place on this list.
While the hulking humanoid model is a mainstay in MMORPGs (you know, tanks), the Barakas boast some pretty distinctive features. They look like wandering statues thanks to their stoney skin and spherical shape, with left arms that are inexplicably longer than their right ones (there honestly is no explanation). That’s not forgetting their cold dead eyes that reflect what too much knowledge does to a creature. As a great philosopher once said 'for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.'
Norn - GuildWars 2
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The Norn of Guild Wars 2 are another towering race whose backstory involves displacement from their homeland. Yet it is their shapeshifting abilities that set them apart and brings them to this list. While it may be true that shapeshifting is not unique within MMOs (though woefully scarce), the mechanic is most often conveyed as a class-based skill rather than a racial one.
This Viking-esque hunter race that hail from the frozen north are imbued with the power to transform into werebeasts that resemble the Spirits of the Wild; namely a bear, snow leopard, wolf or raven. We admit that werewolves are not particularly original, at least within the realms of fantasy, but just one look at the freakish wereraven is enough to embed the Norn in this list, and our nightmares.
Au Ra - FFXIV
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The horned and scaled Au Ra of Final Fantasy XIV were introduced as part of the Heavensward expansion. While not unique in their draconic attributes, they are in the disproportionate size between the males and females. One would be forgiven for confusing these slender and mystifying humanoids as belonging to different races entirely were it not for their more subtly similar features.
Like the other races within the FFXIV roster, the Au Ra are further divided into two clans: the peaceful Raen and the warlike Xaela (with the former sporting typically paler orange skin and the latter a darker blue). The Auri creation myth tells of a Dawn Father and a Dusk Mother with each clan claiming descendancy from one or the other. We’ll let you guess which is which.
Dragons - Istaria
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Dragons are famously prolific throughout the fantasy genre (and some sci-fi for that matter) - but to actually play as one? That’s a different matter. This is what essentially comprises the unique selling point of oldschool fantasy MMORPG Istaria. Istaria breaks away from the bipedal avatars we’re used to with their inclusion of these legendary beasts as playable characters.
Even amid a list of other rare races such as Satyrs and Dryads, choosing to play as a dragon is especially enticing not just for the unusual character model (props to the devs for the extra animation effort), but also because of the alternative gameplay that it opens up. As a dragon you grow from a hatchling to an ancient, earning your ability to fly and choosing a path between a magic-wielding or tooth-and-nail fighting style.
St’rm - Camelot Unchained
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While it is difficult to pick just one race from the uncommon creatures that make up the upcoming MMO Camelot Unchained roster, St’rm makes the cut for their mysterious origins. Largely based upon the folkloric beasts of the British Isles and Viking mythology, the anticipated fantasy MMO promises playable renditions of valkyries, leprechauns and gargoyles, among many others (including more anthropomorphic cats, because why not?).
The St’rm are described as ‘one of the most enigmatic races in all the realms’ with wilfully shady origin stories. We are told that this race is matriarchal, with their most famous warriors being female which also implies an exclusively female character build.
But while they look like a particularly creepy dragon-fairy, its unusual design leaves its origins in question. Are they harpies? Demons? Dragons? Why are their wings on their butt? Wouldn’t that throw off the aerodynamics? Maybe you already have the answers to these burning questions, so let us know what you think.
Trolls - World of Warcraft
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Of course World of Warcraft was bound to make this list somewhere. The developers’ proficiency at keeping the game fresh and full of compelling races is nothing short of legendary. Their original concepts are still flowing and setting standards to this day.
But we mustn’t forget that this originality was as ever-present upon its initial release as it is now. Sure, you had the Taurens and the Undead - but variations on the voodoo-obsessed, tusk-bearing, multicoloured Trolls are difficult to pinpoint within WoW’s spiritual successors.
Whereas bipedal animals are comparatively common, the Troll’s design and lore is rarely imitated. Perhaps they could be seen as particularly spindly Orcs, with subsequent MMO titles favouring the more bulky and brutish counterpart time and again. Whatever your thoughts, they are a distinctive and compelling race to play as (even after a kung-fu panda joined the lineup).
Aliens - Star Trek Online
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OK so this one is a bit of a cheat. The highly-customisable Alien ‘race’ within Star Trek Online are basically whatever you want them to be. However, that is not to say that there isn’t an extremely deep pool of predetermined races to choose from within this spinoff MMO.
But it's precisely because of the multitude of races available that we had to include this one on the list - because most if not all of them deserve a spot (apart from humans, obviously). Granted, the available races are drawn straight from the source material but it would be remiss to exclude them in a list about original concepts.
Unlike the other races, ‘Aliens’ do away with preset traits, instead allowing you, the player, to decide for yourself. This also goes for their appearance, which can take many, many forms. A mechanic like this, especially as part of an already substantial list of race options, is extremely rare to see, if not entirely unique to this sci-fi title. You could say, perhaps, that this game has gone where no one has...nevermind.
So that’s our two cents, but we want to hear what you think. There’s almost certainly a few races that we’ve missed so now is your chance to shine on them the spotlight that we have so cruelly denied. We are, of course, extremely excited to see what options upcoming MMO titles have to offer so make sure you follow us to keep up to speed on the MMO news as we receive it.
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