The Perfect Ten: Shapeshifters

Because we are true geeks, last weekend my wife and I went to see X-Men: First Class. Afterward, we got into a discussion about what mutant power we'd pick for ourselves if we had the choice. I was torn between teleportation and quick healing, while my wife wanted to be able to turn into cash to pay off our mortgage. I think one of us is more grounded in the real world than the other.

But the more I think about it, the more I was intrigued with the idea of a shapeshifter. To be anyone would give you unparalleled freedom -- and plenty of chances to get into mischief, too. Come to think of it, it's probably best I'm not granted that particular superpower.

However, plenty of MMOs do give players the chance to shift between their normal forms and something else entirely. While there are far more than 10 examples that the brain trust over here came up with, I'm going to pick out my favorites to highlight.

1. Anarchy Online -- Adventurer polymorphs

I was always partial to Anarchy Online's Adventurer class back in the day, mostly because it was a splendid jack-of-all-trades profession that could heal as well as dual-wield pistols. Why would I want to play anything else? Alas, I did not stick with the game long enough to reach the point that I could use nanotechnology to polymorph into other forms. I will regret that for the rest of my life.

From teeny-tiny leets to huge pit lizards, Adventurers can utilize their morphs to not only assume additional forms but gain special abilities such as concealment and flight.

2. City of Heroes -- Kheldians

While I applaud the idea of an "epic archetype" that players could work toward unlocking in City of Heroes, I've always wondered whether the devs were trying to actively repulse players from picking them. The Warshades ended up as lumpy Dwarf-things, while the Peacebringers looked like something that would latch onto your face Aliens-style and lay eggs in your throat. "A" for effort, "D-" for execution. Next time, try harder.

3. EverQuest II -- Druids

EverQuest II is a game that loves it some shapeshifting in a big way. Druids can't wait to get out of their skin, as both the Fury and the Warden can shift into lion and wolf form, respectively. But it doesn't seem fair to limit our mention to just the Druids, as Mystics can become bears, totems can morph your model, and charms can turn you into another race entirely. All this from a game that starts off by giving you the option to play as a rat-person, a cat-person, or a frog-person as well. Methinks someone at Sony Online Entertainment has a closet desire to be a six-foot hedgehog.

4. Guild Wars -- Dervish avatars

Guild Wars' scythe-swinging class has a series of five elite skills that allow the player to assume the form of one of the game's pantheon of gods. It also turns out to be extremely handy when you want to go to a Halloween party but haven't had the time to shop at Tyria Party City for a costume -- just one press of a button and poof, you're creepy mask dude!

5. World of Warcraft -- Druids

Like EQII, World of Warcraft has plenty of shapeshifting action going on, but there's nothing as frantic as the game's Druid class. Depending on his spec, the Druid can shift between numerous forms, including my all-time favorite, the Moonkin. Pelvis-thrusting, laser-shooting owlbears for the win, people.

For a full headtrip, consider that the game's new Worgen race can not only shapeshift into a werewolf form but become Druids as well. This means that both a cat and dog live inside of you. That cannot be good for digestion.

6. Champions Online -- Transformation devices

Superheroes are forever injecting themselves with questionable substances, and these injections always pay off with enhanced abilities and sex appeal. You never see them dying slowly in a hospital bed because they didn't do field tests on lab mice first, that's all I'm saying.

So in the spirit of that, Champions has a number of transformation devices that can not only turn you into something else but give you additional stats when it happens. Some of these devices are found in game, but it wouldn't be a Cryptic feature without the item shop being involved in some way. Want to be a chaos demon? Prepare to fork over cash, dude.

7. The Chronicles of Spellborn -- Skinshifter

Mention Chronicles of Spellborn in Beau's presence and be prepared for the waterworks; that boy has lingering wounds that cannot be healed, I tell you. But one of the many interesting aspects of this unique game was the Skinshifter class -- a rogue that could assume the form of a variety of flora and fauna (including plants!) to get in the ultimate kill.

8. DC Universe Online -- Nature powers

If you have avatar ADHD and can't stand being the same thing for every minute of every game, then head over to DCUO's nature powerset, where a gorilla form (among others) is but a click away. It's perfect for those days when you want to fling poo but it's socially unacceptable to do so unless you're a 400-pound beast.

9. Ultima Online -- Vampire form

If you're more about Team Edward than Team Jacob, Ultima Online has you covered. Among its arsenal of morphing spells is the ability to take on the form of a vampire or lich. This is ideal when you want to look longingly at a girl while she's sleeping unaware or when you want to coat your cereal with chocolate dust or when you want to count to seven while cackling "AH AH AH!"

10. RIFT -- Necromancer lich form

For a while, I was pretty dedicated to the Necromancer in RIFT. After all, what's cooler than commanding your own pirate skeleton, summoning corpses from the grave, and sucking the life force out of enemies? Actually, it turns out that there was one thing cooler: the lich form. For a limited time, you can shapeshift into a figure that looks like the Grim Reaper... if he were modeling for a heavy metal album cover. Look upon me, mere mortals, and despair! Or just give me your loot -- whatever's easier.

Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.