Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

Playing with grey morality

Matthew Rossi

One of the reasons I went with an orc for my main this expansion was that I wanted to play someone I could believe would do some of the quests I was being asked to do, but upon reflection I started to wonder if I'd shortened myself out of some interesting experiences. Sure, it's fairly easy for me to believe an orc warrior would follow Garrosh's lead, but when I play my tauren I start to consider all he's seen in his time in the game -- he's been an active part of the Horde since Thrall first sent people into Blackrock Mountain to take out Dagan Thaurissan. He's fought across alien landscapes, taken on the burden of fighting the walking dead in Northrend, and stood up to the Twilight's Hammer and the end of the world. In essence, his relationship with his duties and responsibilities is more interesting than my orc, because unlike his current faction leader Baine Bloodhoof, my tauren has seen the Horde war machine in action. He's been that war machine, the very tip of Garrosh's spear, in the Twilight Highlands.

When looking at the quests I've done since arriving in Pandaria, one of the things that interested me is the idea of stewardship, of responsibility to the land. The pandaren are a noble people in many ways, but I could easily imagine a tauren finding their stewardship of the land wanting. Save for the Shado-Pan none of them really seem invested in the land's welfare or its defense. Keeping in mind that tauren are the survivors of a generational war with the centaur, who stole their lands and murdered them wholesale, I looked at the lands of Pandaria with his eyes and I saw the yaungol invading and I shuddered. Here we have a clear cousin people to my own, and here they are, invading and destroying, tauren become centaur, and suddenly it was all too easy to justify following Garrosh and his orders. The pandaren clearly can't hold this land, can't defend it, and whatever else the Horde might be it cannot be said that it isn't strong. The rise of the Thunder King in patch 5.2 only serves as confirmation that it falls to the Horde to defend Pandaria.

Playing with grey morality
The problem with looking at the cultures of the various factions, however, is that no culture is truly monolithic. A culture may prize honor and the earth, but there will always be individuals who fall in different places on the various spectrums of these cultural priorities, and that's where the fun of actually playing a character can come in. What if you're playing an orc who is (for his people) a pacifist who wants to bring peace to the Horde and Alliance? A tauren who only cares about money? A forsaken who isn't particularly aggrieved about her undead state and just goes with the flow? The interesting thing when dealing with lore like we have in Mists of Pandaria is it gives you the tools to set yourself apart from the cultural baggage. Your blood elf might not give two hoots in a handcart about arcane magic or the Sunwell. Or perhaps you're a courageous, military minded goblin whose only interest in money is collecting enough to start your own merc band.

It goes both ways. Sure, the Alliance tries to spin its presence on Pandaria as one of encirclement, of containing the Horde threat. But is that why you're there? Did your worgen get tired of fighting for Gilneas, seeing it as hopeless, and run away to a new land to start over only to get dragged into another war? Are you a night elf sick to death of hearing about nature, more comfortable with dispatching others dispassionately than thinking about big issues? Maybe you've come to Pandaria to get rich collecting and selling artifacts and could care less about the war, considering there's been three before this one and the fighting never seems to stop. Sure, the pandaren themselves seem nice enough, but it's been ten thousand years since they sealed themselves off from the world and all their greatest monuments and accomplishments seem to date back to before that, what have they been doing all this time? It's not that hard to imagine a justification (one you don't have to share in real life, by the way) for taking control of what could definitely seem to an outsider to be a stagnant land helpless to defend itself.

That's what interests me most about Pandaria and the storylines that have unfolded as the patches have dropped -- we've gotten to see how the Horde and Alliance change Pandaria as much as how it changes them. But the Horde and Alliance, as monolithic as they may seem, are in fact made up of individuals like your characters, and in a way however you choose to interact with these storylines is the microcosm for how they're changing, respectively. Don't close yourself off from experiencing that, like I almost did. Even a loyal orc warrior can start to have doubts, given enough cause.

Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr