(Warning, long post not gunna lie )
Well, I’m pretty much stating the obvious here, aren’t I? But in all my time of reading the forums, both EU and US AND mmo-champions, I’ve yet to actually read a detailed explanation of what is, I believe, a fundamental flaw in the Alliance and why the Horde seems to be the favourite faction. I mean, I read comments here and there which semi deduces the problem, but never in any depth or explanation.
So, a brief analysis of the races to really highlight the problem – (feel free to skip if you already know the basics of each race)
Orcs: Culture based around honour, conflict and the ancestors. They have a very clear and structured religious system; ancestor worship combined with the elements. Also the ‘core’ of the ‘primitive’ societal structure – ergo, when compared to real life standards, they’ve not advanced to the level of medieval yet, but instead draw influences from a different power in the world – mainly the Monguls. So over all summary – spiritual ancestor/element worship, societal structure based on war and take influences from a culture alien to the western world.
Trolls: Culture based around savagery, voodoo practice and the Loa. Again, they too have a very clear and unique religious system. The voodoo and the Loa seem mystical and foreign to us as the players, simply because we have relatively no exposure to anything like it in the western world. Also one of the races on the verge of extinction – I do believe this adds another level of playability to trolls.
Tauren: Peaceful nomads who are content with nature worship mixed with ancestor worship. Their religion seems to share some aspects with the Orcs where they lose some of their identity, but on the whole it’s still different enough to feel ‘special’. Is also on the verge of extinction.
Forsaken: Ruthless renegades who have ‘bent’ a mostly good aligned religion to their will. Their appearance is mostly humane too, and their religion is a fascinating process where a traumatized individual seeks purpose in a horrible fate. Their main purpose at this point, in my opinion, is to allow the player to play a morally grey character whose actions are clearly evil, yet they have a rather sinister explanation as to why they do the things they do. On top of that, a large part of their identity comes from the Alliance itself; they were initially born into the Alliance (as humans or high elves), exiled from the Alliance and seek revenge against the Alliance. The anti-hero squeezed into one race.
Blood Elves: Jumble of a race really. Started of renegade and ruthless akin to the Forsaken, but with the rebirth of the Sunwell have mostly returned to their old societal structure. Religion is mixed – although continually referenced to holding belief in the Holy Light, there seems to be an element of Sun worship as a deity. Like the Forsaken, a large part of their identity comes from the Alliance and mostly prominently, their architect and societal structure. They too are on the verge of extinction.
Goblins: Money grabbing, mostly atheistic and pretty intelligently ruthless. The obvious counter parts to Gnomes, yet with a unique national identity. Money first, loyalty later.
Now for the ALLIANCE:
Humans: Lawful good. The cliché depiction of Humans that almost every single game displays. Every single Human kingdom has continually displayed a devout faith in the Holy Light, there is little to no variation in architect (exceptions being Gilneas primarily, and Dalaran secondly. Gilneas is totally unique, yet Dalaran does largely still have inspired Stormwind human eque buildings). Little to no deviation in attitude as of late (last glimpse of deviation in human attitude, in my honest opinion, died with Alterac as its own kingdom). Really rather bland culture inspirations, mainly medieval Europe that almost everyone in the western world will be aware of. Lack of unique traits and many consider ‘boring’.
Dwarves: As of late, have lost their cultural and national identity for the sake of human development. There has been no expansion on what role the Wildhammers or Dark Irons are doing, and whether they have different beliefs (they obviously do, especially Wildhammer who are obviously druidic/shamanistic in beliefs, and I doubt the Dark Irons believe in the Holy Light). They have, for all intents and purposes, become a vassal kingdom to Stormwind. Basically, Squat Humans.
Gnomes: They never really started off with an identity further than ‘they’re good at mechanical engineering’. It’s sad to say, but I genuinely find it difficult to analysis them simply because I honestly believe they never had much identity to begin with. There’s little to no reference to them outside of WoW, and the developers themselves admit that adding them to the Alliance was a last minute thing. As a consequence, much of their behaviour comes from their close alliance to the Dwarves, and by conjunction they too could be described as vassals to Stormwind. Small Humans. (also low population)
Night Elves: A fierce, xenophobic and druidic based race. Finally, diversity in the Alliance right? Wrong. Much of their cultural identity has been lost due to neutrality (See Cenarion Circle) or simply down played. Instead of being the ruthless guardians of Ashenvale and beyond, they’ve been continually depicted as weak and incompetent. This is especially highlighted in Tyrande. On top of that, you can just sense that the developing team really are pushing for turning Elune into a Naruu. That would sacrifice their entire unique religion into yet another version of the Holy Light. So, a once proud and unique race has been squandered down to nothing more than Purple Humans.
Draenei: Started off well – devout lawful good space warriors who believe in the Holy Light, but with a twist. Clearly they were always meant to assume to role of ‘guardians’ to the Alliance, yet I never pictured it in a subservient way. They have no back bone, and instead are used as pawns to Stormwind… that’s when they are depicted anyway. Largely forgotten, and when they’re not forgotten, they’re little more than Blue Humans. (low population)
Worgen: Suffer largely from the same problems as Draenei. Conception was sound, execution was not. Considering Blizzard continually stated they wanted to add the Worgen to the Alliance to give them a ‘feral’ and ‘savage’ race, it’s mostly lost. Worgen are hardly ever represented, and when they are it’s usually in two ways – vassals to the Night Elves, who are taking direct orders from Stormwind now, thus their independent nature is lost, or a human who hates being cursed. There is no *savagery*, at least not in game (am aware of their actions in Wolfheart, but considering Blizzard said they don’t want players to feel like they HAVE to read the books…). What we see from them in game – they’re cursed, it’s savage and brilliant, they defend themselves heroicly against the Forsaken… and then they abort their homeland (which in itself doesn’t make much sense lore wise. Gilneans are meant to be fiercely proud of their heritage, yet they abandon it incredibly easily?) and merge with Night Elf society as little more than pets.
(Have not included Pandaren, will come to them later)
Conclusion: There is a clear and very obvious problem in the representations between the Alliance and the Horde. Blizzard has massacred the Alliance and its races individuality; each race has sacrificed its heritage in attempts to aspire to the ‘paragon’ ideal of virtue and nobility. Yet the Horde has not gone through the same process. Each of the Horde races remain unique, individual and separate nations within its collective faction. I personally believe it’s due to several reasons:
Considering that we’re playing in a world where religion is heavily focused on, it’s disappointing to see what the Alliance has become. The Horde have 5 unique religions that are practiced, and one atheist religion. The only religions within the Horde that intermingle are between the Orcs and Tauren, and even then, they’re diverse enough to remain separate organisations that simply share some traits, as opposed to completely merging together.
The same could not be said for the Alliance. Straight away, Humans/Dwarves/Worgen/Draenei all adhere to the Holy Light. While there are some variations in how they practice it (mainly, the Draenei), they’re not focused on or developed. Instead, it’s hard to discriminate and determine the differences, and the result is a complete lack of religious identity. There is no difference between the Humans, Dwarves and Worgen on how they practice their faith, and the Draenei only produce snippits for the player to view. Consequently, straight away, 4 out of the 6 unique Alliance races (remember, not including Pandaren at the moment) are stripped of a unique identity and instead simply placed into ‘Holy Light’ followers. This, in my honest opinion, is a major flaw in the construction of the Alliance. Horde have *five* unique religions between 6 races(which all influence the races in different ways; trolls wouldn't be trolls without the voodoo for example), whilst the Alliance straight away lose 4 races and any sort of individuality to one religion. But there is one saving grace in the Alliance; the Night Elves. The Night Elves could be the one redeeming quality in religious identity for the Alliance – their religion is obviously very different to their counterparts in their faction. However this is yet again squandered. In-game, there is barely any mention of the Ancients or what function they have in the Elven society or anything akin to that. Instead, as a player, we’re simply told that we believe in Elune and we kinda like Cenarious. There’s no elaboration on such an important crux in racial identity. And it gets worse. Instead of elaborating on the Alliance’s one diverse religion, it’s being hemmed and forced into yet another variation of Holy Light, in the form of Blizzard introducing and subtly enforcing the idea that Elune is E’lune, a naruu. This is absolute folly. Instead of forcing yet more light worship into the Alliance, they should be creating a contrasting faith, similar to the formation of the Horde.
Real World Influences:
Another factor that makes the Alliance seem ‘bland’ is their corresponding comparison in the real world. To make my point clear, the leading Horde races all correspond with conceptions that are alien to the western world. The western world has never seen a force like the Monguls, which the Orcs are so heavily based on. The western world cannot relate to the Aztecs, which the trolls are based on. And the western world’s ideology did *not* agree with the Native Americans, which the Tauren are based on. However, the western world does relate to the Humans and their culture which is based on order, construction and law. We do relate to the gnomes burning desire to modernise technology. And our ideology does correspond with the dwarves yearning to manipulate nature to fit around their society, instead of blending in with nature.
What I’m trying to say is, the intended audience (originally the Western World, later emigrating to the East too but this is from the point of view of a western-ie, so sorry if this doesn’t apply to you ) is already familiar with the societal concepts of the Alliance. It isn’t foreign, it isn’t interesting and it’s been done to death in fantasy. However the Horde represents a unique formation of national identity and culture; we don’t see voodoo or ancestor worship or nomadic living in everyday life, and consequently it makes the Horde appear more exotic, interesting and diverse.
And what’s worse, the Alliance cannot match the Horde exotic nature. The closest we have are Draenei, who so far has been continually displayed as passive blue humans. However the Horde can match the Alliance’s conceptions through the Forsaken and the Blood Elves. Both the Forsaken and Blood Elves offer the Horde a more ‘refined’ cultural experience, yet the Alliance cannot match this and has no counterpart to the Horde’s savagery.
The Horde draws its foundational concepts from alien societies. At its very heart, the Horde is meant to be alien to the average player, yet from extensive networks it can offer a more familiar culture to the player through the Blood Elves and Forsaken. Yet the Alliance is based on over done concepts where almost everyone playing the game would recognize the inspirations behind the faction, and unlike the Horde, they offer no 'barbaric' experience for the player to play. The closest we have are Night Elves, and as you can see, they're on the verge of being reduced to little more impolite, tall, purple humans.
The complete and utter failure to depict immortality correctly:
You’re probably thinking that immortality isn’t a big deal in the depictions of the factions right? Well I disagree. The Horde has no immortal races, or races that have ever been immortal, so it doesn’t suffer from this problem. However, the Alliance includes the Night Elves and Draenei, who are both long livers and have extensive life experience.
How does Blizzard depict this life experience? Well… they don’t, basically. It seems like they’ve almost forgot that Night Elves were immortal, or that Draenei are still immortal. Their depictions of both races have left sour tastes in the mouths of the audience; Night Elves have been rendered down to idiotic school girls that fawn over humans (see Tyrande). I believe this damages the Alliance fundamentally; something that should attract players (who doesn’t want to play an immortal alien or elf?) becomes a draw back. Instead of taking pride over a rare trait, it becomes a burden and something to be ashamed of. Why is it that Orcs, Humans and whatever else that has been thrown at the Elves/Draenei been able to succeed? Do Blizzard fail to acknowledge that these immense beings have life experience that stretches out longer than real life human society has existed?
Of course, this produces another difficulty. How do you represent immortality without going too far and making it over powered. That is something that is beyond me, but really, not like this. It breaks my heart to see Tyrande submitting to Varian as ‘High King’, and it breaks my heart that Velen is being out smarted by Anduin. Yes, by all means, don’t make them superpowerrangers4god, but please don’t go the opposite way like you’ve currently done and render immortal beings as incompetent. They should be a lot of things, but incompetent is not one of them.
Alliance culture yielding to the Horde:
Like I mentioned earlier, the Horde consists of the Blood Elves and the Forsaken. Both of these races have a somewhat ‘Alliance-ie’ feel about them (Blood Elves more so than Forsaken). I personally believe this was a mistake and something that has deeply damaged the Alliance and its identity.
Forsaken for the most part are fine within the Horde, they offer an Alliance-ie themed experience but with a MUCH darker and contrasting twist, to the point where they feel like they’re from a completely different culture. Which is good, they basically are from a completely different culture. However, the Blood Elves do not fare as well as their Forsaken friends. They do *not* feel inherently Horde – to this day, through all their updates, it honestly feels like they represent the Alliance more than ever.
And that would be okay, to have an Alliance themed race within the Horde, if the Alliance could counter that. However, they cannot. The Alliance has no race that feels even the remotes bit Horde in nature. This straight away alienates them from the Horde; not only do the Horde offer unique and diverse racial societies that the Alliance cannot match, but the Horde has a race that directly appeals to the Alliance audience. Why should you be Alliance, when you can ‘feel’ Alliance-like but be in a more diverse faction?
Blood Elves joining the Horde genuinely damaged the identity of the Alliance, and the reason they joined the Horde was simply because it needed a 'pretty race'. A large portion of Alliance lore was lost and the Horde gained it. This exchange was not fair, and the Alliance achieved nothing but a slightly more broken faction.
In conjunction with the loss of Blood Elves, neutral factions have effect the Alliance in more dire ways than the Horde.
A large portion of Night Elven identity was lost with the Cenarion Circle, along with Malfurion, while the Tauren never really adhered to the same type of drudisim as Night Elves. Night Elves lost a lot, Tauren barely lost anything at all.
Our faction identity usually comes hand in hand with Paladins, yet all our Paladin lore has been lost to the Argent Dawn/Crusade. We have lost hero after hero for the sake of neutrality, and now our defining class too seems like a conceptional abstract to the Alliance; why does an order that focuses on protecting the living from the undeath ignore the Forsaken? Oh right, yes, they're neutral and attacking Sylvanas would ruin that. Seriously, such a lame excuse. The Argent Crusade should return to it's heritage and rejoin the Alliance
Draenei too have basically been introduced to be neutral. They offer little lore development for the Alliance as a whole, yet continually advocate neutrality. No race in the Horde does the same. Straight away, we have an unwilling race in the Alliance, yet further damages its image. Why should you, the player, join the Alliance when its own races don't even want to be a participant?
Lastly the Kirin Tor. Yes, they're active now, but they should never have gone neutral in the first place. It'd be similar if a massive Orc clan just randomly decided 'yes you know what I'd like a cup of tea with that gnome over there, let's be neutral'.
Neutrality has fundamentally damaged the Alliance in ways that haven't affected the Horde. We've lost iconic heroes (Tirion, Khadger) and an iconic class. Combine that with one of our iconic races (Blood Elves), what else do you want to farm out to the Horde?
The Complete and Utter focus on the Humanity within the Alliance:
I will be honest. I do not like the way the Alliance has headed since WC3. Each race within the Alliance has yielded and submitted to Stormwind and, by extension, humanity. Dwarves were invaded and dictated who their next ruler would be by Varian (remember, the Dwarves for all intents and purposes should be a nation within their own rights. Yet they have a foreign individual invade their city, with an army, and enforce the next ruler. And they’re okay with it.), to the Night Elves declaring loyalty to Varian as ‘High King’, to Velen and Draenei who act ‘awe’ struck by Anduin. A human of 14 years of age.
The counter argument for this has always been that WoW is about Humans v Orcs. Yet the Horde did not undergo this process; each of the Hordes nations did not virtually become a ‘vassal’ for the Orcs to rule. Yes, Orcs are incharge, but it feels far more discreet. Syvalanas is still largely allowed to operate and keep her own Forsaken national identity, Lor'themar Theron is at the point of openly rebelling against the Orcs in conjunction with Vol’jin, and Baine has kept his Tauren identity. Not one of the Horde leaders, or their respective nations, have lost their identity and become ‘orc-like’.
So why did it happen to the Alliance? Why have Night Elves suddenly started acting like purple humans, when in WC3 they were depicted both beautifully and uniquely? Why are Dwarves in a ‘vassal’ like condition? Etc etc
Because of these reasons, I feel like the Alliance has lost its racial individuality and, by extension, lost a lot of its appeal. The Alliance went down a root where each race has subtly but surely merged its identity with humanity, and the Alliance is far worse off as a result.
WHAT SHOULD/COULD/MIGHT HAPPEN:
This section is simply where I voice what I personally would have liked to see, or hope to see.
1: Blood Elves joined the Alliance, not the Horde, and Draenei joined the Horde. Before I get people screaming ‘BUT THE ORCS MASSACRED THE DRAENEI!’, remember that was new lore to further cement the Draenei’s bond with the Alliance. It was created entirely out of the blue for the benefit of adding Draenei to the Alliance, so if the Draenei joined the Horde, it could’ve been written differently… Anyway
Yes, Blood Elves joined the Alliance. Having them join the Horde felt like part of the Alliance’s identity was stolen, much in the same way if Tauren joined the Alliance and not the Horde in Vanilla WoW. On top of that, it makes me laugh that Blizzard has continually stated they want ‘dark’ and ‘morally grey’ races to join the Alliance, to balance out their obvious lawful good disposition, when one of the most dark and morally grey races going, which was Alliance to begin with, they gave to the Horde. Say what?
But if Blood Elves joined the Alliance, they would obviously have to be given Shamans. As a result, instead of having the ‘captured Naruu’ plot line (which, again, was written purely for game purposes to give the Horde a ‘dark’ path to Paladins), they instead would sedate their addiction through elemental manipulation. Have them chain high ranking Elemental lords in the dungeons of Silvermoon, and suck of that. Ta-da, Alliance themed shamans that belong to a morally grey and gritty race, something the Alliance desperately needed/s. Because of this, remove the option to play Priests or Paladins. In conjunction, maybe really hype up their worship of the Sun ‘belore’ and ditch the Holy Light completely.
Straight away, a race that has always ‘belonged’ the Alliance, with a much darker and sinister twist and a unique societal and racial structure. Also brings added tension with the Night Elves, and at this point, the Alliance sorely lacks any tension that they once had in Vanilla.
With the Draenei going to the Horde and the Blood Elves in the Alliance, swap their ‘sex appeal’. Make Blood Elves mutated because of Fel energies, a more harrowing and ugly version of their beauty, while make Draenei men & women more ‘attractive’, and as a consequence the Horde has their ‘pretty race’ (the whole argument as to why the Horde got Blood Elves in the first place) AND access to Paladins.
2: Divide the Human nations to give them more individuality. It truly annoys me how Blizzard has not expanded on any of the Human nations other than ‘they like da light’. And what’s worse is they let a perfectly good opportunity pass to give Humans more diversity, in the form of Tanaris humans.
What I truly want and will probably never see is, give the Humans an 8th Kingdom. Retcon it, build it new, have it hidden by magic, I don’t care. But I want to see a dark, renegade human nation that does NOT believe in the Holy Light. Have them practice a more sophisticated form of voodoo-ism or something along those lines, but have this human culture appear totally unique. A savage, wild and nature based human society.
Basically, really expand on the idea of a barbaric human nation. Maybe even more closely related to the Vrykul some how? Just give some variation to an already bland race. Nearly every fantasy genre has a slightly barbaric human community, and I feel like they have it for a reason. They have it to offer diversity to a race which we already know inside out.
tl;dr, please introduce a more savage and blood thirsty human kingdom soon. This continual depiction of humanity as ridiculously nice, boring and a stale religion is damaging the Alliance's 'leading' race.
3: Revert the changes to the Night Elves. Bring back their ancients and control of animals (which was not expanded on because the developers thought it would be unfair to the Horde. Who now control Kraken… yeah…) and do not change Elune into a Naruu. Night Elves can still be redeemed – have Tyrande renounce Varian, focus on her during the Siege of Orgrimmar and have the Alliance win the battle because of the ferocity of the Night Elves, and not because of ‘lolhumans’.
Return them to their fierce, independent and ruthless nature that they held in WC3. I think Night Elves are the race that transitioned into WoW the worst, simply because they've basically become a different race altogether. And that saddens me. They're meant to occupy the 'wise yet deadly' role, instead all the players can infer is 'they occupy the incompetent yet slightly mystical' role.
4: Expand on the Dwarves and how each clan operates differently. It frustrates me greatly how the Dwarves have been ignored as a modern culture, yet continually expanded on their Titan-ic history. Why do I care if they’re related to the Titans if you’ve failed to make me care about their society in the present?
Expand on the Wildhammers and Dark Iron. Divulge the Dwarves from their stagnation as a Human vassal. Expand on the uniqueness of the Wildhammers and how druidic their culture is, and really ramp up the renegade nature of the Dark Irons. Have Dark Irons fulfil the role that Forsaken fulfils for the Horde. But please, for the love of god, separate them from their Ironforge cousins. They do NOT worship the Light, and for the most part, they do not listen to humans ‘authority’.
It really interested me doing a Horde scenario on one of my characters, the scenario based on Dominance Assault. Out of the blue, a wave of Dark Iron dwarves attacked and that really, really saddened me. The only Dark Iron dwarf presence where they're Alliance aligned, and only Horde can see that monumental lore progress...
5: It pains me to see that they clearly do not have a direction for the Worgen. Their conception was sound, but the execution was completely off.
Firstly – their society should differ from Stormwinds. They underwent different things. Gilneas became isolated and never had a problem with the Scourge directly, and on top of that, there was never elaborated lore that Gilneas worshipped the Light to begin with. As a consequence, I honestly think it would be interesting to see them turn away from their Holy Light worship and embrace the ‘Harvest Witch’ cult as their main religion.
Secondly, they should never have abandoned Gilneas. It doesn’t even make sense, since the quest line ends with the Worgen reclaiming Gilneas City… and then evacuating? No. The quests should have followed through and seen you repel the Forsaken, and quest from Gilneas -> Silverpine -> Hillsbrad ->Arathi Highlands
6: Do something with the Gnomes. I don’t know what, but do something. Have them become something more than a joke race that focuses on technology.
7: Stromgarde should return. Stromgarde to me has always been one of the more interesting nations out of the original 7, simply because it seemed more renegade compared to its counterparts.
Have Stromgarde sail in and depose Varian, and elect a Human council composing Anduin/Genn/Jania/Leader of Stromgarde/the feral human nation I was talking about. After that’s happened, STOP THE FOCUS ON HUMANS! Let the other Alliance races act, instead of having humans continually dictate the actions of the Alliance.
And lastly, 8: Pandaren should never have been neutral. I honestly feel like it further exacerbates the Alliance’s problem of ‘bland’ races, while the Horde has ‘unique races’.
And what's funnier, if they added them to the Alliance solely and created a new race for the Horde, it would address a lot of my problems that I listed. We would finally have a race that, like the Night Elves, do not adhere to the Holy Light. They certainly do not conform to the stereotypical appearance of an Alliance race, and they have the lore to back up an alliance with the Alliance (Night Elves & Dwarves). Yet with them simply being 'tact' on to both the Alliance and Horde, with little lore development outside of 'you like law, you like results', it creates an entirely disheartening result. As an Alliance player, I have to yet again witness the introduction of a complete and utter inactive race into my faction (seriously. Draenei, Worgen and now Pandaren have not done ANYTHING for the Alliance. While Goblins and Blood Elves have been quite active in the Horde), for little to no gain.
The Pandaren cannot offer anything because they are neutral, in an expansion where neutrality is meant to be destroyed. Am I the only one who thinks that's filled with contradictions?
So to conclude, I honestly feel like the Alliance as a faction is dying in popularity due to it's merging of the races. The Horde races remain unique, different and culturally endearing to the players, where as each race of the Alliance is slowly becoming more and more humane, instead of focusing on their own unique cultures. As such, I really feel like the future of the Alliance rests on the shoulders of the Night Elves and Wildhammer/Dark Iron dwarves, who offer a unique playability to the Alliance which currently does not exist.
So yeah, my (long winded haha) reasons as to why I feel like the Alliance has lost its identity and maybe a few solutions to help it out.