After having discussed Battle for Azeroth’s storyline for a while, I have often heard the same argument both from Alliance players and Horde players: that the Horde is, at its core, supposed to be an evil faction. The former use it to dismiss complaints from Horde fans (well, you chose the evil faction, therefore you cannot complain about Teldrassil), while the latter use it to defend Sylvanas’s character (she represents what the Horde is supposed to be).
More recently, the discussions on the new government structure of the Horde (that there is no Warchief) also brought up the idea of the Horde’s identity being lost to the forefront. Personally, I think that both factions can have either form of government: this for me is not a key concept that defines the Horde.
Either way, these questions made me think. What is the key concept that, in your opinion, unites all Horde races? It does not have to be an in-universe ideology; it can be the aesthetics, the writing, et cetera. And, for that matter, what races do you think do not fit these concepts neatly?
If you ask me, I believe the key defining concepts of the Horde to be, in order from most to least important:
- Rejection. Every Horde race, one way or another, does not fit into the existing world order, and that is what defines them. I actually do not want stories where the Horde is dominant; I think it has to be persecuted, struggling for survival, so that they could remain sympathetic while still being dark. It is for this reason that I do not like the modern, more traditionally heroic portrayal of blood elves: without them being ruthless, and willing to use darker magic for survival (ironically, this original trait of blood elves is now represented by void elves), they don’t feel like a Horde race.
- Exoticism. I’d use the term “savagery”, because I appreciate the “savage” races of the Horde the most, but I feel that would be both inappropriate and not particularily representative of the more civilised Horde races such as the Forsaken or the Zandalari. What I mean is that Horde cultures generally have an aesthetic that is exotic to the game’s main (North American, Western European and East Asian) playerbase. From the tauren totems and blood elf hookahs to Forsaken architecture evocative of Victorian Gothic novels, usually set in faraway Eastern European towns, almost all Horde races are not your typical knights and dragons fare. In that regard, the two races that I’d say do not fit the mold are the goblins and the nightborne. Goblins are fantasy Americans - nothing unusual to a Western player, although I suppose the fact that they are a 19th century culture somehow trapped in a fantasy world does make them something exotic - while the nightborne have a more generic fantasy feel to them that does not strike me as Horde.
- Monstrousness. I do not mean that all Horde races have to be ugly - the nightborne actually fit that criterion in my book! I do, however, believe that all Horde races have to be inspired by some traditionally “evil” fantasy archetype. In fact, I think the defining trait of the Warcraft universe as a whole (at least, during WC3 and early WoW) was that Blizzard liked to play with fantasy archetypes. Take vrykul, for example: vikings, but with a dark necromantic culture and a very twisted form of Valhalla propped up by an evil death god. The same idea is present in almost all Horde races. The only race which does not really fit into this mold (outside of pandaren) are the blood elves, but that’s mostly because they have lost many of their “dark elf” traits since their inception.
- Militarism. The Horde is badass, and I think that is really important. That does not mean it has to be evil, or imperialistic: I think the latter role is better given to the Alliance, because, as I stated earlier, the Horde has to be the underdog. No, they have to opt for violent solutions, but for valid causes, so as to remain sympathetic. I think early Cata did that really well: Garrosh was a warmonger, but was driven at the time by the relatively sympathetic goal of feeding his people. That’s what I did not like with Sylvanas - no valid goal to fight - and why many people do not approve of having peace now. It does not feel right when the Horde’s not fighting.
- Simplicity. Now, that is not exactly a truly valid Horde trait because it is more of a “savage/western Horde” thing, but I still find it important. The core of the Horde are relatively uncivilised, simple and honest folk. They favour simple, violent solutions to their problems, true, but they would also not tolerate treachery, or cowardice, nor would they scheme and plot. Of course, a Forsaken leader would absolutely scheme, but overall, I think that any plots about scheming and betrayal would fit the Alliance more, like it happened in Vanilla with Katrana Prestor. This difference I think was well-represented in the Kul Tiras and Zandalar storylines: while the Alliance actually had to maneuver around Kul Tiran politics and be diplomatic at times, the Horde mostly just beat up bad guys.
What do you think about this? Do you believe the Horde is supposed to be evil? Savage? Aggressive? Asking everyone here, both Alliance and Horde.