Why World of Warcraft should remove all race/class restrictions and allow players to pick any combination they want
Look, it’s 2021, and some of those older RPG restrictions just don’t hold up anymore. Video games have changed. People have changed. Many of us have been playing World of Warcraft for almost two decades now, and our lives are at very different places at this point. We value different things, and we expect our entertainment options to value us, and our time, differently as well.
Arbitrarily preventing players from combining their favorite race — a factor of enormous self-expression and fantasy — with their favorite class — which, beyond self-expression, also caters to our preferred gameplay style — is, frankly, an artifact of an older time. And it’s time for it to be put to rest.
The power and necessity of self-expression
Self-expression is extremely important in a video game, and is a huge factor that draws people to them — the success of the transmogrification system is testament to that. Whenever Blizzard announces features such as new races or new customization options, people go crazy. It’s one of the areas where WoW rarely fails to please the community at large. And the opposite is also true: when they stop adding these features at a moment when people were expecting them to keep doing it, the backlash is pretty intense.
Restrictions to self-expression can be extremely detrimental to people’s enjoyment of a game. Preventing someone from rolling a character that combines their favorite race with their favorite class is something they’ll have to deal with for every moment they play — whereas the lore/ambience benefit gained from having that restriction take place is only marginal.
Nearly every other MMORPG out there has removed those restrictions — or never had them in the first place. Even a game like Dungeons & Dragons — perhaps the “grandfather” of WoW — has been modernizing itself, modifying or outright abandoning concepts that are now considered to be outdated, both in perceptions and sensibilities, as well as in design. If an older game like D&D can find the necessary means for self-reflection that lead to overhauling some of its core concepts, WoW could certainly stand to do the same.
Our heroes are exceptional individuals who break the mold
Has it ever struck you as odd that Tyrande Whisperwind, High Priestess of Elune, is usually seen wielding a bow? Or sometimes, as in the picture above, warglaives? Or that she has an animal companion that can scout the woods for her, or that she can cast some star-related Arcane spells that are usually within the domain of Druids?
Sure, Tyrande is a powerful hero, an absolutely exceptional individual who doesn’t use the same ruleset as “lesser” Night Elves. But here’s a little secret: the same is true of your character. Slayer of raid bosses, commander of Garrisons, wielder of Artifact Weapons, the Maw Walker…
There are several examples of NPCs that already break the mold, and are members of classes that are “unconvetional” for their races. Sir Zeliek and Delas Moonfang are both Paladins, despite being an Undead and a Night Elf, respectively. High Botanist Freywinn is a Blood Elf, but also a Druid; as was Celestine of the Harvest even before she became a Worgen, when she was still just a Human.
Sometimes, those combos even make the transition from unplayable to playable: Gravewalker Gie was the original Pandaren Death Knight, years before that combo became accessible to players. Which is to say: all of those unusual combinations already exist; they simply aren’t playable yet.
Races have an identity beyond class restrictions
The most common fear people have about lifting the restrictions to race/class combinations is that this would lead to increased homogenization and a loss of racial identity. While that’s a valid concern, it’s not entirely correct: races are defined by their cultures, not by their classes.
While it’s true that Orcs are a shamanistic people, that doesn’t mean that Orcs don’t have room for individuals of other predispositions — or that all Shaman need to be Orcish, for that matter. For every Thrall and Drek’thar who revere the elements, there is also a Garona who walks a completely different path.
Besides, cultures adapt over time, mingling with other cultures. This is also something that we have examples of in the game: Orc Mages were introduced in Cataclysm and the simple explanation that was given was that they were taught the Arcane arts by their Forsaken allies. Orc and Forsaken are hardly two cultures that have a strong lore connection, like the Humans and Dwarves do. Yet, just like Humans taught Dwarves of the Light, letting them become Paladins, so too did the Forsaken teach Orcs how to cast Mage spells.
Yes, new class combinations do require development work
Another argument against this idea is that some classes, like Demon Hunter and Druid, require a large number of special assets for every race. Which means a lot of work would need to be done pertaining to creating new art assets to accommodate all the new options. But that is a problem that the WoW team already has plenty of experience tackling.
New customization can be introduced slowly, over multiple patches and expansions — as has been the case many times now. We’ve had a few instances where brand-new forms were added to existing Druid races. Besides, this is problem has been alleviated by the fact that there are multiple newer, race-agnostic forms that were introduced by the Artifact system. Those forms are even accessible in the barbershop, and you can even find forms like the Druid of the Flame Cat Form in there, available to all your Druid characters, regardless of racial choice.
Demon Hunters could, similarly, have humble beginnings. A couple of special demonic skin options for every race — much like what Death Knights originally had when they were introduced — as well as the burning fel-green eyes with a basic eyepatch in two or three colors, as well as the same horns that other DHs already have. Blizzard could then build from there, over future patches.
Blizzard are the masters of their own lore
They write it and they can modify it whenever they want to. And they have done so — multiple times.
Sometimes it was a small change, like Addie Fizzlebog introducing playable Gnome Hunters to us. Other times, the changes were much more significant: if we were forever locked to the lore rules laid out by Warcraft 3, the only Druids that would be playable in WoW would be Night Elves — and only the males, for that matter — because those were the only Druids that existed back then. If the lore was some sacred, immutable writing, not even Tauren Druids would exist!
The idea that a player cannot pick a certain specific race/class combination that appeals to them — for reasons that are completely arbitrary and malleable — feels like a mere relic of the past. An appendix that does more harm than good on this day and age.
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