When I first started playing WoW, I thought there was a clear difference between Alliance and Horde. It was a matter of “good guys” versus “bad guys,” where the former had noble and generally “good” intentions, while the latter had no intentions other than destruction.
The more I read the lore as it unfolded throughout the expansions, however, I began to understand what the Horde truly represented: a group of misunderstood, ostracized races thrown together by the crappy hand Fate had dealt them. They were supposed to be monsters and abominations with no real place in the “civilized” society of Azeroth, and with no real purpose other than the destruction of civilization. Even the word “horde” suggested an image of unorganized and unruly creatures who devoured everything in their path like locusts.
Yet here were major characters like Thrall and Vol’jin who actively fought to defy the stereotypes and odds pitted against them. They dared to make the Horde into a society of heroes who sought honor against real enemies, the ones that threatened Azeroth as a whole, rather than focus on racial tensions.
The Horde wasn’t supposed to be “noble” or “heroic,” but they decided to try it anyway. Such attributes were usually reserved for the Alliance; it was theirs by default. In a way, you could say the Horde had to earn their claim to such things. It doesn’t diminish the magnitude of these qualities in the Alliance, mind you. The Horde’s brand of heroism and honor is just different, simply by the means from which it was forged.
So, when I started playing SWTOR again, I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about such intricacies. Jedi/Republic = “good,” Sith/Empire = “bad.” Yoda was righteous, Emperor Palpatine was evil: this is what we learned from the original trilogy. But when friend and guildmate Seinjo said the Sith Empire was like the Horde, I vehemently argued otherwise. Star Wars lore was absolute when it came to such things. Light was good, Dark was bad.
Yet, you aren’t restricted to playing Light alignment if you roll a Republic character just as you’re not restricted to playing Dark if you roll Empire. In the old Knights of the Old Republic game, your alignment determined whether you were going to end up Jedi or Sith accordingly. That’s not so in this game.
And I realized both Seinjo and I were right in our own ways. You see, in WoW, NPCs like Thrall, Vol’jin, and Highlord Saurfang set the precedent for what the new Horde was supposed to represent, and it’s up to the player to meet those standards. There’s an idea of what each faction represents in SWTOR, obviously, but the player doesn’t necessarily have to subscribe to those ideas. Sure, playing a Dark Side Republic character makes you look like an asshole but people shrug it off as an “it happens” situation. When you play a Light Side Empire character, however, there’s a huge stigma.
I found this out the other day when I jumped into an instance with my Imperial Agent. When it came time for the big “defining” conversations, I happened to win every conversation roll. It also meant the other three party members got to see my decision on their screens— complete with the shiny, bright, happy “Light Side points achieved” graphic. The first time it happened, it was kinda funny and everyone laughed. Second time it happened, my other party members kinda gave me virtual equivalents of “The Look.” And, despite being a good contributing member to the party, no one wanted to add me to their friends list because they couldn’t associate with a Light-Sider.
Even NPCs gave me crap for being “soft.” I don’t remember how my superior in Imperial Intelligence had worded it, exactly, but he chastised me for showing mercy and not taking every chance I could to engage in violence. Not that I didn’t resolve the issue or get the job done, but my methods were questioned. I started to wonder if my career was about to end prematurely because of my Light-Sided tendencies.
This must have been what Thrall and Vol’jin felt when they wanted to take their people in a new and different direction, I thought. Things were looking grim for my agent, and it didn’t seem as if my life as a member of the Empire was about to get any easier.
But it occurred to me later that this feeling was familiar on a more personal level, and more recent, too. You see, when Seinjo said the Horde and Empire were alike, I automatically equated “Horde” to Thrall’s Horde, the pre-Cataclysm Horde— my Horde. The Empire, as we know it, is much like Garrosh’s Horde instead: victory or death, power and domination at any cost. They’re machines of war that will crush anything that gets in their way, and all of its people are just cogs that make the gears go round.
If you’ve been following my serial story— all two chapters of it so far, anyway— you know Toriah doesn’t see eye to eye with Garrosh. And I can’t count how many times I’ve denounced the “new Horde” that has developed under the younger Hellscream’s leadership. He takes the “war” in “Warchief” a little too literally.
That reminds me of how excited I am to see the new expansion and exactly how Garrosh leaves the seat of Warchief.