Evil Overlords are one of the great staples of fiction. It isn’t just in fantasy; Holmes has his Moriarty, Bond has his Blofeld, the Harkers have their Dracula, Superman has his Lex Luthor, the BSG crew have their cylons, the Four Musketeers have their Cardinal Richelieu and so on.
But ever since Tolkein set pen to paper, it’s been a core staple of fantasy fiction too. So it really isn’t surprising that MMOs have worked hard at creating evil overlords we love to hate.
But I was wondering how these guys would be as employers. In a few of the MMOs I’ve played, you actually get a chance to be on the side of evil, even if it is just temporarily, to see how the other side lives (or doesn’t). And I have come up with a few criteria:
- snazzy uniform
- clear command structure
- opportunities for advancement
- potential for gloating at PCs
So let’s see how they stack up.
Sauron: The biggest name in evil overlordness around! He may not offer a great uniform but the “Eye of Sauron” has stood the test of time and become one of the stronger evil overlord brands out in the market. You don’t get much of a view for how he interacts with his minions either in the books or the game. Less powerful employees such as orcs, worgs, spiders, etc do seem to retain a lot of self will and the orcs in particular have a decent social structure. It isn’t really clear quite how smart they are but in some ways that is a bonus – no witty conversation required.
My doubts about Sauron are that he doesn’t seem to have a clear game plan and his military tactics boil down to ‘throw hordes of minions at it.’ Also the more powerful minions, such as dark riders, seem much less self willed. But the Nazgul do look great and also get to scare hobbits, which is a bonus.
You do have the chance to play orcs, spiders, and worgs in LOTRO but not with much interaction with your evil overlord.
Saruman: Now I think he’s a better bet. He does actually talk to his troops and is more tactically minded. His symbol may not be as cool as the Eye but you could get a lot of ‘talk to the Hand’ jokes in. Plus he’s based in a nice forest and not a nasty fiery mountain area which makes for more pleasant living conditions.
City of Heroes/Villains
There are a few different NPC villain groups but the one you get to work for as a supervillain is Arachnos. They are an actual organised villain group and they do have a proper uniform for their minion forces. Of course, as a PC you get to pick your own outfit so it’s your own fault if it ends up being insufficiently cool (I was trying to find a screenshot of Captain Colorblind from my husband’s server as a bad example, but we’ll have to skip that since he doesn’t have one handy).
The problem with being made up of so many PCs is that they seem a bit weak on the whole masterplan thing, which is fairly inexcusable for a group of supervillains. Or at least, if they have one, I never figured it out when I was playing.
They do however have a clear career structure. You start fairly low down in the organisation and work your way up as you level. And you do get to gloat at superheroes as much as you want. Because of all the egos involved, they do have a crazy amount of infighting though.
In Warhammer, you can choose to play as one of three Destruction races. The game has a couple candidates for Evil Overlord Supremo: namely the Chaos faction leader (Tchar’zanek, Champion of Tzeentch) and the Dark Elf faction leader (Malekith, the Witch King). Since they are allies, in practice if you roll Destruction you will be working for both.
The third Destruction race is the Greenskins who would be by far the most fun entertaining faction to work for because at least they have fun while they work. They may be dumb and orkish but all they want in life is the chance of a good scrap. They do have good banners and a great esprit-de-corps, and it doesn’t really matter if they don’t have a plan because the Witch King will think of something for them to go fight. So if brainless yobbo with good team spirit is your goal, look no further.
The Chaos guys are not only nuts but work for evil gods who are even nuttier. Now I personally prefer not to have too many deities involved with my evil overlord because they tend to be worldspanning evil who do not care about mere miserable minions, plus not very sexy (uh, unless you like tentacles). They are also kind of grubby, they get decent armour and uniforms later on but none of their camps look very comfortable which is a turnoff to me.
Dark Elves on the other hand do know how to live in comfort. But they tend to get sacrificed very frequently to the Witch King’s latest schemes. There is also an inane amount of backstabbing — no competent evil overlord would put up with that — so although it might be fun for awhile, I don’t see it as a great longterm prospect.
The Lich King: Unsurprisingly, in the most recent expansion we have learned a lot more about the lich king and how he manages his troops. There are a few quests where he makes a personal appearance (either to gloat at you or interact with his minions) and others where you have the chance to briefly work for him in deep cover.
Bonus points: He does genuinely have a lot of loyalty from his top goons. He rewards competence and promotes accordinly. On more than one occasion, his minions tell us that if you do well, you will be rewarded. The flipside to this is that he’s pretty brutal when minions fail in their tasks. But I’m sure we have all had bosses like that. He also seems to have some tactical awareness – I haven’t seen him actually outthink the Alliance/Horde leaders but he’s not doing anything obviously dumb either.
There’s no cool uniform though, unless you are a death knight which is not the majority. You do however get to be a zombie which could be a bonus if you’ve always wanted to be a zombie!
Scourge minions seem generally happy with their role and with their boss and his schemes for world domination so whatever he is doing it seems to be working.
Scarlet Crusade: These guys are the Nazis of Azeroth. They have a snappy uniform, a fascist command structure, and they are big on genocide (well, if you happen to be forsaken which my warrior is). They also always end up being commanded by demons which shows a lack of judgement by their human leaders, in my opinions.
More fun to kill/torture/fight than to work for.