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Goats in Video Games: The Horned Beasts’ Popularity Revealed
Goats: they are the monstrous creatures that haunt the worlds we explore, the nightmarish devils that populate numerous virtual hells, and often the soldiers of the forces of darkness that plague the lands of video game infamy. But regardless of their dire reputation, goats are incredibly popular to include as creatures in video games. Thanks to gamers’ and games designers’ love for these sometimes disturbing creatures, the goat’s place in popular culture has been solidified. This article explores the role of goats as an integral part of video game culture.
Rise of the Argonauts is an action RPG from Liquid entertainment. It’s story revolves around Jason and the Argonauts, and Jason’s quest to find the golden fleece, inspired by the classic myth from Greek mythology. One of the main types of opponents you’ll fight against in the game are satyrs. But whereas classical satyrs are often depicted with only the legs and horns of a goat, with everything else as that of a man, the satyrs in this game have humanoid bodies but clearly have the heads of goats. Their horns are also a lot more impressive than those usually seen in the Greek tales.
In the God of War series, the satyrs are some of the most formidable opponents Kratos has to fight. Similar to their appearance in Rise of the Argonauts, the satyrs have goat-like heads instead of the human faces in traditional Greek mythology. Although there is some variety in the types of satyrs in the series, ranging from satyrs wielding staves to flaming satyrs, one of the more interesting variants is the Satyr Grenadier. These creatures carry flasks full of explosive liquid and hurl it at Kratos in battle.
Satyrs have been depicted as much more bestial in the MMORPG World of Warcraft. Unlike the satyrs of Greek mythology, World of Warcraft’s satyrs are powerful and dangerous foes, highly skilled in demonic sorcery and servants of the evil Burning Legion. They are the hated enemy of the Night Elves, and are immortal. Before their transformation, they were Kaldorei Highborne who embraced demonic power and swore allegiance to Xavius, high councilor to Queen Azshara. Xavius had been corrupted by the fallen titan Sargeras. His followers were changed into the tall, hairy, goat-like beings now known as satyrs. With long horns, cloven hooves and sharp claws, the former night elves’ forms now physically reflected their twisted natures.
Satyrs are often charged with guarding and corrupting moonwells, tainting their waters with demonic energy and using them to create more minions for the Burning Legion from captive night elves. This is one of the primary ways to create more satyrs, though there other ways such as Lord Xavius’ Dirk of the Beast, a large, golden dagger which can transform the victim into a satyr upon a critical hit. However, although the satyrs as a race are now aligned with the Burning Legion, some satyrs are still thought to practice druidism, as they are able to shape-shift into creatures such as nightsabers and treants.
Warhammer: perhaps one of the greatest fantasy worlds in popular culture. However, the warhammer fantasy world has not converted into the world of video games successfully. After a smattering of real time strategy titles, Mythic Entertainment released the MMORPG Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. Unfortunately, the game was a failure due a large number of factors and was consequently shut down. Although WAR may be over, there is a chance that some of its varied and creative monsters may turn up some day in future games. One of the great things about Warhammer is its Beastmen. These mutated servants of the Chaos Gods primarily sport goat-like features such as goat heads, horns, cloven hooves and goat’s legs.
Beastmen are usually divided into species: Gors, the larger, more powerful and more goat-like creatures. The smaller, more satyr-like warriors are Ungors. Both Gors and Ungors are vicious and deadly fighters, although Ungors rely more upon weight of numbers to overwhelm opponents. The world of Warhammer is a dark, brutal place and many humans born with chaos mutations are often abandoned in the woods. These children are normally taken in by the Beastman herds to become new members of the tribes, therefore swelling the hordes of the beastmen by thousands each year. It is often rumoured that if the beastmen put aside their bickering amongst each other they would be able to take over the Empire.
Probably one of the most popular games with goats in it other than World of Warcraft is the hack/slash action RPG Diablo. Another Blizzard title, Diablo was centered around the Lord of Terror, and the lone hero tasked with descending deep beneath the earth through a multitude of dungeons in order to track him down and defeat him. Some of the main enemies found in various levels are goatmen. These demons are properly known as Khazra, and were once men who were mutated into bipedal goats. While they share the Warhammer Beastman traits of cunning and ferocity, Khazra clans are much more organized, banding together to slaughter innocents and carry out the orders of their demon commanders.
In Diablo 1 they generally inhabit the catacombs areas, but in sequel games they are often found in outdoors zones as well. Their favourite weapons are morning stars, with which they attempt to bash in the heads of any would-be heroes. Goatman Archers, however, are one of the most formidable types of goatman, wielding bows with arrows that stun and damage heroes from long range, making them devastating when in large groups. In Diablo II goatmen carry a variety of double-handed weapons, with the Hell Clan Khazra armed with massive scythes.
The Diablo II clone Titan Quest featured numerous creatures from Greek mythology. The first creatures the player encounters are satyrs. There are three different variants, each more powerful than the last: satyrs, dark satyrs and mountain satyrs. Unlike Diablo, Titan Quest has more variety in ranged and magic-wielding satyrs. These include bow-wielding skirmishers, pillagers with fire arrows, trappers with nets, and shamans, fire magi and spiritcallers, who use magical abilities. There are also boar riders, who shoot arrows and cause poison damage, making them one of the more deadly types of satyrs. In addition are Brutes, and while melee-orientated, these are unlike most satyrs due to their massive size and muscularity, making them more like minotaurs than satyrs.
In stark contrast to most of the previous examples, the satyrs of DOOM are not minions or common enemies. In the first two DOOM games, the Baron of Hell and Hell Knight monsters clearly resemble large, pink (or tan) skinned, muscular satyrs, with hooves and curling horns. The Baron of Hell is the third most resilient monster in the game after the Cyberdemon and the Spiderdemon, and attacks the marine by hurling bright green, comet-like fireballs. Two Barons of Hell serve as bosses at the end of the episode Knee Deep in the Dead, and are consequently encountered more regularly in following episodes.
Although in DOOM 3 the demons no longer resemble devils or goats, the legacy of DOOM has been massively influential on the games industry. Clearly goats are a major consideration for developers when deciding what enemies should physically look like, resulting in goat-creatures being used as enemies throughout many video games. But do goats only serve as adversaries or are there other roles goats fulfill in games?
Returning to World of Warcraft, the Draenei are a playable race on the Alliance faction. Interestingly, the Draenei are not very ‘devil-like’ compared to other goat-like beings, though they do sport horns and cloven hooves. Rather, they are much more morally superior. Chris Metzen, Blizzard game designer and artist, has said that whilst viewing the artwork for the demonic Eredar, it was considered that it would be an interesting experiment to have a race that mixed an evil form with a noble cause. The runes above their forehead has been said to indicate that the Draenei are ‘light-touched.’ They are certainly a step away from the usual cliched goat-like beings in other franchises, being more altruistic and pure of heart.
In addition, the Draenei design and lore is much more otherworldly and science fiction orientated than other warcraft races. Examples of this include their arrival on Azeroth via their crashed dimensional ship the Exodar, which spreads corruption from its ruptured power core into the surrounding wilderness, and their crystal energy and crystal related architecture. Draenei items, clothing and weapons also reflect their association with crystals, usually glowing with coloured light and featuring multi-faceted crystals. The Draenei are certainly a welcome departure from the usual stereotypes not just of goatmen but also from fantasy races in general.
WoW isn’t the only MMORPG with goat-related player benefits. In the MMORPG RIFT, if you choose the Cleric class and specialise as a Druid, you are able to summon a satyr to aid you in battle. The Satyr summon increases the player’s attack power and has its own skills, ranging from increases to attack and spell power, striking all adjacent enemies in melee and striking enemies with increased damage. I just can’t get over how big that satyr is.
And then of course there is the insanity that is Goat Simulator. While not as fun or interesting as the previously mentioned games, you do actually get to control an actual goat. Whilst I myself would not call it a ‘good game’, it does has its own unique brand of absolute hilarity and laugh out loud moments.
So while the role of goats in video game culture is primarily antagonistic, its not all bad news. Regardless of what side the goats fall on, they have definitely proved their worth in the gamers’ world. If you would like to take a quiz concerning goats, click here. And for more about Goat Simulator, be sure to check out the Leviathyn review of Goat Simulator here.