Belghast has a rather interesting post up about the lack of defined pantheistic religion in World of Warcraft. The few religious figures that are in the game are either very abstract, such as “the Light”, or rather niche such as the Troll-specific Loa. The Night Elves do worship Elune, but there’s very little detail about this deity, at least in comparison to other MMORPGs or the tablet top games the genre grew out of.
I was the type of kid that was very happy to pour over the details of the Aztec mythology or the Egyptian pantheon for hours. Religion has always been one of the pillars of world setting and story-telling in roleplaying games for me. It explains, in part, why I eventually became pretty heavily invested in the story of The Secret World MMO; and why I really loved the Egyptian zones, areas that most players seemed less fond of. Interacting with the spirits of long-forgotten gods in dusty tombs across the second Egyptian zone really appealed to me.
Other major MMORPGs that I’ve played generally have organised religions, pantheons of gods and even mechanics linked to one or the other. In Everquest 2 there’s a large selection of gods that have alliances, rivalries and deep lore to explore; an overview of which Belghast gave in the linked post. Characters can take on a religion and gain new abilities via building up favour. Although I’m not that deeply versed in all the history or details, I know enough for an in-game reference to, or the appearance of the actual avatar of a god, to have resonance and to add weight to the story I’m playing through.
In Dungeons & Dragons Online and in Neverwinter, the two current MMORPGs based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game, character creation involves selecting your deity from the available world-specific pantheons – Eberron for DDO (originally) and the Forgotten Realms for Neverwinter. DDOs rich character creation included lines of religion-specific enhancements (the game’s equivalent to talent trees), to offer flavoured ability or skill bonuses.
Belghast also writes about the gods of Elder Scrolls Online, something I’m less familiar with, though I’m aware that there are Daedric Princes, and the Tribunal or trio of Dark Elf gods, based on my character choices and playtime in the game. In a sense my lack of familiarity with the panthones of ESO is a plus as it makes me more motivated to delve into books full of stories or lore.
So I find myself in agreement with Belghast’s concluding remarks: I do think there is a gap in World of Warcraft’s world-building due to the lack of defined immortals that inspire, or demand, devotion. The danger that most of the equivalent beings in WoW are destined to become a raid boss at some point, leaves the game lacking mystery.