From where we are now, it’s hard to see a whole lot of good about the Dominion. Everything we’ve heard about WildStar’s other faction thus far has been that it’s made up of pure evil, absolutely the antithesis of everything you would ever want to stand for. These are not good people, to the best of our knowledge, and it comes as a bit of a surprise that they make up a playable faction in the game rather than a helpful organization of mooks in need of a good face-punching.
Those familiar with my past work will know that I love rooting for the team that looks like the transparent bad guys. Unfortunately, right now we plain don’t know enough about the Dominion to be sure of exactly what its deal is. Could be that it’s as evil as it looks; could be that we only have half of the picture. So I’m going to go ahead and look at both possibilities.
Option 1: Some things need to be done
As I mentioned, the only side of the story we’ve heard has been that of the Exiles. And let’s not mince words here: The Exiles are not impartial recorders of history. Each of these groups feels directly insulted by the actions of the Dominion, and everything we know about these stories has to take into account that it’s being written with an eye toward the Dominion as the villain.
From the Dominion’s perspective, every action we know of seems necessary. Razing the Aurin homeworld? Unpleasant, but this was a race that was willfully aiding a rebel fleet that started a war with the Dominion — a fleet, it’s worth noting, that began by stealing Dominion military hardware and using it against its makers in a rebellion that was prompted more or less by one man deciding to take justice into his own hands. Sure, sometimes that makes you Batman, but Batman didn’t commandeer an entire fleet of spaceships to wage war on his home government.
So it’s quite possible that the Dominion is made up of decent people making the difficult choices necessary to safeguard a galaxy-spanning empire. This does not involve making everyone happy at all times but does entail making the compromises necessary to ensure that the citizens as a whole are safe, happy, and healthy.
What does this mean in practical terms? The driving conflict between the factions will be one not of incompatible existence but of history. Unlike the Guardians and Defiant of RIFT, there’s no central conflict of ideas, just two groups that have chased one another for quite some time and have a great deal of accumulated bad blood. It would take a great deal of time for those past rifts to heal, but they certainly could because we’re talking about factions that are at odds only due to poor choices.
It also means that the story for the game will involve a lot of sniping at one another by both sides. If the story is told well, there will be plenty of reasons for both sides to continue disliking one another, both through misunderstandings and through genuine nastiness.
It’s certainly a well-traveled path, but it can also be done well. So I welcome this possibility.
Option 2: I’m just nasty; how are you?
There are two flavors of doing what you have to do. The first is the difficult choice, the moment when you decide that if the only way to save a hundred people is to let one die, you can live with that. But the second… that’s when you cheat on your spouse, and when he or she asks you about it, you lie because you had to. Otherwise you’d have to face consequences.
In other words, the Dominion may have done what it had to do only insofar as it didn’t want to risk acting decent to others.
Making one faction unabashedly evil is an approach that’s been done a few times, usually with some success. Warhammer Online manages it mostly because in theory the “good” factions of the universe can be discerned only with specialized training, while Star Wars: The Old Republic allows you to be an evil bastard who still cares deeply about the fate of those around you. City of Heroes and DC Universe Online have the supervillain tradition to fall back upon. There has to be an appeal to playing as someone you know you should be cheering against.
And the Dominion certainly gives you that option. Even if the Dominion is more on the villainous side, there are much bigger enemies to throw against it. Nexus is a dangerous place, filled with uncontrolled technology and threatening wildlife. The Dominion will keep all of that under control, ensuring that the galaxy as a whole does not suffer because a ragtag group of rebels decides to try to unlock the secrets of a world beyond their imagination.
Those rebels exist only because you tried to wipe them out in the first place, of course, and your first action with all of the fruits of Nexus would be to finish that job, but hey. You’re the villain. You’re allowed.
So I welcome this possibility, too. Magnificent bastards or misunderstood historical opponents, either one is perfectly valid from what we’ve seen so far, and either one could be equally entertaining. What’s going to ultimately make the case one way or the others are the races that we see allied with the Dominion and the material we see from the other side.
Just remember: Everyone is someone’s villain.