Today I wanted to talk about power fantasies in games and more specifically, the power fantasy I crave and that I adore when it’s executed well. This is more of a personal take on the topic btw. I love Necromancers as a concept but most of the time, I get disappointed when I see them executed in games because they don’t fulfil the power fantasy that I’m looking for. It’s another case of my expectations not being met and I wanna get into what I mean by that but before that… What is a Power Fantasy?
The term “power fantasy” is often used to describe a type of story where the main character is a stand-in for the reader. You can be a real bum in real life but you may fantasize about being a “chad” in another world. Isekai often fulfils this sort of escapism. This is especially so with the stories based on the premise of “starting over” or getting a “second chance”. In games, you often use the term to describe character archetypes. The fantasy of a skilled fighter, a swift swashbuckler, a powerful mage, or even an unkillable tank are often executed well in games. People playing ARPGs often enjoy the aspect of mowing down hordes of foes and getting stronger with every piece of loot that drops, for example, and being able to assert dominance is also another form of “power fantasy”. Now, these aren’t official definitions, but when I speak of a “power fantasy”, I mean this sort of thing. The term is mostly used in this sort of sense.
The power fantasy that I very much enjoy is the one of a necromancer that summons hordes of undead beings from skeletons to spirits to zombies that fight the enemy in their stead. I love the idea of a lich and necromancer a lot and enjoy it when I get to summon things to fight by my side. In Heroes of the Storm, I loved playing Xul, for example, who kind of played into that power fantasy but it wasn’t quite it. Meanwhile, a lot of MMOs do have a “necromancer” class but they either function as more of a drain mage or curse mage… or they just summon three or four monsters without ever doing much along the lines of summoning literal hordes of minions.
Fast forward to last Monday where I literally googled “games that let you play as a necromancer” and stumbled across a Reddit post that was talking about exactly that power fantasy. A Reddit user wanted to play this Summoner-style Necromancer in a game and in the replies there were trolls, people that wanted to disagree that that’s what a necromancer is about,… and there were some people that actually gave good replies. Among those, someone suggested Path of Exile which has the “Necromancer” class available as an advanced job of the “Witch” class.
Hence, I started playing Path of Exile – as some of you may know due to my Twitter thread – and I’ve been enjoying it a fair bit. Over this week, I’ve played roughly 15 hours already and I don’t think I’ll stop there, especially as the game keeps on giving. But because I’m enjoying this so much and because I love the Witch class, I figured I’d stop replying more and more to that thread… and instead, I’d actually write about Path of Exile from now on. And yes, I know, it’s not “Indie” or whatever but I’m really enjoying figuring these things out on my own, especially as I don’t know a thing about PoE. It has been quite overwhelming at first but I’ll get into that in future posts. And because I burned out in the past, I’ll probably end up just writing about PoE sporadically and talking about what I learned and that sort of stuff.
The power fantasy of a Necromancer btw is pretty much fulfilled in Path of Exile. I summon a lot of Skeletons, Spirits and Zombies and they fight for me. My build pretty much is centred around minions dealing a lot of damage but I’m slowly moving towards passive skills that boost my own damage or that give me better survivability. There is this one skill that I’m getting close to that basically increases my damage based on the damage multipliers that my minions have. So, if I buff up my minions’ damage, that damage bonus also applies to me. At the same time, I deal a lot of elemental damage as well, like a traditional mage, so I basically shoot out lightning and fire and whatnot to deal with large groups of enemies when I don’t have minions nearby. It’s pretty fun! I’ve really been enjoying Path of Exile lately and if you ever feel like playing together or if you have any suggestions or input, feel free to let me know. I’m looking forward to writing more about it in the future! It’s been a great deal of fun lately!