When it comes to online games, there's one clear champion: the World of Warcraft. Azeroth has as many players in a month as Master Chief has had in his lifetime, and they did it all without relying on Microsoft's daunting advertising budget. As announced at Toy Fair 2007, WoW will soon be getting a line of action figures from DC Direct, but that's nothing new: there was already a three-figure WoW set from SOTA Toys a couple years ago. The standout figure, as evidenced by its scarcity even among this already hard-to-find line, was the Tauren Shaman.
Tauren are perhaps the most spiritual people on Azeroth. They revere their ancestors, the spirits of the land, and the great and vague force they call the Earth Mother.
They assisted the Horde in developing their forgotten shamanistic roots. Tauren honor their shaman as they do few others, and their shaman in turn keep their communities in touch with nature and reinvigorate their warriors and hunters with spiritual vigor and purpose. The iconic tauren shaman is a calm individual. A meditative spirit holds in check their great size and strength - they are like a boulder in the tide, steadfast and immobile, watching the world as it changes around them. In battle, however they are a terrible force, calling upon the spirits to annihilate their foes.
The Tauren are analogous to the Plains Indians of the United States. They're nomadic and more in tune with nature than any of the other races in the game. Their society is tribal, and they're all about the Great Hunt - holding in highest regard the hunter who tracks and kills the strongest prey. The Taurens revere the earth, and feel the dwarven excavation teams are desecrating it, which is why they're so keen to wipe them all out. Though they're generally peaceful, once they join a battle they will fight to the very end - of course, the sight of a nine-foot minotaur charging at you across the field of battle may be enough to send most enemies running.
SOTA's Tauren Shaman is a good 9" tall, despite a few sculptural ticks that hide his true height - he's a bit hunched over, for one thing, and his legs are spread wide. Take those out of the equation and he'd probably be 10" or 11" tall. The Tauren's hatred of industry precludes them from wearing metal armor (mostly), so this Shaman is wearing cloth, bone and leather. His weapon is a polearm of some sort, basically a 12" long branch with three axeheads and a sharpened point. It's wrapped in leather and decorated with a few feathers.
The sculpt is very detailed,
which should really come as no surprise, considering the size of this monster. He's covered in thick fur, and his big hooves are cracked and worn. Ditto for the uneven horns (one of them is cracked off). The vanes on the decorative feathers are there, as are all the big looping stitches on his clothes. He's got a bear pelt draped on his shoulders, and its fur has a different texture than his. The paint accents everything nicely, with no errors - and check out that pattern on his belt buckle!
So the size and sculpt are great,
but articulation is severely lacking. It's really crap. The Tauren Shaman moves at the ankles, hips, tail, waist, wrists, elbows and shoulders, but every sing point of articulation is a swivel joint. Poseability? Forget it. This is especially disappointing, since SOTA's the same company that gave us the beautiful and fan-favorite Street Fighter line. In his intended pose, his feet splay out to the side, failing to support his weight and turning him into a shelf diver. His head is permanently twisted to the side, but since he can only hold his weapon in one hand, it's constantly in front of his face.
The Tauren Shaman gets credit just for being a big, cool minotaur,
but this figure could have been a lot better. He regularly goes for upwards of $40 on eBay, when he pops up - there are lots of 3" PVC versions listed, but they're illegal knockoffs. Here's a hint: SOTA never made small-scale figures, they never made them in any variant colors, and they sure as hell didn't sell them for $3 a pop. The clamshell insert on the real figures is black, not tan or yellow. Just because there's a SOTA sticker on the package, it doesn't mean it's the real thing. The Tauren Shaman makes a great addition to the herd of minotaurs released by the Four Horsemen, even if he does tower over them.
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