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Guild Wars 2 Editorial: Review in Progress – Dungeons

By William Murphy on September 27, 2012

Well folks, this will be the last stop on the Review in Progress train before I give out my official final (not really, as we’ll undoubtedly re-review it and review expansions and so forth) score.  This week in Guild Wars 2, I’ll be talking about Dungeons and then next week we’ll tie it all together and put a neat little bow on it and let you have at my credibility and facial hair in the comments below.  If there’s some game system I haven’t touched on that you want to make sure I mention in my review next week, this is the place to put it.  So read on, and share your thoughts on Dungeons below!

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THE ROUGH SPOTS (WEEK 5)

Overall, I’d say I love the dungeons in Guild Wars 2. But I will also say I hate certain things about them.  Undoubtedly, the fact that GW2 doesn’t use a typical trinity heal/DPS/tank system means you’re going to be a little caught off guard in what is largely the game’s most traditional MMO system.  You go in, you fight trash, you kill bosses, and you get loot.  I’ll save why I love places like Ascalonian Catacombs, and Twilight Arbor for the “shiny parts”.  Let’s focus on what doesn’t work for me here. 

In each dungeon I’ve tried since beta through launch, one thing remains the same: sometimes it feels like trash mobs can be harder than the bosses.  And the fact that bosses often require some measure of “die and rez and die again” attack plans, this means you’ll often be dying multiple times before you down one mob out of a pack of three.  This just seems… off.  I like the difficulty of these places.  And as you go through and unlock waypoints, traveling and repairing isn’t so bad.  But it does become an exercise in patience when you’re dying and rezzing on every single group of mobs as well as the bosses.  Of course, it could be our group… we could just suck. 

One thing that’s very true about dungeons in GW2 is that coordination is key, and so is adjusting strategy.  You basically need food to boost your stats if you really want a solid chance at staying alive more often than dying.  I think the tendency, in a game like GW2, is to think that you can just jump in there and have fun, the same way you do in the open world.  When instead, more than any other content in the game, it’s necessary to go in organized, and probably with some sort of voice-chat enabled so you can coordinate with your group better.  This isn’t a bad thing, really.  It’s just a difficulty spike that’s going to be alarming to most, and off-putting to many.  It’s jarring, perhaps even by design.  You know that when you enter, after the first fight, you’re in for a rumble.  Luckily, the GW2 wiki has a great deal of info on each one, if you’re not in the mood to figure it all out yourself. 

Side-bar: ArenaNet would do well to give an overview of how different professions’ skills combo.  Maybe even make an in-game journal that records when and how you actually did something (IE – shooting arrows through a wall of fire).  This could only help to promote better grouping and more strategic fighting in dungeons. 

On that same token, don’t let ArenaNet fool you.  For some of the best gear (looks-wise), you’re going to have to grind out explorable mode dungeons.  These are even harder versions of the dungeon that don’t tie into the over-arching story of the game.  The thing is, you’ll do metric ton of them to get the rewards you want.  And while gear (stat-wise) in GW2 is not very important, looks are equivalent to “progression” and you’ll be playing a lot of repeatable dungeons if you want to look the best.  And in general, the gear rewards in the explorable dungeons are less than desirable.  The only reason to do them (I’m unsure if the recent patch made it otherwise) is for the story and narrative, which is definitely a “shiny part”.  But I don’t think I’d do the story modes more than once, because the pay-off is not worth the frustration. 

THE SHINY PARTS (WEEK 5)

So while my main gripe is that trash-mob balance feels off, and there’s no real direction other than experimentation and trial and error to determine dungeon strategy, on the plus side… Dungeons are absolutely wonderful when it comes to presenting the game’s story.  I love that the game’s eight dungeons see the players through the drama surrounding the Destiny’s Edge guild. You get to party and adventure with people like Eir Stagalkin, Rytlock Brimstone, and the like.  The entire series is geared towards telling this story, and I absolutely love the way it does so.  I just wish the rewards were better… call me greedy. 

I also love that you don’t just traipse through the places killing mobs and collecting loot.  A big part of the challenge of many dungeons is disarming traps, avoiding pratfalls, and solving puzzles.  The scenery in GW2’s dungeons can be just as dangerous as the unassuming trash mobs, and that’s something new to me in MMOs.  It makes the experience feel more like a D&D campaign, like a real RPG, and that’s something that’s often missing when other companies just say, “We need dungeons to check off this item on the list of what’s in an MMO”.

Lastly, I’m going to say, that despite certain perceived balance issues… I love that dungeons are hard in Guild Wars 2. They’re probably the one sort of content that is intentionally designed to be difficult.  ArenaNet seems to want players to experiment, tinker, and figure out how to beat these tests of resurrectional fortitude.  (Yes, I just made that up, you’re welcome.)  Nowhere does it say, “Hey go into this dungeon, it’ll be a jolly easy old time.” That’s what the dynamic events to collect apples are for.  Dungeons are tests of all you’ve learned about combat, and your ability to work together in a group. 

NEXT WEEK – THE FINAL SCORE

I think I’ve fairly exhaustively accounted for just about every aspect of Guild Wars 2 over the past five weeks.  We’ll cover bits and pieces I’ve missed next week when I put it all together to dish out our final score on ArenaNet’s latest category by category.  This week, what do you think of dungeons so far?  Too hard? Not hard enough? Need better rewards? Am I right about the story and combos?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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