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The Future of Dungeons in Tyria

Jason Winter Posted:
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(Before we get started a quick note about last week's “Numbers” column: I had some inaccuracies in it based on some old/outdated information. I've posted an addendum to that article that sorts through some of the issues and makes corrections and new estimates where needed.)

When I talked with Mike O'Brien and Colin Johansson at PAX South, right after the Heart of Thorns reveal, I asked specifically about dungeons and whether we'd be getting any of those in the expansion. Sure, they hadn't mentioned them, but maybe they were just... I don't know, something that was relatively pointless to bring up separately because it was just a thing that expansions do – of course they have to have new dungeons, right?

Even when I got the response of “we announced every major feature of Heart of Thorns today,” I still thought that maybe they didn't think dungeons “major” enough, but it's been long enough now that I think we would have heard about new dungeons if they were included. So, I'm about 99% sure there won't be any in Heart of Thorns. The questions I have are: Will there ever be new dungeons? And if there aren't, is that OK?

Old McGuildWars had a farm

Guild Wars 2's dungeons are, let's face it, not the game's strength. They basically fall into two categories:

  • Something easy and fast to farm; or
  • Something that's barely played because it's too long/not rewarding enough

With all 33 dungeon paths being runnable at level 80, any new path needs to compete with all the paths that have come before it if it's going to be played. There's little point in the dev team spending months working on a new path, or set of paths, if nobody's going to play them. And if they make the rewards better than what you can get from quick CoF runs or similar, then those become the new farming paths that everyone runs all the time – which at least justifies the work but isn't an ideal solution.

Also, dungeons have just never seemed to me to be the focus of Guild Wars 2. Sure, they were there, but I think relatively few people, in the build-up to GW2's launch, looked to dungeons as the reason why they wanted to play. The open-world content, dynamic events, personal story, all of that stuff is what made Guild Wars 2 stand out and seem like a big deals to prospective players. It seems to me that dungeons were just a side thing that were only included because, well, MMOs have dungeons.

Realizing this, I think ArenaNet has decided that dungeons don't serve much of a purpose in Guild Wars 2 going forward, and that's why we aren't seeing them in Heart of Thorns – and maybe not ever again. 

And for me, at least, I'm OK with that. Yes, “MMOs have dungeons,” but MMOs also have trinity and healing classes and (usually) strict server separation, and Guild Wars 2 threw out the book when it came to those – why should dungeons be any different? They don't fit the direction the game is going and “just because” is a lousy reason to do anything.

Ascalon and ye shall receive

With all that being said, though, I wouldn't be surprised if there's someone, or several someones, at ArenaNet plotting how best to implement a new dungeon for Guild Wars 2 – though if you were to ask, the official answer would probably be in the “it's something we'd like to go back to someday” boat as Super Adventure Box. I think it would require too many resources to try and rework all the existing dungeons, but, in the same way that we've seen improvements in big dynamic events and zone designs since the game launch, maybe the dev team can come up with a way to do a “new” dungeon that fits the current state of the game.

Whatever they make, I'd wager that it would be more story-based and lean more toward handing out account-bound currency or items, so that players still get some kind of useful reward from it, and have an incentive to run it multiple times, but won't farm it to get rich. Or maybe there's some other elegant solution that I can't see. I think ArenaNet tried to address some of these issues with fractals, which are similar to dungeons, but the rewards were too slim for the challenge and the time required.

As much as I might like to see a new dungeon, ideally with some neat story elements like existing story mode dungeons or defunct content like the Molten Facility, I think I'm OK with the possibility that we may never see them again, in any form. They're a good enough fit for most games, but, for better or for worse, Guild Wars 2 isn't like “most games.”


Jason Winter