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Columns: Dungeon Running Differently

By Michael Bitton on November 01, 2010

Dungeon Running Differently

With the show season having drawn to a close I wasn’t expecting to find significant new reveals on Guild Wars 2 for a while yet. After all, we’ve learned quite a bit about the game in 2010, enough to sate the appetite of even the most frothing fanboy OK. Who am I kidding? They could barrage us with information every day and it probably wouldn’t be enough.

With that said, PC Gamer recently published a series of articles consisting of what I would say were equal parts new and already known information on the game. Nestled within all this coverage were the first details on ArenaNet’s approach to dungeons in Guild Wars 2. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect dungeons to be touched, particularly with everything else about the game already being quite different. Clearly, I’m underestimating these guys.


Guild Wars 2 features an overarching storyline involving the rise of the Elder Dragons and the need for the player to reconcile Destiny’s Edge, the game’s signature heroes (who have split apart,) in order to defeat them. This storyline mainly manifests in players’ “personal storyline”, which is typically instanced away. However, the game’s dungeons (one for every 10 levels, more at endgame) will all feature a “Story Mode”, which provides a bit more of a directed story experience that centers on at least one of the members of Destiny’s Edge (who will accompany you and fight by your side). Instead of just tossing players into a labyrinthine maze populated with boss encounters, each dungeon will serve to expose the player to the game’s overarching storyline, at least for the first run through.

Once the “Story Mode” is completed an “Explorable Mode”, which is a bit more free-form and less predictable, is unlocked. There will be stories to tell in Explorable Mode as well, but they won’t be centered on Destiny’s Edge, and the dungeons look to be a bit more familiar in this mode. The key difference being that the dungeons will fork off in several ways, promising increased replayability. While the stories presented in explorable mode don’t involve the Destiny’s Edge, the results of what transpired during your adventures in a dungeon’s story mode are often reflected in the content available in explorable mode. The PC Gamer article uses the level 60-70 dungeon “Sorrow’s Embrace” to illustrate this:

“In Story Mode, you uncover that the Dredge leaders have betrayed their people and sold them to slavery to the Seraph, and fight off the enslavers. In Explorable Mode, you aid the Dredge workers who are now planning a revolt against their corrupt leaders. We love how this setup makes your actions in Story Mode feel consequential. That big bad boss you drove out isn’t here the second time around—you’re dealing with the fallout of the actions you took in Story Mode.”

I would have been perfectly fine with the traditional dungeon setup, but color me impressed here. Having not played through any of the game’s dungeons yet, I can’t say for sure if this will improve the overall experience, but I’m definitely feeling pretty good about the idea. I love me some dungeons, but it’s true that they can get repetitive pretty quickly, and using them as a conduit to tell a focused story (or several stories) while satiating my hunger for phat lewt sounds like a pretty good deal. Inevitably, I’m sure many players will put together speed runs of sorts to blaze through it anyways, but I suppose that’s the pessimist in me talking.

This all ties into ArenaNet’s approach to loot as well. Players can expect to get a valuable piece of loot with each dungeon run, and combined with a more storyline focused experience, the dungeon experience is starting to sound pretty promising in Guild Wars 2.

How do you feel about ArenaNet’s approach to dungeons? Do you prefer dungeons that are more similar to dungeon-crawling games? Or do you feel the story focus will add more to the experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined as the site's Community Manager.
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