I’ve read of two common criticisms levelled at Guild Wars 2’s dungeons. The first: It’s too difficult. The second: It’s too unstructured. Both of these criticisms I couldn’t find further from the truth after completing Ascalon Catacombs (Explorable) on my first try.
I will freely admit that the dungeons in Guild Wars 2 are very different to anything I’ve ever played in an MMOG, vastly different in fact and yet quite forgiving in many ways. While challenging, I don’t believe the dungeons venture into the impossible (like many have been stating) and I don’t believe they are unstructured; quite the opposite. Without composure and a high level of organisation I’ve no doubt they could be incredibly challenging, especially to pick-up groups, but with a modicum of control and a sensible approach to each scenario they’re relatively easy.
To address the first issue, difficulty is incredibly subjective. What is difficult to some isn’t to others and I can appreciate the mammoth task that ArenaNet have on their hands in finding that fine line. I’ve always preferred my dungeons to be as difficult as possible as the content is often designed to prolong the life of the game. If they aren’t difficult and are completed easily, the same people would likely be complaining that there is nothing left to do. The discussion of difficulty is also hard to understand when we are only a week into Guild Wars 2’s launch.
The removal of the holy trinity see’s an entirely different approach needed to boss and trash mob encounters, something it seems many simply cannot get their head around. I’ve taken part in pick-up dungeon groups and it’s frightening to see every situation approached as a ‘tank-and-spank’ with four of the party charging in and hoping for the best (only to complain when they die). Tactics of this nature are doomed to fail and it’s paramount for all party members to adapt and approach a situation sensibly.
Choosing one member to lead and discussing tactics and group synergy is incredibly important: Do we need high damage? Should we take X or Y elite skill? Are there any bundles that can help? Is it a condition heavy encounter? What are the animations to be wary of? All of these things contribute to the success of the party and failing to acknowledge or exhaust such possibilities will easily see a group wipe.
We approached each area of Ascalon Catacombs cautiously with our Guardian as the lead (he could take the most damage). We would also have a three or four minute chat before each boss to discuss possibilities and outcomes. I’ll freely admit that on several bosses we died but we never wiped entirely. Quickly reviving team mates is just as important as the build you use or the tactics you choose.
This brings me to the forgiving part of the dungeons in Guild Wars 2. Firstly, Waypoints can be used in the dungeon if you die entirely, meaning you can quickly portal and run back to the fight and still stand a chance of succeeding (though we rarely needed this). Secondly, many of the encounters will reset if you failed the specific requirement. One element of AC Explorable sees you defending your guide with a series of traps and if you don’t defend her she will die and the encounter will reset. You can then repeat the scenario over and over until you’ve got it right. The fact your armour can also be repaired in the dungeon and the boss encounter can be triggered only moments after failing means failure becomes a learning curve rather than a punishment.
“Shall we try this trap setup?”
“Shall we stand here this time?”
“Shall we place two people here and you three there?”
You begin to approach such encounters methodically, recognising what works and what doesn’t in a very short space of time and breathe a huge sigh of relief (and a grin of satisfaction) when you’ve finally cracked it.
Another encounter that saw us struggle was a series of burrows that appear one after another that we simply couldn’t kill quickly enough, that would see our entire party overwhelmed. After a quick re-group we adapted our builds for maximum damage (you’ve got to love Time Warp) and AOE effects to ensure they were killed as quickly as possible and sure enough, we easily succeeded.
Lastly is structure and group composition, which requires little discussion. Unlike other MMOG’s where roles and responsibilities were clearly defined, based on the profession or class you chose, I can appreciate how this removal has caused some upset. I’ve taken part in pickup groups where people don’t actually know what they should do or when they should do it. Seeing a warrior state “I’ll tank” or an engineer state “I’ll heal” does make me wince as this is no longer about the individual but instead group behaviour and truly working as a team.
Some of the key elements people need to learn are:
- Knowing complimentary builds/skills based on the other professions with you.
- Knowing your own profession, its limitations and strengths.
- Knowing when to dodge (absolutely paramount).
- Knowing when to attack and retreat.
- Knowing when to revive a fallen party member.
- Knowing when to use your heal and not waste it.
Guild Wars 2 differs in that a group’s success or failure can no longer be attributed to the individual (tank or healer) and instead is a collective effort by all. Accepting responsibility for your own healing, your own avoidance of damage through dodging and your own reactions to revive downed party members quickly is what Guild Wars 2’s dungeons are all about. Failing to do just one of the six above will, like other factors mentioned, see you fail repeatedly. I think that to many players can be hard to stomach, especially when the blame might lye at your own feet rather than at someone else’s.