Now that the “on principle” philosophical argument about “forced” grouping is out of the way, let’s get down to some of the nuts and bolts of the dungeon design itself:
Bottom line is, I’m still heavily playing repeated instances of the dungeon, which suggests that a whole bunch of things -did- go right.
The crux of it is that I decided I really like the look of the Molten Firestorm and Molten Berserker bosses, and -choose- to keep striving for a lucky miniature drop and/or a tonic recipe that I can slooowly build up the mats for later.
Philosophically, I much prefer a token system over RNG drops (mostly because my luck sucks – see Venom precursor, and I keep getting turnip soup most of the time) but I respect that RNG has its uses and it’s a sneaky way to keep experienced people continually playing the dungeon for the time period because they are either unlucky, or are very lucky and want more drops to sell.
I am also able to tolerate the dungeon and most groups quite well because of the design which strives to prevent as much rushing past as possible. I like to fight everything. I’m playing an MMO to fight stuff and have a good time, not skip past everything to the end reward. (Which, I am aware, puts me at odds with a good many habitual dungeon speedrun farmers out there.)
I greatly appreciate the enforced pauses, because it gives a better sense of pace, allows new people to appreciate more of the story and NPC interactions, lets one switch out utilities as needed before the group members with ADD have rushed into the next set of mobs, and even, horror of horrors – gives people time to type sentences in party chat and interact socially.
I’ve had some hilarious groups with Tarnished Coast servermates – being TC’ers, I figure they must be used to RP weirdoes and have indulged in very shallow roleplay by speaking like a snarky, snotty Asura (which is never hard to do) and adding color commentary to NPC lines.
The best bit is the no-real-consequence atmospheric epilogue, which is a tremendously good time to just let one’s hair down and have a little fun after successfully beating the bosses and making people laugh or keeping them entertained. (I hope, anyway.)
And then there was the party with the engineer who insisted he did NOT have an elixir B drinking problem:
Alas, enjoyable groups where -someone- else talks and helps to keep the immersion and entertainment going with wisecracks are few and far between (which is why I’ve immortalized the fun I had in the screenies above.)
In groups where I see no one talking, or don’t seem like they’d be open to a bit of fun, I just shut up and be a good little silent robot cranking out one’s path to the shinies. (Or running vainly with short legs trying to catch up with the speed freaks.)
Which sometimes leads to horrendous messes. I gotta give kudos to ArenaNet’s design team for creating stuff which challenges the group to cooperate well together. Too many times, I see a player rush ahead and accidentally aggro a whole load of Molten Alliance mobs – which leads to a great chaotic frenzy of jumping around, dodging, healing, buff-throwing, seeing folks get downed, trying to rez them up, etc. Disagreements on whether to kill the Molten Brawler or the Molten Gunner first are also another cause of extreme chaos. Fortunately, the difficulty is not too insane, so strong group-focused builds will more or less keep the team upright.
I confess to preferring something neater, where no one’s hp bar ever moves into the danger zone. I feel like something’s gone wrong if someone falls over into the downed state, let alone, dead. Maybe it’s just a carry over from tanky days in City of Heroes. I relish the rare groups which, by chance or by cookie cutter build, are well synergized to the point where buffs are flying all over and no one is in real danger of dying.
And then there was this fantastic party: a lvl 80 mesmer, me, a lvl 68 elementalist, a lvl 35 guardian, a lvl 35 thief. The non-80s had 1k-2k achievement points and I was wondering if this was going to be another fiasco. It wasn’t.
You know why? All the players were great playing their classes, and the three lowbies appeared to know each other and were used to fighting together. The group also had the patience to recognize and wait the mere 5 seconds for me to wordlessly corner pull and separate out Gunner and Brawler spawns, so that we tended to only fight one at a time, with the other stuff all stacked up neatly on the corner where the mesmer could unleash all his stuff and everyone just unloaded. The only time one or two of them fell over was during the last boss fight (and were promptly rezzed), though they were all masterful at movement and dodging… I still think non-80s are working with considerably less buffer and I have to give them kudos for being very very good. Neat, super smooth, no deaths, a few downs.
And there are groups like this, where apparently pulling means shooting shit to death while backing away slowly in a straight line.
I’m a hammer/staff guardian, I don’t have any range worth speaking of, if you don’t warn me in advance to switch to scepter.
Of course, the nice thing I really appreciate about ArenaNet’s trinity is that there are many ways to achieve the same goal. You -could- focus fire them down from range if your party was built that way. I’ve seen other guardians charge in and use greatsword’s binding blade to great grouping/clumping effect with less time than scenery pulling. Some classes use a whole bunch of pets/minions to split aggro.
And yes, you can just rush it all pell mell using your own bodies to split aggro, relying on shouts, banners and other buffs to keep you upright, with or without a focus target, with varying degrees of messiness depending on how everyone’s build is set up. Whatever works. The variance at least keeps it lively.
The ambush at the start is a nice touch story-wise. I try not to ruin it when I know someone is new in the party, but more and more, you see the couldn’t-care-less people just stand by where they spawn. A repeat group is, of course, another matter.
I enjoy the enforced delay in the tunnel here. You see all the ADD folks humping the coals and getting burned. There’s built in time to buff up for each encounter, you can’t skip past it, and if you haven’t mined the nodes, you can usually get it mined and catch up with the people who wouldn’t wait at all if not for the big fat drill in the way.
The random spawn of Champion Ooze, Champion Troll or Champion Ember in the hall beyond is an interesting touch. I’ve seen the most chaos tends to occur when the Ember is in play.
The hidden orichalcum ore was a fun mini-puzzle to figure out the very first time. It gets problematic later on with a group with split priorities here though. Impatient people don’t wait. They turn left, rush through the steam vents and are dashing through the corridor to trigger the weapons test, while the new ones who want the ore are still being guided through the path and the cutscene no doubt triggers at a confusing time for them, ruining the narrative effect completely. At least someone who’s seen it before has just enough time to dash through the spiders, mine their ore, and get out.
If the NPCs make it there with the impatient people, you get thrown into a disorienting loadscreen teleport and end up in the weapons test with no pre-warning whatsoever.
That said, I again appreciate the length of path here when done properly, with party in sync, and traveling with NPCs. There’s a sense of drama as you move down the rocks, and crucial valuable time to type information for people who haven’t done it before.
The weapons test encounter is truly excellent though. There was a fun sense of panic when first experiencing and learning what all the stages consisted of, and also fun inherent in figuring out the solution(s) and mastering them. I appreciate that there are multiple solutions, not just one thing that -must- be done.
My screenshot is poor quality, I know, but you can sort of make out the nimble people moving around. I like to hold out near the core, where there is a safe area most of the time, and use a ton of stability to negate the knockdown (barely anyone else recognizes hallowed ground when I use it though – you can stand in it too, folks!) and heal through any accidental damage (it’s a guardian thing, and I’m not very nimble so it works well.) I only move when it comes to the fire circles everywhere stage, and again, it’s nice there are multiple areas of safety to identify on the fly.
There are one or two guys hiding in the absolute corner, which no one is really sure whether it was intended or no, but you know some players, if they find a glitch, they’ll glitch it. And then demand stridently that everyone else glitches it in the exact same way with them.
My evolved preference is to sit where I am, where the molten protector spawns, because Hammer 4 (Banish) has a wind up time. Playing dredge golf and launching it out of the way before it can get its invulnerable fire shield up is SO satisfying. If I hide in the corner, it’s hard to get back in position in time. I believe other classes also have pulls and knockbacks that they can use to play with it. And worse come to the worse, people can also wait for the fire shield to drop. Multiple solutions. I like.
The supercooled section is all right. Again, multiple solutions. You could scream BANZAI and charge in like a number of groups do, with debuff on and everything, and just soldier your way on through, taking your chances on whether you fall over based on the builds of your party. Some rush the coolant boxes. Some will have one or two high damage people take them down. Some pull back to no-debuff areas. I’m a big fan of utilizing corners to pull. It’s so sad it’s such a lost art though. When the stars and toughness attributes of the party align to give me the innate aggro, I love to do it and watch the ranged mobs come rushing up to regain line of sight.
The “Kill Brawler or Kill Gunner” first debate goes on. It seems to be evolving towards get brawler, then gunner. Either way works, in my opinion, but it’s really whether the party uses focus targets and follows them. You can negate the brawler’s shockwaves with jumping, dodging, and I liberally apply stability (others can provide regen.) But the waves do seem quite deadly to squishies who can’t jump or dodge well. He’s melee, so he’s usually ends up closer to the party and everyone using target nearest has a tendency to go for him too, so you may as well burn him down first, that kinda thing.
Other people like to block the ranged mobs’ projectiles with reflects. Which I’ve tried, but when only two people are using the wall, and everyone has rushed out in front of it because the gunner has jumped backward, you end up either joining them to thwap the gunner or hanging with the wall feeling forlorn. The gunner’s projectiles are also easier to avoid at range, though I did hear someone say it does the most damage at maximum range too. And there’s the just-suck-it-up-and-heal-it-up guardian method which I often end up doing because I’m clumsy and lack finesse and it’s really quite hard to see where those projectiles are coming from, when you’re short and are in melee range.
Prisoner section. I like that there’s a little pause here again. Utility skill switching time if needed. Insert wisecrack about not wishing mining on your worst enemy. (But I have a shiny molten pick!)
This is where the speed freak people also tend to get a little caged up stir crazy. I’ve seen one of them jump past the gate above using the spiky rocks to the right. Which promptly ended up with him getting aggro from everything beyond while the rest of us looked on from behind the closed gate. *chuckle* We got over in time to get his downed body up. Then another one who tried the same thing, but ended up falling into the lava below. *snicker*
Probably an unintended glitch, but I’m not looking forward to the day when the majority of the party learns this, and insists everyone do it, and/or laughs at falling people dropping into the lava below. (You know it’ll happen, right?)
Yeah, so the rest of this section is an extended debate between the party on which Molten Alliance mobs to kill first, some parties which work smoothly together, and others that don’t, while the NPCs do their thing freeing prisoners and stuff. (And watching Frostbite fall over, a lot. Noooooo, poor baby devourer…)
Some people feel it’s too long, I personally don’t have an opinion either way. I’ve seen it go super smooth and fast with a good group. I’ve seen it go pear-shaped and be very drawn out and messy.
The protector schtick is interesting. I like that you can kite the protector out of the shield, which gives parties without pulls or launches a perfectly viable option to take them down. (You’ll be amazed at how many people fail to notice the shield and continue flailing away though.) And there’s always waiting for the shield to drop when all else fails.
The orichalcum ore and mechanical crusher ore trap is hilarious. I think everyone gets caught by it once when it’s their first time.
This gate. It is the best gate ever. I am a big big fan of this gate. Besides giving people the time to marvel up and down at the size of the structure, and take screenshots if they want to, it serves the ULTRA IMPORTANT PURPOSE of giving people enough time to type the question of “which boss are we killing first?”
Communication. Oh, thank god there is something in the design that helps it along. It’s interesting, and probably a big compliment to the team who designed the final boss encounter, that three days in, there’s still no real consensus on which boss “must” go down first.
(Or rather, in each team you end up, there’s normally a few guys convinced with high passion that so-and-so is easier, and that one needs to go down because they’ve always done it that way. And so you go along with them and help their self-fulfilling prophecy along. Oh, I am so going to hell for that. )
I’ve done it all ways now, and they’re all possible. There’s go all out burn on firestorm. There’s go all out burn on berserker. There’s take the time to swap targets and remove the enrage stacks from either of them. There’s assign one or two people to do the enrage stack stripping, or the people self-assign themselves.
The only way that isn’t so cool is to all stack up inside berserker to avoid the waves. Fortunately, only one group I’ve gotten into has wanted/demanded people do that. I hope it doesn’t evolve to only that before day 10.
It’s a lot more fun to do it the proper ways – because again, there are multiple solutions. I simply cannot jump in time with the shockwaves. I don’t know if it’s instance lag, or ping, or what, but it just doesn’t work. You jump it on your screen, but eat the damage anyway. But dodging works, and I often dodge forwards to close the distance to berserker to hit him. And stability/soak damage covers up most accidents, though there can be a run of bad luck when you just eat a shockwave, get knocked back and down into a big pool of fire that firestorm has thrown, which pwns you. As for the flame circle attack, turning the camera 180 degrees and running like a coward far far away works best for me. Other people jump or dodge or whatever, I just don’t like the risk. Whatever works.
And then the denouement, after the grand chest of mostly turnip soup recipes (and the odd beet soup one), there’s a bit of quiet time to catch one’s breath, load up on explosives, before the big bang and harmless but highly dramatic and cheesy fun (or is that the other way around) escape sequence. Which, as I’ve mentioned at the top, is a nice social space time to actually have time to talk before everyone quits out the instance.
The TL:DR conclusion?
I generally like it. I’m still playing it. Even if I’m running a cookie cutter build to give more leeway for mistakes and the weird chaos that can happen in PUGs. (Huge repair bills and multiple deaths make me very grumpy. So much easier to do my best preventing that from happening to me with an AH guardian.)
And I probably won’t stop until a majority of my groups sour to the point of being elitist and speed freaky. I don’t know how long that will take.
I think the devs did their best to prevent/slow that down from happening and achieved that respectably well, though I’m a cynic and am convinced it’ll happen at some point.
The burning question’s still up on whether it’ll happen before the dungeon disappears.