So… let’s talk dungeon. Specifically, the potentially controversial Molten Weapons Facility that has made an appearance as the next stage of the Living Story – Flame & Frost: Retribution saga.
The raging controversy at the above linked thread is the old debate about having the option to solo vs “forced” group content. One of the major beefs is the ol’ bait-and-switch over time, especially with the lure and promise of a narrative to be completed. Players are suckers for a good story, and want to see it from beginning, middle and end. Throw in a 5-man dungeon to cap off your story, and it’s the Personal Story => Arah Story dungeon WTF all over again.
Two other subsets appear to have issues with this. One, the antisocials and/or ‘friends and family only’ small group less than five folks who are rather dismayed at having this appear to cock block their story or achievement progress (and let’s not forget the tempting vanity shinies too.)
And two, the for-whatever-reason movement-impaired, ie. those who cannot dodge or jump well, possibly physically handicapped or having a disease or have poor ping, etc, who know very well that they will either soon be left out or excluded due to accessibility issues, or don’t want to deal with the emotional drama/stress/tension that is bound to arise from having a not-so-great player in the midst of a group focused on getting to the end as quickly as possible.
(Now before any of the above take major umbrage at my description of them, know too that I also habitually fall off cliffs, through gaps, fail dodges, and jump poorly, nor does it seem to be helped by having a latency all the way from South East Asia. At least it’s not Australia?)
I dunno. I think I have a point I want to make about inclusivity vs exclusivity, but it’s not quite well formed yet.
Instead, let me tell you about my experiences with the Molten Weapons Facility so far:
Round 1 – Random PUG, all level 80s, same server, on cookie cutter guardian
Since the dungeon had bugged out as the patch dropped, and I was simply too sleepy to wait any further, I tried to get on as soon as I woke up in order to catch the wave of people who still hadn’t done it yet. As pure random chance would have it, I did find such a group. Good, it’s my favorite way to experience a new dungeon, and just like the launch crowds only happen once, you cannot take away knowledge once it is learned.
We were all 80s, the group consisted of 2 warriors, a mesmer, an engineer and moi. The warriors were using shouts and banners, there was me on the ye olde AH shout hammer guardian, and I am not conversant enough with the other two classes to know what they were doing, but I am sure there was a good mix of control/dps/support going on. We learned the mechanics via experiencing it, there were barely any deaths, whole thing ran very smoothly. I had a hammer knockback, which was very helpful on the protectors, found my stability shout pretty heavily utilized, and made a mental note to take in hallowed ground next time as well.
Round 2 – Guild group, 4 level 80s and 1 lvl 40, same server, on cookie cutter guardian
For my next run, I joined some guildies, three of which were running it for the first time and one of whom, along with me, had done it once before. Group composition, mesmer, 2 necromancers, a lvl 40 warrior and me. I brought hallowed ground, swapping it back and forth with retreat as needed.
The two of us checked with the three who hadn’t done it to see if they were open to spoilers. They were, and wanted strategy tips but they didn’t want to rush through, which was a-ok with me because I loathe speed runs with a passion. (More on this later though.)
Noted the ore appeared to be on cooldown or a per-character basis. I’m still not sure if the karma items are on an account basis – I failed to receive one of them when my inventory was full and I’m going to be a little sad if I miss the little conversation snippet because of this. Thankfully, no achievement linked to it.
All in all, a relatively smooth run. A few more deaths than the previous round, and one wipe on the boss as folks figured out the mechanics. I believe most of the additional deaths came from trying to rez each other, because getting locked into place rezzing during a high mobility required fight is always tricky. We ended up finishing the ranged boss with two people, or one really, as I collapsed one second before it died (which joyously rallied me, even before the others rezzed up for the super-saiyan boss version.)
Round 3 – Random PUG, 2 level 80s, a lvl 52, a lvl 25, a lvl 4, same server, on experimental spirit weapon build guardian
Now that I had the facility under my belt, so to speak, I was curious to see if a new character would reset the ore or karma items. I was also curious to see if spirit weapons had been improved any. Well aware I was going to be a LOT squishier, I decided to chance it with a random PUG.
Group composition: Me, a lvl 80 engineer, a lvl 52 warrior, a lvl 25 elementalist, a lvl 4 guardian. I checked the achievement points of the lowbies, and they were all only at a few hundred. The engineer had 3000. I’m sure some of you are laughing on the floor right now. Me, I knew very well this wasn’t ever going to make it to completion and sighed inwardly. I briefly considered logging cookie cutter AH alt on to maybe soak more pain and give more group support than the more selfishly built one, but what the hell, it was going to be a test of how the designers had scaled/balanced their MWF!
The good news is that we managed the Molten Alliance veterans just fine. The bad news is that we popped a Champion Ember as the boss in the hall after the dredge tunneling machine, instead of a Champion Ooze. This, if you are not aware, spawns a great variety of Ember minions of normal and veteran quality and KEEPS spawning them. All of which throw a ground based lava font aoe.
This utterly decimated the team. Over and over. We tried pulling the whole mass back into the tunnel, which helped us take down everything not-Champion for a short while and dink 1/5 of the Champion’s health bar off. Concentrated ground aoe in that chokepoint is a killer though, and took squishy ol’ me out in four hits or so, once I’d used up all dodging capacity, blocks, invulnerable, the works. Let’s not even talk about how the lowbies fared, between not having developed dodge reflexes, underdeveloped traits/skills, and naturally very little toughness/vitality.
So we tried the Ember in the hall, which helped me survive it a little longer by virtue of kiting it around internally screaming my head off that this is entirely the wrong build for this sort of thing, except all the lowbies fell over in three seconds when the other Embers looked at them crosswise, and then I fell over when eight lava AoEs appeared under my feet before I could even hit the dodge button.
I swapped to projectile reflects and absorbs, which did nothing for the ground based aoe damage. I wasn’t traited for shouts, and had a grand total of maybe 200 healing power, so I doubted it would work either. Long story short, we called it. They did, however, very gamely give it their all over and over, and it was just very obvious that these were all inexperienced or new Guild Wars 2 players, while I wasn’t on a cheaty optimal group-focused build either and had been hoping to sneak in and get ‘half-carried’ by other stronger builds.
Round 4 – Random PUG, all level 80s, same server, on experimental spirit weapon build guardian
So immediately on disbanding, I jumped right in to another group LFM, and what do you know, the slightly less experienced level 80 engineer in round 3 had popped right in to the new group with me. I was quite gleeful about this, tbh, because this evened out the variance between dungeon experiments.
Group composition: 2 mesmers, a thief, the engineer and me. I took one look at the group and decided to pre-warn them that I wasn’t in your typical AH hammer guardian tanky build. Fortunately, the spokesperson of the group who had done it before was very accepting and said no problem, it was all about skill and knowing when to dodge/jump, etc.
As luck would also have it, we spawned the Champion Ember. This, I noted with some amount of vindication, did knock over one or two level 80s with the ground based aoes – BUT with the dps outputted by five level 80s (and probably some aggro tanking from mesmer clones) , I was able to survive long enough for the Ember to fall over before all my helpful survival skills ended up on cooldown. I did have to bounce between melee and ranged, instead of just face-tanking shit with a hammer though.
Veteran Molten Alliance seemed to go down somewhat faster. Protectors were harder to manage as the shield knockback doesn’t launch them far enough out of the circle, and the spirit hammer knockback is hard to control/precisely position.
The boss fight was on an order of distinctly more challenging. The two mesmers were very skilled and kited well with their clones and had the shockwave timing jumps pat. The engineer, as expected, spent most of his time facefirst on the ground. I wasn’t far behind from that, along with the thief.
Some of it just seemed to be bad luck though. The loudest, most skilled spokesperson still fell over when the berserker landed a chained up knockdown or some such on them. I come out of loadscreens a bit more slowly than most (either lousy computer or ping or both) so when the berserker boss superpowered himself, I had just enough time to see the flame circle sweep towards me but not enough time to react with a jump, dodge, or run away – which somehow one-shot me. Wonder if it critted. I did eat a few more shockwaves during the next go, because I was trying the ‘jump over’ method spokesperson was recommending, but I think ping was a problem. That or being on a charr or my overall timing. I had MUCH better success with dodges or blocks (or stability, which I resolved to slot in the next time, as the spirit weapons were just getting splattered by the boss – so much for hp buffing.)
Despite the multiple deaths, we did actually kill the bosses (two tries each) and complete the dungeon.
Round 5 – Picky PUG, all level 80s, same server, on cookie cutter guardian
I was actually hoping to be a masochist and subject one or two more random PUGs to my ‘horrible’ guardian. However, the only group advertising in map was someone looking for – I quote – “shout/banner warrior, AH hammer guardian or TW mesmer.”
As is my usual custom, I ignored such pickiness (like, I suspect, most people do) and watched the group leader advertise two more times. Then I decided I was bored enough to go do one more experiment for the sake of science (and this blog!) and also, I kinda wanted another try at the jetpack pop chance at the end of the dungeon.
It helped that the group leader had engaged in a civil mapchat conversation with someone who was expressing that their previous group had wiped on the last boss and was feeling the dungeon to be extremely hard, whereas said group leader said, no no, it’s very easy, here, join my group and I’ll show you. (Then promptly renewed his advertising for the new GW2 trinity.)
So I sent them a tell, told ’em I’d log on Mr Cookie Cutter, and joined them.
Need I really say anything more about how it went?
Oh well, if you insist. Group composition: elementalist, ranger, necromancer, warrior and me. The necromancer had minions out, the warrior had banners and shouts going, combo fields were dropping left, right and center, almost no one’s hp bar moved except for maybe mine, which would just bounce up and down between full and half in the manner of AH guardians. One crisis moment of nearly dropping necessitated a brief backing off to staff empower up to 3/4 health, and there was one mind-blanked-out face-tanking hammer-humming moment which caused me to eat a flame circle and drop downed, because I plain forgot to even watch out for it.
So… what is the moral of these stories?
I dunno. It actually just makes me sad. I WANT to be inclusive, dammit.
I don’t want to reject non-level 80s from, what is essentially, an event dungeon group.
You know who those only-in-the-several-hundreds ArenaNet achievement points players are? They are our game’s new blood.
I’m sure people could probably “carry” one or two of them in a very strong dungeon powerhouse builds kind of group. But I wonder if they want to be “carried” or if they’d really rather just contribute.
I’d really love to take in non-standard builds to a dungeon whom ArenaNet -claims- that any group of five players can manage. And I gotta admit, I did complete the dungeon successfully with one. But I do worry about how much of a drag down I will be on the group as a result.
Then as icing on the temptation cake, I find that I actually crave the rewards that pop at the end of this dungeon. The jetpack looks pretty nifty, but I’d really kill for a mini firestorm and to be able to construct an endless potion of his berserker brother.
With THAT kind of goal in mind, and a 14 day time limit on this dungeon, doesn’t that add up to a distinct designer pressure for achievement-oriented players to run this dungeon back to back as many times and as quickly as possible?
I’m probably still going to bring my squishy Charr into MWF one or two more times, for the heck of it and because I’m going to master dodging and jump timing, dammit, and I’ll apologize in advance here for any group wipes and repair bills and extended runs this might or might not cause some unlucky random PUG.
But after I get being stubborn and experimental out of my system, expect to see me on the Asura hammering my way to victory repeatedly for a few vanity shinies.
Taking bets now on when speed runs and the MWF farm become the only “proper” way to run this dungeon, and what the ‘expected’ strategy everyone is ‘required’ to follow ends up becoming.