GW2 Dungeons in a nutshell

I finally figured out how to explain dungeons in Guild Wars 2.  Previously the best explanation I had was simple chaos and dodging.  My guildmate has a better explanation: It’s like a WoW dungeon when the tank dies.  That was so spot on that I had one of those mind-blowing moments of enlightenment.

Have you ever been doing a dungeon (probably in a pug), had your tank die, and suddenly the mobs are all over your healer or DPS and people just start running around trying to “dodge” the mobs but instead constantly die?  Yeah, that’s Guild Wars 2 dungeons, but all the time.

I miss the ‘holy trinity’ of class archetypes in dungeons.  I don’t miss them in big awesome events like the dragons, when questing/eventing, or in PvP, but I hate the lack of structure in the dungeons.  To some of you that’s heresy, but I find dungeons entirely too spammy and the whole experience feels like everyone is playing a DPS class and just zerging the fight until it’s done.

A solution would be to reduce the damage that mobs do to players, especially those in lighter armor.  People would be able to sit still and focus a little bit more.  The active dodge system should be tactical.  Players should definitely still have to avoid being hit by the red circles, but less random hits dropping people would simply be a lot more fun.

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McJigg - September 15, 2012

I think part of the problem is a lack of dual build. No one wants to run a support build when they’re out solo, and very few are willing to pay a respec cost every time that change between group and solo content.

Keen - September 15, 2012

@McJigg: I agree. Although I also think that at times being support doesn’t matter. I play with support people all the time (and play support) and people are still 1 shot and it’s hectic.

Lethality - September 15, 2012

Dungeons seem to be an increasing source of concern, with almost universal agreement on their lack of interest and appeal. The insta-gib mobs (not even just bosses) are silly, they’re not even making use of the telegraphing to support the dodge system.

I knew it would end up being a chaotic free-for-all.

I truly believe Anet thought they could just phone-in the PvE because the PvP would be where their bread and butter would be in the long term. But even WvWvW is emerging as a meaningless door zerg.

There is nothing wrong with the trinity as a way of representing combat. Not only does it represent the types of things happening in a battle during rules based combat (damage, control, healing) but it provides unique playstyles.

I’m glad upcoming games like WildStar are embracing the trinity with open arms – combined with more of an action model.

Jeromai - September 15, 2012

Control? Blinds and dazes and other interrupts do nice things.

I’ve had a much more different experience, even in PUGs, so I dunno what to say.

Sorrow’s Embrace was interesting, one particular boss had us switching skills each stage to cope with the change, though our PUG had to wipe on each stage and regroup. I’m guessing a more organized group would be sensible enough to arrange to run out and reset if necessary.

And the amount of coordinated teamwork in this AC explore mode dungeon group is a thing of beauty:

Jericho - September 15, 2012

For me, with the exception of Ascalon Catacombs have had little issue after we understand the strengths and weaknesses of patrols and the bosses have mostly been cake, save for the weaponmaster boss in Citadel of Flames first “whirlwind” phase.

I would agree to some extent with the fact that the lower armor classes really need to not get 1-2 shot by things when their endurance is low. The concept of heavy, medium and light armor classes is something the trinity-less system does nothing really to account for. Hell, the game in general does nothing to compensate for the glass-cannon type light armor professions. Which makes those professions a heck of a lot less fun to play the closer you get to 80. This is not just a dungeon issue. It is merely magnified in a dungeon setting.

Overall, the dungeon encounters tend to be easier than the “trash” packs of monsters that proceed them. (At least in storymode.) With the exception of the “Lovers” in Ascalon Catacombs (both of which can just go to hell.)

Personally, I believe we are still in the infancy of the dungeon system in GW2. That they become easier, more structured and more manageable when all 5 players involved take great pains on creating a Trait/Skill/Weapon spec that provides synergy with their group. A “dual spec” function would go a good ways in order to solve a lot of the issues with dungeons in general.

Mostly though, the issue needs to be tuned on a greater scale and on multiple fronts. Dual Spec, encounter damage and player mitigation all need to be tweaked. The latter of which could stand to be done over the entire game however so its not solely a dungeon issue.

Danath - September 15, 2012

TA took the cake for me. Our group fought one of those 5 dog packs… they all pounced us (which in all the chaotic dodging is hard to notice, let alone avoid), immediately after 3 of us were taken down by the pounce, which stuns, several exploding plants that had spawned while we were dodging exploded, promptly wiping our entire party in mere seconds, even though we had all been full prior to the coordinated pouncing. There are also the mobs that AE fear, once our entire party was just sitting there, being beaten up as two of them kept us feared for nearly 20 seconds straight, just alternating fears, which apparently don’t REALLY have a cooldown, they can just do that crap whenever they want. Oh there’s ways to counter it, for a short period, doesn’t change how annoying it is to deal with.

Stun breaks would not have saved us (the plants do stupid amounts of damage), and overall it was just very not fun to deal with.

Azuriel - September 15, 2012

Just did AC Story yesterday. I went in bracing for the worst, but I guess everything I have been reading has mainly been about Explore mode; it was not too terrible. Then again, there were four of us on Vent the whole time too.

I do agree with their seeming pointlessness though, and the lack of any sort of coherent coordination. I swapped to Staff as an Elementalist because the debuffs were getting pretty ridiculous – surprise 15 stacks of Bleed/Poison! – and I thought my Cleansing Rain would help others too. And maybe it did… but I would have no way of knowing, would I? Things moved too fast to tell who had what debuff, and 90% of the time the other person moved out of my AoE healing stream before it did anything.

That’s the point, right? Keep moving, dodging around, etc. With so many things going on though, there is never any real ability to coordinate if you aren’t on Voice Chat, and even then everything was over before it mattered, one way or another.

Keen - September 15, 2012

@Azuriel: Yeah, they are pretty much pointless. We just do them for fun (well, attempt to do them for fun.)

bhagpuss - September 16, 2012

Haven’t done any dungeons in GW2 and not likely to do one any time soon. I love dungeon play, when it goes at the pace of an EQ dungeon circa 2000 – 2004. Careful pulling, breaking and holding rooms, three to five minute recovery between fights, all that. I also enjoy post-2004 dungeon play well enough when it’s fast and easy, like WoW or EQ2, although it’s not my favorite part of MMOs nowadays.

Dungeons deliberately designed to be very difficult, very fast and very chaotic all at once? No thanks.

ArenaNet always said the GW2 dungeons would be very tough but they didn’t mention “also no fun”. I think the theory was that Dungeons would be a sop to hardcore traditionalists who would want something much more “challenging” than the casual inclusivity of the rest of the game, but it always looked like it was going to be an awkward fit. I think they should have just thrown the hardcore market overboard to begin with and not attempted to have cake and eat cake.

Make the dungeons fit the difficulty level of the surrounding game. Maybe the last couple could be a bit on the tough side but really, what’s the point even of that? The whole ethos of the rest of the game is “just turn up, you’ll have fun!”. Why should dungeons be different?

Jezynka - September 16, 2012

I visited only AC story mode so far and it was easy… I died only once (The Lovers – before we figure out what we have to do) and our party never wiped completelly. I don’t think we are better than average. If mobs are IK you then you have to be really undergeared or you gear is dammaged. I usually survive 3-4 hits if I just stand still. Before we started we bought blue gear for our level, decided who will be doing dps, who CC, who buff and who condition cleanse. Before entrance we showed each other how healing spring and necro well looks like and why it is good to be in them or at least run through them sometimes. Our first rule was to resurrect all downed players as soon as possible and who has agro to turn boss away from these players.

I think the main problem is, it is first dungeon and mechanics are completely different than were in other games. People are not used to watch own health bar. I saw many please just running out of red circle instead of dodging. Same with kitting mobs, with right spec you get buff for dodge… Other problem are builds, many players use same build for PvE and dungeons. That glasscannony build that works in ”solo“ PvE is quite useless in dungeon. There’s necessary some team build synergy and roles. It’s just different than only tank/healer and the rest.

Zederok - September 16, 2012

Yea I agree with you Keen. Dungeons are one of the things I dont particularly care for in GW2. It would be nice if they can tune them to be less chaotic and more structured but I dont see how that can be done while still removing the trinity. Maybe add in NPC help or something similar. I still would like to see some form of dungeon finder, as much as they detract from the community I still think the positives outweight the negatives.

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sikk - September 16, 2012

I agree as well about the chaotic nature that’s currently in the game. I’m an elementalist so I can’t take many hits as it is. Even in solo leveling I dodge a few times, if the enemy is still alive I literally just run in circles. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t the intended play. The same happens in dungeons. What I don’t like is that the game offers an active dodge system yet only some npc abilities are telegraphed. I’d prefer either all or nothing. In the same sense I miss cast bars and knowing what people are casting. It adds a whole other element of gameplay and without it makes the combat feel alot less skillful and alot more pew pew spammy. I really can’t see how someone could prefer this over structured sound mechanics.

evalissa - September 16, 2012

Sigh. I give up, gamers really are a thing of the past. It’s been out a couple of weeks and people want to have an easy time in instances?
People even Used tactics in wow, try different builds and patiance

merlyn4180 - September 16, 2012

I did AC story for the first time the other day. It was a PUG. We all died A LOT. It was interesting and a bit frustrating, but I chalked it up to everyone learning the ropes. I did seem a bit concerned that the “tank” no matter how hard he/she tried could not seem to hold aggro, BUT that being said I also was not carefully paying attention to everyone to see IF people were AOEing and aggroing mobs off the tank. The Lovers fight reminded me of the LOTRO fight in Mines of Moria with the 2 trolls you HAD TO keep apart. As long as someone kept one of the Lovers occupied on the far side of the room (which seemed easier if you could get the 2 NPCs that fight with you involved in occupying that Lover) it was not too bad, but just like the 2 trolls in Moria fight IF you let them get too close they healed up and the damage was WOW!

swarmofseals - September 16, 2012

It’s possible that the dungeons are overtuned and have issues. I’ll readily admit that. Keep in mind though that this is the first real attempt an mmo style game has made at not having an overly simple combat system — it’s going to take a while to find the right balance. I think ultimately such a project is worth working on though and worth being patient about.

GW2 dungeon combat is a lot more like real combat than anything you see in other mmos. If you’ve ever trained a martial art, you probably know how it feels when someone just comes at you and you are unprepared. You panic a bit and your defense is sloppy — and fine details make a huge difference between victory and defeat. A huge part of martial arts training is to get the body used to performing the technique correctly on an unconscious level — so when someone comes after you and you just react, you react well.

Right now, most GW2 players are in that phase where as soon as they see something coming at them they panic and just button mash. It’s going to take training and practice to get to the point where they get used to responding correctly.

Unfortunately, people hate having to learn something from scratch and I think ANet has not figured out the right way of easing people into the content. The initial difficulty/chaos level is a bit too high, but they compensate by allowing people to death zerg encounters and such. Instead, I think they should make the early mechanics much more forgiving — cut down on the number of mobs and 1 shot abilities, but absolutely require players to get some portion of the movement mechanics right or else they don’t progress. So in the first dungeon or two you mostly get fights where you can take some hits but there are certain attacks that must be avoided/blocked/interrupted whatever.

Then eventually they build up to the kind of content that’s in the game now. The difference will be that players will feel a bit less panicky and will have some decent skills to bring to the game. They will feel more competent and have a frame of reference for building strategy etc. Thus there is difficulty but the difficulty feels surmountable.

Anyway, as an aside, support means something a little different in this game than what you might expect. It’s not about helping people survive more hits — it’s about helping people avoid more hits entirely. Stuns, dazes, knockdowns, interrupts, blinds, and vigor are the key support abilities in dungeons. They are generally short duration, and need to be timed well. Support really does matter, but support != standing around throwing out buffs/heals. For example, the best necro dungeon spec that I’ve seen on the forums is awesome because it has a massive capacity to throw out AOE blinds and heavily vulnerability while still doing decent damage. That one necro played correctly can effectively disable whole groups of NPCs, and when the rest of the team figures out how to use the combo fields effectively then the ability to disable mobs through blind goes up even further.

Syl - September 16, 2012

Hmmwell…this discussion would benefit a lot not from just saying that things are bad, but how they would need to be changed or improved then? if the answer is just “add a tank” and that’s supposed to make the dungeon less ‘pointless'(?) then I don’t follow. whats the point of any dungeon in an MMO, anyway?

I agree with Jericho; right now GW2 dungeons still take getting used to. players are still learning and not using their control abilities and support mechanics to the maximum. also, I don’t feel GW2 dungeons are great for pugs – it helps a ton to be on skype and coordinate. which is what I like about the dungeons: they take coordination or end up being a chaotic zerg which indeed isn’t much fun. that is not inevitable though.

What the dungeons lack right now is incentive in terms of reward; the loot is rather silly random and there’s not much in terms of coin or exp. I personally still want to play all of them for the story and fights, but when it comes to replay value they should definitely tweak some stuff.

Steeldragoon - September 16, 2012

As a warrior and yet someone who used to play a Midgard Skald in DAOC, I wanted to try something more support like than the signet build being used out there (although I did use it to level to 80). So now I’m using a shout based build that has me totally focused on healing with my shouts but my armor is slowly getting based for magic find instead of Healing Power so I can eventually afford good gear. Several arguments on sacrificing for Magic Find versus actually helping the group with non-Magic Find armor … whatever.

Lets get to the dungeon experience for last night. We take on Champion Lieutenant Kholer, and his ranger and elementalist (I believe they were) weren’t too much of a problem, but he has a move that will draw you in and you have to dodge at the right moment or you’ll just die. Healing for this meant hoping I got behind the same piller as someone else to shout at them and raise their health level a bit. Tactics … this fight definitely had tactics and we learned them after dieing a few times. I don’t think there is that much to complain about in this particular fight … the trinity thing? A non-issue.

It was the next major fight that had us wondering, wtf?

So in the Tzark path, you next have to allow them to gather essences while gravelings just start swarming you. After watching a youtube of it and seeing people just DPS the burrows down and seeing how we just didn’t have that DPS for even 1/3rd the speed of what those people did on Youtube, I’m back to wondering, what tactics? We tried everything we could think of. Died several times before just giving up because some people had to pay over 1 Gold to repair themselves and it was getting just too expensive to continue. In this section, you just have to kill the burrows and breeders faster than they can spawn. If you are under armored, too low, or spec’d for support too much, it just isn’t going to happen. What tactics I ask?

@evalissa – The above question was kind of targeted at you. We had the patiance, but in the end it was a combination of money and lack of DPS that made us have to quit that branch of the dungeon.

Keen - September 16, 2012

@Syl: See my last paragraph in the blog post. I think simply lowering the damage would make them more fun and less chaotic. Right now every single member of the group has to kite, avoid being hit, ranged attack, and spam dodge to avoid death. The strategy could still be there if they lowered the overall damage, but a lot less of the completely chaotic kiting would go on.

In general I think the “boss” fights aren’t as bad as the trash. As Steeldragoon mentions above, the Kholer fight had a strategy. We learned it, and it as decent. I think the boss’ spazzy nature could have been toned down a bit.

@SwarmofSeals: I think they are definitely overtuned. They’re not undoable by any means, but they are overly spaztactical.

@Evalissa: I don’t think people asked for an easy time in instances. I think people are rationally looking at the spazzy/spammy nature of dungeons and realizing they would be a lot more fun if tactics mattered more than simply running around avoiding being hit by anything.

Gankatron - September 16, 2012

Overall I enjoyed my dungeon experiences. Don’t get put off just because you wipe on your initial runs because you don’t know what to expect. In my groups after each wipe we discussed tactics and modified our hotbars you suit the situation. If one doesn’t adjust, expect to be running around pointlessly and paying armor repair costs.

I like the chaos of it as you can’t just phone in your run after looking at a YouTube video of the best approach; things can deteriorate rapidly and one needs to be able to adjust on the fly.

For those concerned they seem to be nerfing many of the encounters in dungeons and event chains much to my chagrin. AC was easy on story mode last night (my first time in) and boss mechanics didn’t happen as described by others with past experience in the instance.

Keen - September 16, 2012

@Gankatron: I haven’t had any issues with story modes. They are designed to be a story you go through with relative ease. It’s the explore modes that have been a spam/spaztatic fest.

Gankatron - September 16, 2012

Yeah, that is where the challenge lies. I used the AC example because it was arguably known for being one of the most difficult instances in GW2, story mode or explorable, but it was too easy in my opinion and lacking some of the described boss mechanics, definitely not what I had been lead to expect by guildies who originally ran it; actually some of the trash mobs posed more of a challenge than some of the bosses.

I like the difficulty of explorable mode. There were multiple times when we felt that an encounter was not doable, only to adjust our tactics and hotbars ftw.

It might just be personal preference, but I like that there isn’t absolutely clear definitions of roles, making your situational choice of weapons and utilities important. I love choices and figuring out synergistic permutations; GW2 provides these in abundance.

Jezynka - September 17, 2012

Colin Johanson’s reaction on difficulty of dungeons from official forum:
In short they are tweaking it to make it more fun but difficulty is fine. New players complain it’s too hard, beta testers after few runs complain it’s too easy…

Keen - September 17, 2012

I fall in the camp that doesn’t have an opinion on whether they are too easy or too difficult — I just think the mechanics are bizarre and at time not fun. “Spaztactics” as I call them are just weird in a dungeon.

Ahtchu - September 17, 2012

I miss the ‘holy trinity’ of class archetypes in dungeons
I’ve long maintained that the very thing people were praising about GW2’s design would be its downfall.
Specialization is required whenever you have a group- this is true in games just as it is in real life. The less specialized roles and the more hybrids you introduce, the more chaos- of the uncontrollable variety. You want control, where player input matters? Well then you’re gonna need roles.
And not just tank/heal/dps. The more specific roles, the better. Not less.

saucelah - September 17, 2012

@Ahtchu I think it’s actually a mistake to claim they Anet eliminated the trilogy. While I don’t think it’s impossible to eliminate—I was certainly gaming long before the trilogy became the “only” design—it’s more like GW2 has made the trilogy something separate from character class, based not on class choice, but on spec and equipment choices.

This works, if you’re playing like I am, with a set group of friends, and build your characters around the idea of working with that set group. But that requires knowing who you will work with and how their characters are built.

But just like the majority of players pick a DPS class in previous games, most GW2 players are specced DPS, with everything going toward damage and critical hit chance. If they could swap specs like a Rift player swaps souls, there would be much less of an issue and much more room for support builds.

Jenks - September 17, 2012

How would you compare a GW2 dungeon group to a party in Diablo 2/ Diablo 3? I don’t own GW2 or D3, but from your description they sound like similar experiences.

Hudson (@Gamer_Hudson) - October 2, 2012

ran my first dungeon. it was beyond horrible and immediately turned me off of this game.

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Patty - November 9, 2012

Good write up. Good comments. I only wish I had read all of this before dropping the $60 on the game…

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