Guild Wars 2 Dungeon Preview -- Crawling Through the Ascalonian CatacombsBy Leah Jackson - Posted Jun 27, 2011
Guild Wars 2 is a fantasy massively multiplayer role playing game of epic proportions. It will feature an innovative dynamic quest system, beautiful stylized art, a versatile combat system, and more. At a recent press event, we got to preview the newly announced Engineer profession, as well as take a look at some of the new implementations that the PC exclusive title is trying out, which you can read about in our hands-on overview preview.
One of the main ways Guild Wars 2 is trying to capture a lot of hardcore MMO players’ eyes is how the game does away with the “holy trinity” group composition system of tank, healer, and damage dealer groups. Instead, GW2 offers no dedicated healer class, and through different playstyles, each profession, aka character class, can both tank and deal damage on the fly. I got to test out how well the system worked in one of the first playable dungeons: The Ascalonian Catacombs.
The Ascalonian Catacombs is a level 30 dungeon in GW2 where players must put restless spirits to…rest. The story of the dungeon follows the Norn heroine Eir Stegalkin as she hunts for King Adelburn's sword, Magdaer. It's up to the players to stop her before she awakens even more ghosts. For a visual reference, think the Paths of the Dead from Lord of the Rings. In GW2, each dungeon has two modes: story mode and explorable mode. The story mode must be completed before the explorable mode unlocks. Story mode offers a relatively simple experience, while explorable mode offers a much deeper challenge. Think of it as normal and Heroic mode dungeon from World of Warcraft…with a twist. There are three different paths that players can take with explorable mode, so really each dungeon is actually four dungeons in one.
Going into story mode, my group consisted of four Engineers and an Elementalist. I was playing as an Engineer, and before this run, I had pretty much zero familiarity with the Profession. We were all learning as we went, and it was quite entertaining. The opening of the tombs looked similar to other murky, underground cave dungeons in other games. On the ground were little blue flames, and once we ran over the flames, spirits would come to life and try to kill us. Honestly, our group had much more trouble on these trash packs than anything else in the whole place, and we were constantly wiping to them until we figured out a few mechanics. Basically, the warriors would heal so we had to interrupt them, and once we started doing that, it was easy going.
The first event we came upon was killing a number of Skeletons, around 16 or so, before we could continue. This event took us more time than almost the entire rest of the dungeon combined. Our party was constantly feared off high ledges and dying, or just getting overrun by enemies. When we finally gathered up and talked a bit of strategy, the event was much easier.
The Engineers in the group laid down our AOE Thumper Turrets and mines, and proceeded to target individual enemies one by one rather than each of us attacking a separate enemy. Once we finally killed off all of the skeletons, we were free to move on to the next four bosses in any order. All of the trash in the dungeon was generally the same, just a few packs of skeletons at a time. Here are short descriptions of how our encounters with all of the bosses in the dungeon played out:
- Kasha Blackblood – The first boss we fought and definitely the one we had the most trouble with. This boss’ main gimmick is to raise pets, and for each pet you don't kill, she heals herself. She heals herself constantly through killing the pets, which don't have too much HP, but you have to keep switching between her and the pets to do damage. After we got the rhythm down of kill pets, switch target to Kasha, back to the pets, back to Kasha, she eventually went down.
- Master Ranger Nente – This fight was a little wacky. Nente was on a rock in the middle of a room that we couldn't reach. Spread around the room were boulders on the ground that we had to pick up and throw at Nente to get him to come near us. Once he came near, we dealt our normal damage to him until he teleported back up to the safety of his rock. Rinse and repeat, and eventually, he too went down.
- Vassar and Relena – Vassar and Relena are what I liked to call the Venn Diagram boss. Below each of their feet was a gigantic circle. If the two circles touched, then both bosses would gain buffs, making them exceptionally harder to deal with. Our tactic was to just drag them away from one another, unloading heavy damage into one, killing it, then switching to the other. It was a cool idea, but once the two were away from each other, the fight was very one sided.
- King Adelburn – The end boss in the dungeon was actually pretty unmemorable. He had a sword attack that sucked us in and spit us out again around different parts of the room. Getting too close to the edge would result in falling off to our deaths, but that didn't happen too much. The fight was more annoying than anything, having to keep running back at the boss, and he didn't give us much trouble.
Out of the four bosses, Kasha Blackblood was my favorite, but none of them were exactly remarkable or offered as much innovation as I've seen in the rest of Guild Wars 2, which was a bit disappointing. However, it's interesting to note that my group of four Engineers and an Elementalist finished the dungeon at almost exactly the same time as the two other groups that were trying the dungeon as well. They consisted of five Elementalists in one group and a group of two Engineers, a Thief, and a Ranger in the other. This proved that Guild Wars 2 versatile Profession system was working, and that even without a dedicated tank or healer any group setup was possible to finish the dungeon in a timely manner. The Ascalonian Catacombs itself was creepy, and the glowing blue skeletons we kept fighting looked cool, but it wasn't until we tried the explorable mode of the dungeon that I came away really impressed.
The explorable mode of the dungeon was much harder than I had anticipated, and that's always something I welcome in MMOs. I love a challenge, and that's exactly what explorable mode offers. Almost right away we were faced with an event where these little four-legged beasts began attacking us in droves. After dying to the nasty critters, we realized we had to take out their burrow nest and then they'd stop spawning. We did so, and were able to continue deeper into the Catacombs, but right away, it was refreshing and a bit harder than I thought it was going to be.
We continued through the Catacombs and came upon another room that was infested with what seemed like hundreds of tiny spiders. It took us over a dozen tries of running back and forth and wiping on the spiders to finally kill them. Once we did, the Champion Spider Queen spawned, and we were able to take her out for some extra loot. She was an optional event boss, and had we chosen to not kill the little spiders, we could have skipped her entirely. She wasn't as tough as her babies though, just stunning us and putting a nasty poison up from time to time that we would have to run away from.
After the Champion Spider Queen, we reached the part of the dungeon where the group could decide which explorable path we wanted to take. There were three options, and all of them offered entirely different paths and bosses to take out. We went with a little Asura named Tzark, and he lead us into a room that would eventually be our doom.
The room was where we had previously fought Vassar and Relena in the story mode of the dungeon, but this time around, the event wasn't so easy. Tzark set up two essence collectors around tombs on different sides of the room, and it was up to us to defend them from what seemed like a never ending supply of gravelings for a predetermined amount of time, something around five minutes. What made it difficult was that the gravelings would spawn from burrows, like the ones in the event at the start of the dungeon, and burrows would keep spawning over and over again.
We had to coordinate with one another to attack the burrows as soon as they spawned, but we constantly got overrun by too many gravelings spawning from the burrows and killing the tombs before the time was up. We were stuck on the fight for almost an hour before we eventually had to give up because the demo was over. It was frustrating because we knew the mechanics, but because we were all new to our Professions we didn't know the most efficient ways to take out the burrows fast enough.
As I walked away from the explorable dungeon, I felt pretty relieved, even though we didn't even kill any main bosses. If there's one thing I hate, it's when games aren't challenging enough, and I felt that even though the mechanics were still pretty simple in the explorable dungeon, it was still difficult enough to satiate my hardcore MMO needs. According to the developers, there are many other types of unlockable events within the Ascalonian Catacombs that we didn't get to see, including an event with a mean Cave Troll and a boss that busts open through a random wall like the Kool Aid man, but we weren't strong enough to test these out.
Overall, the dungeon seemed adequate though, and I'm excited to see what else the dungeons in Guild Wars 2 will have in store for the hardcore players.