Now that I’m running a dungeon almost daily in FFXIV, it’s making me think of my long and sordid history with dungeon experiences in MMOs. What I’ve always noticed is that when it comes to dungeons, it’s not me — it’s the game. That is, I’m usually willing to run dungeons in theory but not every MMO makes it easy to do so or attractive to do so.
So here’s a rundown of the MMOs I’ve spent a fair bit of time in and my dungeon experiences in each:
Since my early years were mostly spent solo — and guildless — I wasn’t even aware of any dungeons existing here.
City of Heroes
The bulk of the game experience to me was grouping up and entering one of many modular instances. I don’t know if you can call them dungeons proper, but they functioned much the same even though they used templates matched with random mob placements and difficulties. Mostly these experiences boiled down to the tank pulling a large group into a room and having the rest of the team activate their special particle effects light show until the mobs surrendered due to being dazzled with our brilliance.
World of Warcraft
Obviously I did a lot of dungeons here, especially post-Vanilla when the dungeon finder came into play. Before then dungeons were more of a rare treat due to being a headache to organize (I did appreciate high-level players speed running us through Deadmines and letting us keep all the loot). Generally had a great time with dungeons here and even flirted with raiding in Kara. Wasn’t present for the LFR era.
WAR wasn’t really big on dungeons, if I recall. I think they had some public dungeons, per the design philosophy carried over from Dark Age of Camelot, but I only ran one in the Badlands (?) a couple of times and felt fairly disappointed with it.
Dungeons & Dragons Online
Ha, just kidding. Obviously the entire game is nothing but dungeons, and as long as I could find a group or had a regular weekly team, they were pretty awesome. Great design and the addition of good storytelling (I still contend the invisible GM voice is one of the neater additions to MMO dungeons), puzzles, and traps made these dungeons a cut above the MMO crowd. Plus, you didn’t heal health the same way, so they felt a shade more dangerous.
Lord of the Rings Online
Dungeons were always something I wanted to do more of in LOTRO but never quite did. I did run several over the years, but really what I did more of were skirmishes. The Inn of the Forsaken, with the Goonies theme, was easily my favorite.
The higher end of difficulty and dungeon length made dungeons very unappealing here. I much preferred expeditions and adventures, which are instances under different names. Only ran Stormtalon a few times — and never finished it.
The Secret World
TSW’s combat system isn’t the zenith of the game for me (that would be storytelling, quest ingenuity, and environments if you care), so I can’t say that dungeon diving was what I lived for. Still, I did a lot of it since our weekly group did for a while. I appreciated the mostly trash mob-free approach. They could be very, very tough.
If I recall, Fallen Earth had public dungeons too. I only ever did one, the prison in sector one. It was really neat, but like some other MMOs, there was no easy system to group up and get right into dungeons here. You had to find a group and physically travel there, so that cut down on most people doing them.
Were missions considered dungeons? Otherwise the game didn’t really have them, did it. Still, did a lot of instances with a team as I worked my way through the storylines.
Guild Wars 2
My disappointment for Guild Wars 2’s dungeon design still gets me a lot of comments on this blog. For the record, I thought the actual instances were neat and the multiple choices of how to approach a dungeon was a good idea. It’s just that actually running them became a wacky exercise of stacking, sprinting past mobs, and farming them (pre-Heart of Thorns) for gold instead of loot.
RIFT remains one of my favorite MMOs in which to run dungeons. The dungeon finder — in from practically the beginning — made it really easy to do so, and there were no strange twists for how the game did dungeon runs. Very straight-forward with a tried-and-proven approach, and I liked that. Ran many, many dungeons with groups here.
The Old Republic was much like RIFT: straight-forward dungeon design with tab-targeting and the holy trinity. Good stuff, plus some amazing set pieces. Did a lot of them and enjoyed most thoroughly.
Star Trek Online
Did STO have dungeons? It must have, I guess, but I didn’t do too much group stuff in this game so I never found out.