Continuing our five-part Guild Wars 2 preview ( yesterday's post ), today we'll plumb the depths of the first dungeons ever revealed for Guild Wars 2--how they work, what kind of loot you'll be getting, and even the familiar faces returning from Guild Wars that you'll have to battle with. ArenaNet's vault demons were kind enough to give us a peek at everything in store for us in these subterranean death-traps, as well as introduce us to the famed adventurers who'll lead the way.
The first time you enter a dungeon (a new dungeon will be available roughly every 10 levels, with additional ones at end-game), you'll enter into its Story Mode, which focuses around one or more members of the famous adventuring guild Destiny's Edge (featured in-depth in tomorrow's post), composed of Caithe, a nature-aligned Sylvari seeking truth, Rytlock, a ruthless and cunning commander of the Charr, Logan, a righteous, loyal defender of the Seraph throne, Eir, a wandering Norn tactician that relies on getting inside the minds of her enemies, and Zojja, a loud-mouthed, cocky inventor. They're a very odd combination, but their varied strengths and backgrounds ensured that they always had the tools and experience to conquer anything that came their way. For some unknown reason this legendary team has broken up, and your job is to get the band back together.
Thankfully, you won't have to sit them all down and talk about their feelings— dungeons are all about fighting (even one that starts out as a party in a mansion quickly turns to combat). The first time you play a dungeon, you'll play through its Story Mode, where one or two members of Destiny's Edge show up as friendly NPCs to drive the story forward. These stories will be distinct from your character's own personal story, although you play as your character in both.
Beating a dungeon's Story Mode will unlock its Explorable Mode, which tells varied follow-up stories in that same area, unrelated to Destiny's Edge. This mode is designed to be extremely repeatable, and while not random, will have multiple paths that cause different scenarios and enemies to appear. Lead Content Designer Johanson tells me “[We] don't want players to get into a pattern where they can easily predict what's coming up next. We want it to be a surprise to keep it lively and fresh for players.” To that end, there will be a lot of secret events hidden within the dungeons for players to discover.
That's fine in theory, but how does it work in practice? Let's look at Sorrow's Embrace, a level 60-70 dungeon revealed here for the first time. Sorrow's Embrace is a hideout for the Dredge, a mole-like race that used to be enslaved by the Dwarves, but is now free. In Story Mode, you uncover that the Dredge leaders have betrayed their people and sold them to slavery to the Seraph, and fight off the enslavers. In Explorable Mode, you aid the Dredge workers who are now planning a revolt against their corrupt leaders. We love how this setup makes your actions in Story Mode feel consequential. That big bad boss you drove out isn't here the second time around—you're dealing with the fallout of the actions you took in Story Mode.
You're on your own in Explorable Mode, though—the Destiny's Edge heroes only play key roles in the Story Mode and the hirable henchmen NPCs from Guild Wars' dungeons will not be returning in the sequel. However, the developers assured me that it would be easier than ever to find players to group with.
One dungeon will have some familiar faces for hardcore Guild Wars players. Around level 30, you'll be able to enter the Ascalon Catacombs. The spirits there are restless, so Charr (beast-man) commander and Destiny's Edge member Rytlock leads your party in to make them restful again via the medium of hitting. But you might recognize some of the more powerful spirits within as the ghosts of profession trainers in the first game. Master Ranger Nente can teleport and shoot waves of arrows that cover part of the room, forcing you to hide behind objects in the environment. Warmaster Grast smashes players and the environment with his oversized, half-ghost hammer, and you can grab the chunks of rubble he knocks out to throw them back at him. Finally, there's Necromancer Munne and the boss of the dungeon, King Adelmen.
ArenaNet is once again going against the flow when it comes to dungeon rewards: every time you run a dungeon, you are guaranteed to get a piece of armor meant for your class via a token system. The devs don't want to force players to do dungeons if they don't want to (they're designed for players who want the thrill of “overcoming difficult content with teamwork,” according to Johanson). So while the dungeon sets will look awesome—since each dungeon offers a matching set of gear for each armor type that's themed to that particular dungeon—the stats will be equivalent of those on equal-level gear earned via other methods in the game, such as world events, personal story, PvP and mini-games.
During my playthrough, I found that a healthy balance of all the different types of content came naturally. A personal story quest sent me to a castle in the open world, which I found under siege by Centaurs as a part of a world event. So a few other players around the area and I got to know each other over some horsemen-slaughtering before grouping up and adventuring together for awhile. I love how easy and rewarding it was to group up with other players and make friends, but you don't have to—Guild Wars 2 looks like it has rewarding and refreshing gameplay for all the different types of players, from lone wolf to compulsive raider.
Exactly how that open world event went down: 1. I protect the civilians in the keep. 2. The Centaurs are chased out of the keep back to their camp. 3. They regroup and fight back, but myself and a few passerbys keep pressing in on them. 4. They summon a giant elemental god. 5. We wet our pants.
We tried, we really did, but there was simply too much info to fit into just two posts. Tomorrow will continue this three part series with all the information we couldn't fit into this cover story, followed by a post containing all of the art that didn't make it in and one surprise announcement you didn't see coming.