There are places in Tyria where only the most experienced, well-equipped groups dare enter. We call them dungeons, but in reality these massive, instanced adventure areas are set in a wide range of settings above and below ground. From the searing heat of Sorrow's Embrace to the grandiose halls of Caudecus's Manor to the haunted depths of the Ascalonian Catacombs, dungeons in Guild Wars 2 come in many different forms.
Dungeons are designed for teams of high-level players who must work together in order to overcome their perils. Each dungeon instance is divided into a story mode and an explorable mode. In story mode, you'll delve into a gripping plot that reveals more secrets of Tyria. Once you've experienced the dungeon in story mode, you can unlock the challenging explorable mode content. The sandbox-style play of the explorable mode has several strategic options, each of which creates a different set of obstacles and goals in the game.
The risks are immense but the rewards are great for those who brave the dungeons in Guild Wars 2 - each dungeon holds its own unique armors and weapons.
What Are the Dungeons?
Dungeons are multiplayer, instanced adventuring areas. Unlike most of the rest of Tyria, which can be explored by solo players, dungeons are designed to be played and enjoyed in pre-arranged groups, composed of either your regular guildies or a pick-up team. Whereas our event system creates a dynamic, ever-changing world and our personal story allows you to weave a tale unique to your character, dungeons represent an evolution of the originalGuild Wars game experience: instanced areas with a single group of players running through them.
Calling these adventure areas "dungeons" is a bit of a misnomer, since not all of them are underground. However, since the dungeons in Guild Wars 2 evolved from the dungeons originally presented in Guild Wars: Eye of the North, the name pretty much stuck. They share two key traits with their predecessors: dungeons are group activities and they are very dangerous.
At the time of this writing, there are eight dungeons in Tyria. They are not beginner's content; the earliest of them requires characters who've reached level 35.
Story and Explorable
When creating the dungeons, the team was faced with two seemingly exclusive desires: we wanted to tell a story with a set beginning, middle, and end, but we also wanted to create an instanced area that players could return to and enjoy in multiple ways. One model is plot-driven, while the other embraces more open, sandbox-like gameplay, and never the twain shall meet.
But we did get them to meet.
Each of our dungeons is divided into story and explorable versions. The story version of each dungeon comes first, and completing it unlocks the ability to run the explorable version. In turn, the explorable versions of the dungeons have several options (usually three), each of which creates a different set of challenges and goals in the game. So, when we say that there are currently eight dungeons, we really mean there are thirty-two dungeons, as each dungeon has a story version and three explorable versions.
The dungeon story mode tells the tale of the iconic characters—former members of the legendary band of adventurers known as Destiny's Edge—Zojja, Logan, Rytlock, Caithe, and Eir. At the start of the game, each player gets to know the iconic of their race. If you are asuran, you will cross paths with Zojja; if you are human, you will earn the respect of Logan Thackeray. By about level 30, you are a trusted confidant of the iconic characters, and you realize that they have their own problems, centering on the tragic breakup of Destiny's Edge.
The backstory of these iconic heroes is told in the novel Edge of Destiny, but it's not necessary to have read the book in order to understand these characters as they appear in the game. As players fight through the dungeons, they encounter each of the iconics and deal with the repercussions of the group's breakup. Over the course of the dungeons, players will bring the feuding members back together, a microcosmic metaphor for the larger challenge of bringing the five main races together to fight the Elder Dragons.
For example, in the Ascalonian dungeon, players plunge into the catacombs beneath haunted Ascalon. The norn hero EirStegalkin is hunting for the remains of King Adelbern's sword, Magdaer. The charr tribune Rytlock Brimstone wants you to help him stop Eir before she stirs up the restless spirits of the Ascalonian ghosts. Both you and the iconic characters discover that there is more going on in the old Ascalonian Catacombs than anyone had anticipated.
That tale is told and resolved in the story mode, but what of the explorable version of this dungeon? This content happens in the same area as the story mode, but it takes place after the events of the story. What happens in story mode directly affects the circumstances of the explorable mode.
As a result of your actions in the story mode, a powerful darkness is welling up from the depths beneath the dungeon. Now the Durmand Priory is trying to figure out how to deal with this new problem. You and your party choose which of three approaches you'll use to handle the threat. Each of these three options creates a different version of the dungeon, with new areas, new challenges, and new and more difficult creatures.
This gets back to something we've been talking about throughout our work on Guild Wars 2: your actions have consequences. Because of what happens in story mode, new challenges arise in explorable mode. The idea of breaking dungeons into two mutually supporting components frees us up to tell stories, not just about the place, but about the iconic heroes and how they come to terms with each other. And yes, you can even run through story again, if you so choose.
We've also brought the dynamic event system into the dungeons. Even in story or explorable modes, the dungeon has bonus events that can be triggered by player actions, by location, or even by random chance. Even when you're adventuring again in the same dungeon and making the same choices, you can get a different gaming experience as a result of these bonus events.
Behind the Curtain: Dungeon Secrets
Breaking the dungeons into story and explorable modes allows the designers to tailor each type of play to the needs of the players. The story mode of a dungeon, while challenging, should be survivable by a typical group of adventurers. The explorable mode, on the other hand, is set up to be a challenge worthy of an organized group of experienced players who coordinate their attacks. Given that the dungeons require more organized, focused groups, we get to work out some truly awesome boss battles that require teamwork and planning to overcome. There are a number of these scripted battles in each dungeon, and some of the bosses are truly massive in both size and power.
Dungeons are optional, but are a lot of fun for players who seek a challenge. They don't interrupt your personal story line, but can enhance that story line. As you get into the proper level range, your character is made aware that a dungeon is available. Running dungeons doesn't affect your advancement along your personal story line, and you can reach the penultimate step in the story without setting foot in a single dungeon instance. (That ultimate step? Well, we don't expect you to fight an Elder Dragon all by your lonesome.)
Dungeons are geared toward a style of MMO play involving organized groups. While a group can encounter dynamically scaling events, the instanced nature of the dungeons creates a more tailored experience that captures the epic nature of Guild Wars 2. If your personal story represents your ongoing growth as a hero, the dungeons are like chapters in an epic novel. And, of course, there's the treasure you get from them as well.
Yes, I did say treasure
Each dungeon comes with its own unique armor and weapons. The armor from the Ascalonian dungeon is different from what you'll receive in the dungeon of Sorrow's Embrace, which is different from the treasure found in Lord Beetlestone's estate (remember that I said not all the dungeons are underground). While we expect that people will encounter the story mode once, they may run the explorable versions as many times as they want, increasing the quantity of armor and weapons that are available from that dungeon. Also, these armors and weapons are unique to that particular dungeon, and will not be found elsewhere.
What dungeons bring to the party (and vice versa)
We recognize that MMO players come in a variety of playing styles and interests: PvP, PvE, crafters, explorers, lore hounds, social gamers, casual players, and more. Dungeons in Guild Wars 2 reward players who enjoy organized parties and epic challenges. These players expect not only threats that challenge well-coordinated parties, and they expect great rewards for their triumphs. The dungeons of Guild Wars 2 are rewarding to them, but also to those who want to know more about the iconic heroes, those who relish the instanced content from the first Guild Wars, and those who want to delve deeper into the world around them.