“I did not like doing that dungeon. It made me sad.”
Those were my quaggan-like words to Colin at dinner last night. Any hardcore Guild Wars fan is going to have his or her heartstrings yanked by this dungeon in a big way. It begins with a (gorgeous) cinematic featuring Rytlock, who gives a charr’s-eye view of the history of Ascalon, then explains why we’re heading in. In short, Eir has gone haring off into the Catacombs and is stirring up the vengeful citizens of Ascalon. Rytlock doesn’t want to see anyone killed, so we need to go down there and haul her out. Want to see it firsthand? I’ve got an HD video of the thing. Go take a look, I’ll wait.
Cool, huh? It may begin with a rescue-slash-intervention, but it wound up as an attempt to retrieve Magdaer, Adelbern’s legendary sword. In our travels we fought a slew of ghosts, many of whom made me laugh out loud because they are true Guild Wars 1 characters. There was a monk slinging Ray of Judgement — and I can’t really complain, I guess we sort of deserve that for the way we are currently abusing that skill. I can confirm that there are mesmers in Guild Wars 2. Unfortunately they’re not playable because they are dead mesmers in ghost form nailing me with Blackout. Still. Mesmers.
The catacombs were beautiful in the way that the current pre-Searing version is beautiful. Grand and soaring in a sort of decaying way. I had the same problem I did underwater earlier, in that I was so anxious to inspect every nook and cranny of the environment that I sort of got my butt kicked a lot. The “end bosses” of this dungeon were a little heartbreaking for those who love the Guild Wars 1 lore and characters: Master Ranger Nente, Kasha Blackblood, the lovers Ralena Stormbringer and Vassar, and finally King Adelbern. At one point in a quick cinematic Eir expressed a desire to let them just rest in peace, a suggestion that Rytlock quickly overruled. The exchange brought a little lump to my throat, as did the later cinematics of each of the familiar enemies.
The mechanics of combat here were really interesting to me, because they emphasized two things: First, how incredibly important coordination and positioning are. There was a lot of disorganized flailing at the start as each team member focused on his or her own combat, but as we progressed I began to notice increased organization. The more we worked together the more smoothly it went.
Second, this was a perfect example of how versatile each class will be, and it really brought home for me what an amazing thing ArenaNet has done with their elimination of the traditional holy trinity. This dungeon was extremely difficult. Before we started coordinating we were dying left and right.
Here’s the thing, though. Our group of five people had four elementalists and a melee character. Think about that for a second. No healer. No tank. No minion master. No Discordway, for heaven’s sake. (I’m not knocking Discordway, don’t get me wrong. I sort of love it. But still.) We kicked that dungeon’s butt thanks to the sheer versatility of the class setup. The elementalist attunement shift has a fairly painless cooldown, allowing us to switch to a healing water focus now and again as needed, for example.
This first runthrough was in story mode. Explorable mode, the mode that allows you to enter a dungeon repeatedly for a much tougher challenge, is one that will require some serious coordination and experience. I look forward to taking that one soon.
For now, how about more video and screenshots? I’ve got an eight-minute HD video of Catacombs action courtesy of ArenaNet, and a handful of screenshots that I picked up after begging Mike Z to put me in camera mode. As with the others, there are also quite a few really beautiful shots from ArenaNet too. Enjoy the screenshot album!