Which MMO Does Dungeons/Instances Best?

Happenings!
It’s been a while since I crawled through dungeons or instances in an MMO (or jumped into Eve’s wormholes or complexes, even) but I couldn’t help thinking that Rift’s 1-2 player instances, called “Chronicles“, were a rather good idea for making the body of the game’s instanced content available to players who really only want to play with a single chum. I certainly did quite a lot of WoW with just Alec or John as a companion, and we often struggled to be bothered to get a party together for the dungeons, because we’d always end up with some guy who ran into walls, or a companion who could only type “what”. Anyway, it got me thinking about the Dungeon experience in MMOs, and I ended up thinking of two that I’ve enjoyed most: Guild Wars, for its largely instanced storyline, where pretty much everything lay within areas you’d play with a couple of friends, or even solo, and City Of Heroes, whose missions always seemed somehow “logical”, thanks to taking place in underground bases, warehouses, and so on.

So I ask you lot: where is the finest dungeoneering to be had? Which MMO does it best?

135 Comments

  1. Adekan says:

    Dungeons & Dragons Online is the only logical winner of this argument.

    Edit: I suppose it depends on ones definitions of a Dungeon. Does this count any instanced area? Or are we talking of a Dungeon in the traditional sense, ex. An area underground filled with traps chests and monsters?

    • Kaira- says:

      DDO is really my preferred choice. Tried playing LotRO for a while (also Allods and what other F2P MMOs there are), but DDO really does it best in my opinion.

    • Midarc says:

      Was logging in franticly to say the exact same thing.

      Dungeons and Dragons has dungeons and adventure sites that, due to the design of the game, actually feel like dungeons and adventures.

      Of course, the whole xp system is focused on this aswell, given that resolving the dungeon is all you get xp for, the kills, disarms and puzzles offering only a bonus on total earning.

      Also, it’s one of the few games with functional and integral traps and puzzles which can be as much of a challenge as monsters themselves.
      Granted, after the first run the puzzles become more of a chore duty than an actual task (unless it’s one where you are under attack during solving, those stay fun), but those first times they are damned entertaining.

      The only place in D&D that doesn’t feel like a dungeon are those outdoor grindathon areas where it imitates traditional mmo exploration zoning.
      They’re fun for a break, and a quick xp boost, a rare spawn hunt, but just don’t feel like a dungeon, which given the inent of such outdoor areas, is kinda the point.

      Other games dungeons have always felt to me like a club house where all the unbelievably tough monsters hang out, rather than an actual dungeon or adventure.

      The only thing I’d say against dungeons and dragons is that eventually you will become familiar with all of the adventures, and thusly boredom will set in.
      New stories with questlines accompany each update, and that does something to keep things fresh, but over the long run you will eventually burn out.
      It’s the price paid by any scripted experience, I suppose.

      Only two solutions I’ve ever been able to imagine to this is a City of Heroes esque random mission generator (which probably wouldn’t work due to the complexities of trap placement etc) or a Star Trek online Forge toolset, allowing player generated content to fill the gap when the official adventures are getting stale.
      The latter I doubt would happen either due to the damage this could potentially have to sales of adventure packs.

      Rambling now.
      I’ll shut up.

    • Berzee says:

      Of course DDO is going to be the best. It’s Turbine, innit? =)

    • Dominic White says:

      Joining the chorus to say ‘DDO’. The entire game is BASED around dungeons, and it does it bloody well.

    • Quine says:

      This is all true- it’s the only MMO/RPG I’ve found that actually has a workable party structure where you feel like members of a team- getting round traps without a thief, or not having a cleric or paladin when the undead show up leads to much improvising in the field.

      Plus you can physically block doors and shield-tank so the ranged wimps can get stuck in. I just wish there were more examples of tactical play using the environment out there now. Maybe GW2 will swing it…

    • zind says:

      Yep, DDO.

      If you’re solo, you can make a build that can get to 20. It might take some trying at the upper end, but it’s doable (especially now, with artificers).

      If you’ve got one or two friends, you can coordinate to be able to make it through almost any of the non-raid content.

      If you don’t want to have to build for the dungeons and just want to play whatever, you can honestly still get through big chunks of the game, but you might not be able to hit the harder difficulties or get all of the bonus objectives, which seems entirely fair. If there’s a magic rune-lock-thing that requires a high wisdom to activate, and you’re a rogue-wizard that dumped wisdom, too bad. But if you’re a rogue-wizard and your friend’s a cleric, you’re probably in luck!

    • Vexing Vision says:

      As a game only consisting of instances and dungeons (which are really well done), DDO is pretty much the only choice.

    • Randomer says:

      I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that everyone already said the things that I wanted to say: DDO gives you exciting, immersive dungeons.

      My only complaint is about getting a party together. Not that it isn’t easy to get a party together. No, the problem is that it seems like everyone else has already beaten all the content, so when you join up with a group to run an instance for the first time, they already know all the shortcuts. I found myself running top speed through the bigger dungeons, wanting to stop and ask the group “Hey, what’s down that hallway?”, but not wanting to take the time to type for fear of getting left behind anymore than I already was.

      The dungeons are fantastic, but it’s really important to get together a group of equally inexperienced players the first time you do any new content.

    • utharda says:

      The wife and I are playing DDO now. Started about two weeks ago. She Tanks with a Pally, I do the rogue work. I bring a favored soul hireling to heal, and she brings a sorc hireling to cc / dps.

      She’s been traveling for business like 90% of the time latley, so its nice that we can play together. We run an adventure or two, and feel like we’ve accomplished something. The hard difficulty works well for us, theres a challenge, but we can manage with the hirelings. Ran delera’s tomb the other day.. Realized we’d never heard Gygax’s voice before. It really feels perfect. The design is great. We’re often surprised, and when we fail, we want to try again.

      Its frustrating but also cool that you can fail, and have to start over from scratch, rather than running back into the instance like a generic mmo.

    • Screwie says:

      Nothing to do with instancing, but one thing I also love about DDO is it has the crazy build-making (including multi-classing, proper multi-classing) you could do in the DnD 3.5 PnP. One of my last characters was a half-orc rogue/barbarian who performed sneak attacks with a greataxe – so fun.

      I’ve not played DDO for about 6 months or more, admittedly. This thread makes me want to go back though – especially if I could play in a larger team.

    • elfbarf says:

      I tried DDO out early last year and really enjoyed it but only made it to level 13 or 14 (can’t remember exactly) before I quit. It was getting to the point that I was having to run the same few dungeons countless times (though this could’ve been partially my fault as I skipped most of the desert zone around 11-12 and didn’t know too much about the game) and as a berserker, things got old quickly. I’ve been interested in trying it out again sometime though I’d definitely need a group of people to play with, I’m aware that there ARE viable soloing builds though I’m not experienced enough to pull those off (nor do I have any interest).

      Also, I still get newsletters from Turbine and I’m pretty sure I remember there being new content for ~13-15 released not too long ago.

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    • InternetBatman says:

      DDO has some beautiful dungeons. I played it for half a year before it went f2p. The system is just well designed and they really do a good job of using weird class features that most WoW cookie cutters don’t do.

    • elfbarf says:

      So, would anyone want to possibly start up a group for DDO? Seems like there are at least a few people who may be interested.

  2. nubbuka says:

    what

    • westyfield says:

      *runs into wall*

    • CaLe says:

      *yells at mage for not healing*

    • Dawngreeter says:

      noob

    • Dachannien says:

      dam sorry guys i gotta go mom wants me 2 clean my room

    • Durkonkell says:

      I once ran a dungeon in WoW where I (as a leveling DPS warrior) was a better tank than the tank (who wasn’t in tank spec), the shaman healer just spammed her most expensive and inefficient heal, going out of mana all the time (resulting in the tank getting stomped through the floor) and the mage polymorphed every boss just before the pull (so the tank immediately broke it) and ignored all the enemies he was supposed to polymorph.

      It ended with the mage rolling need on and winning a strength / stamina cloak, the tank doing the same on something with intellect and everyone bailing from the group…

    • Adekan says:

      This entire series of comments perfectly explains why I stopped playing WoW.

    • Syra says:

      @Durkonkell

      You say you ‘ONCE’ ran an instance like that? You are a lucky, lucky man. I played that shit for 4 years and that was 90% of my PUGS.

      The horror.

    • Durkonkell says:

      Oh, I’ve had various other failure-pugs in the past but I don’t think the situation is nearly as bad as it’s made out to be. I haven’t had a group fall apart and fail to complete an instance for a long time. A month or so ago we had to replace someone who dropped out and votekick another for conducting himself like an offensive idiot, but the random dungeon finder makes slotting in replacements very quick and easy when that happens.

      Since it’s become possible to replace people instantly, they tend to be slightly better behaved I think. Incompetence is still an issue but actually talking to people and helping them out can yield acceptable results, and if they are openly hostile to such attempts and continue to derail the group… there’s always votekick.

      I still won’t pug the Rise of the Zalandari heroics.

    • Koozer says:

      ” I haven’t had a group fall apart and fail to complete an instance for a long time.”

      That’s because these days you can take a dungeon of your level with two people. They’re so bloody boring now, no tactics involved at all, just hack away at everything. I’m glad I resubscribed for a month a while back, now I know I shall never return.

    • Joc says:

      Fire alarm (alt-F4)

    • vexis58 says:

      “That’s because these days you can take a dungeon of your level with two people.”

      No kidding. Once my husband and I figured this out, we took our tank/healer combo straight to the 5-mans without bothering to find a group. The sad part is, it doesn’t take us any longer to clear the dungeons with two people, and we’re often pulling multiple trash groups just to make it go faster, because we get bored. Why bother bringing three DPS whose only purpose in the group is to roll against us for loot?

      Maybe this is why it’s so hard to find dungeon finder groups as DPS. All of the tanks made friends with the healers and are off running the dungeons by themselves.

    • daf says:

      @vexis58, if you can duo a 5 man (including za/zg) in the 20-30m it takes with a full group consider me impressed, alhtough I’d be wondering what kind of level of gear you have (decked out in the best raid epics?) and how you beat certain “soft enrage” machanics in some of the dungeons.

      I’ve been playing wow nearly since launch and pugs have always been hit or miss, they can be great or terrible, if you don’t want to deal with that the solution is the same as it’s always been, get a guild/friends/people you know and do the dungeons with them.

      The same goes for any PvE game mmo or not (borderlands, diablo 2, etc).

  3. mmalove says:

    I know it’s cliche, but I’d largely argue dungeon’s and dragons online. Unlike many other MMOs, there is no shared persistent world, and thus no world pvp. Instead, the entire focus of the game has been poured into its instanced pve content, and it shows both in quantity and quality.

  4. Ian says:

    I really like the idea of Rift’s two-man dungeons. More of This Sort Of Thing, please.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Second vote for Rift, though not the mass events, they were a bit dull. The rift instances were quite imaginative and very beautiful.

  5. Derpentine says:

    ye olde Ultima Online; pre-EArape.

  6. wccrawford says:

    Perhaps those responding could explain why, for those of us who haven’t played every MMO in existence.

  7. Nalano says:

    The over-reliance on instanced dungeons is exactly why I stopped playing MMOs.

    • Berzee says:

      Same, I think. (There were lots of other reasons I stopped, but having the world chopped up into zones where different things were allowed was a big factor). Here is the PvP zone…here is the main-storyline-with-a-couple-friends zone…here is the hub where you can actually see the massively multiple players…

      the other reason is that I am not a young lad capable of powerleveling anymore =P

    • Lemming says:

      But the alternative is looking at queues of people waiting for a boss respawn. doesn’t exactly look atmospheric does it?

    • Berzee says:

      Not atmospheric, but certainly more sociable. =)

    • Shodex says:

      Which is, all in all, why you play MMOs right? If you want atmospheric RPG experiences go pick up a single player one. They’re usually better games anyways.

    • Spindrift says:

      That a game is either “atmospheric” or “sociable” is a pretty flimsy false dichotomy, AND an oversimplification of what differentiates an MMO from a single player game.

  8. MaXimillion says:

    Anyone saying something other than DDO probably hasn’t played DDO.

    Like CoH, all questing is done in instances, but unlike CoH, all of those dungeons are handcrafted for that quest, and feature unique traps, platforming and challenges, as well as being narrated by a DM.

    • Torgen says:

      This. Combined with a more dynamic combat system then most others, the DM-narrated dungeons were great.

      The “trials” in CoH are usually pretty good, but since they reused a lot of assets you’ve seen a quadrillion times in the random missions while leveling, they don’t have the same impact.

  9. Anders Wrist says:

    I hate the idea of players being able to solo or two box content, and content being made especially for these people, since it takes away from the teamplay oriented gameplay that I enjoy the most about mmo’s. This is perhaps also the reason why I’m still playing a 10 year old game, and not one of the zerg of new ones who cater to the singleplayer gamers.

    • shadowbadger says:

      So you hate the fact that people like to play games in a different way to the way you do and think they should’nt be catered for in any way, shape or form?

      How mature

    • Berzee says:

      wow shadowbadger, that was…sudden =P

    • Mr E Meats says:

      I on the other hand love this play style. I can’t think of a many MMO’s though that cater only to the single player aspect of instancing. I like games that have a lot of content that isn’t necessarily meant to be soloed, but can be with skill… This really only works in an Action MMO though.

  10. AJLange says:

    I’m seconding City of Heroes. Just a fan overall, except for the escort mission ones.

    • Torgen says:

      I actually ragequit CoH once over *constantly* getting those twisty cave maps while soloing. I still hate Circle of Thorns, with a passion.

    • Arathain says:

      Hmm. I am the resident chap who shows up whenever CoH gets mentioned to say how much I like it, but I don’t think it wins in this instance (see what I did there? I’ll get my coat).

      Good things: automatic group scaling, so you can do stuff with whatever size of a group you like (assuming it can handle archvillains, if present).

      Bad things: other than some cool unique maps, the group stuff isn’t all that different from the other stuff. Boss fights in particular tend towards the bland, although I understand the more recent fights are a good deal more interesting. There are no cool traps, or interesting layouts, or things that really make a great dungeony experience.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I really liked some of the CoH/V missions, especially the mayhem ones. They reuse way too many assets though. Eventually you get tired of fighting the same guys in the same cave.

  11. Ross Mills says:

    So long as you have a group, the answer is Dungeons & Dragons Online.

    The instances are all incredibly unique, have actual hidden traps you have to search for, and have the most “OMG remember when X happened?” moments I have ever had in a game.

  12. Berzee says:

    Instances are a garbagey idea to begin with, so I would say any game that does not have them does them best.

    Instances have nothing to do with MMOs. They are tiny little co-op minigames inside your MMO, and I have never been able to enjoy them the same way I could enjoy knowing that ANYONE in the WORLD might trip into my favorite obscure dungeon at any moment. =)

    • Berzee says:

      That being said, the one dungeon I dabbled with in DDO was actually pretty fun. =) But I think I was okay with the because the game doesn’t actually make claims to being really M-MO.

    • Torgen says:

      I used to feel the same way, fervently, but the realities of immature griefers harassing scads of regular customers on a nightly basis pretty much killed the open world MMO. Once I got over that, I really enjoyed DDO.

    • Berzee says:

      Torgen, the experience of navigating through a world of griefers was a great joy to me. =) As long as it was a big enough world that you could try to escape them…the big problem comes when there are only really two or three valid locations for hunting, in the entire world.

      (In Asheron’s Call I found a mountain base not far beyond the Qalabar Lugian Citadel, complete with lifestone and portal to a civilized town…it was a grand place for hunting and I went there when I needed solitude. I only ever saw another human being perhaps once every 3 hours of playing, and never a griefer as those stick to populated areas =).

      Point taken, though. :-) I think playing on a all-PvP all-the-time server helped because there wasn’t really griefing, just killing, and that was to be expected.

      I’m glad DDO exists! I need to actually play it for a good amount of levels, someday. The concept always pleases me (the 100% use of instances, instead of some dungeons being public and some inexplicably instanced).

    • Torgen says:

      I loved Asheron’s Call. :) Remember the guys that used level VIII buffs on a rabbit in the starter area, and cast level VIII debuffs on a level 128 friend and he aggroed the rabbit? The rabbit one-shotted him, and instantly went up 30 levels. They did this a couple more times, then left the rabbit there. :D

      It became a legend, and lowbies from all around came to do battle with the killer rabbit. I think turbine made a named mob in honor of this.

    • Berzee says:

      LOL, Torgen, I never heard that story. I played it for years and years and I was never even aware that monsters could level up. Was that in the beta perhaps, and the levelling-up was removed later? Or was I just ignorant of something completely awesome? =P

    • Torgen says:

      Oh, I hope they didn’t take that out! I do know that they “dampened” twinking later on. It was nice to be able to start a new character, have you friends take you up into the mountains, hand you a nice bow, buff you, debuff one of those wooly mammoth-looking things. You hit him once, kill him and BOOM level 6.

      I do distinctly remember battling in a Lugian cave one time, and against an especially tough mob (lugian chieftain or some such) that had killed me twice, and the SOB leveled on me! I was in beta, and played off and one for a long time, ending my stay on Darktide.

    • Berzee says:

      Oh yeah, twinking has always been alive and well =) I would always meet random strangers who took pity on a poor, deliberately-monarchless newbie and offered to twink me…but they usually would be slightly too ambitious, and try to twink me on things that were slightly dangerous even to themselves.

      Many happy memories of me and a high-level stranger trying to recover THEIR corpse after they tried to help me level. ;-)

      The only reason I stopped playing is that I am a perma-newbie; and after the game’s been out for so many years, there aren’t a lot of other unaffiliated newbies traipsing around. lol…it started to feel instanced, that’s how far behind I fell ;-)

      I still think that game might hold the record for how many totally unexpected things you can find in the world (weird statues, creepy parchments) if you play through without using human guides or wiki guides at all, and just go based on the rumors you can buy in the taverns. =) I’m pretty thrilled with how they went back and revamped all of the old useless quests by letting you teleport to the beginning of the dungeon and turn in the crappy-used-to-be-awesome quest reward for a huge chunk of XP to some kind of “museum of quests” official organization NPC. ;)

      Edit: I am an incurable fanboy.

  13. Berzee says:

    Also, I only have ever played AC, DAoC, and LotRO, so I won’t have many interesting comparisons to offer. =) I did actually enjoy the LotRO storyline instances in the moment when I was playing them, but that was just the tutorial and the first few…the magic started to wear off when I realized if I wanted an epic single player experience they actually make those already. =P

  14. CoFran says:

    vanilla wow, MC 40man was the best fun I ever had.

    • Jake says:

      Vanilla MC or BWL, or possibly Black Temple and Sunwell. The vanilla raids with 40 people were just amazing, trying to heard a huge group of idiots through perilous trash obstacle courses and eventually defeat really difficult bosses was a hell of a feat – no-one really knew what they were doing, it was before everyone was obsessed with spreadsheets and everyone was just bringing their first shitty character to a really hostile and unforgiving environment and looking for guidance.

      After a while I got to know the idiots and we all got to be better at the game and we’d achieve things that surprised even us, like killing Vashj or Illidan or Kil’jaeden – I doubt any other game has such well tuned encounters as WoW and that’s all that matters really: an instance is really just a puzzle and WoW had some very well designed puzzles. But then, I don’t really have any experience of dungeons in other games. Oh and I never liked WoW’s 5-player content very much.

    • Adekan says:

      I’ve hated pretty much every dungeon ever in WoW. And I played it for 5 years. Something about the fact that not only are you expected to drag people who don’t have two brain cells to rub together through content just to fill raid spots, but that the game is designed around it simply made me cross with the whole thing.

      Even back in the day of vanilla WoW I honestly think my guild would have done better 20 manning 40 man content with the competent people in the guild and letting the other 20 slack jawed vacantly staring off into the abyss spot fillers repeatedly wipe to the first two pulls for hours.

    • food says:

      Several hours of staring at some sort of rock giant’s nuts, possibly those of a hell dog. The greatest thing ever! Also, nutty!

    • johnpeat says:

      MC was a textbook example of imagination-free dungeoneering…

      Tactics are absent entirely until the 2nd-last boss – it’s mostly a “throw everything you’ve got at the massive monster” and “follow the exact path” bullshit.

      There’s almost no story or atmosphere – hell the only reason you were pleased to be there is that you just might have found 39-ish other people who aren’t morons.

      Compare it to (the easier but far,far,far better) Shadowfang Keep or Deadmines and you’ll see what I mean…

      Hell I’d do those 3 shitholes in the Barrens before MC :)

  15. tstapp1026 says:

    I quite like how Guild Wars handles it… especially since Heroes became useful. You can either solo or group for content. I don’t like being forced to go one way or another and having that choice makes them the winner for me.

    • Gnoupi says:

      Moreover that heroes managed to feel “involved” in the storyline.
      Even if the henchmen from Prophecies had a story, it was mostly in the “lore you read about in the manual”, nothing more.

  16. Screwie says:

    I’ve played City of Heroes and DDO and they’re both excellent fun.

    Content-wise, DDO’s instances are really a cut above the rest. They’re filled with locks to pick, secret doors, traps, puzzles… they even have a DM voice-over to set the mood.

    However gameplay-wise, CoX really embraced scalable instances and (I think) invented side kicking. 99% of instances work with a team of any combination or size (up to the game’s standard team size limit of 8). It’s a crime that only in the last couple of years have other MMOs been capitalising on what CoX did very well.

    • Torgen says:

      Yeah, no-fuss scalability and player-selectable overall difficulty is something CoH does very well, as well as now auto-leveling all players in the group so they aren’t useless when playing with friends 10 or 20 levels difference.

    • MaXimillion says:

      On the subject of things CoX does really well, it’s a bloody shame no other MMO has implemented a global chat system. Blizzard’s the only one I know that’s even tried, but their RealID doesn’t work nearly as well or have half the features CoX had years before.

    • GrassyGnoll says:

      I’ve gone back a re-subbed into CoX and the scaling is still the best. Going into missions with a full team of just blasters is still great fun. Have to say, i keep going back to CoX but DDO is looking interesting.

      CoX did a lot of things first and not many, if any, other MMO has done those things as well.

    • Screwie says:

      Back when I played CoX more regularly, I used to run 8-man theme teams all of one archetype – including Dominators back when they were pants. There never was a losing combination. :)

      (8 tankers was also fun, as everyone just healed themselves and you could try and herd the whole instance at once.)

    • Arglebargle says:

      I do love the CoX approach. ;-)

      Also keep noticing various MMO type games trumpeting some ‘New Wonderful’ design, and thinking to myself, City of Heroes has had that for 3 or 4 years, hasn’t it?

      No online game has kept my interest (or my moolah) for as long.

  17. Durkonkell says:

    Having just written an anecdote about one of the many 5-man dungeon failures I’ve experienced, I’d still argue that Warcraft’s instanced dungeons are pretty consistently enjoyable if you get a good group and the random dungeon finder works extremely well. I think that’s important, the ability to find 4 other players to team with reliably without spending hours in a capital city spamming “Looking for more players for (Dungeon Name), need tank and healer”…

    The problem is that you have a fair chance of ending up with at least one total imbecile in your group. If you end up with more it can derail the run as the top-level dungeons are designed to be moderately challenging. Totally completable, and the Random Dungeon Finder never assigns you a group that’s incapable of clearing the place (at least in terms of their level and gear), but the instances and RDF aren’t designed to account for people who are incompetent.

    Shortened: WoW’s 5-man instances are mostly well designed – excepting some of the ones that have been there from the beginning – and fun, so long as you have a good group.

  18. Torgen says:

    One thing that may color responses is “did you have a regular group of chums while playing this particular game” or not.

    Also, the XP system of DDO, as mentioned above, had a HUGE effect on how the game played. No xp for monster kills, only for dungeon completion. Monster kills did provide a xp modifier, as did busting all the breakables in the dungeon.

  19. Jibb Smart says:

    Dungeon Deities, obviously.

    It’s kind of an MMO, I guess.

  20. lunarplasma says:

    How is DDO for the single-player dungeon experience?

    • Kaira- says:

      You can set the difficulty level of the dungeon before entering (casual, easy, normal, hard, legendary[?]), so with casual/normal you should be able to solo most of the dungeons, depending on the class you are playing.

    • pakoito says:

      Are priest the D&D powerhouses or are they the useless healer-support class most MMOs have?

    • Screwie says:

      A word of warning: Even with the difficulty setting, some character classes just do not play well solo – especially in the early levels before you have nice loot.

      Wizards and sorcerers especially, but almost all classes benefit from having an NPC hireling (purchasable from in-game vendors) along for the ride.

      Fortunately the game warns you at the character creation screen if a class is going to be difficult without a team.

      If you want to try solo, then either a cleric or a fighter with some healing items is your best bet. Clerics are nails.

    • Kaira- says:

      If specced correctly they can handle melee really well. Not that they match fighters, barbarians, paladins and such, but with proper multiclassing, feats and enhancements they can be still very good.
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    • zind says:

      Lots of dungeons have a solo difficulty that makes them soloable with any character build.
      Similarly, most classes can beat most dungeons on normal.
      You will probably miss out on some bonus objectives or xp here and there, depending on class, but it doesn’t detract from the game that much IMO.

      However, if you’re willing to drop a bit of cash (something in the range of 20 bucks, max), with the latest update you can make a warforged artificer, which has turned out to be (somewhat literally) a soloing machine, able to consistently beat every trap and open every lock in solo, normal, and hard difficulties, and even most of the Elite ones I’ve tried.

      It does, as you level, depend on your build a bit more. You want to be able to heal yourself and consistently avoid traps, while still being combat-effective.

      Also, if you value both soloability and your sanity, don’t try a bard. It’s fun for maybe the first four levels, but then you hit a brick wall. Bards are the quintessential fifth wheel in the online game just as much as the pnp.

    • Kaira- says:

      However, playing a 16bard/2fighter/2barbarian is absolutely a blast when playing in good company. And bards are nice anyway, though they do have that “third wheel” feeling, not really exceling at anything. Well, maybe except buffing.

    • Torgen says:

      The only reason I haven’t gone back to DDO a year ago is that I’ve completely forgotten how to play, and don’t want to inflict a sub-par cleric on anyone. (I may have DDO updating in the background as we speak.)

      EDIT: and it seems I deleted and rerolled my mid-level cleric right before I left. He’s a 2/1 cleric/ranger, and I have NO idea what I was doing with that. I apparently also gave away my good equipment to my guild on the reroll as well, and (naturally) have been booted from the guild after such a long absence.

      *sigh*

      Pretty much killed my enthusiasm for returning.

  21. Hoaxfish says:

    After seeing all those comments… I kinda wanna play DDO

  22. Njordsk says:

    LOTRO indeed. They were so greats, even though they were terribly long and made me take a whole afternoon to complete some.

  23. MrMud says:

    The finest dungeoneering I have done is when in WoW vanilla (before any expansions) I did most of the leveling up dungeons in a group of two people (such as all of scarlet monastery at lvl 39). Meaning that if you know what you are doing you dont need a full party.

    That and high end raiding, nothing else I have played really comes close to that.

  24. Danny says:

    For me it would be Dark Age of Camelot.

    The Darkness Falls dungeon was accessible for the faction that controlled most keeps in PVP (the game featured three factions), but if you were logged into the dungeon before it changed ownership, you were able to fight your way to the enemy. This would often end in a frenzy where the three factions fought each other while still doing some PvE fighting as well.

  25. aircool says:

    I first learnt the fun and art of tanking in DDO and Lotro. It’s not really something you encounter when playing solo, so those two games stick in my mind, especially DDO as the combat involved a lot of rolling around and blocking… then hitting stuff with a walloping great axe.

    Guild Wars wins though as most of the game is instanced, making you feel at the centre of the story, rather than just another person in a relentless queue of people doing the same quest for each NPC. However, it’s strength was in the Henchman mechanic, especially when you could level them up, choose their skills, and equip them as you as you saw fit. If there was only a few of your friends online, you could always field a strong team regardless of your strengths and weaknesses.

    Just remember that there’s unlikely to be enough corpses for more than two Death Magic Necromancers.

  26. Lobotomist says:

    DDO, obviously.

    Only problem its not random. Each dungeon is always the same ( I believe they tried to randomise trap placement at one point. But it didnt work out )

    Second choice would be City of Heroes/Villans

    Most of the missions are 100% randomized instances , always different

    • MaXimillion says:

      Except that CoH just randomizes what kind of a map it places that specific mission in, the maps themselves are not random at all.

  27. shadowbadger says:

    My favourite instancing was always the first evening of entering a new WoW 5-man dungeon or 10 man raid with fellow guild members and we constantly wiped/laughed/took the piss – never, ever looking at instructions on how to beat the bosses and working it out for ourselves – and generally having a great time for an evening or two.

    The next best was taking other guildies through and seeing them wipe/laugh/take the piss – not telling them how to beat the bosses either – and generally have a great time.

    Once the dungeons/raids became known and farmed the enjoyment went, the challenge was gone and it was all about grinding for gear/rep/something to take away the boredom (gear/rep grinding is the basis of all evil in MMO’s imo). We still had a laugh but not in the same way.

    And so I would find myself logging in less and less until the next area/dungeons were brought out and we could go through the same thing again.

    Yes, I’m fickle

  28. JB says:

    RSP asks? RSP?!?!

    On topic: DDO is sounding good. I’ve not played a huge amount of MMOs as I tend to get bored with them pretty quickly. But you’re tempting me.

  29. Cerzi says:

    Not a single mention of the canonical MMO with the most incredibly complex and interesting dungeons around, from which all dungeons/instances since have been a painful devolution.

    All it takes is a glance at some of the hand-drawn maps to get an idea why:
    link to eqmacwiki.com
    link to eqmacwiki.com
    link to eqmacwiki.com
    etc

    Not to mention all the secret areas, traps and very real dangers that littered most of them. Modern instances don’t hold a candle to these; they’re almost entirely linear, they play like a level from a console game rather than the act of exploring a vast and dangerous dungeon.

    • Berzee says:

      I never played EQ because of the half-naked box art and what I heard of the gameplay mechanics, but the maps do look pretty spiffy. =)

      Now, not to compete, but I gotta represent ;)

      link to acmaps.com
      link to acmaps.com

    • Adekan says:

      I played EQ until WoW came out, honestly I figured he was referring to dungeons in the traditional instanced zone for a single group of players sense. Early EQ dungeons were never that, although later they did move towards that, and it was a sad departure.

      The decentralization of community interaction in MMO games these days has greatly reduced my desire to play them. While I enjoyed WoW and Guild Wars, these are the two big games in the “killing off community interaction” category. At no point, whilst playing either game, did I think I was getting a better experience for the fact it was online. In fact quite the opposite, towards the end of my WoW days I lamented the fact the game wasn’t just a single player RPG, as the quests got more and more involving and interesting with cutscenes and such, my experience was actively marred by people walking through the cutscenes as I was watching them, or stealing my quest objectives as I was trying to finish them.

      It has come to the point where games like WoW have turned the average player into an introverted basement dwelling 13 year old troll whose only interactions with other players are to insult, belittle or otherwise ruin their day for them.

      I long for the days of early Everquest where people were helpful, kind and always willing to group up or help one another.

      On a side note, who is holding the list for Frenzy camp? I’d like to get my FBSS within the next month.

    • Cerzi says:

      Adekan: you’ve probably heard of it, but project1999 is very much worth a look if you yearn for those days. I’ve been playing it on and off for the last 2 years, and while the ratio of powergamers to clueless people is a lot higher than in the old days (and that isnt a good thing, as like most old games, it has been mastered a thousand times by the hardcore), the dependence players have on interacting with others is just as strong. Outside a couple of self-sufficient-ish solo-heavy classes like the mage and necro (which will still end up interacting with others just for transportation or rezzes, if not in groups), you really need to group with others, just like it was back then. You make a name for yourself and every time you log in you’re swamped in tells offering you a spot in a group at a nice camp.

      tl;dr everyone who is sick of today’s MMOs needs to go play it, honestly. And MMO developers need to take a look at how a completely free-run project is host to a server with 1000 simultaneous players at prime time. Yeah, that’s now WoW numbers, but there’s still money to be made here guys.

    • Adekan says:

      Actually, I hadn’t. Although I was aware that EQ emulators existed I have never dabbled in them. A friend and I decided to play 1-60 again when they had an EQ+all expansions+one free month for $1.25 on Steam deal. Unfortunately the game is pretty crap after 60 and we stopped playing quite some time before the one free month was up. I think we made it to 72.

      At any rate, on the project1999 website it states i’d need an EQ Titanium install. I don’t think I have that and I’m not sure I would buy it, even if it were to play the original EQ again. Wonder if I could use my original EQ disc(Which I still have, amazingly enough).

    • Cerzi says:

      Yeah, you’ll find project1999 a lot more authentic than the recent official progression servers (or even the original ones a few years back). To be honest I just torrented the Titanium edition, as I have all the CDs somewhere and have thrown enough money SOE’s way in the past.

  30. vecordae says:

    Another vote for DDO. I’ve played a pile of MMO’s and found the instanced dungeons in DDO to be “The Most Fun.”

    For those of you who are tempted to play it based on all the comments, go and do it. It’s free. It plays completely differently from WoW and its clones, feeling more like a 3rd person action/adventure game. The character creation and leveling system is deeper and more complex than pretty much every MMO I’ve tried. All of the additional content, such as adventure packs, classes, and races can be unlocked simply by playing the game, either via in-game unlocks (do enough missions and you can unlock the drow race) or by spending the turbine points you get awarded every so often.

  31. CMaster says:

    The two MMOs I’ve sunk any time into, Neocron and Fallen Earth. didn’t do them very well in either case.

    One thing I love about Neocron however is no instancing.City of Heroes felt so stupidly fake, when a bunch of people would click the same door in front of you, and be transported to different places.

  32. bathoz says:

    While I’m willing to boy to the DDO crowd, I’d like to add DC Universe Online to the mix. Their dungeons came in single, duo and group and raid variety.

    Each dungeon was usually the end part of a chain of story quests – all fully voiced. The dungeons themselves were all different, filled with different challenges, voiced, with heroes helping or hindering you depending on your… proclivities.

    DCUO may not have been a long lived game, content wise, but what it had, was brilliant. And the dungeons were certainly part of that.

  33. Wulf says:

    I honestly have to say that Champions Online wins this, for me. All of their dungeons have stuff going on, this includes nattering NPCs and things to interact with, there’s stuff you have to do in each dungeon, and objectives to complete. One of my favourites is Stronghold, where the boss at the end sucks you into his mind and forces you to deal with Astral Plane doppelgängers of a number of heroes, then you have to use teamwork to have one person deal with the mobs whilst another sets up power dampeners to weaken him, before finally he’s defeated.

    Every Champions dungeon has a lot going on in it and they’re improving them all the time. There’s a lot of story, and cutscenes which are actually worthwhile. For example, in the Monster Island cutscene you have Doctor Demogaard and his Draysha gas. His Draysha gas is part of an ongoing series of experimentations to unlock the latent dinosaur DNA in earth’s newer lifeforms (including humans), and he’s got these great bits of correspondence going on with Doctor Blank, another professor whom you defeat in his Nevada lair.

    link to champions-online-wiki.com

    There’s just a whole lot of character there. And then there are the fun outdoor public mission instances, like Monster Island, where you get to be giant, or a King of Edom, or one particularly fun instance where you get to pilot around a freaking Mega-Destroid. (Mega-D’s are very, very big and very, very powerful.) There’s always something interesting going on like that and it’s always tied into a story. And there’s often stuff to do as well, it’s not just defeating mobs and then a boss.

    Another example in one dungeon is that you have a network of totems that’s empowering the undead that are raising up out of the ground, once you shut down a round of totems, getting rid of the flowing energy from that room, the undead are weakened.

    But my favourite part of it really is the story, yeah. The big bads of each dungeon are very storied and often very amusing to boot. Not to mention that CO is one of the few games where I’ve fought alongside a giant, mechanical dinosaur in an instance, and then had to work with a fire-ape to take down a glowing Tyrannosaurus Rex against a high-tech jungle backdrop. It’s lots of fun. It’s also very colourful and more imaginative than your usual dungeon pap.

    (And I say this as someone who’s played DDO and LOTRO. CO trumps ’em both. DDO has some fun traps/puzzles, but ultimately the dungeons are bland and boring by comparison, and not nearly as storied. Though DDO is the only game that comes remotely close, I’ll say that. LOTRO lags far, far behind both.)

    Hee’s a video of the fight I mentioned where the player(s) get to pilot a Mega-Destroid, it’s so utterly silly, I love it. I wish more games would do things like this.

  34. Cerzi says:

    Elitist Person: I think it’s pretty clear who the people who’ve only been playing MMOs since WoW are in this thread
    Cerzi: I disagree I am not elitist and your statement does not represent my own views

  35. Arglebargle says:

    DDO may be the best at presenting dungeons, since that is pretty much most of what the game consists of. The issue with DDO is, for me, that they have all the aspects I don’t care for. Overreliance on traps, dumbass puzzles, D&D rules, etc.

    Personal taste and all that….

    • vecordae says:

      These are the exact reasons I enjoy it so much. Funny ole’ world, wot?

    • Arglebargle says:

      Yeah! I try and keep that in mind; the difference between ‘I don’t care for that sort of thing’, and ‘that’s bad design’.

      Of course, I DO think that D&D rules are just bad design….;-)

    • Wulf says:

      I think that everyone will agree with you that the D&D rules are a bloated mess.

      I’ve been on and off with tabletop games for a while now, I do stints, then I completely forget about them, then I come back to them, and so on. Mostly I’ve played the older stuff. I could never get into the newer D&D, never could. It’s rather horrible.

      I do like a lot of the older stuff, though. Older versions of Gamma World particularly.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      D&D 3e is a bloated mess. Feats were a terrible idea, multiclassing makes little sense, and combat is hideously overcomplicated. Every other edition is fairly tight, though.

      I could say lots of bad things about 4e – it’s video gamey and much too focused on tactical miniatures combat – but it’s a good ruleset for what it is. Not particularly interesting to me as an RPG, but a solid game.

      The old school editions, from original D&D to AD&D2, are all relatively simple and again, very good at being what they intend to be. Dungeon crawlers, mainly, with a side order of “do whatever you want” fantasy adventure.

    • lunarplasma says:

      Try Pathfinder!

  36. Chelardar says:

    I haven’t played other MMOs, but I really enjoy Runescape’s approach to instanced dungeons. You can do it solo or in a team up to 5, there’s a good spread of combat and puzzles, there are rewards both to help you in future dungeons and on the surface, and all the dungeons are cleverly randomly generated.

    Even if it is called ‘dungeoneering’. :P

  37. Shane says:

    Warhammer Online

    I like DDO(actually i’m playing it right now) but I just love the “Public Quests” in Warhammer.
    I’m kinda lazy so I don’t like to wait for a party.

  38. malkav11 says:

    I really like the instanced dungeons in WoW and the few I’ve experienced in LOTRO, but I think my very most favorite ones are in EQII, where a lot of them are actual, real-feeling structures and environments instead of story-focused theme park rides. Fighting through an orc emperor’s citadel, having arrows rained down on us from the battlements and sabotaging catapults and finding the secret door to the harem? Good times. Likewise finding the secret underground laboratory of the mad necromancer whose entire now ghostly family and their flesh golem and undead servitors infest the rest of the castle. Or exploring the ruins of an ancient dark elf city.

    I gather that this is what EQ1’s dungeons are meant to be like also, but it’s so low res and clunky and light on atmosphere anymore that it just doesn’t compare.

    • Wulf says:

      I have to agree. I have a lot of love for Everquest II as well, it did a lot of things I like. In fact, the only thing I didn’t really like at the time was that it was rather weak in the story area for each of the races. It could have been better, there, they could have hired a writer.

      But by comparison, I can say so many great things about EQ II that I can’t about other MMORPGs. Such as actually seeing NPCs going into shops and buying things. It had a very believable world, and yeah, that carried over into the instances.

    • malkav11 says:

      I find Norrath to be a largely depressingly generic setting with bland writing. One reason I was puzzled by the decision to spin it off into games like Champions of Norrath and Lords of Everquest. I quite enjoyed a lot of the design, though, and appreciated the sensibilities that went into the dungeons especially.

  39. Daikaze says:

    City of Heroes seems like the easy winner here. The instances always made it feel about you with little things like having your name in the chat bubbles.

    City of Heroes also had instances that scaled with the number of teammates you had with you and you could adjust the difficulty. Ouroboros added ways to further enhance the instanced experience.

    • Wulf says:

      Having played both recently, as I still have a CoH subscription, I can say that Champions Online does more of this, and does it better. It’s just a ‘natural evolution’ thing.

  40. Shadram says:

    I’m going to join in with everyone else and say DDO. It’s the only MMO I’ve maintained my subscription to, and since it’s all dungeons (and a few dragons), there must be something in it.

    Doing instances in WoW with friends was the only thing that kept me playing for a long time, and I have hugely fond memories of leading my raid group through TBC raid content, but since WotLK they got increasingly dull and dumbed down until I gave up a couple of years ago. Can’t say I miss it.

  41. ScoutAbout says:

    I’ve thought about giving DDO a go for a while and these comments motivated me to download it this evening. I played some WoW a couple of years ago and tended to enjoy the caster classes. My main was a frost mage and I played the hell out of her for a while. Any suggestions for a good caster class for a beginning DDO player?

    • InternetBatman says:

      Mage will do. The only weird thing about D&D casters is that cool spells require ingredients with hefty costs. It balances out against the warrior’s repair bill. It’s a cool, non-life consuming game. Well crafted and fun for a while.

  42. InternetBatman says:

    I have to say that I liked DDO’s dungeons for multiple reasons. Respawns were pretty rare, and I loathe respawns in a dungeon. The xp bonuses for solving optional objectives were pretty cool. The traps, platforming, and puzzles made for a neat game. The DM’s voice was awesome although he complained about the smell a lot. The playerbase was cool. The best part about the entire game was the way metagaming wasn’t really a factor when I was playing. You cast spells as situations required it, not on a set timer. Raids were really cool, but hard to get a group for. Built in voice chat was another plus for dungeons. Most pugs had at least half the people talking on a mic, which makes communication quicker. Also the monsters had far greater variance than most (fucking rust eaters.)

    When I played (a while ago), the biggest problem was the lack of variety, and that was only that there needed to be more dungeons. I hear they worked on it a lot.

  43. lunarplasma says:

    @JIM: So, is there going to be a follow-up article to this?

  44. ForlornWinter says:

    I quite like the way Face of Mankind does dungeons, in that they’re not instanced, but open to anyone, so you can get really great multi-faction battles anytime, kinda like EVE. At least, that’s how it was in beta, when I played, it’s in F2P now though… might give it another try.

  45. johnpeat says:

    On the topic of DDO – do people still play this then?

    I tried it about 18 months ago and it was dead as a doornail. There was quite a bit to like about it BUT it was clearly a group-focussed game and there was no-one to group with!?!?

    Did going ‘properly free’ change that??

    • MaXimillion says:

      Going Freemium gave them about two million extra subs or something equally silly, and a huge boost to their profits. The game is definitely quite alive now, especially on the most packed servers.

      Also, they just launched an update with a new class (Artificer), so the low levels have more people than usual right now.

  46. DigitalSignalX says:

    No argument that DDO is the clear winner in these threads, tried it, loved it. But I also wanted to mention Lineage 2, which I played for many years and had a very nice dungeon set up. They key though is that most were not instanced, so you could find yourself not only worrying about maintaining different party elements in complex PvE, but have to suddenly switch to PvP tactics on the fly. Dungeon areas were impossible to solo, and impossible for one or two people to reach simply for PvP – so when hostilities erupted, it was always large scale, and it was (almost) always won by who could of leverage the dungeon’s complexities vs. the enemy best. Training, pushing ppl back into spawns, or even buffing and healing mobs were valid tactics that could be countered by a smart group.

  47. microo97 says:

    you can tray dungen and dragona neverwinter (it in closd beta )