Perfect Ten: My favorite MMO dungeons

It’s hard to look at an MMORPG and imagine them without dungeons. For some people, these instances are the core of their game experience, offering challenging (well, hopefully) and rewarding group experiences that can be repeated for fun, profit, and optimal performance.

Dungeons and I have a strange history in MMOs. For me, it all depends on the game in question. There are MMOs that don’t really feature compelling or rewarding dungeons (Guild Wars 2), or make grouping up and getting into them difficult, or what have you. Yet in other games, I’ve run dungeons so many times that I could probably pathfind through each one blind. If done right, they can be really fun and offer me a chance to show off my stuff and feel like I’m part of a team.

For today’s list, I want to share with you my favorite MMO dungeons. I’m going to limit myself to one per MMO for diversity’s sake, which might make it a little challenging, but there you go!

1. City of Heroes: Office

The reusable, semi-randomized group instances in City of Heroes constituted a bulk of my play experience, since they were ideal for getting experience when getting experience was a tough slog. And out of all of the famous themed maps (sewer, cave, warehouse), I had a particular fondness for the office space.

I don’t know what it was, exactly. It always felt bizarre to be performing superheroic feats in a mundane office, traveling past copiers and water coolers on our way to beat up bad guys who — for some reason — felt like they wanted to terrorize an insurance agency. And we always got laughs from how these floor plans made no logical sense to people working there, even though they were fun to navigate.

2. WildStar: Space Madness

WildStar’s shiphand missions were creative, entertaining, and accessible instances, and I far preferred them to the “real” dungeons and raids. While most all of them were great, Space Madness earns my favorite spot for gradually causing all of the group’s characters to go bonk starking mad. Hallucinogenic drugs in the air turn enemies into goofy objects, and rainbows start shooting out of everything, and there’s a boss fight against a giant vending machine. It’s glorious.

3. Dungeons and Dragons Online: Delera’s Tomb

Back in the 2007-10 era, I was hugely into DDO. I made a Bard named Fiddyment who used a machine-gun crossbow and I loved her dearly. Went on group adventures most every night, because at that time there wasn’t much else to do in the game, and probably went through more imaginative dungeons than I ever remember. But I do recall, quite clearly, the fun of Delera’s Tomb. It was the quintessential “spooky graveyard” dungeon series, plus Gary Gygax did some of the Dungeon Master voiceover for the quests.

4. World of Warcraft: Deadmines

On one hand, picking just one dungeon out of WoW’s gigantic library of instances is daunting. On the other hand, at least for me, the choice is obvious. Ever since playing back at launch in 2004, I’ve been in love with the Goonies-inspired Deadmines (in both its old and new format). Great flow, fun setpieces, and some iconic bosses kept me coming back, as well as a chance to get that parrot pet drop that I always wanted.

5. Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Foundry

To be honest, this was one of the MMOs where I never got too heavily into the dungeon scene. They weren’t bad or anything, I usually just preferred going through the stories. But I did my fair share of time in flashpoints, and if I had to pick one, I’d go with the Foundry. Why? Because HK-47 is my favorite Star Wars character and any chance to hang out with him — even in an antagonistic setting — was welcome.

6. Final Fantasy XIV: Haukke Manor

I admit that I do have a penchant for haunted houses, especially in MMORPGs, so I guess it was inevitable that I would be drawn to Haukke Manor. It’s not exactly super-duper scary, but it’s creepy and just different enough to be interesting. There is a pretty morbid story behind it, and I’ve been told that the advanced version of the dungeon is way better. Should probably see that some day.

7. The Secret World: Hell Raised

The Secret World has generally excellent dungeons, with very little in the way of trash mobs but plenty of visual wonders to witness and tough-as-nails bosses to fight. And you even get to go to Hell — twice! TSW’s Hell is this industrial horror landscape, even though it’s supposed to be a sanctuary of sorts too. In between our group getting our butts kicked by the Machine Tyrant for the 50th time, I always was scoping out the eerie map — which was made by sewn-together human flesh.

8. Lord of the Rings Online: Trouble in Tuckborough

For all I’ve played LOTRO, I’ve hardly ever gone into full-fledged dungeons. No one seems to use the group finder for them and my kinships don’t seem preoccupied with running them. So instead, most of my instance time in the game was spent in solo and group skirmishes. These were clever small-scale dungeons that offered interesting stories, difficulty settings, and mechanics, such as Trouble in Tuckborough’s reclaiming of a key Hobbit town from nasty bandits. It’s a shame the devs stopped making new skirmishes after Mirkwood, honestly.

9. Fallen Earth: Kingman Prison

Here’s a dungeon that I only ran, I think, twice, but it was definitely one of the most memorable experiences I had in that post-apocalyptic MMO. Kingman Prison is this huge, sprawling, and highly defended jail that you can clean out if you have the talent, gear, and (most importantly) bodyguards on your side. Prisons make great dungeon settings, and this one had a lot to see and do as you fought your way to the gang boss who ran the place.

10. RIFT: Realm of the Fae

Looking for an MMO that offers a great dungeon experience? Seriously, you should check out RIFT. Lots of instances, lots of loot, nice variety, and a looking for group tool that works splendidly. I ran so, so many dungeons in this game, but I was always partial to Realm of the Fae for its theme of traversing the four seasons (spring, summer, autumn, winter) as you progressed through it.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

31 Comments on "Perfect Ten: My favorite MMO dungeons"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
Jeffery Witman

The Vale in DDO was full of fun dungeons. The heavy metal themed names, the ridiculous quest rewards/assembly components, and the big raid at the end of it were amazing. And they had to be, because you had to run them all over and over and over again if you wanted a greensteel customized weapon (and you did).

Of all of them, however, Rainbow In The Dark was the very best dungeon. It has everything you look for in a good crawl, including good story.

KatsPurr
Reader
KatsPurr

Deadmines <3

Sean McCoy
Reader
Sean McCoy

My top 5 would probably include: The original Stratholme from WoW (those timed runs!), The Great Gubal Library (either difficulty), The Wretched Eye (Destiny) – Pretty challenging for newer players and actually takes some effort, The Keeper of the Lake (FFXIV), and finally I’d say False Emporer (SWTOR)…because Malgus.

Reader
Giannis Papadopoulos

I ve just realized that beside wow and ffxiv i have not experience of other MMO dungeons even if I played them all less or more…

I guess this is because when i played other MMOs was to “escape” from wow/ffxiv heavy group playstyle and relax doing solo things and smell the flowers…

On topic now, i will say whats my best dungeon ever (from my little experience): Blackrock depths. It is huge and epic… this is the epitome of dumgeons… this is how dungeons should be..

Reader
Zen Dadaist

Hrm. I think all my of top 10 would be TSW! (Favourite: The Facility NM. Most hated: The Facility NM.) Though, that is a touch unfair because Rift has a couple of fun places too. (Kondraum’s liver has gone rogue and is trying to take over the plane of water? Well, why wouldn’t it!) That is, assuming the modern definition of dungeon, being a single-group-instanced place wherein you progress linearly from non-respawning boss to boss via trash mobs, and is considered complete upon the death of the final boss which is usually a degree beefier than the other bosses.

Older games’ dungeons are somewhat different: they might only instance when too many group are squeezed into one, they have fully respawning everything given enough time, and they aren’t necessarily linear and you can run round going after different bosses in different orders in their dead end lairs. (Temple of Three Winds/Train Wrecks, anyone?) They probably shouldn’t be counted for this :p

Reader
Rhime

I can’t believe that Darkness Falls from DAoC was left off any list…Noobs!

Reader
Dolnor .

You beat me to mention of Darkness Falls. Not only was it a bad-ass dungeon, with high level mobs at the end, but it also changed hands to another realm if the balance of Castles & Towers in Frontiers shifted. That alone added an extra layer to an already outstanding dungeon! -)

TQQdles™

Mukit
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Mukit

LOVED that one.

Reader
Malcolm Swoboda

Realm of the Fae will always have a special place in my heart. It did its job well, and I’m not even so partial to ‘fae’ themed content.

Reader
rafael12104

Ah, well. For me there will always be SWTOR’s Eternity Vault. It is an Operation. The first, in fact. And while now it is nothing more than a faceroll, in those early days was a difficult and incredibly satisfying experience.

Here, let me show you, literally. The following is in french, but the sights and sounds are captured perfectly. The music, while not exactly the music heard in the OP, conveys that feeling of heroism that was felt by each and all.

Without further ado, I give you Eternity Vault. The first, the simplest, but the most fun dungeon/OP I’ve run in many years.

Reader
mcsleaz

I’ve been playing BDO exclusively for over a year now. I can happily say that in that time frame I have run exactly ZERO dungeons & I don’t miss them one bit :)

Reader
jay

I have trouble thinking of a single group dungeon that has ever made a massive impact on me as a player. I’ve played through 10’s of thousands of them over the course of the last 18 years, and I can’t think of a single one where I could say, “that was amazing!”.

Many of the non-dungeons in TSW were quite amazing. Like the demolition dungeons, or the mission in the car park where all you have is a flash light. But those were all solo play, and couldn’t possibly be done in a group situation. That which made them great, also prevents them from being used in group play.

I think part of the issue is monotony. With group play, you can’t use really creepy atmosphere involving sneaking past enemies, or a myriad of other tricks that really make a psychological impact on players. Instead you have to develop to the “lowest common denominator”, ie not all groups are created equal, and you have to make the content simple enough to figure out and navigate that it doesn’t turn players away.

Imagine, if you will, an entire dungeon filled with fights to the difficulty of dark souls. Where every single fight is a fight for your life. Trash is a real issue, and you are constantly dodging massive attacks that would decapitate you in a single swing. In a murky cave with clouds of vapor swirling around, the only light is from your torch, which barely pierces the darkness surrounding you. At any moment you could fall into a massive unseen chasm that looms right in front of you, but is just out of the reach of your minimal light. Monsters skitter around just out of sight, but you can hear the clicking of their claws on the floor.

Now that’s atmosphere. But you can’t have that type of game play in an MMORPG. At least not in a group situation.

The best I could say for an MMORPG to break up to monotony of the game would be to make randomized spawn locations for all of the monsters inside a dungeon. Also have the monsters roam around randomly. This way every time you repeat a dungeon, it’s not exactly the same experience every time.

Bobuliss
Reader
Bobuliss

By far my favorite is Dire Maul from WoW. I loved getting all the pieces together for a Tribute run. “It’s good to be da king!” So much fun walking around the instance after you were done and interacting with all your new Ogre subordinates.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

Nostalgic plug for the throne room of King Krush in original Everquest. That was your first real “boss” to fight if you were around Kelethin. It took a group, and you felt like you’d achieved something.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

My favourite are Zul’Gurub (WoW) and The Ankh (TSW)

Steely Bob
Reader
Steely Bob

i’m not sure i’ve seen a better dungeon than eq2’s Stormhold.

Sarigar
Reader
Sarigar

I could do a top 10 of just EverQuest dungeons…

Unrest
Najena
Lost Temple of Cazic-Thule
Upper Guk
Lower Guk
Sol A
Sol B
Sebilis
Veeshan’s Peak
Temple of Veeshan

Many hours of fun (and more than a little rage and despair) in those hellholes!

Cyclone Jack
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Cyclone Jack

Deadmines? Please. Everyone knows Blackrock Depths is one of the best dungeons seen in any MMO. ;) It housed a huge number of bosses, many optional and some random, and really felt like an underground city. It was an explorer’s dungeon, and it had an interesting mechanic (at the time) in getting into the latter areas of the dungeon. The only thing I would have changed would have been to add additional crafting resources specific to the dungeon (similar to black iron), and improve some of the boss fights.

My second favorite would be the Faathim the Kind TF in CoH. Lots of AVs, numerous enemy factions, most of which were my favorites (I loved Rularuu, Malta and Knives), and one of the best AVs in the game, Lanaruu the Mad.

Minimalistway
Reader
Minimalistway

I wish to see more haunted creepy houses or manors, there is something about a great looking house filled with creepy group of monsters, i loved Luigi’s Mansion for that.

Also i wish to see more than combat in dungeons, the idea of fighting to get loot is not enough for me, there must be a way to add different kind of content in dungeons to make them more than just killing mobs/bosses, in WoW for example, there is one forge in a dungeon to smelt Dark Iron ore, since this was classic era it is no longer relevant to current content, and i think most players don’t know anything about it.

One more thing: group size, why should the group size be the same for all dungeons? why not make small dungeons for 2-3 players group? what about solo dungeons? 10 players dungeons? scaling dungeons to group size will help here.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Little Bugbear

Haukke Manor is my favorite in FF14 too.

Reader
Viktor Budusov

Lotro had several new skirmishes after Mirkwood till Dunland

Reader
Doubleplusgood

City of Heroes – Those office maps definitely had some crazy layouts! With multi level foyers, alcoves and hallways that stretched out beyond what would logically fit into an office building. And if you ever pulled too much and got an angry nest of T’soo after you, all you had to do was super speed to the elevator. Enemies did not know how to use the elevator so you could use them to get to safety. And then hilarity would ensure when a teammate unknowingly uses the elevator right after and gets stomped on the second he steps out lol.

My favorite map was the Frostfire map in the hollows. Nothing could beat the fun of the ice slides :) and if you did the map at lvl 10-20 it was a really hard map! One wrong pull and you would have hordes of outcasts on you.

WoW – My favorite is BRD the dark iron dwarf city. It really felt like you were exploring some vast underground realm going deeper into dangerous places you shouldn’t be.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Sashaa

Even if I love dungeoning in Elder Scrolls Online due to the variety of environments and the pleasure of meeting random people, they’re not that great. What a lack of diversity in game mechanics. And I’m not speaking of red aoe circles to avoid, but of real mechanics, the ones that actually call to your brain and make you “think”, not just “react” or “anticipate”.

That said, my favorite ESO one ougth to be Volenfell in the Alik’r Desert. There’s just something about those Dwemer ruins and the desert… Also, I have good memories of Crow’s Wood in Davon’s Watch, maybe the first dungeon I ever did in this game. And in the last DLC, Morrowind’s Nchuleftingh is quite worth the view too.

Now, of all the mmorpgs I played, a few ones do strike my mind. Of course, EverQuest’s Blackburrow in Halas and the Orcs of Crushbone, right near the mighty Faydark woodelves and their city in the trees. The beautiful Velious’ Crystal Caverns, Velketor in his Labyrinth, the giants of Kael Drakkal… On Star Wars Galaxies, dungeons were not my favorite thing, but that Death Watch Bunker on Endor… Oh man! Finally, on Lord of The Rings Online, The Tomb of Elendil, as previously said, and Goblin-Town in the Misty Mountains!

So many places. So many people. Such good memories…

Reader
Robert Mann

I’d like to say I was pleased with MMO dungeons outside combat mechanics. I’m rarely pleased with the combat mechanics (Outside bugs this is probably where Rift really shines, offering a variety of mechanics and interesting ideas that WoW used to do but gave up on. Other games vary between the two ideas, some with at least interesting fights, others where you just stand and attack until you win.) Sadly, most of the time it is ‘Face boss away, don’t stand in bad, kill adds, have gear, win.’

Where’s a real dungeon? One with traps that are more than just a quick ‘Uh-oh, heal quick and/or use an item to fix this!’ One with secret doors, unknown layout, treasure rooms, cool places just to visit, or anything but just the standard rush forward as fast as possible to get through to our boss drops!!

The genre has destroyed dungeons in the same way it has destroyed all other content. It has made them nothing more than a convenient lootbag waiting to be hit. Where I like some more than others, and I would give my left sock (and much financial support to the developers) for a game where dungeons were a slow affair, with traps that made people take it slow, ambushers ready to pop out of doors if you don’t clear your surroundings as you go, twists and turns and forking paths, no auto-map of the whole dungeon on entry, etc.

Estranged
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Estranged

Realm of the Fae is so pretty. I concur.

Reader
Tiresias

The “Dungeons” in FF11 are the best, IMO, because they are completely open-world. It’s clear and obvious when you have stepped inside one, but you don’t have the place to yourself, which can be both good and bad. Also, rewards such as chests and rare crafting nodes spawn randomly, meaning that you had to search around to find the best stuff.

Combine that with great enemies and the overall complexity of many of them and you had the setup for a good time. I spent countless hours delving into dungeons with my Linkshell. I also spent more time than I would care to admit sneaking around them with stealth magic looking for good stuff on my own.

Reader
Melissa McDonald

LOTRO’s Tomb of Elendil should get a mention here. The Great Barrow is no sneeze either for level 20s.

Reader
Dystopiq

GW2s Aetherpath is pretty damn compelling. Hell pugs get destroyed there

Mukit
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Mukit

Now that ya mention it, I gotta say the the variety of mechanics in GW2 dungeons is pretty impressive compared to lotsa other MMOs. None of them feel like simple copies of others. Good stuff.

Reader
Brother Maynard

TSW has 3 Hell dungeons, not 2. Hell Raised, Hell Fallen and Hell Eternal.
But yeah, out of those 3, HR is also my favourite – Machine Tyrant is a blast!

Reader
Wilhelm Arcturus

Deadmines was a really good early dungeon to have in WoW. It was a quality piece of work that set expectations that later dungeons didn’t always live up to. But the original was such an odd beast. By the time you could finish the final boss, the start of the instance would be gray to you, the level gap was so great. Blizz seemed to have the idea there (and in places like Uldaman) that you and your group would spend multiple sessions running a single instance.

Things have certainly changed since then.

wpDiscuz