We’ve got less than a month now until Heavensward early access starts. So just as I talked about the game’s dungeons shortly after launch, today I want to talk about all of the options at level 50. These are rated purely based on the fun of the dungeon, not rewards, and in all cases I’m talking about the factory-fresh version rather than, say, the downtunings that Pharos Sirius and Amdapor Keep have seen. So let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
17. Copperbell Mines
Someone has to be last, huh? I don’t think that Copperbell Mines is a terrible dungeon, but it’s the worst out of the endgame lineup, and here’s why: At the end of the day, it’s just plain boring. Its boss mechanics involve a lot of carrying things around and not a whole lot of other activity, and none of the bosses is the sort that really sticks out in your mind. Even the storytelling kind of took a vacation for this one: “Oh, well, here are more giants; go kill them.” It’s not terrible but boring, and it’s far too easy for the run to devolve into irritation without actual challenge.
16. Brayflox’s Longstop
I was actually excited about this dungeon back in the day, but it has two big problems that knock it down to the second-to-last spot. The first is that the boss mechanics are almost entirely possible to ignore and discard, which is never a good sign. The second is that the dungeon is basically built for speedruns, which made it a real chore in the duty finder when you’d get some people farming myth, some people who just wanted to go through normally, and far too many players with no ability to connect the tank’s gear level to what could be safely pulled. It’s not awful, but it has a lot of irritating associations.
15. Stone Vigil
Much like Copperbell, this is another case of the story giving you a dungeon that’s the same as the original only more. To its credit, it’s more memorable. Not to its credit, two of its three bosses are basically fights in which roles don’t matter and mechanics become an irritating mess. It’s not too hard, but it often winds up being more annoying than fun.
The first two fights of this dungeon are way too good at killing players in an eyeblink, which is the same sort of thing that make fights like Titan Extreme a pain. The last fight isn’t hard, but it’s slow and slog-like as you whittle down arms, then back to the Kraken itself. It also introduced these weird jellyfish pirate things and then did nothing with them, which feels like a wasted opportunity.
13. Pharos Sirius
Siren is a boss with too many things going on, a Primal fight that’s shoved awkwardly into a four-player dungeon. Along for the ride is a boss with a very low threshold for failure, another one that relies on no one being too aggressive, and a boss in name only that exists for no appreciable reason. Combine that with its overall length and it’s no shock that most people don’t like Pharos Sirius, even now.
If the last two dungeons lose points for being too hard (which isn’t really accurate – they’re not hard, just very reliant on mechanics with no threshold of recovery), Snowcloak loses out for being too damn easy. I get that it’s a story dungeon, yes, but it’s really hard to have any real setbacks in Snowcloak even when everyone regularly screws up. I’d say it’s in a solid place to be the easiest dungeon in the entire game, and that’s saying something.
11. Haukke Manor
Haukke loses some points for largely being another “second verse, same is the first” dungeon a la Stone Vigil and Copperbell. It also has a damned boring first boss. But its other bosses are interesting, and the various pulls through the dungeon are pretty interesting and segmented. You can see a lot of its tricks used again in later dungeons, with a distinct feeling of encounter segments between bosses rather than just randomly arranged enemies.
10. Sunken Temple of Qarn
The last of the group on the back half, Qarn is really not a bad dungeon. I like it the best out of its batch of dungeons, as it requires attention but isn’t punishing to play through. However, it has a few instant-fail mechanics, which I’m not fond of, and it doesn’t really deliver on its stated premise of an ancient temple filled with traps. It mostly feels like a series of encounters strung together until the dungeon is finished, which knocks it down a fair bit.
9. Hullbreaker Isle
Hullbreaker is solidly middle-of-the-road; the dungeon throws out lots of odd ideas that are hit-and-miss. But it has two big things going for it. The first is that it’s attractive; with most dungeons having an overcast or foreboding feel to them, Hullbreaker stands out. It also has a strong lineup of bosses that all feel very unique and engaging, even though solid play can totally let a single player solo through most of the second boss without a hiccup. The whole thing is just cool – a nice deviation from the norm.
8. Lost City of Amdapor
When I talk about bosses like Siren being too complex for the space they’re in, I can point to Diabolos as an example of a complex boss that is perfect for where he’s placed. He’s got a lot going on, but not so much that you can’t manage. The other two bosses are lighter on mechanics, but they’re unique mechanics, and the “stages” of the dungeon are neat. Its big failing is simply that it’s a bit too long for its own good, and segments feel a bit overextended.
7. Amdapor Keep (Hard)
The biggest problem that this dungeon has is that there are too many bits that don’t get sufficient pointers. It’s hard to see the target mark on the first boss, it’s too easy to unveil both versions of the second boss while the Martyr is still up, and so forth. That being said, all of the mechanics in the fights are solid, engaging, and unique. I especially like that the designers found a way to bring back the Demon Wall without actually having you fight it at any point.
6. Tam-Tara Deepcroft
Creepy, yes, but also very well-designed. All three boss fights have a lot of interplay with the space available in the arena, despite the fact that all three take place in roughly analogous spaces; the first boss is all about bunching up, the second is about spreading out, and the third is about locking off parts of the field while still retaining the mobility to take out threats. It suffers a little from having kind of annoying trash pulls and the fact that its first two bosses are just kind of there, overshadowed in importance by the final boss. Also, again, creepy.
5. Wanderer’s Palace
You know, I don’t care about the fact that the first boss is just kind of there or that the second boss can be annoying because there’s really only one boss here, and that’s the entire dungeon. The way that Wanderer’s Palace handles pulling and fighting is unique and different, that constant push to be ahead of the stalkers that will demolish you if you let them. Flitting hither and yon in the dungeon is one of my favorite things in the world.
4. Amdapor Keep
While the loss of Wallace’s gnats is probably for the best thematically, it doesn’t do good things for the encounter as a whole. Original Amdapor is still a remarkably well-designed dungeon, though, with three interesting bosses that require different sorts of coordination. The trash is a little excessive, but the designers were still learning, and I’m willing to give them a pass on that based on the fact that everything else is in a solid place.
3. Keeper of the Lake
Midgardsormr is one of the most ornate bosses in the game, but nothing feels gratuitous or out of place as you fight him. The first two bosses are both mechanically involved, but they also offer a variety of different approaches that you can vary based on what’s happening in the battlefield. Really, if not for the first segment’s being unremarkable and the annoying alarm noise, I would have nothing bad to say.
You know, I keep expecting to be bored of Halatali, but I never am. Part of it is that I love the fact that we get a dungeon in which it’s clear that adventurers have had a positive impact on the world, but every segment of the dungeon is designed to be different, every boss is involved without being unpleasant, and every encounter is satisfying in its own way. There’s not a bad pull in the whole place, and there’s only one thing that knocks it from the top spot? Not enough tonberries.
1. Wanderer’s Palace (Hard)
Yep. I love tonberry friends. I love the bosses. I love the various segments here. I love the changes to the map. I love the Mamool Ja. I like everything going on here, and the ending cutscene in particular brings a grin to my face every time. It’s earned that top spot.
If you hold a grudge about my picks, let me know down in the comments or via mail to email@example.com. Next week, I want to talk about the Steps of Faith, the Poetics cap, and catching up.