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Guild Wars 2 diary: Dungeons of dragons

by Ozzie Mejia, shacknews.com, Sep 12, 2012 11:00AM PDT

With my Sylvari Mesmer finally at level 30, it was time to begin exploring the Guild Wars 2 dungeon scene. A level 30 dungeon known as the Ascalonian Catacombs was located in the middle of the Plains of Ashford, home of the Charr race. Getting together with my experienced guide, a level 35 Human Elementalist named Ziva no Najwa, we threw out an open call for a party of five to begin what would undoubtedly be an arduous quest.

A helpful Charr named Rogg Ironlight, a Norn named Sabnir Stonepaw, and a human named Kookielea soon joined our ragtag group and we walked through the front gate. The Ascalonian Catacombs were filled with restless spirits of Ascalonian soldiers that were killed by the Charr. Rytlock Brimstone, the Story Mode's Charr representative, would act as our NPC guide and provide backstory in various areas.

The dungeon started off with a rallying point and a designated armor-repair area, for when our armor inevitably endured wear and tear. The first thing I noticed was that the enemies were tough as nails, made more difficult by the fact that everyone was scaled down to level 30. Starting with the opening Gate Guardian, we all had to exercise teamwork to eliminate foes one at a time. We had to be careful not to wander recklessly, otherwise we would disturb multiple spirits and find ourselves overwhelmed. Each of the spirits represented one of the game's many professions, with Ascalonian Monks giving us the most trouble, thanks to their self-healing abilities.

After defeating an Ascalonian Lieutenant, I learned that dungeon raiding would not be a quick affair. A cutscene revealed the ghost of King Adelbern, the human king from the original Guild Wars. Adelbern had gone mad since the events of the first GW and vowed vengeance against Rytlock and our party. To draw out Adelbern, we had to take out all of his lieutenants in three separate boss fights.

Rogg Ironlight offered strategy against the first of these bosses, Master Nente. Nente needed to be attacked from a distance, but we also had to avoid his summoned pets and teleportation attacks. While some of our party fell throughout the fight, they could respawn at the dungeon entrance and rejoin the battle at any time. Nente was soon defeated, but our party would meet our end at the next boss fight.

The fallen lovers, Ralena and Vassar, proved incredibly difficult. Vassar's maelstrom would draw us closer to him, where he would make short work of anyone nearby. I tried to stay far away and attack with clones, but Ralena hit a lot harder than I did and dispatched me in two hits. Clones were of little help, as the lovers sliced through them like a hot knife through butter. Our strategy ultimately proved clumsy and uncoordinated, so when one of our party members dropped out, the rest of us quickly followed suit. The Ascalonian Catacombs would remain unconquered -- for now.

With my dungeon raid an utter failure, I decided to explore a different aspect of the Guild Wars 2 experience -- World vs. World. While Player vs. Player has always been a popular part of the original GW, World vs. World has become incredibly popular to the point that queues would last hours. To get an idea of what I was in for, I hit the Eternal Battlegrounds and Crystal Isle Borderlands, where I learned that the overall idea of WvW was to control territories.

Everyone was scaled to level 80, which should have theoretically put me on an even playing field with everyone. Unfortunately, lackluster weaponry and armor meant I was vulnerable to powerful attacks. I stuck to large groups and followed them around. We headed out to a contested battle zone, where we were met by opposing players (identified by their server name and the label "Invader") all rushing in, guns blazing. Battle proved intense and became more intense when NPC wildlife also decided to jump into the fray, indiscriminately attacking random players.

Although I died more easily here, I came out of WvW wondering why I didn't jump into this game mode sooner. Many aspects of the main Player vs. Environment game mode remained in place, like the exploration elements and the harvesting areas. Successful kills also rewarded far more XP here than in normal PvE play, making WvW an ideal grinding spot.

As much as I've enjoyed GW2, I realize that I've only scratched the surface of what Guild Wars 2 has to offer. I look forward to seeing what new experiences this game has to offer in the future.