I finally took part in one of the first two dungeon instances in Wildstar. Matter of fact, I have run Stormtalon’s Lair 5 times now though I have yet to do the other starter dungeon, The Ruins of Kel Vorteth. I am assuming that theRuins dungeon is much more difficult or not as fun because I have always queue’d for both but only Stormtalon’s has popped. Regardless, I have run Stormtalon five times now. The first time as a DPS engineer, because I wanted to get a feel for the dungeon, and the rest as a tank engineer. All runs were with PUGs, though I did have a single run in which a friend of mine ran as DPS.
Let me say up front, that this dungeon is a lot more difficult than any dungeon I can think of in modern WoW. Some of this is because it is a new game and people still do not understand the mechanics completely. Hell, I have had to explain how interrupt armor works countless times already. But much of it is also simply because the game is difficult. The mechanics of each boss fight is fairly straightforward but actually pulling off the fights is another matter entirely.
Starting off with the trash, you will find even the basic trash is fairly difficult. They hit hard, they heal each other and there is tons of AoE or splash damage for your healer to worry about. One of the first sets of trash mobs you run into are a Thundercall Shaman and Sentinel. The Sentinel hits pretty hard and has a nasty charge attack, which is easily avoidable because he has no interrupt armor, so you can simply stun him every time he starts charging it up. The problem, however, is the Shaman. The shaman heals and has to be focused down quickly because of it. He has two interrupt armor, so you need to interrupt him three times in order to land one and stop the healing cast.
The other trash mob that will give you problems is the Stormweaver. He has a nasty stacking DoT that applies on multiple group members that needs to be healed through and a channel spell that stuns and does continuous massive damage. This needs to be interrupted or will result in the certain death of the player.
Pulls can also be problematic. There are a few patrols near some of the pulls and accidentally getting one of them while attempting to pull others will result in an almost certain wipe for a PuG. The fact that there is no long term CC makes this even worse. You can’t use a hunter trap or sleep or even a sap, to take a mob out of the picture while you deal with the others. Mobs must be tanked or kited and killed one at a time. This puts a lot of pressure on the tank and healer to absorb the massive damage coming from the mobs.
The trash can be tough. The bosses can be nightmares. Strangely, the bosses go in descending order of difficulty, in my opinion. The first boss, Blade-Wind the Invoker, is the toughest boss in the instance. He is capable of causing much frustration, especially to a pick up group. Dodging telegraphs, and burst damage/healing are all very important with this boss and messing up on one aspect will cause certain wipes.
It has taken each PuG I ran with multiple attempts to down this boss. I have seen more than a few members of my group quit the group in frustration because of him. In the rest of the bosses are tough too. They require reflexes to dodge the telegraphs, a tank that can soak up damage and maintain aggro while dodging and a healer that has to be ready to dodge telegraphs while healing players that are spaced all around him. The DPS also have a tough time because they have to dodge all the telegraphs while maintaining their DPS and being mindful of exactly where their healer is to get heals.
Now, these observations have all been with pickup groups. I am certain that the dungeons are much easier with a guild group. However, when compared to the first dungeon in current WoW or Rift, there is no denying the difference in difficulty. Last time I played WoW, I leveled a new character and did most of the dungeons up to level 64 or so. Not a single one of them was a challenge to the degree the first dungeon in Wildstar is. All were run in pickup groups and many had players new to the game in my group. The simply did not present the level of challenge Stormtalon currently has.
Now this has had many consequences on the Wildstar player base. Many have either quit or given up on dungeons in frustration. There are many topics on the official forums complaining about the difficulty. A lot of players are not happy with this. They are simply too used to the faceroll dungeons you see in most modern MMOs. Its like a culture shock to them.
But, for me and many others, it has had the opposite effect. Yes, the dungeon is tough. Yes, I wiped a lot while doing it and it was, at times, frustrating. But the since of accomplishment I felt when that last boss went down was larger than any I have felt in a long time in MMOs. Certainly more than what I felt in any of the current WoW dungeons.
Also, I noticed something else as a byproduct of the difficulty; my pickup group actually communicated with each other. In Rift and WoW, most PuGs are totally silent. The dungeons are not tough, so everyone goes in, facerolls the content and never says a word. This isn’t true in Wildstar. We talked strategy and, as a result, we actually got to know each other. This is how community is built.
I understand those who don’t have the patience to PuG difficult content or don’t have the time. There are tons of MMOs out there for you. As for me, I hope Carbine stands their ground and keeps the difficulty level high. I like the challenge and I like the fact that it helps build community. That, in the end, is why I play MMOs.