Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Legion's Gameplay Loop: Dungeons

Click here to go back to the intro article on Legion's Gameplay Loop to view other topics.

Party-oriented content has been a staple for World of Warcraft for a very long time and some of the initial experiences with it all the way up to endgame and beyond have been dungeons. On the surface, dungeons have generally served as the 5-man experience that offers a little more mechanical challenge and better rewards than solo play. At the endgame level, dungeons are typically meant to help prepare players for higher-end endgame content such as raids and often seem to be entry-level content even if a dungeon is released mid-expansion.

Since Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard has been experimenting with ways to improve endgame party content with features such as Challenge Mode and Scenarios. Scenarios were then used to enhance solo content with Timewalking and Mythic difficulty eventually taking its place. Legion has gone further to improve such content and in a perfect storm of existing concepts along with new and old rewards, dungeons have become a nearly endless well of worthwhile content. While there are many ways to experience Legion's dungeons, a couple in particular are especially notable and I'll be covering those facets of content in this article.

Heroic Dungeon Farming

When Valor and the currencies it evolved from were a more prominent currency, farming Heroic dungeons was a lot more attractive with the best rewards coming from doing the first random Heroic each day (or Heroic daily quest). While some aspects generally kept the content from being endlessly farmable such as daily lockouts and point caps, there was a brief window of time in Wrath of the Lich King after Dungeon Finder released where it was. Valor may be gone as a medium for acquiring high-end gear, but Legion has embraced endless Heroic farming by providing new rewards.

There are three types of notable rewards that can be acquired from farming Heroic dungeons: Artifact Power, gear, and legendaries. Artifact Power can be acquired by finishing random Heroics and boss kills sometimes award Artifact Power tokens. Additional Artifact Power can be earned if a player takes advantage of the Call to Arms system. As of this writing, Heroic dungeon gear is item level 825, which isn't that high but could potentially Titanforge to a greater item level, which means there's a very small chance a player could hit the figurative jackpot and obtain maximum item level gear from Heroic dungeons. Legendaries are technically equipment in themselves, but due to the system of acquiring them and their rarity and impact on player power, I believe they deserve a classification (and a future article) all their own.

If you've been doing Heroic dungeons and wondering why really geared players are doing them with you, the previous rewards might be a large part of why. The Dungeon Finder allows players to ignore Heroic dungeon lockouts and with the nearly endless demand for Artifact Power, they will likely be running Heroics for a very long time to max out even one of their Artifact weapons. Getting high item level gear and at least improving the pity timer on legendaries is a nice bonus.


As mentioned before, Mythic dungeons were added in Warlords of Draenor. However, it was added at a later stage that allowed for difficulty tuning equivalent to the final tier of content. In Legion, Mythic dungeons are basically a step above Heroic but already rapidly on the verge of becoming outdated and useless. Mythic+ difficulty alleviates that problem, however, because to enter a Mythic+ dungeon, players have to initially acquire a keystone from a Mythic dungeon (or another person's Mythic+ run) and they may have to do so in future if they aren't actively farming Mythic+.

Mythic+ dungeons are explained very well here, but to make a lengthy guide short, Mythic+ functions in a manner similar to Diablo 3's Greater Rift system in that players speedrun through a specific Legion dungeon based on the keystone and clearing within the time limit upgrades the keystone. Difficulty will endlessly scale up with stronger mobs due to increasing health and damage based on the Mythic+ level of the keystone. In addition, higher Mythic+ levels will have an increasing number of affixes that generally add mechanical challenge. While these affixes are far from being perfectly balanced and I will likely end up being criticizing them in a future article (probably after patch 7.1.5), the general idea of adding other types of difficulty besides larger numbers is one I appreciate since it helps to improve the difficulty curve and provides variance on a weekly basis.

In terms of the amount of gameplay provided, Mythic+ is nearly infinite since there will likely be many keystones available to use. Furthermore, each Mythic+ dungeon from a non-depleted keystone awards loot in the form of Artifact Power and gear that scales upward based on the level of the Mythic+ completed (as of this writing, up to item level 870). This makes Mythic+ farming very attractive since it provides far greater rewards than other endless grinding activities like Heroic farming, resulting in the formation of carry groups that typically run lower level keystones. These carry groups are especially beneficial since more inexperienced players can gear up and potentially learn something from running Mythic+ with others with minimal drama.

Alternatively, a group can chain through a single keystone due to the keystone upgrading system in search of greater rewards. This in itself has great benefits since players earn a piece of gear weekly from a chest in their class hall based on the highest level Mythic+ completed, even if the key depletes. Players can try to grind to a very high level for the entire week if they are dedicated enough since a depleted key can upgrade as long as the Mythic+ dungeon associated with it is completed in time.

Mythic+ seems to be the ultimate endgame content in many respects such as providing a great challenge along with an appropriate reward, but it's also approachable due to carry groups and encourages communal play because a premade group is required to run a Mythic+ dungeon. Furthermore, in an expansion that is strongly considered alt-unfriendly, having alts is a huge boon for running Mythic+ since keystones are character-bound, meaning a player with many has options for what Mythic+ they want to run.

Final Statements

The current state of the dungeon system is the best I've seen it in a very long time because it strongly meets the requirements to be evergreen content and has potential for great mass appeal. Farming Mythic+ and Heroic dungeons is generally going to be very rewarding and unlike some other PvE content such as raids, there is very little in the way of lockouts or other time-gating to worry about. Because of this, I'd go as far as to say dungeons have a better gameplay loop in terms of sheer replayability value than content like world quests, since world quests are exhaustible but dungeon farming is not. With proper maintenance of the reward systems associated with dungeon farming, such as by providing more traits to spend Artifact Power on, I foresee myself and many other players doing Mythic+ dungeons throughout the expansion.

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