Since the primordial days of alpha testing, there have been a few constants in the World of Warcraft. Things which make us feel safe and secure in the knowledge that they’ll be there ready to go when we need them. However, one of the bigger constants that’s always there no matter what patch build or what expansion we’re looking at is the five man dungeon. This isn’t just a WoW phenomenon though. All the major MMOs have dungeons in some sort of form designed to provide entertainment to multiple players all striving for a common goal. But what makes WoW five mans worthwhile?
Well, when the game was first introduced, there were all sorts of five mans out there. There were your basic “training” five mans such as Ragefire Chasm for the Horde or Deadmines or Shadowfang Keep. These are designed to give you an idea of what instances will become as you progress with all the basics there (large pulls, CCable crowds, boss mechanics, etc etc) but tuned down for lower level groups to be able to get through them. They’re designed to give you an idea how instances work without all the difficulty associated with more intricate mechanics you’ll see later on in the game while give you superior loot. They’re fun and worthwhile for the lowbie player and definitely worth running if you can get enough players together for a group.
Once you get past the easier stuff, you can begin to enter the mid level dungeons such as the perennial favorite, Scarlet Monastery. The great thing about this one is that it’s the first of the “winged” instances, allowing you to run separate areas of the same zone as small mini dungeons while progressing in difficulty and loot. You’ll also begin to see the bosses becoming ramped up to the point where if you’re group isn’t focused and knowledgeable about their characters, you simply won’t be able to kill them. This is where shit becomes real.
You see, right around level 30 is when instances really start to feel like training for raids. Bosses aren’t just tank and spank and can cause spike damage, will target players other than the tank for abilities or will flat out own you if you’re not properly geared or experienced. You’ll also begin to separate out the real players who are capable of the dance of boss fights from those who are better served becoming life long solo artists due to lack of skill. It may sound kind of cruel, but if you’ve grouped with a person several times and are constantly seeing them die to stupid, inane things, you remember and it can effect your view of them should they ever pop up as an applicant for your raiding team.
But that’s just the old world, where there is a steady progression of difficulty in the instances, to be sure. But it all seems rather precious compared to when you finally arrive in Outland and can begin the real regimental training of five mans. While you may have a rough go of it in the old world, the Outland instances will truly eat you alive if you’re not prepared for them and ready to be at the top of your game. Damage increases, the bosses become more difficult with intricate mechanics and will truly make you look silly if you’re not ready, forcing you to evolve as a player so you don’t appear to be a slouch when the time comes to truly test your merit.
The way the game is set now, you can pretty much go straight through to level 80 on these much more difficult dungeons as Northrend dungeons don’t really jump in difficulty other than the general raised toughness of enemies based on level. However, once you hit that magic number of 80, you’re going to have to do an about face and return to five mans to begins the training of heroics. I personally have mixed feeling on the heroics system myself. I think they’re wonderful in the sense that it allows you to once more experience the same dungeons you’ve been in while at the same time making it more on par with your abilities as a level 80. However, I was a dungeon diver while leveling up and I’ve already run these dungeons a thousand times before, so I wasn’t truly wanting to go through all of them again.
Once I started raiding though, I realized that five mans and their heroic counterparts had actually made me a better player. They give you an idea of how to play in a team for one, teaching you where to rely on the various classes and where you need to find that extra oomph within yourself. They also make you ready for boss fights, preparing you for the general idea of “move now” or “don’t stand there” that truly become necessary in raids. Anyone who hasn’t run instances and is thrust into a raid party will most likely look the fool compared to everyone else as they start to develop these skills. Though I hate returning to them when I need to (for holiday achievements or the like), I do find them pretty easy nowadays thanks to my elevated skill levels.
With a new five man in the works for 3.2, I have a feeling that I haven’t seen the last of them though. There will always be a special place in my heart for gathering up four other jokers and spending an hour or so running through a maze of mobs in order to try to get that blue I so desperately want or maybe just make a quick 50g from loot and items. So I ask you, how do five mans fit into your playing style? Other than the dreaded PuG, do you enjoy them, constantly LFG and ready to go at the drop of a hat if someone needs a CoS timed run? Or perhaps you’re more like me, holding them in a special place in your heart and definitely glad you ran them while you were leveling, but not so much feeling like returning to the scene of past crimes anymore? Drop me a comment and lemme know!