I have been running a fair number of flashpoints recently in SWTOR, and I’ve come to the conclusion that Kaon Under Siege might be my favourite instance/flashpoint in any MMO ever. What really makes this instance stand out for me is the incredible atmosphere, great instance-based storytelling, a few challenging trash mob pulls, and interesting enough bosses (OK, the bosses are not really the highlight of this flashpoint, but I feel they have enough strategy to keep them both interesting and in genre with the rest of the instance).
What I mean by atmosphere is that this is a zombie survival type of setting. Parts of the instance are eerily dark, with players using torches that hover around their heads. Parts involve zombies/rakghouls jumping out at you, in packs. Even if you know the instance reasonably well, the atmosphere is solid. Part of this is down to good pacing; sometimes you can see the rakghouls wandering around so you have time to plan the pulls carefully and other times you’re walking down a dark and quiet corridor and they leap out. It leads to an instance that doesn’t feel as though it’s just a static bunch of mobs standing around in corridors.
By storytelling, I mean that you pick up an entire storyline as you are travelling from boss to boss. There are some conversations (that people tend to skip through if they’re in a hurrt) but also you get some of the information as you are moving/ fighting. On arrival, you know that the planet is quarantined, then you learn via radio that some nobles are trying to break the quarantine so you try to stop them, then you see their hijacked ship crash, talk to the surviving pilot and see him succumb to the disease, and finally have to pick your way through infested and dangerous areas to get to a place where you can find where the infestation began and get a pickup for your team. It’s very smoothly put together. There’s plenty of show to go along with the tell.
The bosses have some interesting features. One boss fight features waves of rakghouls where one character gets to sit in the weapon turret and everyone else helps mop up and take out the rakghouls that are more dangerous. Another boss has to be kited towards explosives when it goes into frenzy (although tbh people seem more likely these days to tough it out). Another set of three have different abilities depending on the kill order. So again, it doesn’t feel like a set of bosses standing in a room waiting for you.
Some of the packs of trash mobs have interesting abilities also. There are rakghouls which have crowd control, others which explode when they die, and others which will throw players around (probably into any other packs of mobs in the area). So as players learn the instance, they can learn the routes which avoid pulling two packs at once, and learn which mobs should be taken out first.
I feel it’s an instance which shows off the very best of SWTOR design, with an attention to the detail, storytelling, that extends into boss mechanics in a way that I haven’t really found in WoW recently. (My favourite WoW instances were Stratholme and BRD, vanilla versions.)
So for any fellow instance runners: Which are your favourites, and why?
I think the guy you talk to after the ship crash is not the pilot, he’s the leader of the local security forces. But anyway, many good points made about Kaon. Personally I have fond memories of the place for other reasons:
1) I ran it on normal the day I hit 50 on my first character, and we died so many times. Afterwards I found out that anyone who’d ever run the place would instantly know which location I was referring to as “the wipe room” (you probably know too)! It’s one of those experiences that really creates a shared experience among the player base.
2) For a while there was a bug, I don’t know if it still exists, where stepping on certain pieces of furniture in the instance (chairs, tables) would just kill you instantly. I laughed tears over seeing guildies fall victim to it repeatedly.
My personal favourite is still the Esseles I think. I like the model of a flashpoint that’s very “talky”, and I how the story develops as you go along.
Oh, and in WoW I also always liked the ones that had a bit of a story/exploration/element of surprise to them, without being super annoying (though your definition of what exactly is super annoying may vary :P): the original Deadmines, Zul’Farrak, Sunken Temple.
Sunken Temple, home of the ‘Where the hell are we?’ boss.
Favorite instance/flashpoint/dungeon ever? Gotta be Ulduar from WoW … I know it’s not technically a dungeon, but jeezy creezy that thing is great. Second favorite? The Foundry. It gives me such a GREAT KOTOR vibe. Plus … I mean, c’mon, HK-47! That’s a no-brainer.
I have to admit that my favorite instances are Blackrock Depths (Vanilla) and Forge of Saron. I can’t say I’ve poked my head into a TOR flashpoint yet, so I don’t have an opinion there, and the instances I’ve done in LOTRO and AoC have all been solo affairs.
Some of the LOTRO ones are brilliant. Arb knows much more about those than I do because I was never very end-gamey on my characters there.
They also have some really cool 3 man instances, I liked Halls of Mirrors a lot when we did that.
I think there is a sense among gamers that WoW is the gold standard of instances (not talking about raids, just single groups or smaller), and I don’t think that has been true for awhile now.
The old, big “let’s tell a grand story” instance in WoW has been eschewed in favor of raids instead. The largest instance in Cata was Halls of Origination, but it’s not my favorite by a long shot. The thing about Blackrock Depths in Vanilla was that it really was a living, breathing city. Sure, it had other things to it, like having to get the key to get into the other part of the city (which required you to actually die to start it off), but merely finding all of the cool things like the tavern and wandering around the upper part of the arena where all the spectators were yellow simply made the place.
I did poke my head into AoC’s Sanctum of Burning Souls briefly, and the imagery there looks very brutual and savage, which is perfect for what Funcom was going for.
I suppose I ought to go back and get into a flashpoint or two, but I’ve been following my Gunslinger’s story so much that I’ve been focusing on that.
I think Kaon Under Siege is a standard in small-group instances. You hit all the right notes with regard to pacing and atmosphere, but the instance itself delivered where many others have recently failed; the rakghouls don’t just look threatening. They ARE threatening. The react in ways you’d expect rakghouls to react, and letting them run around uncontrolled is a recipe for disaster.
Yet, this is where the pacing really is fantastic. Sure, the threat is there but not so much that the instance feels like a slog or a grind. A few rough pulls here and there, some surprises to keep you on your toes and a dark, foreboding atmosphere all help deliver a carefully constructed story that the characters live through, rather than clear through.
As for my favourite… Probably the Scholomance in WoW. It, too, had that puzzle solving element but felt like a deep bastion of the Scourge that needed dealt with. It’s just a shame it’ll soon be relegated to the same villification that the Deadmines is now subject to after its “revamp”.
The thing is, new Deadmines /is/ a rich instance with a strong story and a variety of exciting events and was arguably one of the best dungeons of Cata. People just got to be able to run it reguarly and so it’s faults became more obvious, something I suspect some of the older dungeons didn’t really have to endure.
People ran the vanilla instances regularly. Maybe not 12 times a day regularly, but plenty often. There were always people who wanted to farm them for Tier 0 gear, or ultra rare drops, or crafting drops, etc etc. Clearly they had flaws — they were long for a start.
Nu-Deadmines is a good instance, in the WoW style. But I never found it the complete experience that Strat or Scholo were back in the day. They were less structured around events and corridors. Sure there were events, but you might have to trigger them from quests you had done outside the instance, or they might have more random elements. NuDM is still a long tunnel with pauses for events to happen.
IMO Kaon in its way is a better descendent of both original Deadmines and Strat/Scholo in that structured type of way. But without the extra complexity.
The Polaris in The Secret World.
It’s the best instance I’ve experienced in any game. There are perhaps 2 dozen trash mobs in the entire instance, and the final fight is nothing short of **EPIC** (OH GOD, DID HE JUST….HE DID…OH, GOD WHAT NAO!?!?!?)
..and it’s the first instance in the whole game…
Historically, I loved The Scarlet Monastery, despite trash after trash after trash pull…
For WoW – Sunken Temple in vanilla; Karazhan in TBC; Utgarde Pinnacle in WotLK. 🙂
Sunken Temple made my head hurt after a while. I honestly preferred Maraudon to that.
two words: DRAGONS!
I wish I had gotten to experience more FPs as I did in my time in SWTOR. I only did the first four, and of those, Black Talon was the clear winner.
As far as WoW instances go, my vanilla favorite was SM for the atmosphere, in TBC I loved The Botanica, WotLK I enjoyed the Stratholme instance before running it over and over ruined it. Cataclysm had very weak instances, I couldn’t really pick a favorite. If I had to, probably Vortex Pinnacle.
I really like Black Talon (it was always a shock when the captain survived 😉 ).