I was recently reading up on the newest expansion for Rift, Starfall Prophecy, and I came across this rather interesting feature – a puzzle dungeon. Most questing content, and certainly the overwhelming majority of dungeons, in MMORPGs involves a good amount of combat. So to have a dungeon dedicated to puzzles is something I’ve not seen before.
If I think of puzzles in dungeons I think nostalgically of Dungeons & Dragons Online, the game had them quite often, whether in the form of sets of keys (or key-like items) and matching locked doors or more elaborate devices that would block onwards progress. Combat was usually present even in puzzle-heavy dungeons, however.
The Secret World has puzzles as a discrete category of mission/quest. These missions tend to be at least partly in the open world, so not really the subject of this post; also for combat mixed in with a puzzle mission isn’t that unusual. But a second category often involves a mini-dungeon of sorts, the sabotage (yellow) missions. These missions are sometimes combat-free – you have to avoid combat via stealth or subterfuge because the opponents or traps will ‘instant-kill’ you if encountered. That’s not to say all sabotage missions lack combat, some do mix puzzles with combat.
The other game I play that rather enjoys throwing mental challenges at its players is Everquest 2. The dungeons I have experienced may have locked doors or non-obvious tasks that are needed to enable further progress in a similar vein to DDO. Combat is usually involved, however this year’s Frostfell festival event has a new quest that introduces a combat-free dungeon. It’s a fun new version of Sleeper’s Tomb, a dungeon/raid/heroic instance (many of EQ2’s dungeons have multiple variants) that has received a festive makeover and some deadly inhabitants that can only be overcome with a special ‘weapon’.
Although combat is central to MMORPG gameplay, at least for adventuring, it is fun to have a break from it once in a while. Having an entire instance focused on something other than combat can be a nice change of pace!