What this thread is about: Sharing experience and discussing the Lair of Maarselok dungeon from Scalebreaker DLC
Goal of this thread: To share experience of the Lair of Maarselok dungeon and to hear other people opinion on it
Warning: I went a bit overboard and this review has over 2000 words in it !
Just in case I give SPOILER warning for the dungeon, you have been warned.
Let me start with a disclaimer and point of view to acknowledge potential bias: most of the information here is objective and is based on personal experience, do not treat most of the opinion here as statements of facts; the difficulty played on was veteran, other group members were both pre-made and from public group finder in more than one run through; the played role was a healer; the hard mode was not attempted; personal background can be considered as substantial experience within the role and the game; the focus is on dungeon and not on the sets within and the balance changes introduced with the DLC are not treated as relevant outside perceived difficulty of the encounters.
Lair of Maarselok is also mentioned as LoM through this thread.
Amazing graphics, ok story line, lazy reused enemies from other parts of game, , boring bosses, not enough features and content, 3/10
Let's start with the first thing you see, graphics:
The are is gorgeous, even on low quality it was a pleasure to look at, the areas look organic and natural while not being overly distracting throughout. There were a bit less vistas then for example in sun spire due to canyon like ground path for most of the early part of the dungeon but even then the vegetation, the blue corruption vines and general feel of dense forest going into the dragon mountain was a pleasure to look at.
To quickly go over the story, I did not pay top attention and did not spent time to go through whole dialogues so this is not the comprehensive view into it. Treating it as a chronological follow up after events of Selene's web, it was nice to see some more added to the Selene and the Carindon story after the abrupt ending within the Selene's web. Personally I wished we could oppose Carindon a bit more and have Selene shown as a be a bit more of a victim than an uncontrollable force of nature but the theme of common enemy serves the dungeon well and conclusion of the quest with Carindon opposed by other npc member's of the dungeon was a fitting and pleasant to watch.
Now we go to less pleasant parts of the dungeon
I want to address bizarre if not straight up unpleasant pacing the dungeon has, there are big stretches of nothing betweeing encounters, taking up to 15 seconds of just walking straight, I am not sure what this was added for, I understand graphically zone is pleasant but just walking is not a engaging activity, there was no other dungeon in the game with so few enemy encounters compared to the amount of land traversed, it felt like it was designed for people role playing , which I want to add I am not against and more power to them, but for personal expectations it was not something I can enjoy nor accept. Even dungeons with a lot of skipping involved like Ruins of Mazzatun or Bloodroot Forge every path, every turn had enemies that made the dungeon seem alive and bountiful in encounters and it is not limited to dlc dungeons, every single dungeon I think of didn't have so much nothing in them.
For the enemies, I was vastly underwhelmed by majority of encounters and most of the fights were uninteresting cannon fodder fights with no personality nor any form of uniqueness that would make me think of them when dungeons is mentioned. I found a lack of elite type enemy accompanied by lesser enemies, with an example from Scalecaller where you would have an ogre accompanied by wolves or Falkreath where you have a minotaur accompanied by forsworn. For the first fights I was thinking it is a design decision to separate the enemies for us as players to learn their mechanics their attacks in a safer environments before we get all of the thrown at once, but when ti continues where it was either a group of lesser enemies like spiders or a separated elite enemy it quickly became not fun and uninspired, with missing fun combinations of mechanics from encounters we already done. Something you can see within bloodroot forge, while the lesser enemies have nothing special for them in terms of attacks, the elite enemies do, and first you learn that this minotaur punches mini volcanoes in the ground, then you learn that the scarabs summon homing balls of flame you need to look out for and then dungeon meshes those two enemies and lets you as a player to devise a strategy and think how to deal with it, giving satisfaction from both able to overcome a challenge and a satisfaction from having own plans and own approaches tot he problems work as a form of the problem solving abilities. I find it severely missing from nearly all encounters in LoM which resulted in rather boring encounters of either A or B and nothing in between with nothing clever tried and challenged the players for solution founding. And I wanted to add it has nothing to do with difficulty, it is a simple goal of making the encounters less white and black and have more flair and having more interesting encounters while having same enemies throughout.
Something that I felt is almost insulting is complete lack of any new enemies or interesting mechanics or attacks through the entire experience, spiders, lurchers strangler all the same but now blue. A flies hive golem thingy, reused from morrowind but now blue. The super tall bosmer ( I think they are bosmer, might be wrong) which thematically make sense ( though it is interesting way to cure someone by bludgeoning them until they are healthy again) but aside from mage with the aoe explosion felt underwhelming and like lesser enemy but with more health. The only unique mechanic I counted was in the last stretch to the final boss with the seed mechanics and cleansing but it was too little too late at this point and while it is cool mechanic it again was underwhelming but more on that later. The amount of asset flip enemies made me remember murkmire zone enemies but even there there were at least 1 or 2 new enemies like voriplasm or lizard bears even if its just a new model, LoM feels like uninspired lazy asset flip which fails to show the work put into making the enemies on par with environment in terms of presentation. To again provide examples take a look at previous dungeon DLC from wrathstone, the Depths of malatar have symphony of blades, dark orb, many unique mechanics etc. and Frostvault having unique mechanics for known enemies such as tzogvin frost aoes or guardian lasers. LoM lacks both unique mechanics and unique enemies.
For the bosses, first boss was serviceable, nothing interesting, the selene involvement was underwhelming and the fight would not change much if she was removed, the actual fight itself was just kill 2 bosses in a row who are just enemies we have seen countless times with nothing really unique about it but for first boss it is understandable and a nice warm up.
Next fight is confusing and underwhelming consisting of killing a high health lurcher 3 times with lurcher showing nothing new or interesting and only true mechanic int he fight being avoid red aoes from the dragon, boring and felt like en expanded trash fight.
Then next boss has interesting mechanic of picking up a seed but the problem is the amount of blue light is an eye sore, while I found this boss as one of the better ones as the huge hive was interesting to both look and tackle, design flow within the fight is the ridiculous number of stranglers spawning if your group isn't able to kill the hive within 3-4 seeds making you forced to spend time to kills stranglers which anti-synergises by making even more stranglers spawn because of wasted time. The burn tactic felt like a far superior solution than trying to keep up with stranglers spawn.
Next boss was even more confusing, while the concept of having to protect an NPC who attacks a true boss is unique and interesting, execution lacks any form of fun into it, you spend entire time exploding ticks and killing stranglers with no real good visual feedback on how close you are to make the dragon fall down to the ground (at least I failed to see anything) whom which you butt stab (he always faces outwards after fall so we all stare at his rump), and rinse and repeat. Main problems and what makes it such a boring and uninteresting experience is that in the end all you do is fight trash mobs, and the lower the group damage is it can take a lot of time as both the stranglers spawn in ridiculously high numbers and the fact that just like the fight in darkshade caverns II with the netch, the periods where boss is vulnerable are time based so the lower group damage is the more times you need to bring him down making the encounter so painfully boring it crushes any originality form the concept and makes me find this as worst boss encounter in the dungeon and maybe even in the game. Additionally only true threat I felt as a healer in this fight were again the same aoes from the dragon shouts from lurcher boss, everything else was solved by radiant regeneration spam which add to the boredom factor as nothing truly felt dangerous in there, just trash fights.
After that boss we are introduced tot he dungeon unique mechanic, which as mentioned before is oddly late within the dungeon, the mechanic is interesting yet again underwhelming, the effect where someone is revealed is not easy to spot and combined with some other effects outright invisible like major evasion effect making spotting a player who needs to cleanse needlessly complicated, something contrasting a bit more the blue pallete would help immensely with this mechanic, green or white for example as the effect blends with environment and other enemies effects. The fact ignoring the mechanic on average only did 50% of health damage to dds and spawn an enemy that was dead in maximum 30 seconds made that mechanic a bit underwhelming, while I would have understood it on normal on vet I would have preferred to see some consequences of not doing it that are significant, either with damage or any other form, in current version it is just a distraction more than a mechanic. Also on subject of pallete, it is the minor complaint but essence thief set essence is impossible to spot with all the blue enemies aoes and effects, the set could use to have a friendly aoe tag so it is ( be default) with green outline.
Then we get to last boss, just a non hardmode fight, as expected combines the mechanic we just learned, shame that only so few times, and aside from just typical dragon attacks it didn't feel much different than fighting other dragons in elsewyr which is both good and bad, from last boss I would expect a bit more attack variety. I appreciate red marking for wing and headbutt attacks, they were definitely missing from previous dragons fights for me, in general the last boss fight was decent, nothing memorable with sunspire dragons existing and being a bit more visually appealing in my opinion and with more interesting attacks.
I have been avoiding the subject of the difficulty as it is highly subjective and not easily measurable attribute of the dungeon as it is highly based on teams experience and composition, but the dungeons seems to be directed towards new people as I have never managed to get no death run in a dlc dungeon on second run with half the team being there for the first time ( granted the team was experienced within the game). I would recommend this as one of the starter DLC dungeons as it is not putting too much pressure on anyone too much at any point.
In conclusion bosses are mostly boring and uninspired and fit the rest of encounters in the theme and content. The overall level of content I find completely unworthy especially if held to the standard introduced with previous dungeon DLCs, if its price of 1500 crowns for the dlc, which ofc includes other dungeon or the price of subscription. The dungeon itself doesn't hold up with quality to its predecessors and what content it provides and brings down the entire dlc value, the enemy asset flips, awful pacing, uninspired encounters, majorly boring bosses and general sluggishness of the entire dungeon does not manage to be justified with decent story line and and beautiful environment. If the dungeon itself was a separate product I would have given it 3/10 way below average. Held back from being any worse by base game mechanics, unique approaches at places with a potential to be good and amazing graphics.
Thank you for reading.
PS Sorry for any spelling or grammar mistakes, tried to avoid any but might have missed some.
And now, what do you think, where do you agree or disagree, what other points I missed entirely, where did I make a total fool of myself and where you noticed something you missed before. Please discuss it further and let's see what you think about this dungeon.