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What makes a great dungeon?

Joined
Oct 24, 2018
The Legend of Zelda is a series known for having amazing dungeons to go through. I've seen countless top 10's and ranking videos and have heard different opinions, but I always love hearing others. What is it that for you makes a dungeon great? What are the characteristics of your favorite dungeons that makes you enjoy/remember them so fondly? What are the qualities that make a dungeon stand above the rest? Is it the enemies? The puzzles? What does a dungeon need to do in order to be considered great? Discuss as little or much of this below as you'd like!
 

Spirit

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I'm well known on this forum for not liking dungeons, I hate getting stuck and not being able to progress and being forced to stare at the same walls until I figure it out...

So for me a great dungeon would be; one that doesnt look or feel like a dungeon. Snowpeak Ruins is a good example of not looking or really feeling like a dungeon because of its aesthetic.
Dragon Roost would be another good one because it had a good contrast between indoor and outdoor sections.

I also would like the puzzles not to be too obscure. I'd like to see the objective and work towards a solution rather than just trying to find something to trigger to move forward.

Also a good boss is a must.
 
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Satan

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For me, a good dungeon is one that can organically use the momentum of the game to propel me forward. The moment that dies, the dungeon starts to feel like a chore. Good dungeon design, layout and mechanics should be able to preserve that during the entire dungeon segment and keep me motivated to keep pushing through. The transition into the dungeon shouldn't feel too restrictive or the momentum will literally fall out of the sky dead. Also, as Spirit said, needs a good boss at the end to conclude the section.
 

Deus

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I wouldnt like to play a game where it was just dungeons. Which is why I don't understand people who say story isn't important. Dungeons are a hardship which the player should have the desire to overcome to get the reward at the end. In most titles the reward is to fight the boss and further the story. And this is how it should be.

The ultimate dungeon would be aesthetically pleasing, have a catchy theme music which makes you feel the atmosphere of the dungeon itself. The puzzles and gamplay would be non tedious.

There isn't a perfect dungeon yet. In terms of mechanics I think BoTW did dungeons the best. There are clear objectives and you have to work out how to get to them and progress. You aren't stuck in isolated puzzle rooms and there aren't any stupid small keys. Dungeons should be organic, the obstacles should not feel like someone has set the dungeon up to just provide random puzzles for the player. The only time that works well is where the dungeon is specifically stated to be a trial such as Tower of The Gods.

I hope in future they have the style of dungeon mechanics that featured in BoTW but as I said earlier, along with the gameplay and music I think aesthetically pleasing is important as well and a return to themed dungeons rather than the bland Sheikah aesthetic would be the way to get that element.
 

NoRush

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The emotional depth and content of a dungeon. In other words, it's significance to the land and to the greater experience of the adventure in general. If a dungeon is just there as a dungeon, it can be great fun and make you think and use all kinds of cool tools and items, but I'd much prefer seeing some outside connections or mythology to the local town for instance.

The more mythology that revolves arounda dungeon the more in-depth we can get with it. I'm always talking about emotional ploys in Zelda games and it's true here too. I know these aren't exactly dungeons but the Graveyard in OoT is a great example of what I'm talking about - it's INSIDE the village, with bodies of villagers inside IT, and it feels like an entirely fresh and living experience that we're getting into there.
 

BlackWolf//WhiteAngel

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For me the ideal dungeon would feel natural to the surroundings. The BotW shrines didn't feel this way as they all had the same aesthetic. Typical zelda dungeons at least have a theme to the area tho one flaw many of them suffer is why the hell is any of it a thing? Like the temples of OoT. What purpose do all these strange mechanisms and puzzles serve? A pretty odd place to worship things. The Goron Mines of TP felt better in this way. All the machines for mining and the Goron miners could wear metal parts to use those magnetic walls in getting around. It felt like everything had a purpose.
In going with an organic feel dungeon items should also feel like they belong. The ball and chain in TP does this well. This monster had it and was likely guarding something and Link realized he could use it to break the ice. It had a reason for being there and the situations that called for it felt logical. "It's a cold place and the yetis clearly aren't doing much about it so better use this to clear it" as opposes to the typical "You got the item now every puzzle and enemy will need it to be solved"
And of course a boss fight. Bosses are the ultimate challenge at the end of any dungeon to test you. It should require skill. I want to feel like I used my brain instead of just wiggling my arm like a freshly caught fish to win. Something else I wonder is why does each boss seem to have a convenient dedicated room for it? Again it should feel like the room had a purpose and Link just happened to catch the boss there.
 

Jirohnagi

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Fluidity, if the dungeon doesn't "flow" right, by this i mean look at stone tower, excellent dungeon but quite often you have to puzzle your way around to find the right way forward, for the dungeon to flow right you have to feel like you are always moving forward such as Ancient Cistern you were constantly moving through the dungeon and it never felt forced, it was an organic progress.

Decor, if the dungeon looks bland as hell, such as Fire Temple, then theres not really any reason to look around you just rush through things.

Attention to detail/puzzles : in the early zelda games i recall a dungeon that used the bomb arrows, something at the time no one really realised, the bomb arrows weren't a really known thing back then(i think it was LA in fact) i think dungeons should maybe use little known techniques or abilities not as a central mechanic but as a way to give little shortcuts or hidden areas for rupees, MQ did this with it's fire temple and OOT on the whole with it's special fairies, in terms of puzzles it can't be something that'd force you to google it, the answer should be self evident such as the OOT Poe Sisters or MM's Great Bay Temple.

Detail: Always ALWAYS details no point in having bland monsters or chests in yer dungeon what kinda hero is gonna show up for a bland adventure? give us that gilt banding around the walls, discoloured bricks and funky room designs.

Bosses: if the boss is a boring boss then temple is by definition boring, look at some of TPs bosses Fyrus was a boring ass boss as it quite literally capitalized on the ole eye formula, Diababa was a riff on King Dodongo and Morpheel was just a Morpha remix. TP on the whole Abused the Eye formula, in what world would a freaking dragon have an eye on it's back? Especially an Armored Dragon, way to blind yourself.
 

Azure Sage

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Dungeons that have a nice progression through them. This means minimal backtracking (I'm glaring at you, almost every dungeon in TP) and fun ways to progress. I think BotW did a good job with dungeon progression. You can feel your progress building up as the music intensifies, even though you can deal with the puzzles in the order you choose. Another good example is the Tower of Spirits. Not only are the puzzles fun (especially the teamwork puzzles), but each time you visit you're able to accomplish more than you could before. Many people have said a good boss at the end is a must, and I can agree to that, but my idea of a good boss is one that's fun, not hard. I look for fun above all else, so if I had fun, I don't really care how hard it is. Of course, I also prefer dungeons with good atmosphere and aesthetics, like the Ancient Cistern for example. If I can finish a dungeon and say "that was fun", it's done its job.
 
Joined
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I'm not a dungeon fan, but what makes a dungeon for me is if it's not overly complicated or frustrating, has puzzles that are fun to solve but takes effort to figure them out and for the love of the Goddess no floor/wallmasters! Those things give me anxiety!
 

Sheikah_Witch

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ZD's designated water temple fangirl says: Intricacy! I love the dungeons that kind of winds up and unfolds into itself so hard that you have to ponder and stare at the map screen for several minutes. For me a Zelda dungeon, a good one, is the one that feels like a giant puzzle box that you have to carefully consider, observe and tear apart on your own. I want that a-ha feeling and the immense satisfaction of overcoming a great challenge. Okay, not all dungeons have to be 'hard', but I think a good dungeon has to offer some brain teasers that goes beyond moving blocks and light up torches.
 
Joined
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ZD's designated water temple fangirl says: Intricacy! I love the dungeons that kind of winds up and unfolds into itself so hard that you have to ponder and stare at the map screen for several minutes. For me a Zelda dungeon, a good one, is the one that feels like a giant puzzle box that you have to carefully consider, observe and tear apart on your own. I want that a-ha feeling and the immense satisfaction of overcoming a great challenge. Okay, not all dungeons have to be 'hard', but I think a good dungeon has to offer some brain teasers that goes beyond moving blocks and light up torches.
I love a good puzzle that takes a bit of time to solve and makes me think for it, and makes me want to solve it. I don't want to make every dungeon that way though. Just the ones that are significant to the plot. Side dungeons should be more like Skyrim's tomb exploring imo, but the temples should make you want to work for your goal without ruining your fun or keeping you in it for half the day. I used to enjoy completing a dungeon and stepping back out into the daylight and imagine Link breathing in the fresh air and feeling the warm sun on his face. Ocarina of Time always gave me that feeling.
 

Jirohnagi

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One thing i forgot to add into my prior post.

Music, my god a temple without any music or really bland music (Phantom Hourglass) is such a boring temple, the music has to work with the temple, add to it and build up on it, not be discordant to the theme of the temple but harmonize and raise it up to another level.

Forest Temple is probably the best temple in my books because it's music isn't overly loud, it's not constantly in yer face, it is in fact a haunting tune and it fits it's temple exceedingly well, you could just imagine that type of building in real life would have that music.
 
Joined
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One thing i forgot to add into my prior post.

Music, my god a temple without any music or really bland music (Phantom Hourglass) is such a boring temple, the music has to work with the temple, add to it and build up on it, not be discordant to the theme of the temple but harmonize and raise it up to another level.

Forest Temple is probably the best temple in my books because it's music isn't overly loud, it's not constantly in yer face, it is in fact a haunting tune and it fits it's temple exceedingly well, you could just imagine that type of building in real life would have that music.
I loved how the temple music in Ocarina would match the location.
 

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