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Thread: Favorite Optional Dungeons

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    Witch of Theatergoing Karifean's Avatar
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    Default Favorite Optional Dungeons

    Let's talk about optional dungeons! They can be great, they can be tedious, they can be pointless, but they can also be super satisfying.

    What are some of your favorite optional dungeons in RPGs?

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    The Alpha and the Omega WarZidane's Avatar
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    Tough one, I'll have to think on this more because all the favorite ones that come to mind right now are non-optional.

    With one exception: Final Fantasy XV's Pitioss dungeon. It's unique because it's all platforming puzzles and no enemies, and I love me some platforming puzzles.

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Forsaken Castle Cainhurst in Bloodborne comes to mind, granted the blood sucking ticks on the front lawn are bitch to get past, but once inside, the place is like a cool Castlevania/Haunted Mansion combo but the place was awesome and I loved the boss of the dungeon, who is an old Healing Church Executioner who tried to wipe out the Vilebloods of Cainhurst and now guards the throne of their queen to prevent her from receiving help from the outside world. The whole place is pretty neat and you get some of the coolest looking armor sets as well as one of my favorite trick weapons, the Chikage for completing the place. Now if only it didn't take either dumb luck or a guide to find it... Also, it goes without saying that pretty much any DLC dungeon from a Souls game is pretty smurfing awesome.

    From the Final Fantasy side of things, I really love the split dungeons from FFVI, so the Phoenix Cave and the Dragon's Den in VI Advance are some of my favorite places. I usually love any dungeon that lets me use multiple parties. The Necrohol of Nabudis from FFXII is also a pretty snazzy optional dungeon. I also loved the Land of Summoned Monsters and Bahamut's Lair in FFIV though I always go there so I forget that it's actually optional.

    I like the Ancient Cave from Lufia 2 as well. Super fun dungeon and I love the concept behind it. 100 Floor dungeon, you start at lv. 1 and no gear and it's basically a rogue-like dungeon except it has special treasures that do stick with you and many of them are freaking game breakers.

    The Black Omen from Chrono Trigger is also pretty fun, it's actually completely optional despite being the closest thing to a final dungeon in the game and you can actually play through it three times if you want except for the boss fights sadly.

    The Factory/Bomb Shelter in the Persona 2 Duology is also pretty neat once you realize what it is. Unlike most optional dungeons, it's available from the beginning of the game but rooms only unlock as you get further into the game. Part of this is because the rooms you can enter lets you re-fight enemies from previous dungeons since P2 won;t let you return to previous dungeons, so it;s super useful for farming certain tarot cards, but later on you can unlock special rare enemy encounters that drop either one of kind gear or special transformation items to make rare and powerful personas. In Innocent Sin, there is even a quest to acquire and power up the party's ultimate weapons and in Eternal Punishment, you can eventually fight Philemon on NG+, thus beginning the series long tradition of making Velvet Room inhabitants into super bosses.
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    Witch of Theatergoing Karifean's Avatar
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    I really love the ruins of the Sanctuary Crypt in Ys VIII. It kinda comes out of nowhere after clearing the game but it's such a wonderful callback to the dungeon you went through in the past, except all in one and with really powerful enemies and set to a nostalgic jazz tune that makes you reflect on the whole game you just went through and it's all just really wonderful.

    Seconding the Necrohol of Nabudis in FF XII, it feels incredibly rewarding in both versions of the game, though I also want to give nod to the optional part of the Henne Mines. It's a legitimately challenging dungeon even at high levels and fits really well with the mines' already threatening atmosphere. The lack of a save crystal even before the boss does wonders to further this feeling of being actually threatened and having to take things seriously, at least when you forget the Zodiac Age version's autosaving feature.

    Monad from Persona 3 is much of the same things and makes me kinda frustrated Persona 4 and 5 never had a postgame dungeon. You hear me P5R? Fix it!

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    I don't know how I forgot this, probably because it's execution never made it feel completely optional, but the Labyrinth of Amala from SMTIII might be my favorite optional dungeon ever. It is comprised of five sections called Kalpa, and in order to progress to the next Kalpa, you have to defeat the various optional Fiends found throughout the normal game.

    The dungeon itself is quite a challenge with damage floors that require an old school FFIV trick to avoid, cursed rooms that drain your health the longer you stay, invisible walls, trap floors that send you plummeting to lower floors, powerful demons composed mostly of alignments you can never recruit, rooms that only open based on the class of the MC, paths that open based on the Phase of Kagatushi, rooms that require bringing certain demons two of the game's toughest optional bosses, the chance to recruit Dante/Raido, the ability to create the two maniken NPCs, the ability to acquire a Lv. 80 Pixie (one of the weakest monsters in the game) with near maxed stats and sporting every high level healing/offense spell, and the ability to acquire the mysterious final skill of your starting Magatama, Pierce. This is a passive skill that lets you bypass all of an enemies natural defenses to cause damage.

    In addition to this, the area gives you access to special merchants on each floor that sell very weak demons who come equipped with some of the games best skills. These guys are super important for meta-game reasons because being low level and weak means that once they are recorded in the compendium, they are super cheap to re-summon, and their overall purpose is to be fusion fodder to make better demons. One of the most important is a Girimekhala you can acquire on the final floor who comes with the Pierce skill, and is the only means to transfer this super useful skill to your demon entourage.

    This place also is the location for the Burial Chamber quest, there are rooms in the game that let you re-challenge every story boss in the game. If you can defeat them using only a specific number of turns, then in NG+, when you return to this chamber on the First Kalpa, you'll see a cutscene where the creator gods of Japan reward you with a permanent extra press turn, giving you a total of five turns per round with a full party, and a potential ten turns overall.

    The final reason why this place is so awesome is that it fills in a lot about the story and lore. The end of each Kalpa give you a chance to speak with the Young Woman and Old Man, who fill you in on what the hell the Conception is, who certain characters are, and what the hell the Amala Network is. Most of this info connects them game directly to the earlier installments. You also meet some interesting NPCs that fill in some plot details like the cult member son the second floor, and the spirits of the humans that became Maniken. Completing the whole dungeon rewards you with the Pierce ability and locks you into a new game ending where you fight a new final boss and receive the canonical ending. Overall, this place is fantastic, and real solid proof that optional dungeons shouldn't just be left for endgame shenanigans.
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    Radical Dreamer Fynn's Avatar
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    Yeah I honestly find it hard to fathom how the original release of Nocturne didn't have the Labyrinth of Amala.

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