When you first enter Ulduar, the entrance of the zone is filled with NPCs from a few different organizations. The Kirin Tor, various militaries, a Goblin from K3, and of course, Brann Bronzebeard and his expedition. A lot of that stuff is just flavor, and I think you're more interested in the fight itself for the moment so we'll move on.
You have the option of three different vehicles: Siege Engines, Demolishers, and Choppers. In the 10-man version, the only version of the fight currently available, there are two of each available to use. I assume there will be at least twice that for the 25-man version of the encounter. The vehicles do scale with you gear. Note that I said gear and not stats. The scaling seems to be based off of the iLevel of your gear, and not how much of what stat you have.
Matticus, a Discipline Priest in epic PvE gear, would have a Siege Engine with more HP than a Protection Warrior in blues, even if he had dramatically less HP than the Warrior outside of the tanks. Matt's gear has a higher iLevel, thus his vehicle is better.
Each vehicle has its own set of special abilities, some abilities more useful than others.
The Chopper had a few abilities, but only one had any real use. The Chopper can lay down an oil slick which slows enemies, and can also be lit on fire to create a large ground-based AoE. That is, essentially, the Chopper's only purpose. The motorcycle also had a side car, but it doesn't seem like you get to do anything in that seat. This vehicle is fairly boring!
The Demolisher was a little more entertaining. It has two seats, the Driver's seat and a Passenger seat, each with their own set of abilities.
- Launch Boulder: Pretty self-explanatory. You throw a boulder with the catapault. It does siege damage to towers, and regular damage to mobs. This is the primary attack for most of the 'gauntlet' portion.
- Throw Pyrite Barrel: This ability uses Pyrite that the Passenger picks up as ammunition. It applies a heavy, stacking DoT to the Flame Leviathan. There's a limit to how much you can use this ability, so you more or less don't use it at all until you reach the boss. Each Pyrite Barrel uses up 5 Pyrite. You can have as much as 50 Pyrite at a time. When you run low on Pyrite, the Passenger needs to give you more from the barrels they've been picking up.
- Ram: Point blank frontal cone effect with a minor knockback. Simple.
- Throw Passenger: Demolisher passengers have the option of climbing into the catapault. When they do so, you gain the ability to throw them. You use this to get people onto the back of the Flame Leviathan.
doesn't have nearly as much firepower as the Demolisher Driver. They can throw some rocks that do less damage, and past that it's all utility and support. Passengers can pick up barrels of Pyrite and use it to fuel the Driver's heavy DoT ability. They can give the Demolisher little boosts of speed, and they can also load themselves into the catapault. When they do that, as mentioned before, the Driver can throw them onto the back of the Flame Leviathan. The Siege Engine
is the last vehicle, and it's literally the tank. When fighting the Flame Leviathan, he'll switch his focus between two of the vehicles in combat. If both of your Siege Engines are alive, he'll trade 'aggro' between those. If you've done the Buru encounter in AQ20
, it's a little like that. It announces its focus, and that person needs to scoot away from him.
The Siege Engine has a Ram ability like the Demolisher. It also has the ability to interrupt and lock out one of the Flame Leviathan's abilities, but we'll get to that in a bit. The Siege Engine also has room for one gunner, who has a very... special
job. The Gunner
is capable of doing really good damage, but one of their more important jobs is to keep up the flow of Pyrite. The Demolisher passenger picks up the Pyrite, but the stuff is being ferried over the battlefield by flying Titan constructs. The Gunner can choose to shoot a cannon at ground-based targets, or a horrifically hard to use Anti-Air Cannon to shoot down the constructs.
When the Construct goes down, it drops a barrel of Pyrite. The Demolisher Passenger picks up the Pyrite, passes it to the Driver as ammo, and the Driver uses it to continue stacking the DoT on the Flame Leviathan. It's a pretty interesting chain of coordination. A pretty hard one to keep up, too. The Demolisher also needs to pay attention to the Chopper's oil slicks, because they're the one that ignites them. The vehicle's abilities all weave together. It's a very fun aspect of the fight, but potentially something that a few players will have a hard time picking up on.
You learn a lot of that stuff working your way through the gauntlet to the boss himself. It's really, really easy up until him, one or two of you can clear the whole thing in one Demolisher. It's all just practice. Unless they're working on bulking that portion up a bit, it's going to get very boring very quickly once you know what you're doing.
The fight itself is a bit more interesting. The Flame Leviathan
has a few abilities that can all be worked around. They are...
- Focus! As mentioned, he trades aggro between two vehicles. If both Siege Engines are alive, it will always be them. Your Engines don't necessarily want to get up in melee, the one being chased wants to kite it.
- Flame Jets: Deals 2000 Fire damage every second to everything in the area. You can interrupt this ability using the Siege Engines. The Siege Engine that isn't currently kiting the Leviathan follows behind him, interrupting the Jets. When it's nearly time for the Leviathan to switch targets, that Engine turns around and starts to flee, and the other one takes over interrupts.
- Gathering Speed: This is a stacking buff on the Flame Leviathan. Every so often, it gains a stack of the buff which increases its movement speed by 5%. The Leviathan starts out very slow, but picks up speed very quickly.
- Turrets: There are a number of turrets on top of the Flame Leviathan. This is why you need to launch raid members on top of the boss. They do very hefty damage, so you want to take them out as fast as possible. The current favored combination seems to be a Ranged DPS and a Healer, since Melee are currently having a hard time pathing around up there. Everytime you take out a Turret, you can use it to overload the boss, which does... something. Something good, I assume. I hope.
Bring the Leviathan's HP to 0 and you win!
If there are hard modes to the fight, we weren't able to find them. Taking out the towers en route to the boss didn't seem to have any effect on the boss himself. Towers up or towers down, it was the exact same fight.
Since the developers have said they want to do very extensive testing on this boss
, I suspect we're going to see a lot of tuning done to it before it hits live realms. Out of the bosses I've seen/tested in Ulduar so far, this one seems the most ambitious, but also the most problematic. The vehicles are very interesting and getting them to work together properly is fun, but there's a lot that needs some fine-tuning. Targeting is off in some cases, some abilities don't work like they should, and there's some downright hilarious bugs.
The ability to pick up Pyrite Barrels uses a grappling hook... and you can target more than just the barrels with it. One of our raid members targeted another vehicle and used the ability, assuming it would automatically pick up the barrel, but it grappled the other vehicle on top of us. We had to wipe to reset the vehicles. Awhile later, just for kicks, I grappled Matticus and chained him to the front of my Demolisher. This stuff needs to be fixed. Once it is, I think it'll be an entertaining encounter.
We've added some shots of the vehicles, the gauntlet before the Flame Leviathan, and the Flame Leviathan himself to our Ulduar gallery. Feel free to check it out.