Unfortunately, Champions Online has a big problem with team play. It's hard for a team to share objectives, and the rewards for teaming are otherwise horrible. It feels a bit like World of Warcraft, yet much worse. WoW has real incentive to get into teams and run instances at the lower levels, and although many of these dungeons are skippable, WoW's focus on loot advancement encourages players to team up and get the best stuff they can use at any given level.
This is just not true for CO. Many players just skip lairs entirely, even though lairs give great rewards. There are no "random missions" like there are in City of Heroes, either. Still, lairs are fun, because you get to play with other people.
One of the major mishaps with the Serpent Lantern adventure pack is that it penalizes teams heavily. Enemy spawns that are managable solo or in small teams lead to team deaths in groups of five. I have to hand it to Cryptic for trying, because SL really is close to the mark for good, long, team content that everyone can grab and share together.
This means that we're left with lairs.
Lairs are extremely difficult to solo, and the difficulty drops dramatically as you add more people. A few are impossible to solo. Because completing lairs is something that many people want to do, it's not too hard to pick up a lair team. On top of all that, the summer patch (formerly the pet patch) is granting quite a few buffs to lair drops.
Most of my lair experiences have been less-than-stellar, though. There's always a chance you'll get a group of idiots who rush ahead and ignore their teammates.
Once upon a time, I was doing Destroyer's Robot Factory. The Robot Factory is one of the lowest-level lairs in the game. It should be one of the easiest, but sadly, it is not. Every room of the Robot Factory has a horde of killer robots waiting to ambush heroes. These robots are bunched close together, and it's really easy to get way more robots than you intended.
This is made much harder when you have party members who spam AoE, and like most teams, my team had an avenger who spammed Gigabolt. It's difficult to deal with this kind of person. He really believes he's doing a good job killing things, and it's not exactly easy to explain why firing Gigabolt randomly is very bad when there are lots of mob spawns nearby. We wiped. A lot.
After a certain point, your team is required to escort a certain NPC, which makes the lair about 300 times harder. This NPC will run off on his own and randomly attack things, when you'd just like to slowly work your way around the room and carefully kill the robots. Between being a healer, having a Gigabolt-spamming teammate, and having another teammate who insisted on running off rather than sticking close by with the team, I learned how to be intimately acquainted with the respawn button.
The final boss fight of the Factory is actually pretty cool (no spoilers here), but even that had yet more robots who would gang up on the team over and over again. I would go in to help the team destroy critical mission objectives, only to get owned by robots.
At the end of the lair, I complained. I didn't really complain to my teammates, even though they were at least partially to blame. I mostly blamed the lair and its horrible spawn placement. My teammates comforted me and said that they had fun, even though they were dying all the time.
They had fun?
This was sort of a shock to me, because I don't particularly find getting owned with no way to "do better" fun. My teammates enjoyed themselves, though. This is the mighty power of teaming!
That being said, not all of my lair experiences have been terrible. Most of them have even been enjoyable. I've done most of the mid-level lairs countless times, and the high-level lairs a few times. Most of the time, my team listens to the more experienced players (often myself, but not always) and does a pretty good job. Most of my experience is as a healer, but I've branched out to playing tanks and healer-tanks too. Most of these characters I build exclusively for the purpose of teaming, even though I don't play with big teams very often.
Getting into lairs
Lairs can be run starting at about level 20. If you want to run a lair with a team, just ask around in the zone where the lair is. Sometimes I'll ask even if I don't have the missions, just to get a team going.
- Project Awakening: This lair is in Canada and the mobs are around level 23. Project Awakening is actually tied to several other Canada missions, but there's only one mission chain that leads to it. I've actually never done this lair, because so few people actually do it. This lair, like most lairs, can be entered without a mission.
- Stronghold Prison: Located in the Desert, Stronghold is the first lair most people attempt. The last fight is kind of annoying, but the rest of the lair is reasonably fun. The mobs are level 26, and the lair is open to anyone.
- Destroyer's Robot Factory: This lair is the result of a long mission chain in Millennium City, although it can be entered regardless of whether you have the missions in question or not. This lair is level 28. In general, I recommend skipping it, as it is annoyingly hard. Do Teleios' instead.
- Teleios' Tower: This level 30 lair is probably the most common lair after NemCon. It has a small number of difficult rooms, but it is surprisingly fun if a few people on your team have a good understanding of how the later areas work. It's clearly labeled on the Canada map.
- Burial Caves: I've been told this lair is hard, but I think it is extremely easy to run. Although it is level 31, it is a great introduction to team play, as none of the objectives is difficult and the boss fight is pretty easy. Because it is higher level than Telios' and both lairs are in Canada, you're more likely to do that lair first, which is a fair bit harder.
- Moreau's Laboratory: At level 35, this lair is a good way to fill the annoying experience gaps in the early- to mid-30s. It's located in Monster Island, and is open to anyone. The boss fights are ridiculously hard. The best way to beat the bosses in Moreau's Lab is by kiting, rather than tanking. Chimera will shred a Defiance tank in only a few hits. If you're a tank and have a ranged taunt, you can do your party a lot of good by running while spamming it.
- VIPER Nest: I imagine this level 38 lair is a lot harder since the VIPER buff was implemented. Also in Monster Island, the VIPER Nest is a fairly straightforward lair with some pretty difficult boss fights. Like in Moreau's lab, you might want to kite the bosses rather than tanking them.
- Andrith Ruins: I have never run this level 40 lair. It requires at least one member of your team to have the required mission to enter the lair from Dr. Silverback's Hologram in Monster Island.
- The Mandragalore: This Lemurian world-destroying weapon is actually a level 40 lair. Because it requires Lemurian quest chains that I haven't done, I also have never played through this lair.
- Therakiel's Temple: The best, coolest, and hardest lair in the game. This level 40 lair is the closest thing to a hardcore challenge in CO, and it has some of the best puzzles and challenges. The bosses are also hard, and unlike other lairs, there is a boss lockout mechanic that keeps a team from zerging the bosses by respawning. If the other lairs were revamped to include this mechanic, I would be a very happy panda.
- Nemesis Confrontation: Although this lair isn't as fun as Therakiel's Temple (a high standard indeed!), fighting a group of five nemeses followed by a confrontation with one of the most powerful villains in the CO universe is pretty darn cool. Unfortunately, the final boss fight is kind of lackluster compared to the strategic fights of Therakiel's.
Although they are buried a little bit, lairs are a good way to get a team going if that is your thing. Lairs are by far the most interesting and fun team activity to do in Champions, so it's a good idea to try them out, just to see what you're missing.
Have any fun lair stories? Leave a comment and let everyone know!