Review in Progress: Guild Wars 2 'Path of Fire' has a mix of good and bad, but mounts are great
Some good, some bad, but mounts make jumping a lot of fun
Platform: Windows PC/Apple MacOS
MSRP: $29.99 (Regular), $54.99 (Deluxe) and $79.99 (Ultimate)
Originally released on August 28, 2012, Guild Wars 2 has since enjoyed a strong, loyal following. They followed up that release with Heart of Thorns, the game’s first expansion, October 23, 2015, some 3 years after the game’s release. For an MMO game, that may seem like an eternity, but ArenaNet, like Blizzard (where the founders were from, prior to creating ArenaNet), takes their time and really polish their game. Path of Fire is no different, however, the team was able to produce the second expansion in only two years, instead of three. While development cycle was shorter, Path of Fire still continues an extensive amount of content and additions to the core game. Some of those include new areas like the Crystal Desert and Elona and elite specializations for each profession. But Path of Fire brings with it, the biggest addition to Guild Wars 2, mounts.
Reviewing an MMO is a tricky task because the game is always changing, always growing and it can be a completely different game six months to a year from now. Developers are always listening to feedback from players, so to give you all a hard review, is nearly impossible. Instead, consider this review a heartfelt suggestion, a review in progress, if you will, that may be revisited from time to time. I will keep you informed on what the expansion offers and whether or not I think players, new or old, should pick it up.
The story is the first big change in Path of Fire (PoF), like the original game, the expansion furthers a dynamic story, that changes, depending on the actions of the player. In PoF, the rogue god of war and fire, Balthazar, has returned and is hellbent on dominating (or destroying) Tyria. With Humanity’s prayers to the six gods going unanswered, Balthazar reveals himself as the reason why and just like he extinguished their prayers, he plans to eliminate life. As part of Balthazar’s quest for domination players will be forced to discover new areas, like the Crystal Desert and the Kingdom of Elona, to put an end to his plans and stop his murderous army.
As with any new map or area in an MMO, it’s divided up into zones. Regardless of what MMO you’re playing, discovering that zone is part of the game’s intrigue and sadly, its reveal only happens once. Through exploration, you’ll more than likely find a zone that you may designate as your favorite, however, the excitement of finding it for the first time is never replicated. So with that being said, I won’t go into too much detail about the zones, I’ll just brush over them so that you can discover them in your own way.
The Crystal Desert is made up of five “zones or maps” that are all as unique, as they are beautiful. During my time exploring each area and questing, I literally took the time to just look around at the stunning visuals. Crystal Oasis, which is a densely populated desert city and is located near the shore, while other areas like the Desert Highlands are quite the opposite. The Highlands, located north of the Oasis, are mountainous areas filled with dwarven relics but are sparsely populated. players will have to partake in the event “the Sacrifice” prior to entering the area, but once that is complete, they’ll gain full access. The other three areas are The Desolation, Domain of Vabbi and the Elon Riverlands.
Aside from these new areas, the Crystal Desert in PoF also introduces Season 3 of the Living Word storyline. This new storyline introduces the aforementioned open world maps, two new raids and three new Fractals of the Mists. Prior to Path of Fire, players took part in events that have left the Elder Dragon Mordremoth, the Jungle Dragon, dead. Upon doing so, they have released the magic it possessed and now there is a race to claim it. The White Mantle, perhaps the most dangerous of the factions, seeks the magic to resurrect one of their own gods. Players who love Guild Wars for the story and questing will absolutely enjoy what ArenaNet has created.
Aside from the story, Path of Fire also brings with it, nine “Elite” specializations, one for each of the game’s professions. They go like this:
- Guardian: Firebrand
- Revenant: Renegade
- Warrior: Spellbreaker
- Engineer: Holosmith
- Ranger: Soulbeast
- Thief: Deadeye
- Elementalist: Weaver
- Mesmer: Mirage
- Necromancer: Scourge
Basically, with these new specializations, you can play you level 80 character in new, exciting ways. The elite specialization allows for completely new play styles, and some really cool new weapons. Having played a Ranger, I can say that Soulbeast, at least for me, was awesome. With Soulbeast, I was able to merge with my pet in what’s called 'beastmode', sadly no, I didn’t turn into Marshawn Lynch, as cool as that would have been. However, I found it cool too, that when merged, I still got to keep my dagger in my main hand. Another feature that I found interesting was that after merging with your pet, your abilities will be different based on the pet’s family, i.e., bear, bird, feline, etc, and not a specific pet by name. In any event, I found these new specializations really cool and it makes me want to do it all over on my alt, who’s a Guardian.
While there are other new features, that I could spend even more time talking about, like a new guild hall, adventures and bounties, it’s the addition of mounts that is probably the biggest addition that people love to talk about.
Mounts are nothing new to MMOs, they’ve been around for years, if not decades. So it would seem odd that after releasing both Guild Wars 1 and 2, it took ArenaNet two expansions to bring the popular feature to their game. However, the wait was worth it. Mounts in PoF don’t just provide a cool aesthetic and a speed boost like every other MMO (though they totally do), in Guild Wars, they actually serve a purpose and help you play the game and traverse terrain, that would otherwise be impossible.
Path of Fire introduces five new mounts as part of the mastery system that can be used anywhere in the game, not just the new area of the Crystal Desert or vice versa. So unlike World of Warcraft that presents a new zone with an expansion, yet locks you out from using your hard earned mounts, ArenaNet allows players to use their new mount, everywhere and anywhere. The new mounts introduced to the game are:
- Raptors - Which can leap horizontally across long distances
- Springer - Which looks like a cross between a rabbit and a kangaroo, does the obvious, it jumps really high
- Skimmers - Look like a stingray (sort of) and can hover above water and the ground
- Jackals - which look like a jackal, but made of swirling sands with rock pieces making up features. Jackals can teleport short distances and through sand portal
- Griffons - Griffons do what you think Griffons should do, they glide in the air with quick speed
My personal favorite of these new mounts is the Raptor, hands down. Maybe it’s my subconscious remembering my Raptors from Zul Gurab in World of Warcraft, but I just find them to be awesome looking, and really useful. It’s nice to see mounts serve a purpose, instead of just being a vanity item and something to brag about.
So, as you can see there’s a lot of new elements in this expansion, but how do they all play, that’s the real question. I’m happy to report that Path of Fire is not merely a new coat of paint on a five-year-old Guild Wars 2. All of the elements together really make for a great experience and the new story brought me back into the game. With the ability to boost your character to 80 right from the start also gets you right back in the action, which is what I did with my Ranger. Prior to playing Path of Fire, I hadn’t played Guild Wars for about a year, so there was some new content and things added that were new to me.
That all being said, as I started to quest and take part in some of the events, in the Crystal Desert, it was exciting, I think, perhaps it was more exciting because it all felt new again. I say this because, after a few hours of playing, the beautiful vistas and even the events began to lose their wonder. Perhaps one of the more lackluster features were the heart quests, which for me, just don’t hit their mark. I’m not saying they're bad, they’re just not much fun. On the plus side, the heart quests, for the most part, are completely optional, so at least I have that going for me.
There’s another bummer that I have to point out, that is the lack of quality, group events. In Heart of Thorns, players could team up in massive groups and take on large open-world bosses. The act itself was fun and exciting and really hit home a sense of comradery and made the game feel alive. Sadly, those type of events do not return in Path of Fire. With boring, repetitive bounties as the only real, grouping opportunities, Path of Fire doesn’t seem to have a lot of replayable right now. Sure, the story is fun and well paced, but is that going to be enough to keep players’ interest? Keep in mind, it took three years to deliver Heart of Thorns and only two years for Path of Fire. “Thorns” had enough content to keep most people interested, even me to a degree, I played it for a solid two years. But I’m worried that Path of Fire might not keep people's attention as strongly as Thorns, but that’s up to ArenaNet to figure out. Maybe an extra year would have allowed them the time needed to add in beloved features like those world boss meta events.
It’s not all sour grapes though, the game mechanics are fun, the new mounts will keep people busy earning them and playing with them and as I’ve said a few times now, the story is solid. In fact, the story is way stronger than Heart of Thorns. The game still has a strong community too and if you do find a good group, it can keep you busy for hours. If nothing else, ArenaNet has proven that they stand behind their games and I’m sure they have a ton of content on the way. Until then, I’m just not sure if a shiny new map and mounts will keep everyone content.
Path of Fire is a strong expansion, despite the flaws I've pointed out. It offers a ton of new features, options and yes, mounts. But, it also sacrifices some strong features that Hearth of Thorns, a previous expansion, did so well. Aside from the new elements added, old features that make a return in Path of Fire haven’t been improved much, if at all, which can feel like a wasted opportunity.
What ArenaNet put forth is a strong effort, but in some cases, it’s what they didn’t do, that stands out more. With two to three years before another expansion, they have plenty of time to push out new and exciting content which should keep Path of Fire alive. Whether or not players will stick around that long, especially with games like Destiny 2 coming to PC, remains to be seen.
Overall, Path of Fire is a good expansion and while I’ve participated in quite of a few of the big events, I haven’t done it all. Which is why, as I stated before, this is more of a review in progress. There’s no end to an MMO, they just keep growing, so I feel like I’m just giving players a more in-depth impression, than a typical review. I can't just put a fork in it and say I’m done, here’s my score, but I feel compelled to leave a score as sort of a marker, for where I am in the game. That score below could go up and it could go down, as I progress further in the game over the next few months or longer.
Until then, mount up and go Beastmode!