It seems like a lot of people didn’t care for some or all aspects of the first Guild Wars 2 expansion Heart of Thorns. Mostly it seems that people found the zones too much of a pain in the butt, and the difficulty of just moving around — between the different elevations that required glider user, or even the sheer quantity and difficulty of the mob patrols — to be a massive turn-off. A lot of these people either tried it and skipped it, or possibly opted to skip it based on word of mouth. The big question being asked about Path of Fire, the second expansion, was “did ANet learn anything from feedback on HoT?”
The answer seems to be yes, they did.
The Tangled Depths zone from HoT was a confusing mass of difficult terrain, beautiful, but maddening. Elona from PoF is a desert, complete with sand dunes and soaring sandstone cliffs and equally beautiful. The sky is always visible in PoF and that’s a welcome change from the claustrophobia of Mordremoth’s handiwork. It’s relatively easy to get around in Elona, although there’s still the occasional general ambiguity inherent in the hand-drawn style of the world map from time to time, especially when trying to judge elevation.
Mobs, too, seem a bit toned down. They’re not as thick as they were in HoT, for one. Even when there are swarms of NPCs, it’s somewhat manageable compared to the packs that roamed the jungle in HoT which always seemed to have a Veteran level enemy to make things that much more obnoxious.
PoF brings some new stuff to the game, most famously the new mounts that game introduces. You earn a free raptor mount upon completion of the introductory mission who can jump for distance, followed by the springer (aka “bunny”) who has an impressive vertical leap (good for reaching the mastery points that seem to like hiding out at the top of things). Then comes the skimmer which can ignore ground effects like quicksand. While one might think that having mounts might make maps feel “smaller” by allowing us to move around faster, some folks who have spent the weekend unlocking the map claim that this is not the case; mounts seem more like a mechanic to provide access through themed terrain puzzles and less like a way specifically to speed up our travels.
The bounty board is another new feature, although it’s been having some technical and business-level issues over the weekend. In theory, bounties are like on-demand world events. Taking a bounty sends you out into the vague wilderness where you need to take out a specific and difficult target. Event running continues to be a popular and lucrative pastimefor players, but requires the monitoring of timers via third-party websites; having a similar party-based event whenever the spirit moves people will surely be a hit once they are able to make the system reliable.
There are a few other new elements, like how the “wifi-looking icons” on the map require you to reach a high point in order to get a signal back to Taimi in Rata Novus, the Amnoon casino and their games of chance, and the raptor races around the desert. Gear no longer drops “en vivo”, but now requires you to “identify” it. This extra step might seem pointless (but is actually a callback to Guild Wars), except that unidentified gear stacks, allowing you to collect more “junk” from your adventures without having to play inventory shuffle out in the field.
So all of this is nice but is nothing that hasn’t appeared in a bullet point somewhere in the run-up to release. Really, though, how does the expansion feel?
Guild Wars 2 is easily in my personal top three MMOs of all time. I can return to this game with amazing ease and while I’m nowhere close to being the Guild Wars expert that my friend Girl_vs_MMO is, Path of Fire is game expansion done right for a few reasons. First, ANet apparently listened to complaints brought against Heart of Thorns by making sure Elona was easy to move through, but still offering challenges along the way. Second, PoF doesn’t exact the punishing mastery ladder that HoT setup. In PoF, masteries have fewer steps, and they are all mount-ability focused. It’s relatively easy to unlock the bunny mount after only a few hours of gameplay, most of which can be done by following the story. Beyond that, the expansion just feels tighter out of the gate. Story elements are very challenging, but not punishing like some of the Living Story boss fights. NPCs are interesting and engaging. Mobs which seem familiar (like desert harpies) have new tricks up their sleeves. The expansion has a serious heft to it, and it’s noticeable once you start on the path.
Speaking of the story, it’s the one thing I personally don’t feel comfortable talking about mainly because while I completed the base game’s story, I wasn’t present for LS1, bailed on the Mordremoth fight at the end of LS2, and am still slogging my way through LS3 on occasion. But overall, GW2‘s narrative presentation is top-shelf now that they’ve moved away from the paper-doll method. Using the same perspective as regular gameplay and adding complete voice-over really drives home every emotion and conveys every nuance that is important to tell an interactive story.
The best part about PoF is that for those who skipped HoT, the previous expansion is not a requirement. It’s unclear how it handles the presentation of glider mechanics that were central to HoT if you haven’t played through that concent (if anyone knows, leave a comment!), but that’s about the only benefit that HoT can offer that matters in PoF.Read More »