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Feel the burn: Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire review in progress

Some inaccuracies in our review for the Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire expansion have been pointed out by our readers. First off, we thank you for that — your feedback is important to us. We will be move this to a review-in-progress state. That means taking some additional time to re-evaluate, rewrite, and re-score the expansion pack. We feel that doing this openly rather than pulling a review and pretending it didn’t happen is the approach that you would best appreciate. As such, we will take a few weeks to properly evaluate the new content presented by ArenaNet, providing an updated review at that time. If you have specific questions or feedback, please send it to me directly.

Thank you for your patience while we work to meet your expectations, and thank you again for the feedback.

Ron Burke
Editor-in-Chief, Gaming Trend


Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire is finally upon us, bringing a massive influx of new content and story to the land of Kryta. But is the addition of new areas, additional story chapters, mounts and elite specializations enough to make the latest expansion worth it for established players? The short answer is “yes,” and the long answer is coming right after the cut.

Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire (hereafter GW2:PoF) takes place after the final events of Heart of Thorns. One of the human gods – the god of War – has finally revealed himself after hundreds of years of silence. Rather than returning to inspire his human devoted, however, he seems hellbent on acquiring power for himself, even if it means bringing harm to the world of which he’s supposed to be a partial caretaker. With his forces amassing in the Crystal Desert, it’s up to the heroes of the world to put a stop to his mad plans.

With that said, let me be honest: for me, the story has never been Guild Wars 2’s strong suit. Too much hammy acting mixed with endlessly melodramatic characters, though on the bright side it seems they’ve iced a few of those at the end of the Heart of Thorns storyline. Still, what the game lacks in story, it makes up for in having an altogether unique-feeling and rather awe-inspiring world – not an easy feat to pull off in an age where MMOs exist in absolute abundance. The Heart of Thorns expansion was where Guild Wars 2 really managed to stand out in introducing absolutely massive ‘vertical’ zones that players had to scale in various ways. GW2:PoF continues this tradition, though it’s a lot more red than green this time around. That would be due to all the fire, magic, and blood-red stone making up the surroundings.

Those aren’t just eye-candy islands up there. You actually have to find a way up. Good luck.

The exploration content is huge, but still comes in a flavor familiar to those who played the previous expansion. Five open-world maps of considerable size, with areas within the maps at times gated by story advancement tied to ability unlocks. Frankly, repeatedly adding fresh content to their game is one thing the developers have been top notch about, and at this point they’ve established a reliable track record of constantly infusing their expansion areas with additional stories, events and general things-to-do. Judging by what areas I’ve already flown, climbed, and fallen-to-my-death in, the quality of these additions looks entirely satisfying.

On top of the new stories and areas to explore, GW2:PoF also features a hefty helping of class expansions. Every single class has a new elite specialization, providing a radical difference in play style for adventurers to experience. This helps breathe some new life into the game for players who have been max level for ages now, allowing access to new weapons and abilities. For those who think they’ve seen everything their max-leveled class has to offer, though, fear not: every GW2:PoF purchase also includes a free character upgrade to level 80. That means being able to enjoy the new content with the totally fresh experience of a new class (assuming you haven’t played them all), while also allowing new players to immediately join their friends rather than having to suffer the indignity of grinding to max level, then hoping to catch up.

There’s also mounts this time around, which become available by working through the GW2:PoF mastery system. Four different mounts can be unlocked and mastered, allowing for different ways to traverse the intimidating environment of the Crystal Desert. This is a fundamentally new addition to the Guild Wars 2 world, and considering the popularity of mounts in other games, is probably looked forward to with absolute glee by established regulars. But if the prospect of riding a giant jackal or raptor isn’t doing it for you, there’s also new gameplay features like bounty hunting NPCs, new skins to unlock for armor and weapons, and new themed upgrades to a players’ guild hall. (You’re in a guild, aren’t you? It’s Guild Wars 2, of course you are!)

The shambling minion entourage didn’t sign up for this spelunkery crap. Can’t we just slaughter?

So GW2:PoF delivers when it comes to content. So what are the downsides? If anything, it’s that at this point, the Guild Wars 2 world is starting to seem a bit dated with its graphics. Raid monsters still manage to impress, but there’s this feeling of age that’s starting to creep in when looking at the environments and beasts more closely – which may be why the game tends to emphasize sheer size and scope (and thus, distance) more than anything. This is a minor complaint, to be sure, but for many PC gamers, getting a lot of eye candy is a major entertainment hook. If you’re hoping for some kind of massive upgrade in the visuals department, GW2:PoF may let you down.

But in the end, Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire delivers exactly what anyone could hope for from it: more environments to explore, more things to do, and more ways to do it. For established players, this is must-have purchase already. For new players, rest assured that if you get into this game now, there will be a wealth of things to do, sights to see, beasts to slay, and plot to endure. If you fit the latter category and are on the fence, just remember: Guild Wars 2 has a free to play option that lets you try before you buy.

— Addendum. 9/26/2017

As it turns out, the environment description I included about Path of Fire largely applies to the Heart of Thorns expansion – and those intimidatingly vertical views don’t really represent the style of environment players are going to be introduced to in in this expansion. As a matter of fact, the emphasis is more horizontal than vertical this time around. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some great cliff side shots to be had, but the moment you get into the first area, you’re going to be more concerned with covering a wide expanse of territory rather than messing around with updrafts and gliders.

Not quite as far a drop as previously seen, but I’m still not jumping.

That said, the environments still manage to be beautiful this time around, very scenic and exotic – though they look the best from a distance, in a birds eye view sort of way. Once you start to get up close and personal with the creatures and buildings, things get a little more shaky. In fact, it almost seems as if the devs have allowed the camera to be pulled further away from the player than originally. This could be me failing to remember how it was at launch, but either way, it gives the impression of a realtime strategy game perspective, where the goal is to look at how everything is interacting together, rather than analyze an individual unit in fine detail.

It’s like a trick Jenga puzzle but with more horrific godforsaken creatures.

You’ll notice the raptor mount in one of the newly added pictures. This is the first mount you’ll be picking up during the game, starting off with a tailswipe dismount ability, and a long-but-not-too-long jump which you’ll be using to leap across crevices, and also desperately try to outrun throngs of hostiles behind you. Whereas Heart of Thorns emphasized upgrading your glider ability and other ways to jump and down real far, this time around it looks like the mounts are going to be key to exploration (and a little bit of content gating.)

This should give you a better idea of what to expect from this expansion in terms of environment, as well as an idea of what kind of shift will be taking place in terms of the environment experience. Thanks to the commenters who brought the oversight to my attention.

Getting knocked around by some of the local pains-in-the-neck.

 

Victor Grunn has been a gamer since the days of single-button joysticks and the Atari 800XL. When not lamenting the loss of the Ultima series or setting people on fire in Team Fortress 2, he's an aspiring indie game developer and freelance writer.

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