(Spoiler-Free) Path of Fire Launch Impressions

It’s finally here! Guild Wars 2’s second expansion is finally live! I’ve had so much more anticipation for this expansion than last expansion, despite the fact that the time between its announcement and release was really short. I think that’s due in large part to the change of scenery. While jungles like that of Heart of Thorns always feel cramped and frustrating to navigate, deserts are wide open and interesting to explore. Also I’ve been excited to play the new elite specializations. When we only had one choice of elite spec, you were pretty much always limiting your character’s potential if you didn’t use it in some fashion. Now that we have a couple of different elite specs to choose from, we start to get some real choices. Some of my characters are definitely staying in their current spec for now (revenant, warrior) and some will be switching ASAP (engineer, thief), and for some the jury is still out (elementalist, ranger). So far most of my time has been spent on my engineer with the new holosmith elite spec. The vanilla engineer ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me by endgame, and the scrapper spec didn’t do much to help. The holosmith’s lightsaber sword proficiency and holoforge mode gives the engineer a fun, in-your-face type of gameplay that really resonates with me a lot more than swinging a giant wrench or lobbing grenades ever did.

It occurs to me that this expansion offers a lot of returns to the old, pre-HoT Guild Wars 2 formula. The map is so much easier to navigate (again, open, flat desert vs. layered, convoluted jungle), and the mob density/difficulty is a lot more similar to that of Central Tyria than that of the Heart of Maguuma. Similarly, hero challenges seem to be mostly designed such that an average solo player can complete them instead of most of them requiring two or more skilled players. In short, it feels like an expansion to the Guild Wars 2 from 2012, not the one from 2015. And I’m quite happy about that.

While I’m glad that the gameplay structure of pre-HoT Guild Wars 2 is back, I’m a little frustrated that some annoyances are not fixed yet. In typical ArenaNet fashion, characters are repeatedly introduced as if we should already know who they are. I really don’t get how this keeps being a problem. I can’t go into more detail because I marked this as spoiler-free, but maybe I’ll write up a little rant about it in a few weeks when the people who care about spoilers have seen everything. Also, mandatory reminder that people want new dungeons. Raids are fine, but we still want dungeons.

I also wanted to mention how impressed I am once again with ArenaNet’s management of the game. To my knowledge, the servers went down for a total of maybe half an hour over the course of the launch week. That’s really impressive for an MMO of Guild Wars 2’s size. There were some problems with individual maps, but they were limited in scope and even those didn’t last terribly long. There were a few patches from time to time, but Guild Wars 2 servers can run two versions simultaneously, meaning that it notifies you that a new version is available and gives you two hours to finish what you’re doing and log out to receive the patch. I was also amazed at the seeming lack of lag I experienced. The only reason I could even tell that the servers were under heavy load at all was the fact that it took a long time to log into the game a few times (I’m guessing I was in some kind of queue, because switching maps or instances didn’t take a long time, just the initial login). Launch wasn’t 100% perfect, but it has gone better than some games with much bigger budgets than Guild Wars, and I really appreciate it.
EDIT: Apparently there were some problems affecting Europe, but this launch still went smoother than many I’ve seen in the past.

Overall, I would say that Path of Fire has been the most fun I’ve had in Guild Wars 2 to date, which is saying a lot. Great job, ArenaNet!