(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!

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GW2: Looking Back At Living World S3, Looking Ahead To Path of Fire

Warning! Spoilers ahead.


Well, now we know. After a bizarre amount of secrecy, ArenaNet has finally announced their new expansion, Path of Fire, which comes out surprisingly soon at September 22nd. I’m really excited for this expansion!

Living World Season 3
Before I jump into the expansion, I wanted to talk a little about Season 3. The Living World content has always been a little hit-or-miss, especially for the first two seasons. I didn’t really play any of season one because I took my sweet time getting any of my myriad characters to 80 (I did a little bit of the Battle for Lion’s Arch, but that’s about it), and the fact that that means I’ll never get to be properly introduced to the main cast of characters for all of the content for the foreseeable future makes season one probably the biggest blunder ArenaNet has ever made. Season two was at least repeatable, but it felt super rushed, and most of the chapters had a lot of filler. Season three finally brought the Living World on par with the game’s main/expansion story, with each chapter bringing its own zone, and a new mastery. While the masteries are a little contrived (most of them only work in the zone they were added with, and it just hit me last night that I probably didn’t even need to train the Siren of Orr one from Episode Six), at least they fill up pretty fast. It’s also nice that they were added per zone, unlike the Heart of Thorns masteries that were just dumped on you all at once with no direction as to which ones would block progress in the story. At least the masteries themselves have some cool effects (I love the grappling hook from episode five! I hope that comes back in some form!). As for the story itself, it was good, if a little scattered. I like the idea of the mursaat and the human gods coming back, but it was a bit back and forth. Basically, the plot goes like this: There’s a bloodstone-splosion that summons an evil magical mursaat, who turns out not to be evil, except he’s actually neither of those, he’s actually an evil human god in disguise. Then we forget about the evil god for a while (until the expansion hits) and join the Shining Blade to kill the actual mursaat. The one that the evil god was pretending to be. Simple, right? Oh, and don’t forget the fact that some important pieces of that story were locked inside raids which I haven’t done, so I had to look them up on the wiki. Those complaints aside, I really like that they’re bringing back a bunch of Guild Wars 1 lore. While I’ve barely played Guild Wars 1, and only after playing 2, it always seemed strange that the sequel seems so disconnected from its predecessor.

Path of Fire
Finally, something other than dragons to fight! Desert zones, especially ones with varied biomes like Elona, have always been among my favorites, so heading to the Crystal Desert sounds good to me. I’m interested to see where they go with the whole Balthazar thing. What exactly happened to the rest of the gods? Are they going to make an appearance as well? I’m also interested to see where the whole Aurine thing is headed, since they’ve been building up to that one for a while.
The addition of mounts is an interesting one, since ArenaNet has long held that they’re unnecessary because of waypoints. For the most part they’re right, but waypoints in every zone added from Living World season two on have been few and far between, so they’re not an unwelcome addition. Plus the addition of faster travel allows you to open up zones and do larger, more interesting landscapes. I think my favorite so far is the Skimmer because it looks cool and allows me to avoid underwater combat (plus it’s probably the closest thing to a WildStar hoverboard I’ll get in this game… man, I miss hoverboards).
What I’m most excited about, however, is the new set of elite specializations. I like what I’m seeing for all of them so far. I’m excited for the thief to finally get rifle (mainly because they were lacking ranged options, but also because I have a bunch of cool rifle skins that I’ve never been able to use), and the dual-element, sword-wielding elementalist looks pretty interesting as well.
I think the pricing is pretty reasonable this time around. I didn’t think the price for Heart of Thorns was outrageous like some people did (isn’t $50 just what expansions cost? Isn’t that what WoW charges, with a subscription on top of that?), but given that there’s no new class this time around, it’s nice that they knocked a little off of the cost. The deluxe-ier editions seem like a better value too; I’d much rather have a character slot, a makeover kit, and a premium crafting area pass than a mini, a PvP finisher, and a boring glider skin any day. And, of course, if you’re going to get the deluxe edition, you might as well upgrade to the ultimate edition, since it’s got $50 worth of gems for only $25. Curse you and your marketing, ArenaNet!

Overall, this is a good time to be a Guild Wars 2 fan. Hopefully this expansion will be better received than the last, and the new zones will be less frustrating to navigate. I’ve started messing around in Guild Wars: Nightfall to catch up on my area lore. More on that soon? I’m really looking forward to this weekend, when we’ll actually get to get in and mess around with all of the new elite specs. And, of course, the expansion isn’t far behind that!