You can ride a Raptor in Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire. 10/10 Game of the year.
You want a proper review? Ok then. Guild Wars 2 was released in 2012 to critical acclaim. A MMORPG, it released in a dark period for the genre. Whilst not as rampantly successful as hoped, it built a dedicated community from many who were disheartened by the general stagnation of MMO’s and from those who had played the predecessor. With a more open design philosophy than others of the time, Guild Wars 2 combined an action-heavy combat system and a living, evolving world with bunches of exploration and personal story customisation. From intricately designed personal stories across 5 different races and 8 different classes sprung a truly unique MMORPG.
A few years later came Heart of Thorns, and with it came a new class; The Revenant, and another world full of ambitious quests and meta events. It introduced the mastery system; a method of continuing a character, or in this case, account’s progress beyond traditional levelling. It also brought with it Elite Specialisations; providing subclasses for your level 80 characters to grow into and evolve with. It also proved successful with the general community, bringing many players back into the fold.
Now, 5 years on from its initial release, ArenaNet have released Path of Fire; a new expansion based on the Crystal Desert; a location familiar to fans of the original game and its expansions. Can it propel GW2 back to greatness?
Once you have installed the expansion, you find a new message in the inbox of your level 80 characters; that’s your ticket to start the opening quest. Without spoiling too much, the game carries on from where Living World Season 3 finished; the God Balthazar has returned and is smashing up the desert in an attempt to gain even more power. You, as a mighty hero, are obviously going after him like a budget Kratos. After a few spectacular cutscenes you find yourself in the Free City of Amnoon; a desert town filled with and surrounded by pyramids and various creatures obviously inspired by the middle east and north Africa/Egypt. The story instances are for the most part well-paced and developed with some interesting set pieces and varied moment-to-moment action. Some elements are seamlessly integrated into the open world, which breaks up and subverts the expectations built by the Personal Story. I can honestly say the team have exceeded themselves; it’s clear that over time they have honed their craft and found a formula which works.
The crystal desert is a beautifully designed area full of secrets and call-backs to Guild Wars history. Whilst the Maguuma Jungle was a strange vertical expanse, riding into the desolately beautiful wasteland of Path of Fire gives a feeling of true adventure. It’s so different from anything else GW2 has to offer due to the scale of the cliffs and varied nature of the terrain. In the Elon Riverlands, for example, you find ruins in the north, lakes to the mid-west, swampy marshland to the far south and a blighted purple crystal wasteland to the far east. That’s not even to mention the sulphurous wastelands or the relics of an old civilization blighted by glowing purple crystals and creatures.
These aren’t empty areas either; each is filled with the viewpoints and locations you’d expect from Guild Wars too, alongside a huge number of varied events. Whilst many do fall into the same old tropes, they’re an interesting way to interact with the world and they definitely help you to understand the struggles of the locals. Returning from Heart of Thorns are Mastery point locations, offering a good mixture of problem solving, combat and platforming puzzles to test the player. Also returning are Hero Point locations; offering 10 points apiece as in Heart of Thorns. These do feel somewhat sparse, especially bearing in mind that the Elite specs kind of rely on earning these points.
The new Elite specs themselves however are awesome. Each offers a unique twist on the class, and whilst some are better developed than others over all they feel more polished and premium than those in HoT. The level of choice offered here is immense. Highlights include the Engineer’s Holosmith spec, which combines beautifully realised holo-models with an overheat mechanic for an even more intense cyberpunk feel, and the Elementalist’s Weaver, which allows you to combine two elements for improved combat ability. My only issue is the slow progression of each of these classes, as you gradually unlock spec points and abilities as you move around the board. Unless you have 250 HP to spare, it’s going to take a while to unlock each Elite spec fully, which I found prevented me switching to them. After all, Path of Fire is the most difficult area at this point; you need to be able to dish out the damage and it’s difficult to do that when one of your specialisation trees is incomplete.
For me, if there is one thing that sets this expansion apart from what has come before, it’s mounts. My god, mounts have made my life so much easier within the game. Guild Wars 2 is a vast game, and one which can get somewhat repetitive if you explore it with multiple characters and end up having to walk from a to b yet again. Now, since the Mounts system is directly tied to masteries, you have immediate access to the mounts you have unlocked on every character, meaning my new Engineer doesn’t have to trudge all the way to Lion’s Arch by herself. The mounts themselves are all startlingly unique, with excellent designs and animations on all. My favourite is still the Raptor, obviously, though some could argue that it’s a little strange seeing a sudden influx of Dinosaurs, Giant Rabbits and Skimmers in Divinity’s Reach.
Before I pass judgement, a quick disclaimer; In the time I’ve had to review I’ve played with two characters; a fresh Elementalist Human, brought up to level 80 using the boost given in my review pack, and the Revenant Sylvari which I levelled to 80 myself and used to review HoT. I had a distinctly different experience with each, with the Elementalist feeling incredibly squishy and badly balanced for the expansion, and the Revenant feeling approximately balanced with the enemies. I have come to the conclusion that the Elementalist, specifically the new Elite spec, is incredibly difficult to play. For a while in Path of Fire I struggled to make progress due to repeatedly dying. Once I switched back to good ol’ Alwyn the Revenant however I immediately began to enjoy it a lot more. Long story short, your experience with the expansion will vary greatly based on your skill, chosen class and preferred playstyle.
So, overall, I like Path of Fire. Whilst it doesn’t introduce a new class, the new specialisations will refresh your characters as they travel through the beautifully bleak Crystal Desert on their bright pink Raptor. On every level it’s a step up for Guild Wars 2, and from the looks of it the community have responded in force with a huge resurgence in their player-base. There has never been a better time to return to Tyria.