First Thoughts - Path of Fire
Path of Fire, the second expansion, has just been revealed with a huge chunk of juicy details to get the hype train well and truly out of the station. For both veterans and new players alike, this is by far the juiciest announcement Arenanet have made, containing some huge reveals and details about the new content and new ways to play the game. Amongst these, players can look forward to new specializations, enormous new maps, new story, a new guild hall, and of course the highly-anticipated mounts! We’ll go over the most exciting things that were announced, as well as what about them makes them so good for both new and continuing players.
Mounts are a new feature to Guild Wars 2, with players previously relying on the ability to Waypoint around the map at their leisure instead of running faster. That will all change in the Crystal Desert, where a lack of Asuran influence has left us with few waypoints, and many challenging locations that will require the help of our noble steeds to reach. The mounts included are Raptors, Springers, Skimmers and Jackals. All of these mounts will also be coming to the base game!
These mounts look absolutely fantastic, both aesthetically and gameplay wise. The addition of mounts was always a hazy topic, considering how traveling is already implemented in the game with such convenience, but they have alleviated that issue nicely in the new zones, and built gameplay around their new skills. Raptors for example will have a long-range leap, using which can take players to new zones that were previously out of reach to them. Mounts also come with the ability to engage combat, jumping in to their foes with a large attack before disappearing from the fight. What makes them most convenient is the speed that you mount up. Watching the gameplay, it was jaw dropping to see players press a hotkey and instantly be mounted up, with the animation still looking fluid and smooth. The same goes for mounts disappearing, combining convenient use with amazing animation.
The way the mounts run, as well as the fantastic skills, looks extremely appealing as a way to enjoy movement as opposed to making it a chore. Guild Wars 2 already does this excellently, with players blinking, leaping, dashing and rushing all over the place, even whilst out of combat, to reach their destinations. Mounts will allow for the same travel speed without the button mashing, whilst also having incredibly enjoyable movement animations that look wonderfully organic. If it’s not clear already- I’m a huge fan of the mounts already, simply because they have been well animated, seemingly well implemented and do not detract from other aspects of the game.
Next on the big list of features were the Elite Specialisations. For existing players, this has got to be the crowning jewel of the expansion release. After seeing how drastically the new specs changed the game with Heart of Thorns, everyone held their breath waiting for the new ‘game breakers’ to appear. And from the looks of things, we were not disappointed. Each class, at least at the time of the reveal, looks like it is going to be incredibly powerful, bordering on ‘broken’ in the game’s current context. To use a favourite term from the last expansion, the power creep is going to be extraordinary, with classes taking on huge damage buffs, new skills and utilities not seen before, or powerful additions to old skills to skyrocket their power levels.
Without time to go in depth on each spec, or quite enough information to determine just how powerful they will be, it already appears that they will completely overshadow the past elite specialisations. Many areas of the new specialisations contain powerful flat damage boosts, modifiers that go above and beyond the scope that we normally see, Weaver alone looking like it has a 20% modifier to its condition damage along with many other traits to boost that further. What is clear, however, is that to be competitive in many game modes you will need Path of Fire. This isn’t a bad thing, after all it encourages people to purchase and play the expansion, but it certainly does increase more of a power creep to the game unless some major skill passes come around. What was also made clear for any eagle-eyed viewers was that the past specs will be getting a significant balance change before Path of Fire, which in my opinion will probably be to weaken them and carve the way for the new specs to take their places in the meta.
The new zones look huge. For anyone that saw the previously leaked maps, the cumulative area of them encompasses as much physical space as all the Heart of Thorns maps, all the Living World Season 3 maps combined in to these 5 new areas. Besides excitement just at their Geography, and a chance to revisit some of the best lore Guild Wars 1 offered, it is also a huge gameplay opportunity for them as it enables designers to put in a tonne of dynamic events, hearts and areas to explore. Keeping the zones this large means they can fill every nook and cranny with hidden secrets, or fun things to do, or powerful mobs to take down, and players will have months of running around exploring before they can truly say they are experts on the Crystal Desert.
The new zones contain monsters from various factions. Besides the native beasts that roam the vast Crystal Desert, we will also have to combat the powerful Forged, an army created by the god Balthazar to serve his will and carry out his orders unquestioning. The armies of Palawa Joko, the Undead Lich that has taken grip of the Crystal Desert in the last 250 years, roam the land, serving their master and laying waste to the living. Lastly there are the branded, the powerful elemental minions bent to the will of Kralkatorrik and stripped of their past selves. These enemies combine to make one hell of an enemy, and by all accounts players will need to form new alliances to take on the enormous threat posed by these factions.
Exploring has always been a huge part of this game, and for me this is one of the potentially best features that will come out of this expansion. There is so much potential for the devs to add things in, so many hidden secrets that could be left in a zone that has gone 250 years without contact to the rest of Tyria. It is already apparent that lore about the new elite specialisations will be contained in these new maps, something that got me incredibly excited in itself, but what else could the devs hide in the vast sands of the Desert?
My overall impression of this expansion so far trends very much towards the positive. The developers have seen what went wrong with Heart of Thorns, but also what went right, and have focused their effort of continuing to build on the best systems that they created. Gliding was a huge success from Heart of Thorns, and so in that light they have focused their efforts in to movement masteries in the form of mounts, giving us yet another new way to get around and building on the ‘enjoyment of movement’ that came with HoT. New specs as well were a huge part of HoT, and continuing this trend was a no brainer when it came to adding whole new elements to the gameplay whilst keeping the classes and level cap as they were.
Could there have been more? Of course, I’d have loved some Tengu playable race, or another profession, but given the many positives and the time frame that the devs have worked in, I am already ready to call Path of Fire a success in the game’s progression. We will have more details once released, but for now I am left feelings incredibly positive towards the game and am hopeful that, regardless of story direction or ‘what could have been’, that the gameplay and content in this expansion will be incredibly fun to play through and will give many, many, MANY hours of enjoyment for the veteran player base and anyone willing to jump in and give Path of Fire a try!