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Path of Fire Review in Progress

By William Murphy on September 27, 2017 | Columns | Comments

Path of Fire Review in Progress

Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire is almost a complete 180 from the game’s first expansion, Heart of Thorns. It’s still early, but from the sound of players’ enthusiasm and my own first impressions, Path of Fire is everything we wanted from the first expansion to Tyria and then some. We’ll need more time to make a final review, but as first impressions go Path of Fire is making a great one.

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It might sound silly to say, but waiting five years for mounts to come to Tyria was well worth the patience exerted. As some folks have stated across the web, Guild Wars 2’s mounts might be the best implementation of the feature in any MMORPG, ever. Not only does each one control beautifully and move with real weight and purpose, but they actually have utility in the game’s maps. What a novel concept - making your noble steed worth more than just a speed boost.

ArenaNet clearly wanted to add mounts not just as a cosmetic and (I’m sure, eventually) microtransaction driving feature. They wanted them to be part of the gameplay itself. Building on the ingenious but somewhat poorly realized Mastery system from Heart of Thorns, Mounts have their own Masteries and effectively level up as you play through the new expansion’s massive Elona zones. They learn new tricks, become more effective at traversing the land to get to unreachable places, and it all feels far more natural and organic than the mushroom-laden exploration of Heart of Thorns.

It helps that they’re a joy to ride, of course, but more important is that they actually add substance to the gameplay and exploration. And more than that, Path of Fire’s map design carries on the superb design of the Living World Season 3 maps. ArenaNet clearly learned that map traversal should be a joy, not a pain. I never want to see the Maguuma Jungle again, and I doubt I ever will unless they give me a reason to return.

It’s not all sunshine and roses so far though. But even my complaints feel minor. The new Elite Specs are fun, as evidenced by the weekend betas, but unless you were an active player for a while before PoF, you’re not going to have enough Hero Points to unlock your full elite spec until you find and compete the various Hero Point challenges spread throughout the new or old maps. This is a small quibble, but I wish you unlocked your Elite spec skills and traits by merely gaining experience. I hate having to track down and complete the Hero Challenges, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Some folks have stated that the new expansion’s content is too difficult too, but I’m not seeing it. Compared to the launch version of Heart of Thorns, this is a cakewalk and in line with the recent Season 3 challenge level. And interesting new feature, but one that’s not being used a lot seems to be the Bounty System. At social hubs, there are boards which are basically “request a world boss” machines. You take one, and it lets you spawn a world boss across the maps. This, of course, means you’ll need a group. I’ve seen a few groups doing them, but right now most people are doing the story and exploring I’d wager. I can see Bounties becoming an important thing to grind in the near future.

I’ve still got a lot of story and loads more content to explore, and I want to see how the new meta shakes out in PVP with the elites. But as a mostly narrative, PVE, and progression-based expansion Path of Fire seems like a real hit. If you’ve given up on Guild Wars 2, you may want to keep an eye out for the review scores and player sentiment. This one could be a real keeper.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.
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