“Welcome Back, Commander”. That was the opening salvo to our Path of Fire review here on MMORPG.com. The second expansion in a long lineage of updates, Path of Fire’s quest to take on a god dropped on us five years after Guild War 2 launched and it’s been almost 18 months since we first spotted the Crystal Desert. But what about those who missed the boat to Amnoon? Recently, ArenaNet announced a campaign to return many of its lost heroes to the world but should you consider jumping back in after a short, or long, break?
Whether you missed out on the Path of Fire, or just couldn't find the time get to grips with raiding, or maybe new class balance left you utterly confused, the current Return to Tyria campaign seems ready to get you back into battle.
For many absent Guild Wars 2 players, there are a multitude of reasons why you might have hung up your grieves. Some of you simply might not get on with the combat. They do exist. Our other resident brit Gazimoff still has a video hidden somewhere on the internet and his very first dungeon run, back in2012 wasn’t pretty. Alternatively, maybe you spend way too much time playing support in the real world to take the trash talk of an over-opinionated heal scrapper.
As ArenaNet pivot to push more players back to Tyria, it is clear that survivors of the recent restructure are now wholly focused on enticing all of you inadvertent healers to get back into Tyria. But slick advertising aside, why should you get back into the game.
The current initiative is the most obvious jumping off point for lapsed players looking to take a step back into Guild Wars 2. A swift return to Tyria allows commanders who have had to take that R&R to pick up the very latest expansion for as much as half price using the code GW2WELCOMEBACK. That’s not only a saving, but an opportunity to follow a surge of new players as they return to the game with all the bells and whistles that you might of missed over the last few months or years. Anybody picking up Path of Fire gets all the benefits that drop in over the Heart of Thorns and Path of Fire expansions. That means new classes that make the first eight Look almost redundant. If you thought the idea of play your way was hyperbolae back when Colin Johansen stepped in front of the camera for the GW2 Manifesto, then the Scourge, the Hollosmith, and the Chrono are just a few of the new ways to attack your enemies. If you really just did not gel with your Guardian then this might be a great time to get back into things, there are tons to choose from and every class feels unique.
Getting to grips with such a massive new influx of decisions is at least a little confusion. Whether you choose sword, hammer, or spirit weapon you will need something to lean on. You can check out some of our opinions on class chose in Steve’s class conundrum.
Every so often a system comes into a game that fundamentally changes the way we play the game. Heart of Thorns masteries never quite managed that. They were a solid attempt at changing things up but players could largely avoid everything but one addition. The inclusion of a gliding skill, allowing players to trade one of the games achievement currencies, mastery points, for the option of gracefully floating across the map opened up the skies. Mounts took that idea and ran off a cliff edge with it. Thankfully, ArenaNet also has a mount that can also soar off into the horizon.
Added during the second expansion, Path of Fire’s mount system expanded the Guild Wars 2 progression model and introduced even greater diversity rather than the traditional power creep. We also got a bunch of fluffy friends to ride around on. Sure, lots of games have mounts but ArenaNet did not fall into the trap of reskinning the same movement model again and again. Each of the many mounted companions provides a unique movement model that opens up the world. Whether it is the Springer’s staggering bunny hop, the grace of Griffon flight, or the blistering speed of the Roller Beetle the mount system blows open the huge new world that is Guild Wars 2.
For anybody who isn’t sure how to get started with their new menagerie, the ArenaNet ran a let's play over on the official Guild Wars 2 Twitch channel that guides players through the steps to rope in their very first mount, the Raptor.
The New World
Once you’ve got something a little louder than the pitter patter of tiny Asura feet to accompany your journey across Path of Fire, you might notice that the new maps are expansive. Since Guild Wars 2 exploded onto the market back in August 2012, we’ve visited Southsun Cove, the Silverwastes, crashed into the Maguma Jungle, sailed through uncharted waters, and combed the Crystal Desert. Depending on when you dropped out of the game, returning commanders are looking at an absolutely astounding world to explore.
The first steps out of core Tyria into the Maguma Jungle are going to be a rough learning curve and a little disturbing for those of you that haven't ventured as far as the Silverwastes. Many of us that have played for a protracted period of time forget quite how disturbing the creatures that crawled out of the Jungle Dragon’s lair were. Unlike Zhiatan’s undead, these were truly unnatural. Mordrem Wolf, as an example, are part plant with a flowering mouth and tentacles that threaten to drag unsuspecting players into the arms of Cthulhu. You can get a glimpse of what’s in store over at Catherine Roktika’s Artstation account.
This inventive approach extends well beyond the first occurrence of the Jungle Dragon. Map designs are massive, the locals are unusual, and the Living world maps that followed this were some of the most ambitious that I’ve ever seen. Huge indoor caverns crawled up around indoor lakes, ancient libraries full of books, and vast desert cities sweep out across the new world in Guild Wars 2. Beyond this, every step down the Path of Fire is stunning. From the free city of Amnoon to the Crystal Oasis, and further down this journey, the vistas across this new continent take the lessons learned from Heart of Thorns and years of Living World design, eventually crafting zones that have a real sense of scale. The perfect stage to take on a god. While we’ve still not seen Cantha, and who knows if we will, you can go out east and plow in a ridiculous number of hours uncovering a brand new world and all of its secrets. Just, why wouldn’t you want to check out some of the stunning environmental and architecture art that is dotted around the newest regions of Tyria?
Note Save the links in this section for later if you don't want spoilers
Exploring might be worth it for its own sake but, in the end, there is one compelling reason to delve into Maguma or defend the citizens of Amnoon, the story. In all that time we’ve seen new characters come in, several major and incidental characters perish, evil rise and dragons fall. The commander has seen some monumental changes since Zhiatan’s corruption swept across Orr. The writing team past and present at ArenaNet has managed to take some mediocre characters and make them utterly despised, and even changed my opinion on the Asura. While I thought that Kasjory was one of the game’s seminal moments early on, it turns out the journey of Taimi is one of the most rewarding arcs in character arcs in the late game. A hero that was initially played for laughs has recently trudged through one of the most impactful changes I’ve experienced in a video game. Taimi’s recent journey is an example of how war affects people. Issues including trauma, loss, love, diversity, disability, and the certainty that we all must face our mortality are threaded throughout Taimi’s recent journey.
If there is any question that the team at ArenaNet knows what they are doing, just take a look back at Jessica Price’s thread on character design on Twitter. Your personal preference aside, this is an interesting glimpse behind the curtain into the thought and consideration that goes into crafting an experience that is more than just Dragon Bash, and believe me there are more than a few twists in store for your upcoming journey.
In the time I’ve played Guild Wars 2, I’ve come to the conclusion that the stories that ArenaNet tells are by far and away the best part of Guild Wars 2. After WvW became repetitive and SpvP lost its appeal, the threads ArenaNet weave keep me tied to the fate of Tyria.
Quality of Life Updates
If you departed Tyria before we tackled the Jungle Dragon then, frankly, I don’t have enough space here to start describing the number of changes Guild Wars 2 has undergone in that time. Suffice to say our lives are a whole lot easier now. From the introduction of the aforementioned mount system to several changes in inventory management, so many aspects of Guild Wars 2 just make more sense now. One of the biggest complaints I used to hear from part-time privateers that might only have a little time to spare was all about the inventory system. From the early days when badges of honor and laurels flooded bags to the loot clutter that blocks off every bit of space at the end of any sizeable play session, inventory space has always been at a premium. Thankfully there are a ton of changes that went on to streamline everything that a Commander might need to carry.
Shared Inventory Slots
If you’ve just picked up the Guild War s 2 expansions you might be forgiven for not knowing about this tweak but check out the loot that came with your decision and you’ll maybe find you received a shared inventory slot. Shared inventory slots allow players in Guild Wars 2 to synchronize a single inventory slot across an entire account. It allows easy access to items of particular value across all characters on a particular account.
In a game that seems to encourage all sort of alts, it is the perfect place to stash that legendary weapon or another one of the game’s quality of life improvements.
Salvaging has always been part of Guild Wars 2. Early on in the game, the mountain of materials that came from salvaging open world loot meant investing in single-use salvage kits. This was less a waste of gold, but really required players to hold onto several stacks of salvage tools. It was, frankly, a waste of space and another class of kit to organize among a limited inventory. The Copper, SIlver, and Runecrafter Salvage O’Matics are about the only paid for items that I’d say are absolutely essential. It takes the place of several grades of salvaging tool, condensing this equipment into a single item slot each and chews through inventory junk in no time. Available via the in-game gem store, The Black Lion Trading Post, the COPPER FED Salvage O’ Matic might not win fashion wars but any veteran player will tell you, the real enemy here is inventory management.
In an effort to reduce the burden on players inventory management even further, ArenaNet introduced Unidentified Gear after the latest expansion. Rather than drop a selection of unconnected items, quickly filling an inventory, interrupting players, breaking immersion, and leaving a character laden with fabric scraps and worthless runes, ArenaNet stuffed mobs blocking the Path of Fire with Unidentified Gear. Unidentified gear is an elegant twist on the idea of chest drops. Rather than drop a single instance of a single tier of a particular type of gear, unidentified gear is a blind box gear drop. Players can stack this Unidentified gear like any item of the same type, saving an incredible amount of space and time. Now, as of the latest patch notes, Unidentified gear is rolling out into the rest of Tyria. Whether you’re following an open world boss train or battling back Mordrem, you will find that your time won’t be interrupted by a constant need unencumber yourself.
These are far from the only additions that cleared down the most egregious inventory problems. The Wallet system, introduced in 2013 by the Live Response Team, cleared pockets of spare change and runes were made salvageable just last year, just to mention a couple more.
It feels kind of unfair to focus just on the quality of life changes that make life easier for those of running the world boss train. PvP and WvW has seen a number of changes. The addition of a WvW mount, the resolution of culling, the introduction of automated tournaments, and reward tracks to allow players to earn PvE gear without having to venture out of the Mists are all notable for the drastic changes they made to their respective game modes.
The Best Loot
Even for the most forgiving fan, the one thing that ArenaNet never really did very well was dungeons. Thankfully Dungeons have been fixed by now, kind of. Rather than balance the 5 player dungeon experience, Guild Wars 2 found a couple of ways to push PvE players to their limits. First, Fractals warped into the game in 2013 giving players a glimpse into the mists. Past and future collided as ArenaNet gave us a glimpse of events that were monumental in the history of Tyria. Think of Fractals like a what if of Tyria. They are a portal into what was and could have been. They are also a 5 player instanced approach to PvE that threw in a scaling level of difficulty and a set of extra problems called instabilities.
Bigger Better, Raidier…?
While Fractals are a great extension of the 5 player instance experience, Raids are the logical extension of this. Heralded into Guild Wars 2 by many of the same designers that revamped the way Tyrians now think about open world bosses, including the Triple Trouble worm which you can still find menacing the Bloodtide Coast today.
Raids were first introduced to the community in 2015 during PAX and bring a whole new level of challenge to the instanced PvE experience. Raids are a 10 player incarnation of Fractals, dialed up and interwoven with a narrative arc.
The first raid launched in November 2015 and is called Spirit Vale. It begins a narrative that I’m not going to spoil but you won’t find its secrets out in the rest of Tyria. While raids are built to be a test of skill, coordination, and cooperation they are not impossible. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t include the Wildstar esque prerequisite grind to qualify. Players can just pop in from the raid portal near Lions Arch Aerodrome and get going when they find a team. The lack of a trinity system means that raids are flexible and there is always somebody willing to carry. If you left Tyria because you could always outrun that centaur then check out the guides over at Snowcrows or check out the Saturday stream on the ArenaNet schedule or just go follow Community Streamer MightyTeapot as his clown fiesta cut through raids on a regular basis.
Unexpected Error – Insufficient Data Storage—XXRRGHH!
However you look at it, Guild Wars 2 is not the same game it used to be and if you are looking to get started and get back into the game there are a ton of great guides out there. The official forums and the Redditt community are always at hand with returning player guides and In the end, it really is up to you. Returning to Tyria is about the friends you can make and the stories that you’ll take with you. In this respect, Guild Wars 2 really has moved on from its early days, and with recent events, the game is likely to see a new focus again. If you still have reservations then check out the Friend/Ships series to see a little more about the community and the characters that populate it. ArenaNet’s Return to Tyria campaign can be found on the official website alongside an absolutely monstrous discount for the game’s Path of Fire expansion.