Path of Fire Review - Welcome Back, Commander
Guild Wars 2 is five years old now. Can you believe it? The original game launched to huge acclaim, fanfare, and millions of sales. Five years on, it feels like ArenaNet is hitting their stride once more with the Path of Fire expansion. Simply put, this is the best Guild Wars 2 has been since launch. Read on for our Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire review.
What’s amazing to me about Path of Fire is that it’s not an expansion focused on features. For the most part, the big new thing in PoF is the Mount System itself. The rest of what makes this expansion so good is the heaping piles of content that comes with it. Heart of Thorns focused a lot on new features, and with refinement since its launch a couple years ago, the Mastery system, Elite Specializations, and the new cadence for the Living World content have led to Path of Fire.
As you can read in my other editorials on this expansion, Path of fire brings back a sense of exploration without frustration that Heart of Thorns was sorely lacking. As ambitious as the design of Maguuma was, Elona is much closer to what made Guild Wars 2 great at launch. Huge, expansive zones that focus more on use of lateral space than the vertical. Add in the mounts and their extensive new sets of abilities, and the “group content on demand” of the Bounty system, and suddenly you’ve got the most fun new zones in years. Each one builds on the lessons learned from Heart of Thorns and the Living World Season 3, and it shows.
The mounts themselves, though the only wholly new feature of the expansion, are enough to refresh the entire game. Traveling becomes fun again, in a way that even the Glider couldn’t do. Each one, from Raptor to Skimmer and the hidden Griffon, all have their own uniques strengths and weaknesses. Being able to assign each one to its own hotkey makes it easy to switch to the one you need with the press of a button. Personally, I used the Raptor most - if only because I love just how far it can jump with its Mastery upgrades. But when you unlock the Jackal, things get even cooler, as it can get to places no other mount can with its sand portal travel ability.
I’m purposefully avoiding talk of the story here, as I don’t want to spoil too much. If you’ve been playing Guild Wars 2, you’ve known that the story’s been kicked up a notch through Living World Season 3. This expansion seamlessly continues that tale, so it is recommended you play through Season 3. That said, if you haven’t, there are great recaps out there, and the game itself will give you the Cliff’s Notes version with the story episode “The Departing”. Suffice it to say, the story in Path of Fire is probably the best writing yet from the narrative team in ArenaNet.
Are there still loose ends to clean up? Of course. But by calling back to Guild Wars 1, and turning the story inward to the human gods, Path of Fire feels far more centered and less predictable now that the big bad isn’t simply “Another Elder Dragon”.
If there’s one thing I’m not sure of, it’s the Bounty System. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great idea. The fact that people can visit boards in a town and basically call on-demand world bosses and group content is great. I just haven’t seen too many folks actively using them yet. Now, that could just be me, but I’d love to see them used more. They’re not solo-able, but they don’t require a lot of coordination either - simply advertise in chat where and what you’re doing and people will join you.
My only real complaint for Path of Fire is a bug that’s been plaguing Guild Wars 2 for years - you can and will still get disconnected in Story instances, and more often than not when that happens you lose all progress. This is gutting because some story missions are an hour long, and you find yourself at the end of the laborious task only to have it reset randomly on you.
In the end though, I can’t recommend Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire enough. It’s no secret that GW2 has been one of my favorite MMORPGs for the last five years, but Heart of Thorns really tested that notion for me. Path of Fire puts things squarely back in the right direction for ArenaNet’s flagship. The Mounts, the zones, the Masteries, and the story all bundle up together to make one delicious stew of gaming goodness. For $30 (Standard Edition), you really can’t go wrong. Welcome back to the best of the best, Guild Wars 2. Keep it up.