Flameseeker Chronicles: Cautiously optimistic about Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion

ArenaNet chose to very cleverly stave off the post-season blues by teasing a long-awaited, much-anticipated, and very-spoiled Guild Wars 2 expansion announcement as a close to the living world’s third season. We didn’t have long to wait before August rolled in and the expansion announcement was upon us, and now I’m even more hyped for the beginning of Path of Fire. Putting the core Heart of Thorns and season 3 stories to bed is bittersweet since I am one of the rather uncommon creatures that largely enjoyed the direction the last expansion went in and I doubly enjoyed the last season’s breaking of the great content drought in such a spectacular, confidence-building fashion.

PoF will be upon us next month, and I don’t have much article space remaining before it drops in our laps, so I thought I should begin the lead-up to launch with an overview of my thoughts about the expansion announcement and the main features it highlighted for us. I know you’ll have been expecting the final edition of my look at season 3 instead, since I have only given you some Siren’s Landing impressions so far from the finale, but talking about the big news felt far more pressing, and I feel that it’ll give those who are currently revisiting the game due to the expansion hype time to catch up with the season before I spill the beans.

In this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I will discuss my thoughts on the PoF announcement and will start to gather my opinions on what I’m looking forward to while also articulating any reservations I have about the expansion. I highly recommend visiting the recent Massively Overthinking collective article that gathered the whole team’s opinions on the matter as well: It’s always useful to see a snapshot of how a diverse group of MMO enthusiasts has responded to an announcement like this one, especially if you haven’t been keeping up with GW2 yourself and want to hear how others in your same predicament are reacting.

Thoughts on the PoF package

If you missed the PoF announcement, there are three main nuggets of information you should know before reading on: firstly, that the expansion will be with us on September 22; secondly, that the expansion’s main features are five new massive maps, a new suite of elite specialisations, and a series of uniquely featured mounts; and lastly that the expansion is priced at $29.99 for the standalone base, no-frills copy. If you want to know a little bit more, check out Bree’s very handy summary for the expansion before you launch into my thoughts on PoF. 

I am the first to admit that, from the initial announcement, PoF is a little light on the new features you might expect from an expansion. I’m thinking back to HoT‘s hype train and how interesting it was getting to grips with masteries and elite specialisations as unique new mechanics and remembering how exciting it was to see something fresh, but I’m happy to see that these mechanics have been reliably extended and re-employed for PoF and haven’t ended up on the abandon heap (I still see you sitting there, all dusty and unloved, dungeons). Ask 2015 Tina if we’d see the faithful extension of the mastery system we’ve seen and I would have been dubious, but I’m glad that these thoughtful, flavourful mechanics are staying at the forefront of ANet’s expansion development.

Is this too safe a choice though, and do we actually want more of the same? My answer here is greyer than I’d like it to be because we simply don’t know enough about how well implemented the new masteries and elite specs are until we get to use them. Would it have killed ArenaNet to listen to the overwhelming roar from the community for access to a new race or class? I know that elite specialisations extend classes beyond their more traditional roles, but it’s not quite the same as creating a new playable class with none of the caveats or FOTM prejudices from the core class designs. New races are a personal must-have for me because of the richness of experience they offer through new personal stories with unique arcs we haven’t yet explored, but I’m not at all surprised that the team hasn’t chosen to go in this direction.

Learning from the HoT pricing debacle

Where ArenaNet has very much taken on our rather loud feedback is in its expansion pricing structure and inclusions. You’ll remember that HoT caused quite the stir with its $50 price tag that included the base game: Many players felt as though they were being asked to buy the base game for the second time and found $50 to be an unreasonable ask for an expansion. This time around, the price is far more reasonable and the expansion is a standalone product that does not include HoT. The HoT add-on can be added to your cart with your PoF pre-order for £17 and other extras, including the Season 3 bundle and useful in-game tools, are also advertised during the cart process, so if you have the cash to splash you won’t miss out on what came before the latest expansion.

On a side note, I agree with Bree when she says that the PoF price plans are very clever. I will be joining her in purchasing the ultimate bundle. I can totally justify that spend to my husband when it comes with 4000 gems on top of all the deluxe extras. I entirely understand that many players still feel the HoT burn, however, so I understand and even encourage caution in pre-purchasing if you fall in that category. It makes sense to wait until after the weekend when we will get to test out the new features ourselves, and even if you hold off for launch impressions to hit, you’re still not holding back for very long.

Mounts: Should I be this excited over such a common feature?

My short answer to this question is a measured yes, based on what we know so far. The mounts aren’t just a prettier fast-travel mechanic and I’m delighted (in theory at least) with this clever extension of the mastery system. For me, part of what made HoT and season 3 zones so frustrating to navigate was the very particular nature of the travel masteries it included: I often got lost in finding the correct point at which to bounce on that mushroom or catch the correct updraft chain to reach my particular destination within the dense jungle tangles and exploded ruins we explored recently, though I have always maintained that I could indeed get my character lost on a straight road due to my apparent inability to read maps and sense direction.

Imagine my delight, then, when mounts were properly announced and it transpired that they are effectively portable, complex travel mechanisms that have a diverse array of applications to the open world. The freeform nature of these masteries combines well with the seemingly much more open, expansive maps to make for a more seamless travelling experience that we’ll all appreciate after having our fill of the verticality trend. If these mounts work out as well in practice as they do in my mind, I’m going to adore them, and then I get to add pretty twists to my travels with them too. Bliss! I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make my own route to my next destination and save myself from getting so hopelessly lost quite so often.

Elite specialisations: Are they enough of a change?

I really love the thematic tie-ins for the new elite specialisations and there are quite a few that I’m dying to try out, but I simply can’t say that they’re going to greatly extend or enhance the classes before trying them out. On paper at least, some seem to do a far better job of adding something new to their respective base class than others: I can see that the thief’s Deadeye will add some fantastic range to the class, for example, but I haven’t yet seen much more about it. After having some time to let the new specs sink in, I am most excited to try the Holosmith (engineer) and the Scourge (necromancer) for myself, especially if the Scourge protective abilities make a necromancer a little bit more viable for raiding than before.

I do appreciate ANet’s dedication to diverse play styles and love the fact that each class has been diversified once again for this expansion, which will cater in some way to most (if not all) players. Having said that, I do miss the wow-factor offered by entirely new classes and feel as though the major shift in the story’s emphasis could have been a fantastic rationale for the emergence of a new combative approach. When the main question on everyone’s lips is how does one defeat a god, it makes sense to me at least that there is a major opening for some dedicated god vanquishers. Whether or not the elite specialisations fill this need remains to be seen, but I wait-and-see approach that verges on cautiously optimistic.

Over to you!

We know that one major story path is ending: No more dragon killing is a definite shift in the formula for the writers that I’m excited (if not totally shocked) to see. Taking on the gods is quite a lofty direction to go in, however, and how well this works for me will rest on how easily vanquished Balthazar proves to be. I want to witness some mass destruction on a devastating, godly level before we are through with him, and I expect far-reaching ramifications to his actions to be felt throughout Tyria, not least in Kryta. I want to perform powerful rituals that might compel the other gods to return and help tame the renegade for us, I want to see vast wars that span far outside the breadth of the new zones, and I want to see Balthazar’s demise transpire in epic fashion.

Do you think PoF will deliver? What do you make of its content and direction? Let me know in the comments.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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31 Comments on "Flameseeker Chronicles: Cautiously optimistic about Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion"

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Jesse Wan

As far as HoT, I loved the Reaper. Unless Scourge absolutely blows me away, I plan on staying with Reaper throughout PoF.

Bonkers Speculation: We find more of Glint’s eggs in the Crystal Desert, replace all the Elder dragons with “our” Baby dragons, defeat Balthazar, and Palawa Joko takes his place in the pantheon. Queue the Kormir 2.0 memes.

sauldo
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sauldo

Good read Tina. To address one of your main concerns about new features, I think that, at some point, a new race will be inevitable. There’s only so many new features that they can implement and Tengu being a fan-favorite, I can totally see this happen if we ever go to Cantha, in the future. A new class on the other hand? Not so much.

Let’s put it bluntly: with the way the elite specializations system is set-up I don’t think that there’s much design space left for new classes in GW2. I should say that it saddens me to see that it somewhat hurts GW2, not because I think that a new class is needed – quite the opposite, in fact – but because people do not seem to grasp that the most common expectations they are putting on new classes (new skills, new gameplay, and now also new lore) may very well be addressed by the elite specialization system.
It has swiftly become the poster child of this argument, I know, but just looking at the new Weaver specialization for the Elementalist, we are getting 40 new skills on top of a brand-new core mechanic (or “class”, dare I say?). That’s nearly twice the number of skills that were given to the new Samurai job in FFXIV. And even if the other ones would not be as spectacular, that’s in the end just one of the nine new specializations implemented in the game.

I think that, in that regard, Anet’s modesty about their systems is what hurts them the most. Not unlike the mounts, which will put quite a new twist on what is perceived by many MMO players as a common feature, specializations are offering all the creative space needed to develop “new classes” in the game. Granted, that is only if they can make them as game changing as the Druid was for the ranger but, assuming that they reach that objective with only two specs per expansion, they’ll already be competitive in terms of “new classes” when compared to other games.

At this point, I’m convinced that the new classes issue in GW2 is mostly a question of perception and Anet has to fight an uphill battle against players preconceptions to convince them that their features are, in fact, more than what people think they are.

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Nathan Aldana

I mean. The problem I have with elite specializations, and I;ve said this before, is they very well may be “new classes”, but only for regular players. For new or returning players, they dont really count as new classes because people who dont play regularly cant magic a fresh 80 out of their butt to try a new elite spec on a whim, so they basically become endgame content instead of new classes.

This the inherent flaw of elite specs. They only really count as new, easily accessible content for veteran players, and as a result are about as compelling to new players as any other max level character feature.

Heck, the comparison to samurai doesnt even work because samurai just requires getting to level 50, which is a whole two and a half expansions of conternt away from being max level or current on content,

sauldo
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sauldo

I get your point and agree that an alternative way to test the specs, besides the sPvP workaround, might be a good idea. Enabling the elite specs with the test functionality granted by the 80 lvl boost could maybe address this?

I think however that the comparison with the samurai works perfectly. Having played both games quite recently, I’m confident to say that bringing a class to cap in GW2 (which incidentally was never increased since the game’s launch) is neither more difficult nor longer than reaching lvl 50 in ARR. Thus, from a beginner’s standpoint, there’s really not that much difference.

Where ARR has the advantage is that it takes just on class at lvl 50 to unlock the samurai, meaning that a vet can begin to level the class right away while, in GW2, one still need to cap the base class. But yet again GW2 has also alternate means to accelerate the leveling process in the form of tomes and boosters that are readily available to the vets, thus that pretty much evens out.

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Dave

I can see that point, with two simple exceptions:

1. The PvP lobby allows you to try a classes entire skill/spec sets and play around with them, so you don’t have to level to 80 first.
2. Every GW2 expansion you purchase gives you a free lvl80 boost that you can apply to a character.

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Kickstarter Donor
Serrenity

But the boost doesn’t give you all the Hero points or whatever they are calling them now to unlock the spec. I feel like this type of implementation works better in the GW1 model – where level cap was just a couple hours into the game.

Line
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Line

But if you never played GW1 either, it was pretty long to get up to speed.
The levelling was pretty lengthy, especially in Prophecies.
Gearing yourself was pretty damn expensive.

And getting skills was the real killer: it was insanely harder and more time consuming than it has ever been in GW2.

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Castagere Shaikura

I just don’t think it will be different than HOT. How the mounts work is taking the place of the HOT mushroom hopping and gliding. All the mounts have different abilities that you will have to grind masteries for. I don’t mine hard content but add zone navigation in with it annoys me like HOT did.

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Terren Bruce

I’m honestly really hyped about PoF. Mostly because it seems to finally get the balance right between the causal play of the vanilla game and the harder, more engaging content of HoT’s. Both philosophies did so much right, and so much wrong at the same time. As in many things in life it’s a balance that brings the best result and I hope that GW2 has finally found it’s balance.

I don’t know that sure of course, and won’t till it launches. But by what their presenting and what I’ve played in Living World Season 3 I think that is what we’re seeing.

I’m also super excited about the mounts. I don’t think it’s not exciting just because other games have them. These mounts seem to have more personality in general and a ton of attention given to their animations that other games don’t bother with. They all have their own abilities and that seems really fun to me. They even have an ability to get you into combat which is pretty useful. And I don’t have to take a trait or skill for a speed buff if I don’t want to which is something I’ve wanted for five years. Mounts are a big deal, don’t let anyone tell you different.

And the elite specs seem to be a lot of fun, and in my opinion add a lot more to the game than a new class would. EVERYONE benefits from elite specs and the entire game seems refreshed while a new class only benefits those who will play that class.

If there is a weakness in the expansion it’s the lack of a new way to start the story from level 1 as a new player. Here a new race would have added a lot to the expansion and been a way for people to catch up on the story without having to deal with the problems in the original personal story and the inability to play Living World Season 1. If there is one thing I’d add to the expansion feature list that would be it. A new race that replaces the original story and at the end plops the player at the beginning of PoF. Or maybe Season 3.

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Nathan Aldana

everyone here benefiting from elite specs meaning “:people who have all classes to level 80”

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Bruno Brito

The only thing good that Elite specs did, was bringing powercreep. And i don’t mean good in “i think it’s good” kinda way, but it was something i expected them to bring, and they brought it.

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Bryan Turner

I’m fine with them holding back on features in favor of content, I absolutely loath having to learn new mechanics and would have rather preferred a larger Jungle in Hearth of Thorns with twice the events, so as far as I’m concerned Path of Fire was made with me in mind (the guy that loved vanilla and accepted HoT kicking and screaming.

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Terren Bruce

I remember your kicking and screaming. ;)

I’m glad PoF has you encouraged!

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Arktouros

Money part has never really bothered me in most games and doesn’t bother me here.

The feature adds are pretty “meh” to me. Having to use various mounts to get various abilities seems like a recipe for annoyance. Oh gotta swap to this to leap. Oh, swap again for a float. Oh, swap again for a high jump. Really feels like these are done separately just to inflate the Mastery system so you have a Mastery for each one rather than each one being it’s own Mastery line.

Specializations we’ll still have to see on. ANet has a long history of going big with everything being OP for a while then just taking a chainsaw to game balance afterwords. It’s like just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m cautiously optimistic about going back to my Elementalists.

Over all going to give the free weekend(s) a try and see if it can recapture my attention at all or if this will be just something to pickup at a later date if at all.

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Annoyed badger

the problem with elite specialisations, is that far from offering choice, you have to play in them to be competitive.

And as for mounts…yeah nice whatever, the new movement “options” are just area gating like the HoT masteries.

sauldo
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sauldo

Not exactly. While it is true that the elite specializations are overwhelmingly dominating the scene, some of the PvE top performers require only core specializations (condi ranger or condi engineer for instance).

About mounts, there’ll probably be some sort of gating until the mount masteries are fully unlocked but it is not accounting for the fact that:

1) The unlock is account-wide, meaning that you have to do it once and then are finished forever.
2) The mounts are usable in the rest of the game meaning that, in the end, you’ll have a lot more movement options that’ll help alleviate the frustration that came with the first set of masteries. Imagine, for instance, using the hopper in HoT instead of the bouncing mushrooms?

Siphaed
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Siphaed

Not so. An Elementalist can be on par with or better than a Tempest. It is a matter of the build and situation.

I do tend to look at the Druid as better than the Ranger…..but that is because the Druid is a controller-type (i.e. interrupts and CC) healer that is far more useful to a team than some arrow shooting trapper that the normal Ranger is. However still utilizing it hybrid like with a bow off-weapon and the pets that have the most useful attack mechanics (range or melee).

And I don’t care what the other mounts give for abilities, I’ll still 99.9% of the time ride the giant desert bunny. Just fits the Asura image perfectly.

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Terren Bruce

To be fair an “elite” spec should be more powerful than the core specs. The real question is will the PoF elite specs be inherently superior to the HoT’s elite specs or will they just simply fill different roles? It’s impossible to say at the moment, and I’m sure they’ll over tune them rather than under tune them. But they do look to fill different roles.

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Bruno Brito

No, they shouldn’t. Anet always said they were supposed to be a sidegrade.

The name elite comes because they’re overlyspecialized, meaning they’re “elite” on what they’re supposed to do, while Corespecs are more jack of all trades.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

My sentiments exactly, Tina:

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Sally Bowls

PoF is a little light on the new features you might expect from an expansion.

IDK how LS changes the equation for GW2; unlike some, I always look at the time vs features. E.g., WoW WoD had plenty of features, … if it lasted 12 fewer (Thank you Davos!) months. So these exact features a year ago would be a feature heavy expansion, a year from now, very feature light.

“CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC” seems like an eminently reasonable attitude atm.

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Leviathonlx

I’d say it’d be better to look at legion and its patches.

Line
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Line

I don’t really care about a new class as long as we get new elite specs with personality and functionality. I’d rather get that than a new class like Revenant that I just hated.
The Soulbeast looks lame, but Ranger in general is just a bore. The rest is pretty cool, I do love the Scourge and the Firebrand, they seem to add a lot to Necromancer and Guardian (which is also trash tier to play right now).

For the story, wait&see. Right now it’s a lot more interesting than before, but also a mess if you haven’t played GW1…

Really hope to see more group content like fractals however.