Flameseeker Chronicles: Impressions of Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire preview weekend experience

I’m delighted to have found a moment to bring you an extra edition of Flameseeker Chronicles that outlines my thoughts on the first Guild Wars 2Path of Fire preview weekend. From last Friday until Sunday, every player was invited along to take some tentative steps into the Crystal Desert and get to grips with the raptor mount. We were also treated to a little bit of introductory story that ties the new zone directly to the Living World Season 3 finale without missing a beat.

So today, I will break down my preview experience into the main points, including my highlights and unfortunately ending on a pretty crummy negative. I’m hoping that further development based on the feedback from this weekend will help to lessen or negate my issue though, so I won’t be frowning for very long! Note that this article will contain some spoilers regarding the introductory story, so it’s best avoided if you are waiting until September to find out more on that front.

The small chunk of story featured some familiar faces I wasn’t expecting

I was a little shocked to run into both Rytlock and Kasmeer in the PoF introductory story. The commander is just as stunned as I am, and when Kas is probed the conversation soon turns to how conflicted she still feels over Balthazar and his intentions. She hints at underlying tension between her and Jory, which is fairly understandable considering one of Kas’ gods decided to try and melt Jory after the former froze on the spot. I am surprised that Kasmeer is straight on Balthazar’s trail considering her refusal to help her friends face off against Balthazar just a short while ago in story terms, though she does tend to bounce back from shock and knocks. It’s interesting to see her perspective: She believes that something is amiss, that there is something inherently off about a revered god turning against the Tyrian people. The rest of the expansion’s story will hopefully help us unpack whether her words are wishful thinking or if her opinion is more valid than we might expect.

Rytlock stands before us, eyes uncovered for the first time in a while, and he is characteristically glib with the commander. He explains that he tossed his blindfold now that he can focus without it and deftly avoids explaining the Foefire mission yet again. The commander is clearly peeved, of course, but Rytlock isn’t at all moved by our threats and foot stamping and puts our attention back onto Balthazar. I’m sure the commander must wear him down eventually, and I’m glad that such a big chunk of lore wasn’t included in a preview weekend, so even though I’m bursting to know more the exchange sated me. I was more than a little rocked by how quickly he managed to clear things up at the Citadel and catch up with the rogue god, but Rytlock is nothing if not persuasive I guess.

What we saw of the map was pretty incredible, even within the city walls

I have to begin this segment by saying that approaching the zone by airship was a fantastic way for ArenaNet to show off the simply stunning amount of work that has clearly gone into doing such an iconic area justice. As you probably already know, the zone has undergone some sizable changes since we last had access to it in the Guild Wars canon, so being able to get that elevated initial perspective on the characters’ new surroundings was most definitely appreciated. From the first glimpse of a pyramid to my swims in the small stretch of coastline just off the Free City of Amnoon that was accessible in the demo, I couldn’t quite believe just how staggeringly beautiful the scenery was. I know I remarked on the visuals of every new map, but the attention to detail seems to have markedly improved in this expansion. Movement, colour, texture, and contrast are all heightened; I can tell just how much of a labour of love creating Amnoon and its surrounding farmland was for the team.

The new map seems substantial from what we have seen so far: Amnoon is not a great city in the Central Tyria sense of things, but it contains enough interest to act as a suitable hub for our operations here. A thriving market and casino complex adds fun to the desert in a way that many of us were not expecting, and the monsters that lie beyond the walls are alien enough to feel imposing to a seasoned commander. The zone is teeming with life and anyone who thought we would see nothing but sand for the next few months is greatly mistaken: Hardy desert plants surround well-irrigated paddy fields, and the crystal clear waters that lie behind the city is a delight to swim in with all the below-the-sea sights you’ll pass.

The real triumph for the open-world exploration enthusiast is the breathtakingly gorgeous, changeable skyline in the zone: Inky night time stargazing and scorchingly bright desert sun combine in the area to give a sense of depth that I have never before felt in Guild Wars 2. Travelling across the map was obviously made somewhat faster by the addition of the raptor mount, but the drastic difference in flora, fauna, and skyline made even the small demo area feel larger in scope and breadth than some of its predecessor maps, which was only heightened by the reliance on open space to create an authentic desert feel. I don’t miss the verticality of the jungle at all and I didn’t manage to get lost at all during the weekend, which is a result for me.

Land sharks… oh my!

I mentioned already how alien the land’s monsters felt: I can’t possibly finish this article without going into more detail. Teeth galore, dangerous breath attacks, and a spiny rolling cactus boss made for a diverse set of enemies that gives the area its own feel that finally breaks the dragonspawn flunk I’ve been feeling. The land sharks are pretty hilarious, especially if you recall the bug that allowed some pesky sharks to appear on terra firma. I love how well these enemies interact with our new mount mastery too: Many will deal enough damage to unmount players if they do not travel carefully, which in turn will reduce their travelling speed because you cannot remount while in combat. Many enemies have ways to charge into action or otherwise move quickly enough to tangle a player on foot, which plays very nicely with the unmounting mechanic.

The raptor might actually be as cute as Aurene

The raptor has the most beautiful face, and when that cute snout is paired with dog-like static motions I know that we’re onto a winner. The raptor very much reminds me of Aurene in demeanour, which is no bad thing. I wasn’t expecting the mounts to have so much character though, so that was a pleasant surprise. I really appreciated that my character takes time when we’re still to pat her mount when he rests or readjust the reins when he shuffles. The ability to apply unlocked dyes to the raptor had me clicking away for quite some time, trying to find the perfect shade of purple to blend into the raptor’s naturally rust-toned metallic scales. The variance I saw from player to player was immense, which did help to break up the flock when players were piled together.

What will take me some time to get used to is the difference in appearance high-density areas will have once everyone has access to mounts. At times, sitting idly in Amnoon reminding me strongly of similar downtime spent sat in Orgrimmar in World of Warcraft, though admittedly with only one mount type unlocked it didn’t have the same feeling of trying to contain a diverse menagerie of increasingly more obnoxiously exotic creatures amongst civilisation. I do wonder what our more traditional Central Tyrian zones will look like with mounts all over: The general scale in GW2 was never created with mounts in mind, after all, so I’m unsure of how well they’ll sit in their new environment. Still, I do very much appreciate having such an intuitive and portable navigational toolset at my disposal now.

I experienced pretty major raptor-induced motion sickness :(

Everything about the motion of the raptor feels right: The sense of speed took me by surprise and was entirely unexpected, especially when using the raptor’s long jumping to flit across the more awkward terrain. We do move more quickly when mounted, of course, but the visuals enhance the feeling by exaggerating the true speed increase and tricking our minds into feeling that we are covering more ground than we actually are. Going on foot feels mildly frustrating after being mounted for a while as a result! The raptor skids to a halt once you stop motion after running at full speed, and taking corners feels wild and only vaguely in the player’s control. There is something about this motion that makes the beast feel untamed and gives him a sense of weight that I usually don’t have with mounts in other MMOs, and it makes riding along on raptorback a refreshing, enjoyable experience that goes beyond convenience or enhanced travelling mechanics.

Unfortunately, the visual trickery that adds to the experience also deeply detracts from it for me: I am rather prone to motion sickness and avoid first-person games and VR technology as a result, and even with adjustments made to my settings, I feel nauseous after only 20 minutes of casual exploration both off and on raptorback. To say I’m gutted really is an understatement, especially when it placed limits on how much I could play this weekend. After initially having to sleep off the worst of the motion sickness, I was forced to play in 15-minute bursts to stave off nausea, and even then I had almost perpetual dizziness and a persistent headache during my time playing. While I enjoyed the weekend teaser in and of itself, I’m not sure how often I’ll be reaching for the mounts if my experience of using them remains unchanged throughout the last weeks of the expansion’s development. I’m worried that the issue isn’t totally fixable without ruining what makes the mounts feel so special in the first place, but I know ArenaNet is working on it.

Over to you!

What did you make of the weekend? Did you have any particular highlights? Are any of you prone to motion sickness too, and if so did the mount animations catch you out? Will you be playing along this weekend during the PvP elite specialization preview? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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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29 Comments on "Flameseeker Chronicles: Impressions of Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire preview weekend experience"

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Chris_P_Bacon
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Chris_P_Bacon

I was initially really Skeptical about mounts of all things being their flagship feature. 5 years after release and they tout something that’s been a day 1 staple of MMOs since 1998? Oy! But after trying out that raptor, I saw the light. I spent 2 hours alone just running and hopping around the desert on it, barely doing any of the demo’s actual content. I found myself logging on just to leap over gaps and such with the raptor. It just felt so good! Then it hit me: There’s 3 other mounts with their own abilities left to try!

I pre-ordered it right then and there. Looking forward to PoF. :D

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TBPlayer2112

I haven’t pre-ordered yet but I’ll probably get PoF at launch or sometime soon after. As I said in another post, what little I played I did enjoy. I especially liked the Raptor races and how they handled. Sorry to hear about the motion sickness with some players. =/ It was really nice being able to explore around without having to worry about jumping on the right mushroom or falling into a pit of unforgiving poison to my death.
Really happy that the xpack will be out fairly soon as well!

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Scrungle

I pre-ordered after the demo, very impressed.

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Scrungle

You can dye your mount?! How did I miss that.

kalamari_
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kalamari_

the option is a little bit hidden in the dye tab. there is a new icon on top of all the dye channels for your armor where you can switch to your mount.

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Peregrine Falcon

I feel for those of you that are having issues with motion sickness. I hope that Arena Net is able to do something about that to help you all.

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MeltWithYou

I completely understand about the motion sickness…if I can’t jack up the FoV especially in FPS games, I get super sick. Sucks…skyrim I have to play in 3rd person (i know they have mods that fix it), Fallout 4 is completely unplayable for me (again mods, but I digress). Doom (4) on the other hand, no problem…but they have a slider. I also have to disable head bob and screen shake…barf

I didnt ride around long enough on the mount to get a sense something was off, but I heard theres a slight camera sway AND THAT would make me barf. During the preview, I really wanted to get a sense of the layout and zone design so I just ran around for the duration which I thought was great looking at all the little details.

I wonder whats the common unity between all of us? Why some people have no problem and some people get sick as shit?

mosselyn
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mosselyn

Oh, dear, sorry to hear about the motion sickness. I don’t usually have problems in MMOs, but I could never play old FPS games for this reason. I hope it doesn’t bite me in PoF.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

10 minutes after being in the demo zone I pre-ordered. This is how I wanted HoT to be. It’s nice being excited for GW2 again. looking forward to playing the new specs this weekend.

Questions I still need answered: Will we be getting new legendaries that are tied to PoF? Will PoF only owners get the same sort of guild hall access that HoT owners have? I know they have a new PoF themed guild hall coming, but when it comes to ArenaNet, nothing is ever cut and dried.

Criticisms: The UnId’d drops need to signify rarity by color. It’s a HUGE step back from even GW1. I don’t mind the ID’ing. I do however mind the unnecessary time sink that comes with it and the need to identify every box instead of only the rarities I want. it’s a disrespect to player’s time.

April-Rain
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April-Rain

Played around a little and finished the first part of the story and then went exploring but I don’t think I spent more than 50 min in there as I don’t want to spoil it, but I am interested in the class demo this week.

What had me slightly worried was I found some issues of clipping and the performance was terrible, what I mean by bad performance is the network as me and my wife got a few kicks from the actual game and was unable to connect this is when we went and played the demo as we could connect to that.

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McGuffn

I’ve gotten dizzy from games before, including gw2. The cutscene in the volcanic fractal when the boulders start rolling is really bad. It takes over your screen, the moving elements and the odd camera pan hit me every time. Other times when the game takes over and adjust the camera during boss fights can also do it.

No problem with the raptor though, to me it seemed identical to normal character movment. I’m pretty sure I’m using the default FoV settings, or something close to it.

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Tiresias

Like many others, I played through the first part up to meeting up with Kasmeer and Rytlock then stopped, as I hadn’t finished Living Season 3 yet and there were already too many spoilers for me.

Having said that, I really enjoyed what I saw and am looking forward to trying out the Mirage elite spec on that preview weekend.

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Alex Willis

1. Can I ride a Quaggan as a mount?
2. If the answer to #1. is “no”, when will I be able to ride a Quaggan as a mount?
3. How big is the Quaggan Mount development team?
4. If ANET had to rank Quaggan Mount Development on its agenda priorities, would it be #1 or #2?

#quagganmounts

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Scrungle

Kind of creepy considering Quaggan are sentient, lol.

abyssalstar
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abyssalstar

Everyone has a fetish.

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Eliandal

Impressed with everything except the initial combat. The fights with the Herald are heavily overtuned, not so bad for Vets, and even returning vets like me (took me about 10 minutes to remember combat) however, I feel sorry for “new” players. I watched my partner getting more and more frustrated, and finally just say “nope” (not a GW2 player) , and shutting it down after 15 minutes.

April-Rain
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April-Rain

I do agree as my wife was the same, she loved the map and hated the combat that much I got her a trial of wow to try.

I was hoping a little easier combat more in line with the original game as she hates HoT and I cant say I am a fan apart from the the main map events.

But it does seem like she will not be playing it which is a great shame for us having fun together as we had a great time playing through the original and doing the world boss events.

But it will save my wallet £25 i guess.

sauldo
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sauldo

That starter fight was indeed a bit too difficult for beginners to apprehend. Not sure if it was really judicious from Anet. This being said, you were forced to solo it during the demo. When the expac goes live, you can group with up to five people to clear the story steps, what makes it significantly easier.

Line
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Line

You know what, you’re not the first I’ve seen complaining about the Herald.

But my question is: how?
She has one attack. Not two, one.
And that attack is lifting her hammer, sending a bright orange telegraph on the ground, where she will hit after around four seconds.
And she doesn’t even target the player character most of the fight, killing the civilian NPCs instead.

This is FFXIV tutorial Hall of the Novice level of difficulty.

So, how do people get stuck on that?
I could understand getting smashed by events (and even then, if I can faceroll five waves of Forged with my beta Thief, I have some doubts ), but by a tutorial boss that doesn’t even attack you most of the time?

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Nathan Aldana

yeah, thing is, in ff14, you dont need to constantyly doubletap roll to get out of the way, and if you just made a character and dont know how to build it, well, the base build you get aint exactly stellar

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Leviathonlx

Yea the Herald was a glorified trash mob. Hell my only issue with it was that it felt like the fight dragged on a little long.

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Sally Bowls

Yeah. I think “preview” was misleading. A preview is some marketing info to get potential customers hyped about the new products. This was limited, early access. I have calmed down but my initial reaction is that this was previewing that ANet has learned little from HoT about marketing, new player acquisition, or tuning.

abyssalstar
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abyssalstar

The expansion is end game content, new players shouldn’t be touching it yet.

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Sally Bowls

Yes, the expansion is end game content, but this is a preview, part of the limited marketing to try to get new players. Maybe WoW could do ok selling to their 1xx million ex-customers, but other MMOs need to get new people to grow and to replace the players that inevitably drift off.

In addition, your presale promotion needs to be more effective when you shrink the announce to launch time down from 9 to 2 months and don’t provide an open beta. IMO, your presale promotion also needs to be more effective when the only expansion to date was a failure.

If there was a significant and effective alternative to the preview to hook new players, then I would agree with you.

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Tobasco da Gama

He explains that he tossed his blindfold now that he can focus without it and deftly avoids explaining the Foefire mission yet again.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

Reader
Terren Bruce

We can clearly see in the original trailer that Rytlock is going to tell us what happened to him in the Mists, we even see part of the cinematic where he is going to tell us.

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Greaterdivinity

Didn’t dive too deep into it, myself, in part because it didn’t sell me at all.

Hot damn is their art team still the best team working there, the new city and bits of zones are bloody gorgeous. I’m considerably less worried about “desert fatigue” now given what I’ve seen. Seriously, the new art director is very much following in his fathers footsteps in terms of delivering fantastic quality in-game art design/assets.

The actual “stuff/content”…not so much. Still not remotely sold on the expansion, but I’m happy to give subsequent weekends a go. Wasn’t sold on mounts at all, especially the controls.

I know I’m more in the minority in not enjoying it that much, but that’s a good thing. I’d rather it be my “personal problem” that the expansion isn’t clicking with me so far rather than it being a widespread problem with the expansion itself. I’m still rooting for GW2 even if I won’t be sticking around (at least, outside of tinkering around in vanilla/HoT content on alts etc.), and I’d love to see it get back on track and not repeat the same mistakes of HoT that led to such a polarized response from players and a considerable drop in both number of players and revenue. And down the road, I’ll probably pick up PoF on sale anyways, so the better received and supported the expansion is the better it will be when I finally take the plunge.

abyssalstar
Reader
abyssalstar

I had fun with the preview, and am hyped for the real thing, but I limited myself on the weekend. I don’t want to do everything with a demo character, so I forced myself back into normal Tyria after a while.

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blah blazh

same here, I played around in it for a couple of hours and stopped

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