Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire launch diary: Initial impressions

My initial impressions on Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire launch are rather late to the table, owing to some fairly significant connection issues since launch that ran up until yesterday, but I’m delighted to share my first thoughts on the second Guild Wars 2 expansion with you at long last. I really count yesterday as my first day of play since the instance creation issues prevented me from progressing my Path of Fire story chain until then, so although I’ve had all weekend, this first launch diary entry will simply detail the things that I noted within the first day of play.

Don’t worry about story spoilers being contained below: I’m not ready to share story details with you yet and wouldn’t even if I could! Expansions are a long time in the making and fans deserve to enjoy all that entails first-hand without it being spoiled. Anything at all problematic will be marked with spoiler tags just in case. Enjoy my list of the good, the bad, and the janky, and check out my screenshot gallery at the end of the article too (though skip this if you don’t want location spoilers).

The good

Despite a very rocky start, I happily have a whole pile of good stuff to report back to you, which is an absolute testament to the hard work that clearly went into Path of Fire. I hope that, when taken in balance with the bad and janky, this list will help you gauge whether or not the expansion is for you.

A story like no other

One of the most immediately striking things is the appreciable quality hike in the story, and considering it’s one of those features I’ve always raved about, you can tell how exciting that is for me. Imagine the Heart of Thorns and Living World season 3 immersion paired with the sense of awe and wicked dialogue of season 1 and you’re getting about halfway to how great the new story content is. Character interactions are intensified, NPCs seem truly affected by the events happening around them, and the player character thinks through problems in the most natural way yet.

Map diversity

One of the main concerns fans had when it was announced that the expansion would take us back to Elona was that the maps, although vast, would feel samey, barren, and bland. People were imagining neverending beige with little settlements to break up the tedium, but that is so far from what was actually delivered and I’m delighted with the new map designs. This expansion is home to, quite frankly, some of the most stunning in-game art I’ve ever seen in an MMO: Every slight turn of the camera sets up a new screenshot-worth still that has a million and one things to see and a level of artistry that makes the player feel like a curator at every print-screen click.

World realism

We know that PoF sees the player character track the war god Balthazar through the Crystal Desert, but what you might not have expected is how thriving the Elonian community is and how affected it will be by our showdown with a god. If a ball of fire smacks down and burns out a building, you can be sure to find running villagers frantically trying to escape the battle scene and weeping widows cowering behind what’s left of their home while they wait for a hero to step in and make things right. It’s all too easy to make a fight feel epic with flashy dramatics and a good handful of destructibles thrown in, but I deeply appreciate that in PoF, everyday people convey just as much to the player as the main characters do.

One point that I need to make before I move on from realism is that the city of Amnoon is one of the most impressive densely populated spaces created for the game. The city complements its surroundings perfectly and is obviously stunning, but it is so much more than just a pretty facade on a set of convenient vendors. Every building is logically thought out and the entire cityscape blends seamlessly into the desert and feels as though it truly belongs there. The city forms a fabulous interface between the water and sand, swirling together themes from both environments to make the transition seamless. People get on with their lives all around us while we quest and trade and not one of their stories feels half-hearted or insignificant. The activities of the city push you beyond its walls and tell a story of a people who know the desert even better than the city’s confines. It really is design perfection.

The sky!

You’ll laugh at me, perhaps, but if you haven’t done so already, point your screen up a little higher than usual and just walk around the new zones. The skyline is an absolute masterpiece, and the subtleties of its changes and how the lighting effects blend in with a stunning backdrop create something to be marvelled at. MOP’s screenshot-obsessed Justin has been innundated with skyline screenshots since Friday, and I can totally understand why: I must have taken hundreds of shots myself!

A great surprise

Click to reveal spoiler about mounts!
This section has been placed in spoiler tags, but anyone who hangs around in Lion’s Arch will have already seen this beautiful sight around the city. ArenaNet has surprised fans with a fifth mount, which significantly changes the scope of the mount lineup for the better and adds some beautiful travelling possibilities to the game. I won’t tell you what the new mount is in case you haven’t seen it, especially since Bree didn’t know about it when I mentioned it last night, so that you get to enjoy the surprise firsthand.

The bad

This is a welcomingly short section: Aside from the jank I may or may not have already mentioned several times (bitter, me? no!), I really don’t have that many complaints. Even a little bit of progress railroading didn’t make my list: Although it’s usually a no-no for me, the way any progression capping was done in PoF made sense in terms of story and the main bottleneck had a nice visual representation to it that I appreciated.

Motion sickness managed, then it wasn’t

I was so delighted on Friday when I logged in and managed to snag my raptor mount and soon discovered that the motion sickness I felt during the playtest weekend was significantly improved this time around. I developed a mild headache, but nothing of note, which was far and away from the full-blown motion sickness I felt on my first raptor experience. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I picked up my second mount, the Springer, and within minutes I started to feel dizzy and nauseous once again. There is something about the bounding steps and vertical leaps that turns by poor belly to jelly, and it most definitely is problematic for me at least.

I’ve tried changing my settings and everything that was suggested, but it still makes me feel awful, especially in areas where the map design expects you to chop and change from mount to mount and your character is bobbing up and down endlessly. Taking turns on the Springer is hellish, as is coming to a stop, and I limit my use of the mount as a result. I don’t know if this is fixable, but much more research into this is needed in my opinion.

The janky

Connection issues

I had a perfectly clean launch experience with Heart of Thorns and was expecting the same for Path of Fire: I was almost entirely positive that we wouldn’t see the sort of widescale launch issues we did end up with. My personal experience was absolutely dreadful: I experienced random crashing, persistent login issues, and sustained problems when trying to create instances. I was effectively locked out of story progression for the weekend and chose instead to see as much of the map as I could with access to only a raptor and I spent time gathering up mastery points when I could play. When I could create instances, I dropped out so often that my progress was cancelled out anyway, so it simply wasn’t worth it until conditions stabilised.

To say this impacted on my enjoyment of the expansion is an understatement, but ArenaNet’s response has been fairly swift and I’ve seen plenty of patching activity occur since launch. I played for hours yesterday solidly with no drops, so I’m confident that the round-the-clock effort to repair the bugs has paid off.

Floating raptors

This is a totally silly point that just needs a casual mention because it made me giggle during the weekend’s playtesting and I thought I should point it out since it made it into the launch. It seems as though the raptor’s anchor point to the terrain is directly below the model’s true centre point, but the model has such a long tail that its feet aren’t actually in the middle of the model and are in fact further forward. This means that if you skid gently off a cliff in just the right manner, you’ll see a floating raptor hovering magically in mid-air! Totally not game-breaking and isn’t a major issue at all, but funny to see nonetheless. It does happen to a lesser degree with character models as well, but with the scale of mounts, it’s just so much more noticeable.

TL;DR

When I could actually get playing, I’ve been blown away with the quality of this expansion and its no-nonsense delivery of exactly what was promised and even a little surprise here and there too. I’ve seen a minority of players comment that they don’t feel the addition of mounts and a new set of elite specializations is enough for an expansion, and to them I would say play the expansion and witness the work that has gone into the zones and story before you write it off on its box-text features. Mounts are not the traditional MMO convenience, might I add, and are an expansion-worthy piece of development work if anything is. Take a leap of faith and you won’t be sorry.

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92 Comments on "Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire launch diary: Initial impressions"

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Goettel
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Goettel

A stunning expansion with a shaky start. HoT was (and is) pure MMO joy, and so is PoF, in an entirely different way. 2016 was Legion’s year. 2017 is PoF’s. Just my 2c. Great days.

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Bob Dobalina

So far this expansion is excellent. Getting the same vibes I did when I first played GW2 (and that HoT didn’t give). Love the mount system and how it makes the maps into mini puzzles on what ability to use and how to get around. The story is far improved from the HoT Living Story Season 3 too. Only have map completed 2 maps so far and about 20% into the Elon Riverlands. Haven’t played with Scourge as yet since I still love Reaper but will be fully unlocking that soon.

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Mikey's Bored

Honestly I’m LOVING it. I was not a fan of the last expansion in most ways, but I find this one to be exactly what I was hoping for and more. It’s also really great for GW1 fans.

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Line

-For the good parts, yes, it’s exactly what people looking for exploration were clamoring for.
Huge beautiful maps with massive variety (and plenty of verticality actually, but it’s also pretty straightforward) tons of things to collect, and it follows the good aspect collections of HoT; different things to find in hidden places instead of just token grinds (barely any of that except buying some armor recipes, also welcome). Tons of secrets too, including the not so secret optional mount.

Mounts are great, and masteries are a ton of fun on top of being easy to train, it’s not even close . A mount mastery is 2.3M XP to completion, two thirds of that being for the last optional bonus (like more skill damage). That was 13.4M for a single one in HoT. Quite a difference.
Love how good it feels in the old world, but it does make things very simple.

The story is quite good and fun, but a bit rushed concerning Aurene and her “friend”.
Better to stumble a bit early on and to get good later, though. I do like the tone of the story, everything’s fucked, the characters know it, it’s clearly not a matter of saving the world and living happily ever after this time, mitigating damage is all there is to do. Great choice to move away from bad dragons to destroy, really.

-Now for the bad parts… there’s no new instanced group content and it sucks.
I would have loved some fractals and the like (the next raid is coming soon, but eeeh), especially looking at the small open world dungeon in the Desert Highlands. It’s super fun, and it has super cool collections to complete, I would love to see more of that so much.
The bounties are alright I guess, being player started encounters is sweet, but it’s nothing major. Would be great to have more daily systems in the entire world using them though…

I don’t like most new specs.
They are much more flavourful than the ones in HoT, with more background lore and more meaningful gameplay variations, but they also feel not so solo-friendly. Most are dedicated to roles that are terrible alone, and don’t work everywhere in group either (like Deadeye in PvE)… definitely don’t feel very fun in the open world.

The balance is a bit crappy.
Like in beta, most of the exansion is way undertuned (the Forged are just a joke outside of mages), with some massive spikes when you fight harpies or awakened canids. Not very cool to have it easy and randomly die because a strong mob joins in this time.
The story I didn’t find very hard, but it also suffers from it, more HP wise this time. Most mobs and bosses are pretty squishy but toward the end it gets a bit ridiculous with multiple phases.

-Overall, it’s a lot of fun for the average casual player, especially for $30.
But I would like more things for groups and guilds, and for them to expand the non-combat activities too. The minigames are fun but mostly one-time-only, and there’s not much of a reason to replay races&such. I would love to make my own to play with guildies.

Still, worth it, and now I wonder what we’ll get in season 4. Maps will probably be bigger, and what about new masteries?
Despite being low in new features, it sure feels like a much more different experience than HoT was from the base game. Interesting changes.

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Nathan Aldana

theres also a few bosses that just spike the difficulty insanely for certain classes.

Like a certain one you fight that if not interrupoted immediately can glom tons of HP off you, or another ratly on who seems straightforward enough until 30+ reinforcements dogpile you.

That said, the fact I can solo even as deadeye if I’m careful and theres lots of explorable areas is nice

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Greaterdivinity

Man…y’all are making me want to pick PoF up now with these comments on how good it is (especially compared to HoT). Damnit, this was supposed to be the time when I could catch up on some games before Destiny 2, not pick up another expansion! We’ll see how much longer my willpower will hold out.

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TBPlayer2112

Happy to hear that ANet seems to have learned from the mistakes of HoT. At first I was super hyped for the last expansion. But, admittedly it did take a while to sink in that I was getting more and more frustrated with the way things were progressing. I REALLY wanted to enjoy it. It just took too long to figure out that it wasn’t for me.
Now I’m really looking forward to picking up PoF when I have the time to devote to it.

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Anastasis Kontostergios

I couldnt stop playing till i finished the story, it was a blast!

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Tiresias

I have only played with the human female so far, but I love how OVER EVERYONE’S BS she is at this point. The voice actor did a great job of capturing the essence of a grizzled veteran of war who is trying to get things done and save everyone’s lives while being surrounded on all sides by opportunists, cowards, and incompetent fools.

As a former military officer I couldn’t help but laugh at the exchange where a scout asks you not to completely destroy an enemy base because he wants to keep his relatively safe post as an observer but your character tells him that she’s here to eradicate the enemy, intends to do just that, and the scout better get ready for his next assignment.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

I’ve been enjoying it very much so far. I think it’s going to keep me amused for a good while yet. I agree that the story telling is quite a bit better, though I confess I haven’t finished it yet. I know some people don’t like all the snark in the NPC conversations, but I love it!

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Alex Willis

The vase/clay/urn sellers, insulting each other’s wares? Come on, that stuff’s awesome!

mosselyn
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mosselyn

Hehe. The complaints I’ve seen are mostly about lack of gravitas in the story dialog, like the pot shots

Spoiler
Rytlock and Canach
take at each other.

I prefer snark to drama since I think it’s difficult to pull off the drama. I keep wanting to smack

Spoiler
Kasmeer
, for example, because those dramatic bits just don’t work for me. To each his own, though.

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Rottenrotny

A really great expansion imo. I really don’t have much to complain about.
If I had a gripe it would be that there’s seemingly little to no emphasis on dungeons, which has always been something that I’ve really enjoyed in MMOs.

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MeltWithYou

i agree…there were some places (couldnt tell you where) but I took one look at it and was like ‘damn, this would make an excellent dungeon’…they really need to revisit dungeons, i liked the vanilla ones a lot

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Rottenrotny

Did they just stop adding them?

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MeltWithYou

I think the fractals are now their go to for dungeons, but who knows, they might change their minds again (I hope). After HOT and LW3, I was in the camp that believed Anet abandoned vanilla style exploration maps for ley line roller coasters, entire map metas and other arcadey shit and POF proved me wrong

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Rottenrotny

Ah yes. Fractals. Forgot about those.
and for the record, I thought the HoT zone events thing was truly awful.
I was shocked that they took what was pretty much an open world-y MMO and changed into… that.
So confused when I started the HoT quest line to get gliding and the zone was just a zerg of players making a loop around the area.
Terribad game design imo.