Working As Intended: The best and worst of Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire (so far)

I’ve spent a chunk of the last week moving through the first part of Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire, finishing up the Crystal Oasis zone into which a character is deposited right off the airship. Obviously, it’s far too early to give a formal stamp of approval until I’m fully through it, but so far, I’m pleased with my purchase. Very pleased. I’m already pretty sure the expansion is update-of-the-year material for the genre. But it’ll take a few months to see how it fully meshes with the existing game, and while the same was true with Heart of Thorns, my urge to stop writing and go back into Elona for the next zone as I type this already tells me that PoF has delivered on at least its basic promises.

So while we let the community savor the game until a fully informed consensus is reached, I wanted to dash off some quick thoughts based on this first week of midcore casual play. Consider it a top 5, bottom 5 list as we dig into the very best additions to the game – and the things that still annoy me.

Top 5

#1: She’s a stunner. It’s possible that ArenaNet stuffed all the prettiest bits into the first zone to trick reviewers, but the screenshots I’ve seen of the later game say otherwise. Crystal Oasis is, as I wrote in our last Overthinking, an artistic masterpiece, easily elevating the game to the most gorgeous MMORPG in the genre. It’s in the temples, the water gardens, the skies, the cliffs, the rock dwellings, the mounts, even the foreign quarter in the city. There is never a shortage of loveliness to gawk at; my screenshot folder runneth over. I once worried that when ArenaNet lost Daniel Dociu, the master artist long responsible for large swaths of the franchise’s art direction, its future direction would be aimless. Worries assuaged.

#2: Open mapping. We more than once teased Heart of Thorns for being nothing but Claustrophobia Vine Zones: The construction of those zones made the storyline and gameplay ambiance feel excessively linear and closed-off, in opposition to the base game, ticking off more than one person who fell to his death in what seemed to some folks a giant, aggravating, gotcha-style jumping puzzle. Path of Fire, on the other hand, opens up not just the zones but the cities inside those zones, making the world feel significantly more like the open-world MMORPG that it is. The first map isn’t as big as I expected (probably because of the city), but I think anybody who thought the living story season 3 maps were a tad too pat and paltry will be satisfied here.

#3: Regulators! Nobody’s been able to stop talking about those mounts. I got my first MMORPG mount 20 years ago, and there’s little I haven’t seen along the way, but so far, the raptor impresses the hell out of me. This gif came from Reddit – just look at the personality here. They move and slide and skid and swagger. No mount in any other MMO I own behaves as these do. They exceed expectations.

#4: Horizontal stretch. Guild Wars 2 has always been known as a game with relatively little vertical progression. Once you reach level 80 – a feat that can be achieved in just a few hours, if you know what you’re doing, even if you’re out of boosters – the whole world is your oyster, and it stays your oyster, meaning that every scrap of content that’s added to the game is still of value to your character. We could quibble about gear and specs, and indeed I will later on, but generally anybody can buy Path of Fire and just start playing thanks to the free level 80 booster. There are no functional prerequisites, no need to start a gear grind all over again, none of the “reboot” annoyances that other MMO expansions insist upon as retention and balance tactics. The expansion maintains that horizontal gameplay, which in turn feeds into a pro-social, if not entirely interactional, game experience that is simultaneously casual- and hardcore-friendly.

#5: Nostalgia is a helluva drug. ArenaNet could have overdone it with the nostalgia hooks, given that this expansion is literally a locational retread of parts of the Prophecies and Nightfall campaigns from Guild Wars 1. And yet I am not feeling bombarded by callbacks. The original Amnoon Oasis from Prophecies? If I’m reading my map right, it’s underwater. The main point of crossover reference is Kormir, a human NPC from Nightfall whose ultimate sacrifice at the end of that campaign earns her a place among the pantheon as the Goddess of Truth, and her disciples are a core NPC group now. It’s not subtle, but it is tasteful, and it works whether or not you ever set foot in Nightfall.

Old-school Guild Wars players who didn’t love GW2 but are considering giving it another try: I have noticed several mechanical things that feel more like the old game than the new, including the new loot mechanics, the trade contracts, and the brand-new in-mission challenge/achievements that seem like classic mission mastery goals to me. But fundamentally, it still feels like GW2 only better – rather than like GW1 ported over.

Bottom 5

#5: Have fun storming the castle! Is it possible to find a story endearing but still think it’s kinda bad? I have always felt this way about the Guild Wars franchise. Prince Rurik was an idiot, but he’s our idiot, you know? This is largely how I feel about the irritating feud between Rytlock and Canach. This is why my duo-mate and I roll our eyes at the idea that we have to take out key NPCs because the dozens of others are incapable of sounding alarms, or that the Herald can port in and out at will but our characters insist they are “giving chase,” or that going in through the front door of an evil fortress is the “quiet” way. The story is a GW2 story, an MMO story. It’s silly and melodramatic. I’m OK with it, but the world is still far more compelling than the plot.

#4: Lightsabers… later. My colleague Eliot has already ranted about this, so I’ll just do the short version, which is that acquisition of elite specs is tied to mapping and story completion in Path of Fire just as it was in Heart of Thorns. My beef isn’t with the specs themselves but with the fact that it takes a relatively long time to get them and then trait them out, meaning you don’t fully experience your shiny spec – something so powerful some players argue they’re like whole new classes – until the core experience is almost over. I continue to see this as poorly thought-out, a decision that turns off a lot of people led to believe they could just leap right in and be an effective Holosmith or Weaver or whatever. Maybe more time in the expansion will change my mind, but so far, no.

#3: Difficulty deadlock. If you thought Heart of Thorns was too hard, you’re probably not going to have a much better time in Path of Fire. My read based on my duoing experience on the first map is that Path of Fire’s mobs are just as tough and difficult for a lot of players and specs; the high veteran mob density, even on the first map, is a bit silly. That’s not just based on the number of fellow players my husband and I rez in our travels but on how often we’re downed ourselves on content presumably base-scaled for half our number. It still seems overtuned, both in the overland areas and especially inside personal story maps, at least for specific classes and specs that just aren’t the FOTM. Bring your most OP toon and pinkies and oranges, and you’ll probably be fine, but I think that it could use a tone-down lest it nudge over into WildStar territory. We get it, you’re hardcore, don’t want no scrubs, etc.

#2: Cleanup on inventory everywhere. I had hoped the new loot drop stacking would help this problem, but it really hasn’t. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t actually apply to drops outside of Path of Fire, and the game is dropping so much additional new crap into our inventories, from pointless clickable karma boosts to keys and mats, that it barely seems to matter that I have massive stacks of blue, green, and yellow gear. Yes, there are more options for managing all the drops, like “consume all” and “salvage all” buttons that are most welcome, but I’m still finding myself spending an inordinate amount of time roomba-ing my bags. The only upside is that I’m not doing it frantically after a fight just to loot something new.

#1: Buttcapes. I can’t end a Guild Wars 2 listicle without complaining about buttcapes, can I? In truth, buttcapes aren’t my chief gripe here but gear in general, specifically the fact that the loadout of new weapons and armor in the expansion maps is unimpressive, which again won’t surprise Heart of Thorns veterans already accustomed to the fact that the vast majority of new pretties arrive through the cash shop and lockboxes. Frustrating, particularly given how gorgeous Nightfall’s original cosmetics and armors were. Add to that something more expansiony: mount homogeneity. I adore the mount system as I noted above, but the specific animals chosen for the five mounts do absolutely nothing for me, and some of them dye particularly poorly. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of seeing every noob in the old world on a brownish raptor, I have to say, and it’ll be even worse when everyone’s flying around on a you-know-what (a rant for another day). Here’s hoping variety is on the way.

Conclusion

Obviously, I’m not the final arbiter of whether the expansion is good, just on whether I think it is. And I reserve the right to change my mind – I did on Heart of Thorns! But so far, I think the top five far outweigh the bottom five, and indeed most the bottom five issues existed before Path of Fire as well; they are native to the game and need more than an expansion to paper them over. But in the meantime, if the highlights grab you and the grievances are things you can overlook? Elona is calling.

The MMORPG genre might be “working as intended,” but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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59 Comments on "Working As Intended: The best and worst of Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire (so far)"

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Paul Sherrard

Pretty spot on list of likes and dislikes. PoF brought me back after HoT just befuddled me and was left behind. I enjoyed the story and the zones of PoF, but the most fun I had was with a guild group unlocking the griffon mount. Took us a good few hours, and lots of hilarious falls. Having completed the story, though, I now find I’m just doing the HoT meta events and playing Destiny 2… I wish there was more to keep me engaged.

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Godson69

The difficulty level of PoF open world for me is just about right, but I do feel that some of the creatures aggro range could be shortened just a tad. Now, I do feel that the personal story is a little over the top in difficulty depending on your class and spec. I also feel that the npc companion AI bugs out a lot while in combat which makes the combats even harder sometimes.

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Thomas

I have probably played 8 to 10 characters through the entire personal story for the base game, and I have played ca. 5 characters through the HoT personal story. But I can already see in PoF that the story is rapidly turning into a major PITA (exactly like the truly wretched Living Story season 2 and 3 missions) and– if I get any character through the PoF story missions — I know I’ll only do it ONCE.

That’s too bad, imo, because it seems to me that if anything ought to be truly accessible to the most number of players, it ought be an expansion’s basic story line.

ArenaNet seems absolutely determined to turn their story missions (both the living story + now the basic zone story) into something painful, tedious, and thoroughly unenjoyable (from a difficulty perspective; the story otherwise would be just fine).

Also, the OP’s comments on loot are spot on. No game throws more junk at you than GW2; I suspect the devs must think inventory management is a fun sort of “minigame.” Only it isn’t fun at all. It’s just … really, really tedious.

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Jonny Sage

The biggest problem is the lack of replayability and socialization. Once youve done the content, there is no reason to come back. No metas with big rewards. No dungeons, mini dungeons, or JP. Not much in the way of useful things to grind to buy. No real reason to work with other players, or your guild. Nothing you can collect which cant be found in HOT.

7BitBrian
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7BitBrian

There actually are metas, and JPs, and quite a few collections for armor skins, new stat types, events and JPs you need to progress the mounts, including the hidden one, to get, and a whole lot more. New fractals and raids are releasing on their own instead of being held back for the expansion, it’s why we just got new ones a few months ago and are about to get new ones again.

I mean……. Have you even played the game?

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Jonny Sage

Yes, about 40 hours in POF alone. Here are my achievements and trusty Raptor. Would you like my API so you can decide if im qualified to have my own opinion?

gw036.jpg
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Mr_Planthead

So far I’m liking it a lot more than HoT, which is a surprise because I didn’t like it when I tested it during the free weekend. It feels more like a world than the previous expansion. The best part is the mounts though, it’s about time they added them!

On the negative side I was playing that Sandstorm game in the casino, paid 100g and 50 ectos and won 200 dragon cards and 10 ectos, the ectos went into my inventory the dragon cards never did, still waiting days later for a response from my ticket :(

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Yuri Geinish

Lucky you, all I’ve been seeing on PoF is missing environment and NPC textures. Also, don’t like deserts, since Diablo 2. They’re by definition nothing to look at. I think most visually balanced maps are Charr’s, like Ashford, Iron Marches.

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Knox Harrington

In honor of National Poetry Day, I wrote a poem about this expansion so far:

Looks pretty.
Mounts are cool.
After the story,
What’s there to do?

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Utakata

Pinkies and oranges? So you are saying you need to bring a pink Fire Mage along for the mini/max factor? I personally don’t have an issue with that. /wiggles pigtails <3

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Dug From The Earth

PoF just puts the final nail in the coffin for me when it comes to the GW2 loot and itemization.

I still enjoy the game, mind you, but ive pretty much had it with the loot.

1. Minor Sigils – Pure annoyance. No one ever uses them, they sell for nothing, and they are just a 100% inventory cleanup item. Anet needs to do 1 of 3 things. Remove them from the game, give us a “Auto destroy minor sigils” option, or.. allow you to take them and use them in crafting/upgrading items you DO want.

2. Karma – Most people have hundreds of thousands of karma… some even millions. Why? Because its the most pointless currency in the game. There is nothing worth spending it on. Sure, you can go way out of your way to try to do the whole spend karma on things that can 3 steps later be converted into some sort of gold gain… but again, THIS ISNT FUN. This doesnt make me want to earn karma. I dont feel accomplished when i get items that give me karma, or when I earn it from an event. The fact that Anet hasnt revamped its use is just pure apathy on their part.

3. Exotic sets. Too many of these require you to be a crafter. For instance. If you want the Viper set, the only way to get it, is to craft it yourself. This means if you didnt pick armor crafter as your tradeskill… you are SOL. Why? Because the items are soulbound when they are made. As far as I know, there is no other way in the game to get these. Want to play the game without worrying about crafting? Guess what, you will most likely be horribly gimping your end game build by limiting what sets you can equip.

4. So many… SOOOOO many low tier ascended/legendary materials being dumped into my inventory. I have NO desire to go through the most unfun grind in any mmorpg, to get my legendary weapon or ascended gear. Yet the game insists on constantly giving me items that are in some way used as part of that whole process. Maybe they arent even items for these specific things, but ive got ZERO use for them. Such as:
– Bloodstone Dust
– Empyreal Fragments
– Dragonite Ore
None of these items are able to be sold to an npc vendor or on the trading post. They are just garbage I have to empty from my bags CONSTANTLY

5. Having to salvage EACH item individually. Being that 99% of the loot you get in this game, is just there to be salvaged, there NEEDS to be a salvage all button. Maybe give options for salvaging all by rarity. Like salvage all rare, or salvage all masterwork. The process of doing things in this game is basically.,.. Do events, open bags, open bags in bags(loot containers), then salvage pretty much everything that came out of those bags, then deposit all into your bank.. only to remember your bank is already at the 250 cap for that material, meaning you bag then fills up with Mithril, Hard Wood, Thick Leather and Silk scraps.

Im just done with the loot in this game. I dont care about getting it, it never feels rewarding, and the only things that DO seem neat to get, are behind such a ridiculous grind and game currency wall that its even more work, than my job that i get paid for.

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Isarii

So… you haven’t played Path of Fire at all, have you? Several of your points here are either misleading or straight up wrong.

* There IS a salvage all button. Just right click on your salvaging kit.

* Exotic sets aren’t soul bound when they’re made – they’re account bound, and soul bind only when equipped. So if you didn’t choose Armorsmith, you aren’t shit out of luck – you just need an alt.

* Minor Sigils were specifically addressed in PoF by changing to drop stackable unidentified items that don’t give sigils when salvaged (I do agree with Bree that this needs to be rolled out game wide).

* PoF added karma sinks to their repeatable hearts.

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Jonny Sage

Why have un ID items at all then? You dont want to ID them to see if theres anything interesting? And when you do, you salvage them and youre back to the sigil issue. All un id does is keep you from having to playing the inventory game for a little longer. It doesnt fix the issue of way too much trash loot.

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Isarii

You don’t get the sigils if you salvage them without IDing them. That’s the point.

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Jonny Sage

But if you dont ID, then you dont know what loot your missing.

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Terren Bruce

I 110% agree on minor sigils. Just rip them out of the game already.

There are karma sinks. LW3 added huge karma sinks for various mini’s and back pieces. If you went into LW3 with 1 million karma you could easily have spent it all by now. I expect LW4 will do the same. I’m guessing PoF is a karma restocking time.

I agree on the exotic sets, though you only need 400 in a crafting discipline to get them and that isn’t too expensive. You can have more than two crafting disciplines on a character by the way, it’s just that you can only have two active at once. You don’t lose anything you learned on one by switching to another though. It just takes a modest gold cost to switch between them.

There are items that consume bloodstone dust, empyreal fragments, and dragonite ore and give you loot bags. They’re worth getting.

There is a salvage all button. Right click on your salvage kit. It’s even by rarity. We’ve had that for over a year now. ;)

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Dug From The Earth

awesome about the salvage all, ill have to check that tonight.

What/where can i turn bloodstone, empyreal and dragonite into loot bags?

Ive only got the last 2 chapters of LW3 unlocked, so ive got no clue how or where to go to spend karma on minis. Id totally do that though, i collect as many as I can.

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Thomas

… awesome about the salvage all, ill have to check that tonight.

Honestly, I would have quit the game in utter despair apart from this feature, which I happened upon quite by accident. GW2 still generates way too much junk, imo.

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James Slate

Bloodstone Dust, if you have HoT, has an achievement called “A Study In Gold” to get Herta, an item that eats dust.

Dragonite Ore, has Princess, through an achievement called “Lion’s Arch Exterminator”

Empyreal Fragments is the only hard one, you’ll have to wait until Wintersday which is quite lame. “Grawnk Munch + For the Children” to get it.

https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Converter

That link should get you the list of all the possible converters.

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Dug From The Earth

thank you

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James Slate

1. I totally agree with, some of my guild mates throw them in the mystic forge to get a chance at majors, but majors are basically the same thing as minors, except you can sell them for a bit more.

2. Karma has a fairly significant use in PoF maps now, in just the fact you can buy trade caches, which will use your karma pretty fast, however, not having a “real reason” to use karma aside from that, is still a major pain. The clickable items for Karma I really like, because they give you a bit of lore back ground, but I do wish there was an “auto consume” for people that don’t care.

3. You can change your crafting profession at any time from any crafter. Most sets are craftable while only a handful, like Viper’s and Celestial, are not. That being said, the trinkets for those are easily attainable in the Living World 3 maps, and leveling crafting is not all that difficult either. However, not letting people sell the things they craft, or give your materials to a friend who LOVES to craft, is a major oversight.

4. This is a major pain in the ass also, however, there exist numerous items that exchange these useless items (as stated in your case) for boxes. The items consume much more than you can generally hope to gather in a day, so it’s great for clearing inventory.

5. Right click on your salvage kit and hit salvage all.

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Leiloni

Ugh your top 5 list is making me really sad that combat in this game isn’t better for my preferences. I seriously would never leave this game if that were different. I’ll still hop in to check out PoF in probably a few months, but it’ll be a more casual game that I hop into and out of, because the moment I try to get excited about WvW or even try to entertain the idea of group PvE, I just get sad that it’s not something I enjoy and end up going back to another game where it is.

I was in a Cleric styled class mood a month ago and tried to make my Guardian into a heal spec shield Guardian. I got super excited and when I tried it out, I remembered it just didn’t feel at all like a Cleric does in trinity games with different combat styles. What a let down.

GW2 is for me the game that could have been.

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Terren Bruce

Druids and Tempests are the healers in GW2. Though they’re really only needed in raids and high level fractals.

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Leiloni

Yea I have both but Support/Heal Guardian has been a popular spec in PvP modes since the game’s start so I wanted to give it a try. Unfortunately it just didn’t do it for me.

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Isarii

The Firebrand has a bit more healing potential that could feel cool with the tome rework, but I’d be lying if I said I thought it would do what you’re wanting it to (not that I’ve actually tried it).