Massively Overthinking: Gathering our thoughts on Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire

Where now?

This week, the dominant story has become Guild Wars 2’s Path of Fire expansion, which is coming our way far sooner than a lot of folks had guessed. For this edition of Massively Overthinking, I’ve touched base with some of our writers to measure their reactions to the big announcement, asking them to gauge what’s in it, whether it was worth the wait, what they’re disappointed about, what they think of the pricing, and whether they’ve felt sufficiently enticed to play. Let’s dig in!

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I have to admit that I haven’t played Guild Wars 2 since we voted for a new mayor. There’s nothing wrong with the game, just that the group I was playing with moved past it super fast. I think I was literally the last one remaining, probably because it felt accessible to casual players (well, and the “floaty” combat).

That being said, I like the price point. GW2 has always felt like it was worth the investment, at least for the standalone game. The fact that you won’t need Heart of Thorns helps make it more accessible, as does the max level boost, tempting preview weekend, and mounts being (from my understanding) another “collect them all” temptation almost as cool as ArcheAge’s. The “nostalgia” path is funny considering we just got Morrowind from a much bigger IP, but it still makes sense, and it’s nice to know it won’t just be deserts.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Welp, I’m excited. Guild Wars 2 has taken more than a few wrong turns (and U-turns) over the years, but it’s still the game I wander back to because so much of it is playable my way and without the same acute powercreep that plagues so many other MMOs. (As long as I train myself to ignore the emphasis on the stuff I despise, anyway.) If I’ve had a “main MMO” in the years since Star Wars Galaxies and City of Heroes went under, it’s this, even when I’m not playing.

I mentioned it in the comments, but the excessively good deal and quality bonus items offered by the top-tier preorder package will make it the first time in over a decade (I think!) that I’ve purchased anything but a base game. I rarely preorder anything at all, let alone the top-end bundle. That’s saying a lot.

I’m also pretty stoked to see ArenaNet turning back to Elona as a setting, both because nostalgia and because desert settings are positively my favorite. I love the retro standalone campaign feel of the expansion and hope that continues. I’m thrilled to see an end to the cramped and twisty HoT zone style. And I’ve got nothing but relief that mounts are non-traditional. A few of the elite specs grab me too, especially the Holosmith and Mirage.

However, I can understand why some folks are bummed about the expansion’s relative lack of the big-ticket items we’ve all come to expect from AAA MMORPGs. There’s no new race, no new class, no housing. I didn’t really expect these things, but their absence is what makes this feel more like a supersized entry in the living story rather than a full-fledged expansion to the game. I’m also extremely skeptical of the timing of the launch window and the limited opportunity for marketing between then and now. My own guildies, who all played GW2 at one time, mostly shrugged at the announcement, so I’m worried that the game will appeal only to those who currently play and not to the broader audience of people who could be convinced to return, the latter of whom, I suspect, are just as critical to determining whether we’ll see a third expansion.

On the other hand, if we can get something as big as Path of Fire every year between seasons? Yeah, I could live with that just fine.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I’m of two minds on the Path of Burn expansion announcement. (I couldn’t remember if it was “Path of Fire” or “Path of Flame” off the top of my head and I can’t be arsed to look it up.) On the one hand, I am beyond happy to see something that friends and friends of friends worked so hard on. I have a lot of friends who work there, and it’s really cool to see everything coming together. Plus, stuff like “hard-light constructs” for a class concept hits me directly in the part of my brain that urges me to drop whatever I’m doing and play that.

The other thing, though, is… well, Walkway of Really Hot really does feel like it’s adding in things that everyone else already has. We’re getting mounts, something that most MMOs consider a core feature. We’re getting new areas and quests, which is kind of exactly what you’d expect from an expansion (I’d be upset if Hiking Trail of Inferno didn’t include these things). I’m not of the mind that a new expansion needs to shake up the status quo when the status quo is largely going well (Stormblood certainly didn’t), but in the case of Guild Wars 2 I feel as if players have been looking askance at the game since Heart of Thorns and feeling as if the game went in a direction that wouldn’t have attracted players in the first place.

And mind you, I am a pretty easy sale; Vabbi and Elona are high on my list of things that I adore intensely. The fact that I’m not over the moon about this stuff is a sign that something has gone wildly awry.

I think some of the takeaway here is that GW2, by and large, seems to be played as a game of wildly pivoting from one point to the next; rather than refining what the game does well, it just decides “now we’re a hardcore raiding game” or “now we’re a dungeon game” or “always weekly microupdates all the time” without ever working on what can actually be any good within that format. Steppy-step of Scorch doesn’t yet have a promised wild pivot, but at this point continuing as the game has also doesn’t feel like a grand idea. So I don’t know what comes next. I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not.

I will say, however, that the pricing being used makes me very happy. If the content might feel a bit thin, the price for it seems entirely right. I’m hoping very much that Boulevard of Bonfire delivers on its potential, but it’s going to need more than a reveal to win me over.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Honestly, it was kind of an underwhelming reveal.

Yes, I know they did a great job getting everyone all hyped up and had a lot of fun announcing it, and I won’t deny that ArenaNet did a good job with the handling of the announcement itself. Lots better than last time. And I’m truly happy for everyone who was giggling in glee, and I have no huge motivation to rain on their parade.

But. Since Bree asked, I have to admit that I was hoping that this expansion would be a siren’s call luring me back, and instead it was a big pile of “meh.” Guy with big spiky helmet, lots of desert zones, and people flipping out over mounts as if that’s not a thing that’s in every other MMO since the dawn of time. I guess if you deprive Guild Wars 2 players of a basic feature long enough, they’ll be crying tears of joy when you finally deign to give it to them. Is that a little mean? Felt a little mean. Sorry.

I’m just not seeing the attraction here. Once you get over the internet’s cries of ecstasy and look at the feature list here, it feels like the bare minimum to be called an expansion without tossing in anything incredibly fun or revolutionary. A new class, race, or personal housing might have gotten my attention and fast, but… nope.

I have no doubt that there will be a lot of great art, plenty of content, and enough to keep players busy and happy, and that is very good. And I applaud the studio for creating a price point that’s much more competitive than the rest of the genre. For me, the lack of any attention-getter and the overall aesthetic and setting made me pretty indifferent to the whole deal. Pity.

Tina Lauro Pollock (@purpletinabeans): I’ll begin by totally admitting that PoF is far more of a content-based expansion that a feature-based expansion, which doesn’t always have the same flashy appeal when it comes to getting players on board early. My initial thought was that it is rather close to the expansion drop to start the (official) hype train, but when I look at what the expansion offers, I can see that it won’t take us as long to get our heads around as HoT did. More of the same, however, isn’t a negative to me, and the new zones are already noticeably more open than some of the more compact, verticality-centric HoT maps.

The format of this expansion makes business sense to me too: After the backlash received when HoT so greatly departed from what made GW2 unique, I can see why the studio would prefer to enhance the features we have instead of building new ones that could potentially rock the boat further. Let’s be real; this expansion being feature-light and content-rich is not the shocker of the century, and we were promised that masteries and elite specialisations wouldn’t be a one-expansion deal and that these would be the vehicle of the future expansion of GW2.

Having said that, I do believe that not enhancing this iterative development toolset with a flashy new race or class is a mistake, even if it’s not at all surprising to me.I guess it is a little bit of a moot point on the class front since elite specialisations are the game’s mechanics for diversifying play styles at this point, but I can see no such argument against working on new races, aside from the obvious demands of the task in terms of creating a new personal story arc and getting perhaps more limited NPC models to play well as a character model.

In terms of UK pricing at least, the expansion is actually very affordable and I think the price plans are very clever. It certainly isn’t the sizable financial risk that HoT was, and players won’t feel as though they are being conned into buying the base game for a second time with this price point. I know that so many players are understandably cautious about sinking in any money pre-launch after HoT, however, which is another reason why I think ArenaNet was comfortable with such a short pre-expansion hype window. The diehards have time to make their purchases and the cynics will have the real-play evidence they need to decide to buy very soon, so it’s a more clever move than I initially thought.

Overall, what features we’ve seen feel far more fitting than I had initially anticipated from the early spoilers. The mounts aren’t the sort of bread-and-butter travel vehicle I was half expecting and the elite specs seem to be much more thematically relevant than the first batch. I’m delighted to get my hands on this so soon… the dedication to regular content drops is not letting up and the trust that this adherence to a promise is building is definitely felt in the community.

Honestly, PoF looks so beautifully and thoughtfully put together, but I need to get hands-on to really know how well this all fits, so I can’t wait for next weekend. The story opening is just as expected: One renegade god turning against the world is a nice story hook for a new beginning, I say, providing they keep up the threat level and don’t allow us to steamroll all over him before the base expansion story is through.

Your turn!

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