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

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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Malcolm Swoboda

I just have too many games. Focusing on Secret World Legends (Transylvania story), trying to do semi-regular play of MEA (main SP NG+, MP Silver grind), and I really want to do Path of Exile for real this time. Its been so long since playing GW2 at all regularly, and its at best just below the list I just gave. But I do like its jist more than anything post-launch I’ve seen before.

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Bryan Dixon

This is a little off topic but I started back playing a couple of weeks ago. I’m around level 45-50. I’m on Jade Quarry I think is the server. Anyone have any suggestions on a laid back guild to join?

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Dragon Whimsy

I do want to disagree somewhat with one of the point’s that Elliot made where he said that GW2 seems like a game “wildly piovting from one point to another”. I can see where he gets that view, and he’s not totally wrong about it either. The base game was far too easy in the open world, boredom was a real danger. And HoT’s was far too hard for some casual players in reaction to that and raids were certainly not meant for a lot of GW2’s more casual audience.

On the other hand GW2 isn’t a game that introduces major features only to throw them away later like say WoW’s garrisons or artifacts. The systems introduced in HoT’s are exactly the “foundation” that ANet claimed. And that is why PoF can be more feature light and content heavy. And the difficulty I was talking about above has been refined with LW3 (and I assume PoF) so that it’s a more moderate mix of both vanilla relaxation and soloability and HoT’s mechanics and engagement.

That’s not really “swinging wildly” that’s taking these core features they had and evolving them. Refining them.

That’s what PoF really seems to be about. Taking the foundations laid for casual players in vanilla, and the foundations laid for harder content and long term goals in HoT’s, and refining them so they work together.

GW2 isn’t a game that is confused about what it is. It’s a game that has found itself. And it’s taken a very meandering path to get there but get there it has. GW2 is a much better game now than it was if it had just strictly followed one of the above philosophies.

At least that is the impression I got. We won’t know for sure till PoF launches.

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Paragon Lost

Yeah I’ll disagree on Elliot’s commenting on the pivoting from one direction to another. If he were talking about SWTOR, then I would strongly agree because SWTOR has often felt that way to me.

I do feel that ArenaNet has done some strong system/mechanics tweaks at times, which might feel to be pivots of game design but I tend to not see that as so. Sometimes I feel, mind you it’s just how I feel, that ArenaNet tries to be different simply to be different from other mmos without having a good reason to “be” different from whatever aspect of mechanics that they’re tweaking.

Whether some tweaks/changes are a good thing, we won’t know until some time down the line. Even then such things tend to be opinion based though often you can get a majority agreement when something wasn’t good or was.

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Paragon Lost

I read almost everything on MassivelyOp, as I did as well on old Massively and have for many years. There is at times too much hostility from some posters but honestly no, I don’t think that there is coming from the staff of MassivelyOp.

Is there snark, criticisms and glib humor from the writers at times? Yup, and I feel it’s acceptable as it is from posters. I’m critical, glib and snarky with some of my favorite mmorpgs, because no mmorpg is perfect. I will and often do criticize my favorite mmorpgs for things that I don’t like that they do and why.

As to this particular article not being the best place to discuss the things we like and didn’t like about GW2, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I feel it’s an apt location to talk about the pros and cons of GW2.

After all we’re speculating on the future of GW2 and how the new expansion will affect GW2. What it brings to the table, good or bad. What you seem to want to have here if I’m reading you correctly is a rah-rah thread.

I feel such posts are boring and not worth their bandwidth, they bring nothing to the table, fluffy mindless candy and do a disservice to the mmo developer and the players.

That’s my take on being overly sensitive to critical dialog threads and I’m good with you not sharing my opinion even if I do feel that you are shorting yourself.

I also don’t understand why players that don’t want to truly discuss the pros and cons of their shared mmorpg aren’t just playing instead.

Edit: Odd, how did this get posted way up at the top when I was replying to someone. Is this what you meant by the clean up Bree?

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LittleBigMoose

Hah my comfort food that I can return to again and again no matter how far I stray playing different games…I always return home to GW2. And I’m ready to return to Elona and the Crystal Desert… and, yes, there be mounts (though not in the traditional sense.) A nice surprise, much like the underwater swimming for FFXIV’s expansion.

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Dave

I don’t get the hate for the Mounts announcement.

Players aren’t excited we’re getting something most other MMOs already have, we’re excited that we’re getting a different take on the feature…. as in, there are places on the map you will not be able to get to without certain mounts. There is no collection feature to this, all mounts will be granted as part of the story progress.

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Paragon Lost

I don’t get how more players weren’t sort of up in arms over the lack of them since when they looked around they’d see npc mounts. It was always immersion breaking to me.

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Morbid Eel

It is missing at least one major feature that I want: A skip button for all the dialogs.

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Makhiel

As long as I enjoy playing GW2 buying an expansion is a no-brainer.

I don’t quite get the argument that other games have had mounts for quite a while. It’s not like people have this unsatisfiable urge to ride a digital mount, is it? Sure, if I really want to I can ride my horse across the plains of Rohan, fly a gryphon over whatever WoW allows you to fly gryphons over but those games don’t have one thing – Tyria. (My only concern is what they’re going to do with mounts in cities, especially around bankers and such)

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Castagere Shaikura

This will be a tough sell for many ex gw2 players. Most of those players played the game because they promised it would be different from other mmo’s. For me i got my Ranger to max lvl and got bored playing. The Druid spec.i thought was really stupid for a Ranger. Played it for a week and never went back. Tried the other classes and didn’t like any of them. Hot is a big issue for many players. And to the fanboys posting here, it wasn’t that it was difficult to play. The zone was flat out one of the worse zones ever made. It was just annoying as hell. So if the majority of your players feel this way then you screwed up. So this preview play coming up while good still doesn’t show much. We get to preview one zone where there are 5 new zones. The smart move is to not get caught up in the hype and wait to see what players think after its been out a month. That’s what i will do.

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Tobasco da Gama

Yeah. The time for “more of the same” was right before HoT. That ship sailed.

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Goettel

Having skipped the early days of HoT I recently got in and I’m loving it. What strikes me is how opinions are all over the place, with people criticizing the very features I love most. Maybe it’s the joy of rediscovering world events and the large numbers of players doing them, which makes the world feel more alive than pretty much any other MMO, on top of the combat which I love, but in any case I’m having a blast (especially on my fresh Elementalist).

I’m fine with the mastery system, and the convoluted maps make them feel mysterious and fun to explore. Gliders are great too. The difficulty of a lot of the events is just icing on the cake. I might be a filthy casual these days, but I don’t enjoy facerolling. After the great time I had in Legion and Wildstar (which I still love, even if there’s few who seem to agree), playing HoT feels like a personal MMO renaissance. So PoF has to do little more than continue the great ride I’m currently on and I’ll be more than happy, and I’ve seen nothing to make me think it won’t deliver. Pre-ordered.