‘Guild Wars 2,’ the Latest Expansion: ‘Path of Fire’

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Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire is the second expansion of the popular Guild Wars 2 MMORPG. Relatively similar to World of Warcraft (in my opinion), Guild Wars 2 has the added benefit of no subscription fees. Once you have it, you have it. And the base game is now available as a free download!

Path of Fire

Following their first expansion, Heart of Thorns, Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire opens up more of Tyria’s map and takes the game in a new direction. For those who like to immerse themselves in the storyline for these games, this one’s a doozy. I don’t think I could word it better than the GW2 people did:

Humanity has worshipped the six gods for centuries, even as their prayers went unanswered. Now the god of fire and war, Balthazar, has made an unexpected return, only to reveal himself as a ruthless manipulator with little regard for mortal life.

Tyria’s heroes thwarted the first stage of his catastrophic plan to destroy the Elder Dragons—but now he’s raised a zealous army to cut a path of terror and destruction across the south. You must halt their march before Balthazar sets the foundations of the world ablaze.

Balthazar, God of Fire and War.

Fighting the god of fire and war… That’s pretty intimidating, yes? Well, players have access to many new features to fight back, some of them fairly monumental, to accomplish this task. Guild Wars 2 covers the familiar and the fantastic. This expansion offers new lands, new mechanisms, and new challenges all mixed in with what has made Guild Wars 2 one heck of a good time for a long time. And that’s coming from me, a non-obsessed video game player. Also, in terms of value, the game’s affordable price nets an almost negligible per-hour cost, if you play regularly.

Game Exploration

One of the bits of scenery brand new to Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire.

Building on some locations from the original Guild Wars (pre-Guild Wars 2) game, the developers have expanded the playable area considerably. However, experience with the original game, or even the base GW2 game or first expansion, isn’t necessary to enjoy and make the most of this new expansion.

Path of Fire brings in five, totally new, fully-explorable maps that are larger than any they’ve done before, with many different biomes. They have built upward, underground, and on the surface. The developers have focused on exploration and discovery this time. Deserts, ruined pyramids, oases, and underground and underwater locations provide the setting for new stories to unfold, including revisiting the Crystal Desert from the original Guild Wars game. The storyline has both new friends and people you’ll recognize from the past, if you’ve played before.

One thing I like about Guild Wars 2 is the sheer variety of scenery and different feel of each location. There is something for everyone, whether you like a nature-oriented zone, industrial area, or even medieval-like city. Once you’ve uncovered everything, you can spend more time in the areas that make you feel at home. I particularly like Divinity’s Reach.

New Features and Functionality

The mounts.

The Mounts!

Okay, you guys, this is a pretty epic thing. By far, the coolest, most interesting, and most game-changing (literally) development in the latest expansion of the game is the mounts. I know, mounts have been around forever in WoW, but here they are more than just for traveling faster from point A to point B. In GW2, the mounts are part of a new and well-developed system. Now, mounts open up whole areas of the map previously undiscovered (due to accessibility), and in the expansion areas, there are new tasks that require the added mobility of the mounts. But they aren’t just animals to ride (and jump and glide). You train them using the Mastery system, and they even have their own fighting skills. In their role as new movement tools, it is faster to explore the map from the back of a mount. They can jump higher and farther, glide, and generally be another part of your fighting team. They’re your allies and another tool in your arsenal. Once you complete the first chapter of the new storyline, you’ll have your own Raptor to summon whenever you like. Then you acquire the rest by completing certain challenges scattered around the new map areas.

  • The Raptor has a really long leap. You can jump over much larger distances than you’re used to. This allows access to new areas and adds options for solving jumping puzzles. Unlock even more of the Raptor’s abilities and then you have a comically long leap. It’s very cool.
  • The Springer (AKA the bunny) has a really high jump that you charge up ahead of time. It makes jumping puzzles often much easier, allowing you to skip some of the landings.
  • The Skimmer hovers over the ground or water, and makes traveling around very interesting. It’s not great for rocky terrain, but perfect for swampy areas and plains. Also, remember that pesky quicksand? It’s back, but the Skimmer hovers and glides over that terrain as well.
  • The Jackal is made of shifting sands and can blink forward to cover distances, including changing direction mid-blink.
  • The Griffon can glide, and even take off from the ground. It’s like an improved glider (from Heart of Thorns, which I haven’t had the chance to play with), and can be mounted while falling.

You can move faster on your mount than by running, though I found that you aren’t nearly as agile as on foot. You can’t turn on a dime, but that makes sense. Instead, each mount has their special movement ability that gets you into interesting places that you can’t reach with other mounts. This really adds richness and sophistication to the game, and gives players even more things to dive into and obsess over. I’ve only unlocked the first three mounts so far, but I look forward to discovering the rest and exploring some of the older areas with these mounts. There are also races you can enter with your mounted characters!

Bounties

There are now bounties on creatures who are threatening the people of Elona. Select a bounty contract, and then, when it shows up on your map, you have 10 minutes in which to defeat the bounty. Other players can help.

Elite specializations.

Elite Specializations

Once you have a level 80 character, that isn’t the end of your personal development. For each class, there are a new set of elite specializations, giving you more ways to customize your play experience with more options and more strategies to utilize. As a Ranger, I’ve taken on the Soulbeast elite specialization, where I can be one with my pet while in beastmode, making me more powerful. Other classes each have their own elite specialization.

Level 80 From the Start

Though leveling up a character can be fun, it’s also very time-consuming. Having a level 80 character is necessary for a lot of the Path of Fire content, but there’s no need to level up a character for it (unless you want to). If you don’t have a character at level 80 already, you can use the level 80 boost that is included in all available packages of this expansion to be able to survive in all areas of Tyria. Bam.

With the boost, the game automatically chooses some weapons, armor, specializations, and other settings for you. You can change them, but the game starts you off with some good options. Then you can try things out and see what you like.

In addition to all of these fun new features, the latest expansion has new sets of armor, skins, and weapons that are all inspired by Elonian culture, along with new possible pets for us Rangers, and many other fun-to-discover features.

My Take

My Asura Ranger. Her diminutive stature is handy for not blocking the screen. Great for jumping puzzles and crowded areas.

I don’t normally get into games like this (anything that’s undead really turns me off). I’m not into RPGs or MMORPGs as a general rule. But I got sucked in, willingly (see my post from a few years ago). It’s been something we can play as a family, as my kids enjoy the game too, or Rory and I can play to fulfill achievements or for some bad-guy-killing fun on weekends. Completing maps, solving puzzles, exploring terrain, gathering resources, and, yes, fighting the occasional bad guy is fun for me. I don’t get into the dungeons at all, or the PvP play, but I do sometimes splurge some in-game currency on the occasional cute backpack (floppy quaggan backpacks are so cute!). Or sometimes little minis that follow me around.

The Annual Wintersday Event

Not tied to the expansion but amazing nonetheless, my favorite annual event, Wintersday, just started in the game for this year. Join the fun now in Divinity’s Reach and collect Wintersday presents, have snowball fights, sip some hot cider, and defeat Tixx and the Toycopalypse toys, now through January 2.

Buying the Game

If this sounds appealing, head over and get the new expansion! The first expansion, Heart of Thorns, isn’t required to play this one. You’ll just need the base game, which is now free. If you want to join in the fun with the smallest monetary investment possible, the Standard level of Path of Fire is only $29.99 and comes with a Max-Level Boost. Spend a bit more for the Deluxe level ($54.99) and receive everything on the Standard level plus an Additional Character Slot, Identity Repair Kit, Spearmarshal’s Presence, and Lily of the Elon Permanent Pass. But for those who really want to set themselves up, the Ultimate level includes everything on the Standard and Deluxe levels, plus 4000 Gems in the game. The game is rated T for Teen.

Tip: If you’re on the fence about Guild Wars 2, download the free base game, dive into the just-started annual Wintersday event, and then upgrade later!

Note: I received game codes for the purposes of this review.

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