Release Date: September 22, 2017
Guild Wars is one of my favorite games of all time! This does not just mean the original games, but rather Guild Wars as a whole is my passion! I am not the best at the games or even the most experienced…but what I lack in skill, I make up for in trivia, knowledge, and an overall adoration and love for these games and series.
But last night I finally beat the 2nd expansion for Guild Wars 2 (I’m still working on Heart of Thorns) and I am ready to write a review! Dedicated readers will know that I have been following Path of Fire since it was first leaked online– and at first, I was not really impressed by what I was seeing. I knew that most likely we were returning to Elona since one of the maps was marked as the Domain of Vabbi- but Elona as a whole was something that I was still not that experienced with. I had only dabbled in Guild Wars Nightfall…so I felt a bit disconnected from what I was seeing for lack of nostalgia. The thing that threw me off the most though…was the leak for the mounts.
I thought that mounts would be the thing that finally ruined GW2 because other MMOs often made mounts rare and expensive…my thoughts were that it would cause a huge gap among the players and that they would evolve into a popularity contest. I also was not sure what purpose the mounts would have since traveling through Tyria was already made convenient via the waypoints.
As most things that are new…I am hesitant of change and was super critical. But, as more time passed and more was revealed for Path of Fire, I found myself less skeptical and more stoked for the release. I even started playing more of Guild Wars Nightfall in preparation for this new journey because I wanted to make sure I got the fullest experience possible when this game finally released!
On release day, I was there in the live-stream counting down the hours and minutes until the build went live. So this review will be a little lengthy. I want to discuss the aspects of the game itself mixed with whether or not my hopes and dreams for this expansion came through. So I will stop my rambling now so that we can get right into it.
…come and take a journey with me.
DISCLAIMER: Spoiler alert- plot twists, reveals, and etc. Ahead! Also spoilers for the plot of Guild Wars Nigthfall! You have been warned!
- Return to Elona:
—Elona: Land of the Golden Sun. In the past, this land was prosperous…being held together by three provinces: Istan, Kourna, and Vabbi. For those not familiar with this area, its location is Southeast of Tyria and is the continent where Guild Wars Nightfall took place. This is the land surrounded by savannah, desert, and plains. It is a harsh land where only the strongest survive, and yet it is unrivaled in its beauty that the people of Elona have created.
Great Kingdoms used to rule Elona…their rule spread all the way into Tyria, even the Crystal Desert where Glint was said to reside. This place is rich in history and in lore. In the past it was the place where Abaddon was denied re-emergence into this world and where the mortal known as Kormir ascended into Godhood. It is also the home of the Sunspears. Elona (while mostly covered in sand) also has tropical sectors…with fresh water and palm trees. Over the years, Elona has lost the rule of the Princes and has fallen mostly into the hands of an undead King known as Palawa Joko.
Joko once waged war with Elona and was finally stopped by a man named Turai Ossa and his army. His Elites could not kill the Lich King, thus they bound him in a tomb, and Turai gathered his elites into a group he dubbed: “The Order of Whispers”. There is much about Elona’s past that affects GW2 even before Path of Fire’s release. Like with GW2 itself, it’s a deep story and set of lore that I feel is lost when newer players fail to play the original games. For a lot of players, the return to Elona is a throwback…and much of what it offers is nostalgia.
It’s fun getting to see returning places and how they have changed over time. It’s sad to see bustling markets now covered in dark crystals as part of the brand, and even more devastating to see the awakened walking around, knowing that people suffer because the land grew weak after Kralkatorrik awoke, and was taken advantage of by Palawa Joko (again, someone we meet in Nightfall). We return to the places we once stopped evil (like the mouth of torment and the sulfer wastes)- but while nostlagia for others, for newer players…what they can expect is endless deserts and dangerous creatures. Beautiful pyramids and clay buildings with colorful tapestries await!
Bustling markets, colorful characters, and even a casino is waiting to be explored. Cliffsides, tropical outlets, harpy nests, rampaging choya…much is to be uncovered in this land of golden sun! I think veteran Guild Wars fans and new ones alike will never see a map as beautiful and mysterious as the returning Elona in GW2.
- Battle with a God:
—The biggest twist of PoF was that the main enemy was not an Elder Dragon! Up until this point we have slain Zhaitan, killed Mordremoth, and now we journey to a place that has been ravaged by the Crystal Dragon Kralkatorrik! But as it turns out, Kralkatorrik is not the main enemy here…rather it is one of the last things you would expect: We are up again Balthazar- one of the six human Gods!
If you paid attention to the things being said in the main campaign you would know that the human Gods have been silent for a long time. No one knew the reason why the Gods left in Tyria’s time of need, but the humans have tried to keep faith that they would come back one day.
Well now the God of Fire and War has shown up in Elona, destroying everything in his path on his way to kill Kralkatorrik. First, he will kill the Elder Dragon and take all of the Dragon’s primal energy…then he will use that energy to clear out the Gods that he considers “weak”. He leads an army of corrupted soldiers known as “the forged” that wreak havoc across Elona and leave death and fire wherever they appear. The people are helpless against all these major forces eating away at their lives: the branded, the forge, Joko’s minions- they are left with no hope.
Not wanting to go into any major plot points here (because I have to leave some things for you to discover)…Balthazar is a very sinister and dangerous foe. He has to be the hardest boss we have ever had to face thus far, and the fight with him is actually very conflicting. It’s a lose-lose situation when it comes to the world. You either kill a God and feed his energy to an Elder Dragon, or kill an Elder Dragon and feed his energy to an angry God. It’s a choice to find the greater of the two evils.
We find out why the Gods left Tyria, and how Balthazar was frustrated with this decision…not because he thought it was right to save Tyria, but out of his own pride and non-concern for the destruction the God’s power would bring to the people down below.
Balthazar is ruthless…he is powerful…and scariest of all is his cunning. I have never felt more satisfaction than in that moment when your character is barely clinging to life, and you see Balthazar break away into tiny pieces before you. It’s an epic battle across several chapters where it all seems hopeless until you give it your all at that very end…and for just one second, you have earned yourself a tiny victory among all the loss.
—As mentioned before, something I was the most skeptical about was the inclusion of mounts in Guild Wars 2. This was a new mechanic that I originally felt did not serve any real purpose. At first we did not know how many mounts there would be, nor how much they would cost. My fear was that they would not be easy to obtain for the casual player (like mounts in WoW) and that rare mounts and mounts purchased with real money would cause a huge gap in the player-base due to popularity and such.
So, how did it all turn out?
Well, it turns out that there are 5 mounts in PoF: Raptor, Springer, Skimmer, Sand-Jackal, and Gryphon.
Each mount actually serves a purpose in getting across the maps in Elona. The Raptor can run really fast and with enough experience can bound across large chasms to reach the other side. The Springer is for hopping up cliffsides and reaching the high places. The Skimmer allows players to traverse across water, quicksand, and the sulfur wastes. Finally, the Jackal allows players to enter special sand portals to reach secret places they could never get to before. The Gryphon was more of a ‘secret’ and extra mount that allows players to soar through the skies and get small leaps in the air for height. The first 3 are absolutely essential for those wanting to make it through the PoF campaign and missions point you in the direction you need to go to unlock them all. Each mount is obtained by doing tasks near the ranches where they are being contained, and then a player must purchase their mount using trade contracts (specific currency for Elona) and gold. Luckily, all the mounts are rather affordable, and the hard part is making sure you have the trade contracts to spend.
Each mount (once purchased) can also be dyed to help them match your character a bit more…and unique skins can be bought with real money to make your mount stand out. So, I loved the fact that they introduced mount ‘skins’ rather than making new mounts that people could buy.
As mentioned before, I feared that mounts would not be so accessible for the casual player…and while the Gryphon mount is a bit harder to achieve, it’s not impossible. But mount skins allow players to still have a unique skin that they can customize with dye; making the mounts look a lot more varied but still having them be the same type of mount that everyone else has (at its base). It was handled a lot better than a other MMOs (in my opinion) and really put all my fears and worries at ease.
Mounts in this game are also amazing due to the fact that they have “attacks” and abilities for engaging enemies. Mounts cannot fight for an entire battle, but, a player can enter a battle by using a mount attack that will give them an edge. The Raptor sweeps his tail hitting every enemy in the area. The Springer has a cannonball jump that hurts enemies and interrupts their actions. The Skimmer does a barrel roll that plows through enemies and can eventually revive downed players, etc.
So it turns out that mounts are not so much used for the convenience of travel in Elona, but rather they are a necessity in reaching the vistas, crossing chasms to get to new maps, and finding hidden treasures. And sometimes having that little speed boost really helps since Elona does not have very many Waypoints in which to travel with.
Mounts also have a purpose in the new event which is racing! Mount racing is an occurrence in every map in Elona! They have become so popular that races have even been included in events such as the Labyrinth during Halloween and the Super Adventure Box! Once a mount is unlocked through one character, every character on your account can use that mount (whether they have gone through PoF or not), and while mounts can be used in other parts of the game (like the main campaign and HoT) be warned that at times they can be game breaking. So be careful!
- More Masteries & Achievements:
—Originally when talking about my hopes and dreams for this new expansion, I mentioned how I wanted less Masteries. While Heart of Thorns is a great expansion, I felt like the Mastery-system had you all over the place while having to take long pauses in order to train up all these different abilities. It was hard to pick what was a priority before the game made you come to a screeching halt because you lacked something, and you found yourself missing out on some cool things while tackling the campaign because you could not afford to spend the points on something other than what was a necessity at that time.
So I hoped and prayed they would not do the same thing when it came to PoF, and in a way, I got my wish. There are new masteries in PoF, but at least there are fewer of them. There are fewer masteries and you unlock them in order (for the most part) which made my life a whole lot easier. Mastery points are still earned the same way (via story instances and also unlocked by finding them on the maps) with a few new masteries added in that require collecting items, killing some monsters, and even helping a chef in the kitchen- but the masteries, rather than focusing on languages, player techniques, and interactive things in the environment, they actually focus on your mounts…
You use the masteries to unlock the mounts basic abilities as well as their more advanced abilities that you will need to progress through the campaign. Each mount has 4 tiers of mastery, but you only need 3 in order to move on to the next mount. The final one is completely optional (which is good since it takes so many points).
Not only are there new masteries in this expansion, but there are more achievements for all you achievement hunters out there. Up above is a screenshot of me sitting on top of Palawa Joko’s throne after storming the Bone Palace. I was originally there for a hero point, but decided to be funny. Sitting on the throne landed me an achievement which was pretty cool…and there are so many others to unlock.
New slayer tiers because of new monsters to fight, more map completion and item collections. Bounty boards and Bounty runs are a thing now and they have their own set of achievements as well. You can earn miniatures and titles from finding secrets within story instances…so really get out there and see what new things PoF has to offer!!!!
- New Elite Specializations:
—Specializations were first introduced in Heart of Thorns, and people fell in love with these new ways in which to play their characters. Well PoF has come out with new specializations for each class, and while I won’t go into detail about them, there are plenty of videos and blogs going into the stats, damage, etc of these new skills and how they can be utilized the best.
My worry was that PoF would force players to use the new specializations in order to play through the game. But as a Ranger, even with “Soulbeast” unlocked, I rarely ever used it, and the game still allows you to play however you want to, even if that means posing a greater challenge to yourself. Here are the new specializations per class:
Ranger>Soulbeast (dagger mainhand, become one with your pet through beastmode, stances)
Mesmer>Mirage (axe, replaces dodge with a mirage cloak that allows you to ambush foes, deceptions)
Warrior>Spellbreaker (dagger, full counter, meditations)
Guardian> Firebrand (axe, tomes replacing virtues, mantras)
Revenant> Renegade (short bow, citadel orders, Kalla Scorchrazor and her legendary renegades)
Elementalist>Weaver (sword, attune to two elements simultaneously, stances)
Necromancer>Scourge (torch, shades replacing death shroud, punishments)
Engineer>Holosmith (sword, photon forge replacing the elite tool belt skill, exceed skills)
Thief>Deadeye (rifle, deadeye’s mark replacing steal, cantrips)
- Races, Bounties, and other Events!
—The Elona maps are alive with events that take place at every moment whilst you play. Guilds and groups go after bounties across the deserts while the Elonian people try and hide against rampaging Choya in the streets! Cities hole up to defend themselves against Joko’s Abominations, and waves of Branded will take over camps! Balthazar’s Forged will storm the fields and it’s up to you to stop them! Then there is, of course, the collection quests.
Mount races are also extremely popular in Elona and help to unlock parts of the map as well as test your riding skills! There is a lot to do, and I can only imagine new things will be added in the future! Bounties are my favorite thing to do because it takes so many people to face off against Elite, Champion, and Legendary monsters! It takes a lot of work, but the loot is good and the community is even better!!! So even if you have beaten PoF, there is always something to do so that you never get bored!
—I always have to bring up ‘lore’ as one of the focuses of my reviews for these games, because you have to remember that this is Guild Wars 2, and that we have a few games prior to this that ties into the same universe.
A lot of this game is tied into the events of Guild Wars Nightfall including main characters like Palawa Joko and Kormir. Not only that but there are other characters that were mentioned in the original Guild Wars (Guild Wars Prophecies) such as Glint, and her not-so-well known (or remembered) child named Gleam (now renamed Vlast).
Someone that has never played any previous Guild Wars game would miss out on these small details, and like with the main campaign of GW2, would have to go digging in order to fill in the missing pieces. Vlast was Glint’s only egg to ‘technically’ survive in a challenge within the original Guild Wars. “Gleam” as he was called, was not mentioned often, and when Aurene hatched, people were confused with why Gleam had never been brought up. In PoF, we get that answer as Gleam finally makes an appearance…one that many GW2 players whom had never played the original games would not know the significance of.
Another thing newer players might miss is the significance of Palawa Joko, the Sunspears, and the importance of Kormir’s presence in this place. Palawa Joko has been around since Elona’s earliest of times. By the time Guild Wars Nightfall happens, he has long been imprisoned by the Order of Whispers after his undead army was defeated by a man named Turai Ossa. Unfortunately, in Guild Wars Nigthfall, we (the player) are forced to free Palawa Joko and help him reclaim his Bone Palace in the sulfer wastes so that we can stop Varesh Ossa from summoning the Dark God Abaddon into this world. Thus, in this new Elona where Palawa Joko has made use of the people’s plights to finally take over most of Elona, for veteran players it stings because we are the only reason he ever returned to any sort of power in the first place.
While PoF does explain Kormir in the simplest way, Kormir was the leader of the Sunspears that got kidnapped by Varesh, and Abaddon’s demons ate out Kormir’s eyes. Kormir then sacrifices herself to contain Abaddon’s power after his defeat in order to save the world, and her selflessness earned her Godhood.
So, lore is important for the fullest experience in PoF but it’s in no way necessary. Players can gather bits and pieces from events via the actual storyline, from items that reveal certain plot lines, and even from NPCs that tell the tale of Nightfall and what has happened to Elona since that time. As always, I feel as if events could have been explained more clearly. Nowadays I see less people who are interested in digging deeper for facts that should probably be there from the beginning. Also, there are some amazing YouTube videos that explain Elona’s history so that people don’t have to play Nightfall in order to fully understand the circumstances. My favorite video is from “The Krytan Herald” and you can check it out yourself by following the link: HERE
- Overall Additons:
—Path of Fire added on to what we already have in GW2, and here is what this expansion in particular brought in:
1. New Regions
2. New Ranger pets
5. A new story
6. New Elite Specializations
7. New Weapons Skins
8. New Armor Skins
9. A new Guild Hall
10. New GH decorations
11. New Adventures.
Also, you don’t need to own previous expansions in order to play PoF! All you need to download is the main campaign and you must purchase the expansion for PoF- but Heart of Thorns and Living World is not a necessity! HOWEVER: if you want to be able to understand the story thus far (not including the lore) here is the order in which you will want to play the episodes and expansions:
Main Campaign > Living World Season 1 (recap) > Living World Season 2 > Heart of Thorns > Living World Season 3 > Path of Fire > Living World Season 4.
In conclusion, I have to say that Path of Fire is the best expansion by far in GW2. Though it is actually a lot shorter in length than HoT, I felt like it was much longer because of how in-depth the whole mission felt. We have instances inside of more instances…taking us through deserts, temples, death, and back. We got to lead an army of undead against the great God Balthazar and it was amazing!
Every moment was tense, every little piece coming together built up that anticipation towards the grand-finale. Even the ending was bitter-sweet, thus making us ready ourselves to face off an even greater threat in Living World Season 4.
I find that all my hopes (for the most part) were met with this expansion. The mounts were affordable and they are available to everyone despite whether they are a casual or not. They serve a purpose other than just traveling to places faster…and even the skins that are paid for with real money do not make mounts any better than what the other players get. GW2 stuck to its example of not being a pay-to-win game which I love.
Originally I said I had hoped for two new regions rather than it just be Elona…but that was because I did not know just how massive Elona was and all it had to offer. I had not gotten very far into Nightfall and therefore had no real experience with the region which is why I was hoping for addition of something more familiar. This was pretty selfish of me, and in the end, I’m glad there was just the singular Region focus.
For those not interested in a story and rather in it for the gameplay, PoF holds much more challenge than Heart of Thorns, and mounts keep things interesting and fresh with the changing terrain. The final boss battle is amazing and amazingly difficult, and crossing the brand is an interesting task all in its own. People had mixed reviews on the new specializations with most preferring the ones we had in HoT, but, there were also a large number that liked the stuff that was new.
Even now they keep tweaking powers and balancing them out, so it’s still a work in progress.
But what do YOU think?
Have you played this expansion? Did you prefer PoF or HoT? Which mount was your favorite? What was something you felt could have been done better? What was your favorite parts of the expansion? Have you ever played Guild Wars Nightfall?
As always, let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment-section down below. Thank you all so much for reading- here are more blogs that I have done concerning GW2 and the expansions:
- GW2 Game Review
- GW2 Living World Season 2 thoughts.
- Path of Fire, first look!
- Path of Fire launch day disaster!
Thank you all again, and as always, I will see you all in the next blog! 😉