As far as I can tell, this new expansion of GW2 brought the franchise back to their original philosophy of “game made by players for the players” because this expansion is something they should have done in the first place.
Guildwars is a franchise built on the idea where players can be “the hero”, not “a hero”. It is a difficult task since it is an MMO where every player can be “the hero” making all players just another hero. Guildwars 1 was not a typical MMO and it’s more like Diablo than World of Warcraft, for example, so the player can be “the hero” in that game. Guildwars 2 had a chance to be the MMO they want to be but the fiasco that is the Living Story Season 1 and the introduction of Destiny’s Edge 2.0 on top of a lackluster Personal Story, the game didn’t really live up to the expectations. Due to the shortcomings of GW2 and the stubbornness of the Design Managers, they can see the folly of their actions and inactions in their quarterly reports. However, all that is history now because Mike O’Brien just brought the fun back to GW2.
After terminating a lot of employees that made the game not fun to play because they are so focused on making a hardcore game or eSport, Mike took back the helm and made the game based on his vision when they first created the world of Tyria. Competitive and eSport are just secondary and attracting only the players who care for those types of games will not keep your company afloat. The quarterly report shows how players are abandoning GW2 and ArenaNet because the players felt abandoned. I also felt abandoned and betrayed that someone or a group of people in their company are ruining my game — Guildwars is my game — and because it is my game, I hated the fact that I can no longer play it when the game lose sight of what is fun. So what exactly I find to be fun? First is players feeling the hero not just acting like a hero. It’s the difference between Steve Rogers as Captain America and Chris Evans as Captain America, the latter is just an actor, not an actual hero.
In Guildwars 2 personal story, I am just an actor because I personally didn’t defeat Zhaitan, I was merely a cabin boy cleaning up the deck of undead while “the Pact” airship and the Asura laser cannon took him out — it was not a very satisfying moment, yet, every person think that I did it. The whole “the Pact” and Trahearne are all but a mistake and I am so glad that they got rid of him in Heart of Thorn expansion. It is one of those characters that are very annoying without any other purpose but to annoy. My character is not a hero, but an errand boy for “Marshall” Trahearne — the whole story is a “What the fuck” moment. Then they added another annoying character, Scarlet Briar, and the game lost all its ability to be fun. I still can’t believe that they refused to make an expansion back then.
Starting with Heart of Thorn, ArenaNet is showing that they are learning and that they are working on bringing back the fun and the hero status back to the players. I personally defeated Mordremoth and now I personally defeated Balthazar, so all the praises going to my direction are all well deserved because I am “the hero” and not just “a hero”. Bringing this very important role back to the players is a step in the right direction. Not only the hero should feel heroic, the hero should also do things very heroic and this is where the Elite Specialization comes in. ArenaNet was very hesitant when they first introduced Elite Specialization in Heart of Thorn that the Daredevil spec was very lackluster. In the Path of Fire, ArenaNet took the gloves off and give to players heroic abilities that the players deserve and so far, I’m loving all the PoF Elite Specs.
The Deadeye is a complete opposite of the Daredevil where the Daredevil is about mobility and agility with laughable damage capabilities, Deadeye is about stillness and focus to deliver massive damage. The question, without the Steal skill, is it still a Thief? Daredevil is still a Thief since it didn’t replace the Steal skill, but the Deadeye is a profession of its own. Just like in FFXIV, although my Dragoon still retains some Lancer skills, it is no longer a Lancer. In the same way, the Deadeye may retain some of the Thief skills, but it is no longer a Thief. Deadeye is basically the Ascended version of the Thief that now focuses on assassination rather than thievery. As the hero, this Elite spec completes my hero role because I can now do heroic things that I cannot do before — deal an insane amount of damage competitive to the abilities of my adversaries. As the hero, I should be overpowered and things should feel trivial. Just like in any MMO, once my character reaches the max level, many things are trivial. In WoW for example, I can solo a raid that used to take 40 people to complete because I am the hero. Not only ArenaNet took off the gloves and made players overpowered, they also added mounts, something that an MMO should always have.
In Heart of Thorn, ArenaNet was already experimenting on the mounts. I see mobs on a mount and not only that these mobs are mounted, the rider and the mount are two different entities. This means that by adding mounted mobs into the game, ArenaNet already have the template to give mounts to the players and in Path of Fire, they finally did it. The addition of the mount changes the player’s experience completely because just by simply being able to ride a mount puts the fun level up by 20%, in my case at least. Gliding was fun, but what’s gliding without the ability to go up high without updrafts or mushrooms? Yes, my buddy Springer complements my gliding. The fun part of having these mounts is that they are not just mounts I can use for basic traveling, they are also used for insane traveling. The acquisition of these mounts is made fairly also rather than frustrating, unlike getting the gliding that requires a lot of grinding.
The Raptor is the first mount I received and it is my horizontal favorite in basic traveling since not only it can travel at +100% movement speed, it can also do a long jump and even longer jump with masteries. The Springer is my vertical favorite for scaling high places that I cannot reach before. With masteries, the Springer can reach great heights and I can’t help but smile every time — just watching this mount jump that high puts a smile on my face. Next the Skimmer. The Skimmer is my least favorite since it is not very useful outside The Desolation area. I am yet to find a place where this mount can be useful. One thing I like about the Skimmer is that it can glide but not being able to jump makes it really frustrating to use. Then there’s the Jackal. This mount is made of magic and sand. It can shadowstep and evade while doing so when the evasion skill is mastered. This specific skill is something I’ve suggested ArenaNet should do with the Thief profession — allowing the Thief evasion while shadowstepping. So seeing this mechanic in game, even though it’s not on the Thief, makes me believe that this could be the template in giving the mechanic to the Thief as part of the Shadow Arts trait line, but I digress. The Jackal’s ability is a bit…clunky. It pauses before teleporting which makes me nauseated because my brain is already in motion then it will stop to teleport fast forward. It feels like I’m in a traffic jam on the freeway in Los Angeles, CA — it is that bad. They could have made it go smooth like Tracer’s teleport. The last mount is the hidden mount, the Griffon. I have not seen anyone with the Griffon so I can only assume that I have to grind to get it. So at this point, I will take all my alts to Crystal Desert and give them their Elite Specs. I’ll get the Griffon later on.
So overall, I think ArenaNet did a very good job with this expansion. I was having a buyer’s remorse because I bought the $99 price tag on Heart of Thorn, but it was not worth that much, so I only bought the standard $30 copy of Path of Fire this time. After experiencing the game, I think this expansion is worth as much as other expansions from other games — $40 — so since I bought the game for $30, I also bought $10 worth of gems from the Gem Store (perhaps even more purchases). I applaud the Design Team for thinking of the players this time around and hopefully, other players will see what you did here and give you the praises that you deserve, because you deserve it. Well done ArenaNet, you made at least one person very happy.