Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire takes you back to the past. All the way back to the past to a little expansion that came out 11 years ago called Nightfall. This second standalone campaign for the original Guild Wars is widely regarded as the best that the MMO has had going for it since its initial release.
It should be no surprise then that the follow-up to Nightfall's story in Guild Wars 2 is also the best that the series has to offer, even overthrowing its predecessor in the process. It's unfortunate that Path of Fire hasn't been marketed well at all when it has so much going for it, in addition to bugs and issues that nearly overshadow all the great things about it.
Path of Fire - Return to the Crystal Desert
Surprisingly, Path of Fire eschews what was established in the original Guild Wars 2 storyline and the Heart of Thorns expansion for a mostly standalone story that takes you back to the Crystal Desert for a second go-around. You may already be groaning at the thought of such a traumatizing place, but ArenaNet has taken the time to redeem such a universally hated location.
What was once a boring, bland desert environment, has since been transformed into five varied locales from across it and Nightfall's Elona desert lands. There are gorgeous sands, majestic oases, eerie sulfurous wastes, and luxurious Vabbian-style cities sprinkled throughout the land.
I went in expecting a monotonous expansion that I would quickly be tired of seeing, but there is enough variation in locales to keep you wanting to grind Mastery (which the game makes more easily attainable) and continuously progress the story.
Even though the five decently-sized maps come together to create an area that is much larger than what's in Heart of Thorns, it is actually much easier to navigate, too. This is in large part due to the addition of mounts.
Path of Fire - Giddy Up
Arguably the most important new feature in Path of Fire, the five mounts you have the opportunity to collect over the course of your adventure are what keeps you going.
From the Olympic-level long-jumping Raptor to the Jesus-like Skimmer that glides across water to the insanely hard-to-acquire flying Griffon, there are a lot of differences between each of the five mounts that force you to constantly have to switch back-and-forth to achieve objectives.
One moment you might need the Springer to leap up to a high cliff, while the next you may need the Jackal to teleport you through sand portals to secret locations. The entire map and quests are built with them in mind, forcing you to think on your toes constantly.
It's brilliant level design that comes at the sacrifice of most waypoints. There are very few places this time around that you can teleport to instantly, as the mounts are meant to be a replacement for that.
Though it makes sense and is a decent sacrifice, there are troubles especially in the beginning of Path of Fire when your mount choices are much more limited and you die, only to be resurrected quite a ways away from your current objective.
Some of the mounts like the Raptor and Jackal are designed lovingly so, but others like the Griffon come with the unfortunate caveat of having a lazily-created derp face. What's even worse is the fact that all of the mounts have wonky controls that can lead to frequent accidents when trying to navigate.
Because they are mixed in design, it will certainly lead to you favoring others over the rest. The design issues are somewhat alleviated by the ability to dye all of your mounts, but that is only a minor solution.
Path of Fire - To (Clumsily) Kill a God
In Path of Fire, your army-commanding character is sent to the Crystal Desert to fend off the invasion of the god of war Balthazar and his army of fanatical followers. That may sound cliche at first, but the story is unlike anything else Guild Wars has done before.
It both simultaneously follows-up on the plot from the original Guild Wars, while branching off into something new and entirely different. It brings back characters you might remember, continuing their stories and acting as the true sequel to Guild Wars.
It was little moments like aiding refugees fleeing from Balthazar's wrath or facing certain death that proved how much ArenaNet has learned from everything it has created so far. Path of Fire takes its name literally, sending you on a path of discovery with so many awe-inspiring scenes that I never saw coming and dare would not spoil.
The writing is intelligent and emotional, while never force-feeding you its platitudes. It handles itself with care, tying all of the threads that have been knitted since the series' inception in 2005 together in the most beautiful way any fan could hope for.
That isn't to say the story is perfect, though. There was one quest where it took me in circles for far too long and killed the great vibe that had been just set. In another key moment, there was several instances in the story that went on for much longer than they should have.
Everything felt rushed and that is a symptom of the overall problem with Path of Fire. It really takes you to hell and back with the amount of issues that it has. The story, while great, ends abruptly and leaves you wanting more. In fact, it's even shorter than the first expansion. It doesn't help that there's almost nothing to do after the story besides bounties and finding the Griffon mount.
There are new elite specializations added for every class. Though some like the Elementalist's Weaver greatly change up how you play the class, it is no substitution for brand new classes being added to the game. It is a missed opportunity to introduce something different for everyone to try out.
Right off the bat, I was bombarded with ridiculous amounts of bugs and issues that plagued the entire expansion. They have since been mostly fixed, but proved that ArenaNet rushed Path of Fire.
There were moments when unlocked waypoints didn't show up, I couldn't access several instances, got physically stuck and couldn't move, in addition to getting kicked from the game multiple times. In one terribly awful moment, I was kicked out of the game soon after reaching the Crystal Desert and couldn't get back into the new expansion area upon logging back in.
Path of Fire - Conclusion
It's disappointing how many issues Guild War 2's second expansion Path of Fire has. Whether it's the lack of content, numerous bugs (some fixed, others that still exist), or rushed plot, there's a lot that hinders what is otherwise a surprisingly great expansion.
The story is mostly well-written and emotional, the environments are far more beautiful and varied than you'd imagine, and the new mounts change up how you play the entire game. The positives do just barely outweigh the negatives, though, making Path of Fire easily the best part of the entire Guild Wars series that ArenaNet has created.
Cody Perez is an Editor at Game Revolution. You can follow him on Twitter @SoulcapCody.
A PC copy of Path of Fire was provided by its publisher.