We’ve played a good amount of time in the first of the Maguuma zones, Verdant Brink, I’m impressed with how the expansion integrated different movement ability unlocks as part of the gameplay. Gliding is unlocked pretty quickly and offers the most utility; planning routes up and across the zone adds to the gameplay, especially because as a duo we get to discuss routes as we play.
Having unlocked gliding traversing the zones became much easier as we could use gliding to disengage with the hostile creatures in our way. The second and third chosen unlocks, the bounce mushrooms and updraft use, give you ways to get up higher to then glide to new and harder to reach places.
The expansion then has exploration as a progression mechanism, as your character unlocks new masteries (s)he becomes progressively better at exploring. I like it actually, and it seems we’ll have more of the same in Path of Fire with the mounts that give new movement abilities. I’ve not yet seen anywhere confirmation whether these new mounts will be limited to PoF zones, gliding is available anywhere and on all characters – it’s great that my lower level characters can now glide across Tyria.
In writing this I was reminded of the closest other example I have of gliding as a movement mechanism, Trove. I have gliding mounts in Everquest 2 as well but the characters I play the most are high enough level to use flying mounts. In games that have multiple movement options that include flying the temptation is to just go with the flying mount as soon as it becomes available and never look back to anything less direct. I had similar feelings about World of Warcraft’s Legion expansion, exploring without flying was fun but as soon as I got flying unlocked I couldn’t go back by choice.
World of Warcraft gives one approach to movement as progression in that the unlock for flying in the last two expansions has been an involved process, albeit one for an account level unlock. I can see it would become very tedious if you had to unlock flying per character. It is an all-or-nothing approach to the concept, having different movement abilities unlock as you move forwards and your character grows is appealing. This is what I feel is happening so far in GW2 in the Heart of Thorns expansion, unlocking more masteries is one of the motivations for playing more. But since masteries are account level unlocks there’s a disparity here, as I won’t have that much motivation to play through the first expansion on alts because Path of Fire is so close to releasing. That’s probably a blessing in disguise as I’d not want to be forced to play HoT content to unlock gliding on alts soon after PoF’s launch, the timing of my coming back to GW2 and the imminent launch of the expansion makes the account-level lock very convenient.