I have always been a huge sucker for pets and mounts in video games. If I get to own, raise, ride, or play with animals of any kind, chances are I’ll love whatever game it is. When I used to play World of Warcraft I would spend ages running old raid content for the 2% chance of rare mount loot drops. As in “Sorry I can’t go out to dinner, gotta run Icecrown Citadel on my 10th alt before weekly raid reset.” (It was a sickness, really.)
When a mount system was finally added to Guild Wars 2 last year in the Path of Fire expansion, I was ecstatic! In developer interviews on the subject, ArenaNet calls their design philosophy the “Joy of Movement”, and it is indeed an absolutely joy to collect and ride these incredibly well designed mounts. Each type of mount has a specific mechanical purpose and handles very differently, rather than being a series of model re-skins as is seen inmost MMOs. Mounts in Guild Wars 2 are essentially a case study is how to do mounts right. Giddy-up!
The Raptor is the first mount you’ll acquire in the Path of Fire story when you save some in their pens from a fire engulfing the surrounding village. Raptors are incredibly good at covering long distances quickly with their agile leap. This leap is fantastic for vaulting across gaps in terrain, such as canyon crevasses or broken bridges. Raptors can be trained via the Mount Mastery system to jump even farther, resulting in the quickest ground mount for sprinting short to middling distances with haste, especially when you need to jump over or past terrain obstacles as you go.
The Springer is essentially a cross between a rabbit and a kangaroo. Found on a Springer farm in the second Path of Fire region, these mounts are a little slow on the ground, still faster than unmounted speed, but the Springer’s specialty is pure, vertical mobility. Able to scale tall cliff sides in a single bound, the Springer can get you on top of the tallest towers and mountains in the game with a few well placed, sky high hops.
The Skimmer is kind of niche in it’s use, but pretty cool. Residing in the third Path of Fire zone, these massive, floating manta rays will carry you over water, sinking sand, and even boiling lava without touching the ground. Skimmers can also glide off of very high places and land without taking fall damage.
The Jackal is my favorite ground mount by far. You must prove yourself to the wise Djinn of the desert to obtain one of these highly maneuverable mounts. Jackals are magical sand spirits that have been formed into the shape of a canine by the Djinn, harnessed and bound by stylish runic armor.
Jackals can teleport! These handsome, highly versatile canids can teleport instantly up to three times in quick succession across small distances in any direction, which makes it easy to pass through areas full of enemies without getting pulled into combat. They can also cross gaps, but not ones as wide as the Raptor mounts can, and they can use their teleport to travel through sand portals scattered across the land. They can even teleport mid fall, allowing you to negate fall damage by blinking as the last moment before impact.
The Griffon is particularly interesting because it’s existence was actually not advertised prior to the release of Path of Fire. Players were left to discover the quest line to obtain the Griffon on their own. Earning access to the Griffon mount is much more involved than any of the others, requiring quite a lot of gold, the completion of several collection quest lines including gathering Griffon eggs from cliffs in each Path of Fire zone, and ending in a unique boss fight.
Surprisingly, Griffons cannot take off into the sky directly from the ground. They can fly for a few good flaps from a ground takeoff, but they do best when launching from a high place. Griffons can glide almost endlessly. They can pull off incredibly enjoyable falcon dives and pull back up into the sky, and can glide extremely quickly over long distances. Griffons have beautiful animations both in flight and on the ground, and adorable birdlike sound effects.
This video featuring Griffon races found all over the Path of Fire regions does a great job of showing how the Griffon mount handles. It’s hard to describe how enjoyable and freeing it feels to pilot a Griffon compared to the mounts in other RPGs and MMOs.
The Roller Beetle was the first new mount players could obtain post-launch of Path of Fire during the first chapter of the Living Story season four. It is what it sounds like: a beetle that rolls. These critters are basically giant, happy doodle bugs (“roly polies” or “pill bugs” depending on your local jargon) that curl into a ball and are ridden kind of like a motorcycle. Players are able to obtain one after raising it to adulthood and then crafting a saddle for it.
Roller Beetles start off slow and pick up momentum until they are going as fast as a max speed Griffon. They turn clumsily, so they are best used where there is a lot of open ground with with nothing in the way. However, they can both drift around turns and launch from hills and ramps into the sky where the player can actually do tricks to gain a speed boost upon landing. You can also break through rock walls with the Roller Beetle’s booster ability.
Thanks to the high skill cap available for optimal Roller Beetle piloting, Guilds of players immediately formed after the Roller Beetle’s release to chart the best race tracks across Tyria and race together during planned events. Here’s a great video from Tyria DRIFT featuring the best of high speed Roller Beetle racing.
The Warclaw was added post expansion launch in an update to player versus player content. This armored feline is the only mount that can be used in the World versus World cross-server PvP battlegrounds. It is not uncommon to see entire 40-man Guild raids traveling together swiftly in a giant pack of Warclaws to do battle across the map.
Warclaws allow the player to initiate combat with an aggressive pounce from range or from a ledge above. They also allow the player to finish off downed enemies without dismounting. There is little more concerning as a solo roamer or small squad in World versus World mode than noticing a Warclaw mounted raid ground charging at you!
Finally, a dragon! Skyscales were introduced in the most recent Living Story chapter about a month ago. The Skyscale mount must be raised by hand from an egg, which can take four days or more in game. You’ll feed it, train it, make it toys and riding gear, and earn its trust. Your reward is an extremely useful and entertaining flying steed!
The Skyscale sacrifices the Griffon’s speed in exchange for freer maneuverability. Scyscales can take off vertically directly from the ground, hover at length in mid air, and even scale up or cling to walls indefinitely. They will also drop you directly on targeted enemies and assist briefly with fire breath. It’s awesome! I have no idea what the developers could release that would top the Skyscale.
Sense of Ownership and Player Immersion
What makes mounts in Guild Wars 2 interesting is not simply their movement, but the player’s shared progression with them. A Mastery system was introduced with Path of Fire in lieu of increasing the level cap with a new expansion as other MMORPGs usually do. Mount Mastery upgrades, earned by completing collections and achievements in Path of Fire, allow each of your mounts access to new abilities or enhanced versions of their existing abilities.
For instance, Griffon Mastery teaches the player to summon and mount their Griffon mid-air while falling, and also glide much faster. Raptors and Springers can increase their jump distance significantly! You get the idea.
Truly mastering one’s stable of steeds gives players a deep sense of investment and ownership over their mounts. Combined with the ability to customize the color palette of mounts to your specific tastes, mounts end up feeling like an extension of the player rather than a movement tool. Each mount has a specific role to fill and each player has a favorite mount in their collection. I cannot imagine going back to playing Guild Wars 2 on foot!
Thanks for reading!
Note: Many of these images are from the Guild Wars 2 website and forums. Some are my own screen shots.
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