By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), General Manager
When Path of Exile first launched into open beta earlier this year, my long time Diablo fanatic of a friend and I were all over it. Little did we know this true successor of the ARPG realm from a small garage style indie group out of New Zealand was going to blow up into the mega success it is now. From a rough estimate of 600,000 registered accounts back then to over 3,000,000 and counting, Path of Exile has found success in an industry of hard knocks and constant closures. Unfortunately time moved on and I fell out from the game. So when Grinding Gear Games hit me up saying that were in my neighborhood offering early demos of Patch 1.0, aka the official launch, I was there. And with over 25 patches and countless hotfixed bugs gone since my earlier play session, there was a lot of new to take in.
For starters let’s focus on the biggest addition to the game of value. Grinding Gear Games is introducing a Prestige Class offering some of the greatest build customization of any class in-game. With so much freedom in Path of Exile’s massive skill tree though, it would be rather unavoidable for newbies to gimp themselves with this class. As such the Scion will only be unlockable by players who have reached the end of the game and unlocked her from a cage.
The Scion starts smack in the center of the skill tree and gains advantages from dexterity, strength, and intellect in a crazy hybrid magic sword throwing super combo class. This differs from the classes in-game now as most have to crawl through a winding track of skills and forced circles before they can reach the freeway system that can expedite building towards the skills on the outer rim or towards other stats not inherent to their class. Instead you can head down two separate freeway lines and find yourself combining outer rim talents from the furthest reaches of both strength and magic that you may have never been viably possible before.
In terms of unique attacks, the Scion specializes in throwing a spectral copy of her weapon at range. This can get you the power of a melee weapon that you can unleash on your foes at a safe distance. And when combined with the new Trigger Gem system, this is a big deal.
Trigger Gems are new support link gems similar to past support gems, but allowing you to attach multiple on-hit (offensive) or on-damage (defensive) abilities tied to a single weapon or armor piece. What does that mean in English? It means if you’re a gambling man, you can throw a gem into place with a percentage chance that not only multiple strings of lightning will come out, but maybe an explosion of flame will compliment it. The defensive trigger gems work the same way when you take damage, meaning if you stick various ones in different segments of your gear, you can turn yourselfinto a walking firework display. Be sure to check out James’ MMOHuts’ News Recap next week for a preview of the awesomeness because words just don’t do it justice.
One element Chris Wilson made sure to emphasis was a push to take away the advantage ranged characters have in PvE. Currently ranged characters can typically stand back in most cases and not risk their HP bar in the slightest except in some truly dicey situations or boss battles. New monster types are being added to counter this by offering impenetrable shields to mobs that players will be forced to walk inside of to deal damage to these foes. Ranged attacks can even bounce off them in some cases, sending your own ranged attacks back in your face if you're spamming skills without care.
Three new tileset dungeons are being implemented with update 1.0 that should add some variety into the world of long time Path of Exile players. And heck if you’re a new player you’ll eventually appreciate that they exist as well. For those not in the known, maps generate from one of multiple possibilities each time you enter them, meaning the addition of a few more maps is quite a project for Grinding Gear to push out.
Beyond this there are plenty of new monsters, reskinned monsters, and combinations of the two waiting around every corner to ambush you, including a skeleton bear in the new library maps that looks like it’s part of the scenery until it pounces. If you’re tired it might make you jump so watch out for that library. It’s creepy even by Path of Exile standards.
The End is only the Beginning
And of course a game wouldn’t be able to claim it’s in launch state without a proper “ending.” Path of Exile won’t disappoint here as I was thrown on my Scion into a one on one match (more like massacre!) against this demonic entity. It might be cliché to say they throw everything but the kitchen sink at you in this match, but it’s the truth! This boss summons an endless barrage of minions, shoots lightning bolts that break into further lightning bolts until the entire map is bouncing with DoT tiles, shoots a concentrated long duration ray of ice can track you as fast as he can turn, meaning distance or map obstacles offer the only counter-play, and even make soft ice walls with a hefty slowing effect around him to punish melee players for getting in range to deal some damage. And if you’re ranged and think you’re safe, he’ll place a curse on you that will make his minions self-destruct as soon as they’re in range of you. And that’s only his first form!
Brace for his transformation into a giant Cerberus type being that can pull you across the map to him if you flee, deal massive damage, and even make it rain polluted blood that forces you into a tiny safe zone on the map. And because he’s a nice guy, he’ll often be standing in the middle of the safe zone taking up 90% of its space waiting for you to pick your poison. I wish I could share more but I’m not the most veteran Exile and barely lived long enough to experience a few rounds of his attack style in this form. Thank you defensive Scion tank build! Is this his final form? Is it really the end?! You’ll have to face this end-game monster yourself and let me know.
New types of PvP offerings are on the way starting with a tried and true classic. Those familiar with the bandit raid event in the Second Act will have a general idea of how the new Capture The Flag PvP mode is going to play out. Players will have to force their way into the enemy’s base as teams of five or six (final testing pending). Speed will come into play in tactics though, especially with the addition of new PvP Tournaments.
Hour long PvP tournaments will be on in which players will have to rack up wins through a set system or mode. The more wins you get in the hour, the better your chance of coming out on top with prizes. Therefore just winning isn’t enough as winning decisively will ensure overall victory in these time trials.
Finally we’ll have match-making on tap to get you paired up against players of your skill/power level to see how you truly stack up in the game. Rewards will be available only through these PvP modes so those looking for rare loot will need to sign up and prove their worth against actual thinking foes.
Shared stashes are arriving at last for guilds, including permission settings to make sure that the leader’s most trusted officers can hand out the goods when he or she is out of action. In addition various challenge leagues will offer guild points so participants can prove their faction is the best overall while still earning points and rewards for their personal records and stash in the process. No downside? Sign me up! And yes Guild Versus Guild CTF battles are coming as well. I look forward to that perhaps most of all.
Leagues offer awesome microcosms that excel at both introducing and testing new elements to the game as well as granting universes where new players can get on their feet without seeing overpowering advantages in the hands of more veteran players. And they aren’t going anywhere as a series of brand new leagues are on the way soon. In addition the Rogue Exiles have been added to the primary game, proof that truly popular league concepts can become general gameplay at the community’s request.
Looking into the Future
But if you’re worried that eventually Grinding Gear is just going to eventually give up and continue throwing the same recycled Leagues at you, the good news is the initial success has allowed them to expand, hire new staff, new artists, and even plan for a decade of updates with massive expansions rolling out on a four month schedule and balance changes and minor patches as fast as every two weeks. In addition the skill tree is not static as 1.0 is bringing 3 new active and 6 passives into the quagmire of branching possibilities. And on October 23rd, Path of Exile hits Steam complete with a new set of rewards and Steam badges to keep you completionists busy for hours.
There’s never been a better time to be exiled by your king and left to die than next week so don’t miss the action. And keep an eye out for ApocaRUFF as we’re throwing him into this mess to bring a fresh report from the front lines in our upcoming updated review next month!