When I first saw Path of Exile a few months ago, it was still in its very early stages heading towards a closed beta. It impressed me with its versatile character classes first and foremost. Opting for a skill set that was akin to Final Fantasy X’s orb system, which lays out all the abilities on a map and allows players to level their character along certain paths while giving them the option to try different combination of skills. It also didn’t hurt that the gameplay reminded me a lot of Diablo II. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one the F2P MMO-ARPG appealed to either, as the game now has over 3 million users. Now, as the team at Grinding Gear Games prepares to take PoE out of Beta this month and into full fledged released status they’re giving everyone a peek at some brand new content and setting a democratic roadmap for the game’s future. We got a chance to sit down with the devs and take a look at some of the cool new stuff players will be able to get their hands on soon.
Probably the biggest new addition to Path of Exile is the Scion character class. Unlike the other character classes that start off their skill journey at specific points on the orb map, the Scion will begin their leveling at the center of the grid, allowing players a chance to create even more interesting and unique character builds that can draw more easily upon long distance orb combos. Along with the creative grid placement, the class also has the unique ability “Animate Guardian”, which allows them to take items lying around the game world and turn them into an AI companion. So a suit of armor you don’t have room in your inventory and a weapon you have no use for can be turned into a floating guardian and help you take down enemies. Guardian will be persistent through areas and will stick around until their life is depleted or you create a new one. In order to play as this new Omni-class though, you’ll have to beat the game first as it’s the only way to unlock the Scion.
The Scion wasn’t the only new feature being rolled out though. Shrines that augment enemies with buffs can now be found in the game world. If a player is bold enough to enter a shrines sphere of influence, they may be able to steal the buff from the creatures, or alternately they can try to piecemeal victory by slaying foes as they venture out of shrine range. The shrines are just one of many features to come about from Path of Exile’s Challenge leagues, which are essentially servers with a 4 month lifecycle that allow the dev team to experiment with features that might have the chance of making it into the main game. Grinding Gears has already made a commitment to quarterly cycle Challenge Leagues along with a 2 week cycle for general updates such as new gems, skills, microtransactions, or whatever they feel like. And they guarantee me they have enough ideas for updates to last for years to come.
Players will also be getting a few new areas to explore. The garden will have you face off against a slew of new creatures including the Porcupine Goliath that looks like a cross between the Violator from the Spawn comics series and sonic the hedgehog, and the Root Spider, which is an extremely ugly looking arachnid-like monster that pops up out of the ground and shoots giant, red, magical balls of pain at you. The library will be the area that players who love game lore will want to explore, as many tomes and ancient texts have been strewn about the area for those interested in brushing up on their imaginary history. Then there’s the end game area, The Sceptre of God, which will have players going through the arduous task of taking out the final boss.
I got a chance to take on the big boss during my hands-on time with the game and, as one would hope, the end game battle is quite the pain in the butt, with enemies and spells being thrown at you left and right as you barely hold on to your life. Even playing as a buffered, high level Scion I found myself getting my ass kicked more than once by the barrage of minions sent my way before the boss himself was even summoned. Then once he actually shows up and starts blasting ice beams and psychic blades at you while you’re being chased by the remnants of the horde is when you really start to feel the pain. And then it gets even tougher in ways that I don’t want to spoil for you.
If all this wasn’t enough new PvP tournaments that will challenge players to win as many fast-paced battles as they can in an hour and 6v6 capture the flag options are being added to the arena. Guilds will also being an in-game system and all your PvP awards will count towards your guild. You’ll be able to store your shared wealth and compete in Guild PvP tourneys as well.
Path of Exile has already done extremely well in its beta and, from everything I saw at my most recent demo, they look poised to make a big splash in the gaming world when they officially launch. Offering up many of the features fans of Diablo III and Guild Wars 2 enjoy in a F2P environment and some of the most innovative character customization options out there makes me think that they’ll be doing just fine when they officially launch October 23rd. PoE will be available for PC via their own website and Steam.