Grinding Gear Games has announced Ruthless, a new option for Path of Exile that makes every step of the way feel like endgame, with high difficulty, item scarcity, and other constraints baked in from the start.
The core experience is intended to be beyond difficult. Items are scarce to the point that anything that drops would be an improvement. Even what you might consider junk or weak items will feel valuable this time. It's not intended to replace the regular Path of Exile experience, but to offer a challenging mode to really put yourself to the test if this sounds like something that's for you.
The team describes it this way in the announcement,
“Ruthless is a mode about friction, tension and anticipation. It's brutally difficult, but overcoming that difficulty feels highly rewarding. In a world where your items are far below par, every item drop has the potential to be the breakthrough one you need”.
This also applies to currency, to gear, and the drop rates of everything. You also won't be able to buy things like rings or amulets from vendors. Crafting will also be limited.
The official announcement revealed many details about how all of this scarcity and difficulty will work, as well as how some of the drop rates and scarcity will apply two different features. You can play Standard or Hardcore Ruthless with permadeath being a consequence of the latter.
There will be a small Alpha and Ruthless will release with the 3.20 expansion next month.