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Atlas of Worlds Announced, Launching September 2nd

Path of Exile Previews - By William Murphy on August 12, 2016

Atlas of Worlds Announced, Launching September 2nd

Path of Exile is getting a brand new expansion. Called Atlas of Worlds, it launches on September 2nd, and significantly improves the endgame map creation system players have been spending so much time with since the game launched a few years back. We spoke with Grinding Gear’s Chris Wilson about the myriad ways in which Atlas of Worlds improves the endgame for Path of Exile, and how the new Essence Challenge League brings challenges for new players too.

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Called Atlas of Worlds, Grinding Gear’s newest Path of Exile expansion is squarely focused on improving the endgame for its players. As Chris put it, “95% of our game is spent on the randomized map generation you do after the story has been completed… it only made sense to finally make an expansion focused on enhancing this system.” While Wilson told me players could go ahead and keep playing the endgame like they always have while ignoring the whole new atlas system, as our talk continued it became clear that only the foolish would do so.

Lightning and archery in Path of Exile's Atlas of Worlds

1- Lightning and archery in Path of Exile's Atlas of Worlds

The Atlas of Worlds refers to a literal map, being molded and twisted by the Shaper, the expansion’s ultimate boss. As you come out of your first map using the Map Device in your hide out, Zana will tell you all about the Shaper and what’s really going on behind the randomly generated dream worlds you venture into.  For long time players, yes you’ll still be crafting maps, adding mods to them, only now the actual Atlas will come into play. And while there were roughly 70 maps (all randomized) before, now there are around 100, meaning that the team has created 30 new map types just for this expansion: roughly double what a normal Act expansion would add.  You’ll use things like Orbs of Alchemy still to add more mods onto your maps – thereby increasing difficulty, but also rewards from each. Oh, and in total there are 19 new bosses across the Atlas as well. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

They’re still organized in tiers, and as you can see in the picture of the Atlas below. You may start in the upper right desert area, and work your way slowly down to the middle compass. Each one of those monster portraits represents a major boss monster that must be defeated to get its key. Once you have all four keys, you’ll be able to unlock the middle star… and challenge the Shaper himself.  Interesting to note? Clearing each spot on the atlas at least once will give you a 100% increased special item drop rate in each map. So while some players might think it’s best to just make a beeline for the bosses in the middle, truly exploring the atlas is far more rewarding in the long run.  The map doesn’t start out looking like this either. It only shows all its locations after you’ve uncovered the fog of war and visited them each. This is basically what a “completed” Atlas might look like.

Path of Exile's Atlas of Worlds

2- Path of Exile's Atlas of Worlds

The new maps and locales themselves are impressive and look vastly different than what we’ve become used to in the drab and dark main acts of Path of Exile. Because they take place in a sort of dream world, GGG has been able to stretch their legs a bit and give us things like lush verdant oases, towering red rock cliffs, a literal river of lava rushing headlong into the ocean, and crypts absolutely infested with ichor and spider webs. It’s a whole new world, but without Aladdin singing.

Additionally, though the players will have to figure it all out (and no doubt then share it on the Wiki), Chris and his team have made items drop from specific regions on the map. One such example is the Bone Helmet, which now drops in the graveyard maps only. Grinding Gear wagers it’s only a matter of time before people catalog all their favorite drops and put them on the wiki, but that’s part of the fun: figuring out where things drop, discovering, and then farming it for profit.  You’ll also loot things called Shaper’s Orbs, while playing the maps. These are used to upgrade each map on the Atlas by five levels. Grinding Gear knows that eventually a map may be useless to you and where your character’s progression is at, so this mechanic allows you to take an older map and increase its difficulty and level so you can still use it. As always, the Orbs are tradeable and shareable.

One of several new looks in Atlas of Worlds

3- One of several new looks in Atlas of Worlds

Another cool item to use on the Atlas is the Cartographer’s Sextant. They apply random mods to a map, but also to every other map within the circumference of the red circle the sextant makes. Each mod lasts five charges, and you can bring anyone with you into your Atlas maps too. So you might get a mod that increases your crit chance, or maybe magic drops. You might get random properties, or it might even add a mod to give the monsters really powerful abilities. It’s entirely the luck of the draw, but as they say… no reward without a few risks.  This mechanic, as GGG has seen internally, really increases the socialization of people grouping up when the mods are good or unique and tackling challenges together.

Ultimately, you’ll find your way to the Shaper, and you’ll kill him. But Chris reckons the random generation and the additions they’ve made to the overall map system with the Atlas will greatly enhance both the replayability of an overall highly replayable game, as well as it will enhance the longevity of players sticking around after the story’s complete. There’s just a much more cohesive “union” to the Atlas of Worlds, and it makes the whole endgame experience feel much more complete.

There are 19 new bosses in Atlas of Worlds

4 - There are 19 new bosses in Atlas of Worlds

New to Path of Exile, or maybe just “new-ish?” Fear not! Atlas of Worlds will also launch with the Essence Challenge League. Like all challenge leagues, the Essence league starts everyone at the beginning with a fresh character, and the key to the Essence part of the equation is a new item that will drop. These essences can give you fabulous new effects on your items, and you can also take 3 of one to craft them into higher tiered essences to be even more powerful. As you rove about the game, you’ll come upon trapped monsters. Using an essence upon them modifies the monster trapped within unpredictably. The good thing? This means you could then get the essence you used on them back, plus a new one, giving you multiple essences to use and mod your gear. The bad thing? It could also fizzle, and just make the monster that much more a pain in the ass.

Our video preview of the expansion.

As the game grows, as its player base has with each new expansion, there will be more map types and tilesets to pull from, and the Atlas will likely expand even more into new directions and territories. But for now, there’s an epic amount of content to uncover with this expansion.  When Atlas of Worlds launches on September 2nd, there may not be as much there for new players as there has been with past expansions but that’s OK. There are three years (or more) of old school veterans just chomping at the bit to uncover every corner of that Atlas. And something tells me they’re going to have a damn fine time doing it.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.