Grinding Gear is one of the hardest working bunch of developers that continually proves that quality content can be pushed out at a blistering pace. Path of Exile: Incursion launched earlier this summer, but not resting on their laurels, the team is expanding Path of Exile yet again with Delve, the game's first infinite dungeon that will challenge even the hardiest of players.
As the name implies, Delve pits players against growing danger and their own growing sense of claustrophobia as they delve deeper into an abandoned mineshaft. The new adventure is the game's first infinite dungeon that challenges players to a number of intriguing new mechanics.
Of course, with any Path of Exile content, risk equals reward and Delve is no different. Those willing to push the envelope of their skill will find themselves appropriately compensated for that effort. No matter where a player falls on the spectrum of ability, the rewards will make any effort in Delve worthwhile.
So what IS Delve?
Delve takes place in an abandoned azurite mine where, as Chris Wilson told me, "encroaching darkness is taking over". While it seems dormant, at least in terms of human endeavor, there is more there than meets the eye. The key is, however, to find clever ways to plumb the depths. This is where Nico the Mad comes into play. He is a miner that has made a generator that allows lighting in the mine with the twist that it must be mounted on a minecart. The twist is, of course, that azurite only lasts for a limited time, hence the light provided to the player within the mine is also limited.
As players of any level travel the "over world", they will from time to time run into nodes of Voltaxic Sulphite. Just passing within its proximity will bring Nico to the node to mine it without any player interaction at all. Players will then be tasked with either saving up the mineral which allows deeper and / or longer trips into the mine or spending it as soon as they get it, meaning shorter trips.
As the minecart, or Crawler, moves, it emits a small pool of light. Players staying within it are relatively "safe" (is anyone safe in Path of Exile...really?). Lag behind the Crawler and it will "wait". Get ahead of it, and the Crawler speeds up.
The conundrum that players will face is that there are all sorts of side tunnels and rooms to explore, each with the potential to yield big rewards. Some are small rooms that a quick dash and grab will keep players within the safe zone. Others require more planning. Players choosing to venture away from the light are faced with an increasing strong debuff -- darkness is painful and too long in darkness can be lethal. Darkness can be mitigated somewhat by using flares or by precise judgment of how long to grab the loot and get back to the light before dying. And it's not just the darkness either -- monsters also rove around waiting for the foolhardy to stray away from safety. These monsters are no pushovers either. Some have an EMP-like ability that can knock out the Crawler's light for a few seconds. Without a handy flare, this could spell doom for the unprepared adventurer.
As players move along with the Crawler, it will pass nodes of azurite from time to time. The mineral will automatically be added to the cart as players pass by. This is important as azurite is used to upgrade the Crawler or flares and dynamite. In addition, items dropped along the way will also be neatly collected for players to loot at the end of the Delve, so no time is wasted picking up things that drop.
As you might expect, the deeper a player ventures, the more the danger increases and the rewards get better. As an infinite dungeon, players will find "a lot of very interesting things along the way -- hidden cities, special events...players will see new things all the time," Chris said. "We've used ten tilesets of things you can encounter including ice caves, petrified forests, underground cities, fiery caverns, bosses, events and more. It's different for everyone every time. You can explore downward or laterally."
The best part is that if, for instance, a player moves downward and finds the area simply too tough, he can move back up to the last level where he was successful and move laterally instead. There's no "one right way" to explore the dungeon.
Delve allows players to literally "measure up" against others. This hasn't been possible before in Path of Exile. So players can work to go deeper and deeper into the mine and have their "prowess" show up on a leaderboard. They can compete against one another to reach the deepest areas of the dungeon.
The rewards are worth it too: One type of item that players can find crafting items that allow players "a measure of determinism to the process". Players will find socketable crafting items and fossils that "constrain and augment the types of modifiers that can spawn on items crafted in this way".
By way of example:
For example, the Metallic Fossil (Slide 14) increases the chance of rolling Lightning Mods, adds more exclusive ones to the available pool, and removes the possibility of Physical Damage mods (which is a benefit when creating a lighting item). When placed in an Alchemical Resonator, it makes a crafting item (similar to an Orb of Alchemy) that can create a lightning weapon, for example.
Whew...that's a LOT...but what else?
If that's not enough to make your head spin, perhaps the addition of ten new skills or revamped older skills. Each one "contributes to several powerful new character builds". Two of the ten are Smite, a new skill targeting Guardians (Templar subclass). The other is Toxic Rain aimed at bow using Chaos Pathfinder build users. The other eight will be announced over the coming weeks.
In addition, nine brand new unique items are being introduced specifically in Delve, with another nine unique items that can be found anywhere and are "build defining unique items like The Primordial Chain".
Players will also be able to find Timeworn Reliquary Keys that can open portals to special chests containing Relic unique items. These are literally "relics" from the past -- unique items from past leagues that are out of the game and only found in these portal zones.
Players can look for a lot of new graphical tech improvements as well. Many of them are centered on the lighting throughout the game, but that take on particular significance in Delve. Global Illumination and Ambient Occlusion make the shadows writhe on the walls and add a new layer of immersion to players' experiences. Add in dynamic water speeds and effects, and players will find new ways to feel that PoE features a living, breathing world.
Lastly, the team is beginning a big task by tackling older areas of the game to provide them with a new coat of paint. Assets within the early game are being spruced up for a 2018 feel and the process will be continuing over time.
Wrapping it all up...
All in all, Delve looks like yet another strong entry into the ever-growing Path of Exile world. It's set to provide players of all character and skill levels with new ways to challenge themselves and the game. We can't wait to see what the community produces!
What's got you the most stoked?