Blizzard’s Diablo II has been a tough act to follow. Many developers have tried over the years, but none have truly been able to get lightning to strike twice again in the ARPG genre until Grinding Gear Games threw its hat into the ring with the release of Path of Exile in 2013. The game has enjoyed incredible popularity amongst ARPG fans and the team has been cranking out numerous expansions over the past couple of years to great success. Now, GGG is back once again with the game’s sixth expansion, Fall of Oriath, and it may prove to be the game’s biggest expansion yet.
One of the major structural changes coming with the expansion is the removal of the existing difficulty system. Now, players will progress through the game’s story in a single playthrough and the Fall of Oriath expands heavily on the original content on offer by adding an additional five new acts (for a total of 10).
In the original story, you’re cast out of the small island city of Oriath only to end up on a larger continent called Wraeclast. The empire of Wraeclast was destroyed in an event called the “Cataclysm” and you learn learn more of the empire’s history throughout the course of the campaign, culminating in exacting vengeance upon the High Templar who exiled you, as well as defeating the source of the Cataclysm, a monster called The Beast and a man named Malachai, who controls it.
In Fall of Oriath, you’ll be returning to Oriath for the first time since your exile, but things aren’t all peachy when you get there. The death of the High Templar at your hands has sent Oriath into chaos, with slaves openly revolting against the Templars. In one of the expansion’s first major boss fights (of 24!), you’ll face off against High Templar Avarius. The fight is pretty difficult, with multiple stages, and some fairly relentless bullet hell style mechanics. It’ll definitely keep you on your toes.
You’ll eventually return to Wraeclast for the remaining acts of the story, but once you get there you’ll find that things are not as they once were. Your deeds throughout the course of the game’s original story have changed the world, breathing new life into familiar areas (new areas have opened up as well), along with new challenges to tackle, of course. One example of how areas have changed is in the Act 1 area of the Fetid Pool. In Act I, you’re tasked with taking out a necromancer named Kadavrus the Defiler, who has corrupted the area. When you return to this area in the new expansion content, you’ll find the previously muddy and corrupt area to be a verdant green.
One of the most impressive set pieces in the expansion is the fight against the Brine King in Act VI. The boss arena starts out simple enough on a small island, but not long into the fight you’re surrounded by a massive wall of water, shrinking the battlefield significantly and making the fight that much more difficult. You’re likely to die at least once as you find yourself awestruck by the visual treat.
Defeating the Beast in Act 4 has led to the return of Wraeclast’s gods, and these gods play an important role in one of the expansion’s major new features: the Pantheon system. In Fall of Oriath, you’ll be able to confront Wraeclast’s powerful gods and acquire some of their power. The Pantheon system allows you to activate a single major and minor god power at any given time, but these powers can be switched out freely (provided you’ve unlocked them) as long as you’re back at town. The bonuses conferred by Pantheon powers are defensive in nature, offering benefits such as reduced bleed damage taken or lessening the effects of status effects such as Chill. It’s hard to say how impactful these powers will be, but the flexibility to switch these powers in and out almost at will should add a nice additional layer of depth to the game’s build options.
Path of Exile: Fall of Oriath enters beta testing today, with the full release set for some time in July.