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Preview: The Blight Spreads Into Path of Exile

David Holmes Posted:
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Path of Exile's newest League Blight will be going live in September and it will be bringing some new and exciting content to the game. I was able to spend some time talking to Chris Wilson from Grinding Gear Games about this newest addition to Path of Exile and what it contains. I was excited to hear about all these additions and by the end knew I’d finally be making a minion necro build this season.

The Blight expansion has the new Blight challenge league, three revamped archetypes that will have new skills and new support gems along with new items and older leagues becoming integrated into the core game of Path of Exile. There is also a focus on giving players more choice about what aspects of the games content they want to play.

With Blight you will be introduced to Path of Exiles newest NPC, Sister Cassia. She will be responsible for teaching people about Fungal Growths that have spread all over Wraeclast. These Fungai can control the minds of nearby creatures and Sister Cassia will task you with destroying them. She has built a device that can drain the ichor from these various Growths, but she can’t destroy these things alone. While she drains the evil from these things, you need to be there to help defend her from the infected monsters that will attack those seeking to destroy the Fungus.

This mechanic is brought into play with Blight Encounters, these are mini tower defense games that each area has one of. When you start this, the Blight will command its infected creatures to defend it. These monsters will follow down the path of the Blight’s tendrils only attacking enemies directly in their path. These infected monsters are usually pretty tough, and this is where the mechanic of building defensive towers come in to play. You’ll have your choice of several different types of towers, ones that buff other towers or spawn minions or ones that may slow the infected monsters down and even some that just do straight elemental damage. Each Tendril/lane will give you an idea of types of monsters will be spawning on it to help you make important strategic decisions of what types of towers to place as well as where best to place them. For each Tendril you defend at the end of the event a chest will appear with rewards inside.

With these new Blight Encounters, a new item makes its way into Path of Exile, special Oils. These Oils can be combined with the help of Sister Cassia to add properties to items. There will be multiple results possible by combining different types of these Oils. There are twelve tiers of Oils in total and the higher end ones are rare. You can combine three oils of the same type to get one Oil of the next tier. The great thing about this Oil Anointing process is it will allow you to enchant rings and amulets, which is new to Path of Exile. These properties are new ones that will stack on top of whatever stats the gear currently has.

The anointing process revolves around Sister Cassia combining two oils for rings and three oils for amulets. The rings will have enchantments which can modify what your towers do (plus to a certain element damage, etc.). Each of your two rings can have the same enchant or two different ones depending on how you want to play. Anointing amulets gets something special, that enchantment will give you the full properties of a Notable passive skill on the passive skill tree. This is where you take a minute and let that sink in. Path of Exile is known for having a massive skill tree with stats and skills littered throughout it and sometimes to get that one skill you really want for your build; you may have to spend twenty or so skill points to get to that part of the tree. This could effectively negate those points spent and still grant you that skill. Of course, some of these are going to be rare and require rare Oil combinations to acquire.

When you get towards the endgame of Path of Exile, you start working on Maps. With the Blight League you will have chances to find Blighted Maps. Like any regular Map you can throw these in you Map Device to open a portal that would normally contain things to kill and loot to collect; but Blighted version of Maps just contain a gigantic Blight encounter without any regular monsters. This are geared to be difficult encounters with a potential of yielding high rewards and higher-level Blighted Maps with can contain unique items. Just like ring and amulets, these Blighted Maps can be Anointed with Oils by Cassia to improve their properties.

There will be four Blight unique items that can be anointed by Sister Cassia to put Notable passive skills on them as well. That means you can have a total of five Notable passive skills in your build should you acquire these gear items and have an amulet with this enchantment as well. Along with these unique items, there will be ten other new unique items brought out in this league. These were designed to be build defining items like the Triad Grip gloves. These gloves have synergy with the Necromancer focus. It will allow players to have control over what elemental damage their minions base damage can be converted into. You can change this by changing the colors of the sockets on the item. Several other uniques have been rebalanced and six have had significant overhauls. Three archetypes are getting revamped with the Blight league: Necromancer, Poison assassin and Mine Saboteur.

With Blight GGG wanted to fix many of the problems that summoners had in general and wanted to revamp the Necromancer to class to become more powerful. Now you have some control over the behavior of your minions using three new support gems. Skill supported by these gems will cause your monsters to act aggressively, defensively or to attack a specific target. The core summons of Skelton's, Zombies and Specters have been beefed up to become more stronger as gems level up, relying less on items and Ascendancy choices for power. This should leave the player with room to decide how to specialize their minions unique to themselves. The Necromancer Ascendancy now provides more effects useful for a larger spectrum of minion types in its redesign. With all of this comes the Carrion Golem. This new golem will provide buffs and is buffed by your other minions.

Back in the day the Poison Assassin was a premiere Path of Exile character build that used critical strikes to deal heavy poison damage and took advantage of some broken critical strike math at the time. Eventually, it was fixed which ended making this build decent but not one of the top tier builds. Five new skills have been added and one new support gem that will add more options to the Poison Critical Strike Assassin build. One of the new skills is Cobra Lash which throws out a copy of your weapon that can chain Multiple times between enemies. It has a 100% chance to poison when it gets a critical hit. A new buff has been added called Elusive which can be acquired from its Ascendancy tree. This new buff provides both defense and mobility for a limited time and is the first buff to get weaker as it expires instead of just turning off instantly as some buffs do. The Assassin Ascendancy tree has been tweaked so that there are new options for building around critical strikes and poisons.

The Saboteur Ascendancy has been revamped in the mine part of the tree with new options for players. With this the mechanics of mines have been adjusted as well. Mines are now thrown from range, are faster to deploy and detonate in sequence with rewards for pulling off long sequences of detonations. They also now reserve mana while armed and several mines also have auras that apply to nearby monsters. Three new mine skills have been added as well as a new utility skill that works well with traps and mines. A great example is the new Stormblast mine skill, it’s a low-level skill that makes nearby enemies vulnerable to damage with shockwaves that become more powerful when multiple mines are detonated in sequence.

If you’ve gotten to the Atlas of Worlds endgame, you’re familiar with how it works. Players can encounter the five Masters (Einhar, Alva, Niko, Jun and Zana) who then ask the you to do missions for them. The way this used to work for the last year was there was a random chance of finding one of these Masters in a Map waiting for players there to send them to their special quest area. GGG felt this system had two important problems. The first was players felt they were being surprised with a substantial and often time-consuming mission had them feeling forced to do it right than or miss out. The other issue was that trying to take advantage of the random occurrences on Atlas maps could require a large amount of trading for specific maps which could also be time consuming.

With Blight, both issues have been addressed by changing the system. You can still encounter these Masters organically, most of these encounters are now deferred with a counter that shows how many missions od each difficulty you have available for these Masters. You can now talk to these Masters in your hideout at any time to run one for these missions and it gets applied to whichever map you give the Master. You will also get two Master missions added to your total each say so there will always be some available.

Path of Exile’s core game has always involved content from many past leagues which GGG is constantly iterating on to keep it modern and address any issues. With Blight, there have been some large changes brought about to a few of the leagues that were already a part of the core game over the last year. Betrayal has been adjusted with the final Mastermind encounter. Now you get a reward room for every member of the Syndicate instead of just the ones of that branch. Your Syndicate state will also be shared across all your characters in the current league so that you can resume your progress if you make a new character. There were also some changes made to Delve content. It’s been re-balanced so that it now easier to get deeper. There will be 69 fewer depths before you reach what is the equivalent of endgame maps. Your Sulphite is now shared across all your characters in each league.

Two previous leagues are now being integrated as well, Legion and Synthesis. Legion was the most recent league (June 2019) and was very popular. It has been added into the core game in several ways. Legion Encounters have been added to the content pool of several old leagues, added to endgame map content, the Scarab system and some Legion rewards have been added to Betrayal content. In March 2019 Synthesis league came out to some divisive opinions among the community. The league had a lot of boss fight content that was popular with players so several of those boss fights are available as unique maps in the random selection available from Zana. This will also introduce the Synthesis specific unique items back into the economy, though it doesn’t give the player access to the Synthesiser or Fractured Items.

The Blight league brings with it a lot of new content and mechanics as well as bringing in some old as is generally the case for most big Path of Exile updates. I’m personally looking forward to finally building my Necromancer build and hoping it doesn’t crash my computer.  Blight launches on September 6th for PC, September 9th for Xbox One and PS4.

 Finally - while not Blight related but Path of Exile related. The first Path of Exile fan convention in Auckland, New Zealand is almost upon us. It will be in November 16-17th with announcements will be happening including December's 3.9.0 expansion and next year's 4.0.0 mega-expansion. The event will also include playable demos, talks from the Path of Exile devs, signing sessions, a party, a racing finale and more. Also in attendance will be David Brevik, Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer, the three founders of Condor (now Blizzard North) and creators of Diablo 1 & 2. The event will start with a keynote that will be streamed online that will have some major announcements for fans of GGG and Path of Exile.


David Holmes