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SGF 2024: Hands-On With Path Of Exile 2's Latest Class, The Witch

Kazuma Hashimoto Posted:
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Path of Exile had become the Action RPG I regularly played while waiting for the release of Diablo IV. It was dark, moody, atmospheric, and had an interesting gear progression system that allowed me to experiment with various skills — even though the passive skill tree was far less forgiving and was the reason I dropped the game in 2023. However, Path of Exile II remained on my radar.

Diablo IV satisfied my ARPG itch, but I was still deeply interested in what information trickled out about the game through developer Grinding Gear Games. With Path of Exile II being at Summer Game Fest, I jumped at the chance to give the game a spin. And I can safely say that Path of Exile II is just more Path of Exile.

During my time with Path of Exile II, I played both the Monk and Witch, two new classes that will appear in the sequel to Grinding Gear Games’ Diablo-inspired ARPG. The Witch functioned as a “pet” class, similar to the Necromancer in the Diablo series, though through specific skills, I was able to summon gruesome-looking scorpions to assist me in combat alongside a variety of three different skeleton types. These skeletons were unlocked through the use of uncut gems that I could then refine in my inventory to then unlock the ability to summon your standard sword and shield skeleton, skeletons with a bow and arrow, or skeletons that throw bombs.

I opted to summon more sword and shield skeletons since a weapon I had already allowed me to summon a total of three based on a passive it had, which upped my army of skeleton warriors to fight my battles for me. That said, the Witch is a far more involved class. My skeletons were weak, even as I progressed through the passive skill tree, which immediately began to branch out in a myriad of different directions. It wouldn’t be Path of Exile without an expansive passive skill tree, though, or the ability to absolutely wreck your own builds with a clear lack of foresight.

The Witch was satisfying and safe to play. I could keep enemies at arm's length for the most part, and dodge away if the grotesque remains of the local village brought to life attempted to swipe or charge at me. I can see this class opening up in later levels, allowing you to manage what skeletons or other summons you want out and how effective these can be through how you choose to level your passive skills.

Monk on the other hand was extremely straightforward. I ended up finding a quarterstaff with attack speed enchantment which meant I could smack enemies with it to relative success. However, I more or less abused a lighting ability I had acquired, which allowed me to spin forward and hit enemies with a small lighting cone, usually killing them in one blow. The second skill I acquired allowed me to lay down a pillar of ice and spin away as a disengage. It was fine, not the most riveting gameplay, but the mobility of the Monk was interesting. There are shades of the Monk from Diablo III in there as well, which meant that this class was probably not going to be for me.

What bosses I did fight during my time with Path of Exile II went down easily between the two classes. As the Witch my skeletons allowed me to sling spells from afar, and as the Monk I more or less just pummeled the bosses to death with the occasional lightning shock. There was one boss, a vile witch, summoning packs of half-dead wolves to maul me to death, which was challenging. But that was largely due to the amount of adds she would summon and not so much the additional status effect of freezing me when I’d stand too close to get some extra hits in. It wasn’t frustrating to die to her, it just made me feel like going it alone could be a little hard in the beginning.

I should mention that I played Path of Exile II on a controller during this time. And honestly, it was a huge improvement from when I used to play Path of Exile on my PlayStation 4. I was informed that I would only be able to play Path of Exile II on controller and had braced myself for the worst. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. The game functions a lot better on controller than its predecessor did. Items are easily and quickly equipped, skills can be quickly assigned and navigating between menus feels good. It isn’t as clunky, and could be my preferred way to play, especially on something like the Steam Deck.

Overall, Path of Exile II shows a lot of promise. It’s just more Path of Exile, which isn’t a bad thing. Those looking for a more challenging ARPG or something with a little more depth than the Diablo series will want to check out Path of Exile II. It’s dark, gritty, and grim, and will potentially have a lot of ways to play your character. Either way, I’m excited and can’t wait to get my hands on it once it releases.


Kazuma Hashimoto