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Venture Into the Labyrinth in Ascendancy

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Grinding Gear Games is set to release Ascendancy, Path of Exile’s fourth expansion, sometime in early 2016 and we recently had the pleasure of sitting down with GGG’s Chris Wilson for a tour of the expansion’s key features.

Chris began by setting the scene with a bit of the lore behind the expansion. Hundreds of years ago lived an emperor named Izaro. This emperor had difficulty finding a worthy successor to his crown, so he created a gauntlet of six trap-filled trials. Those who succeeded in completing the trials could then enter a labyrinth he created with the victor of the labyrinth succeeding Izaro on the throne.

In Ascendancy, players will essentially attune themselves to the new labyrinth mode by completing the aforementioned six trials. There are three difficulties of labyrinth and players will need to complete a set of six trials for each of those difficulties if they want to try their luck at some of the harder versions of the mode. Each trial emphasizes one of the six trap types players can encounter when adventuring through the labyrinth and serves as a sort of tutorial. Players will need to learn to deal with everything from spinning blade traps, to dart shooters, and even floors that periodically fill up with lava.

Once players are attuned to a particular difficulty of the labyrinth, they can then travel to a staging area where they can gather others or venture out solo into the labyrinth itself. However, once a labyrinth run has begun, players cannot go and do anything else in Path of Exile (such as go back to town for supplies) until they either complete the run or abort it entirely.  Chris noted that this makes the labyrinth a sort of a ‘mini roguelike’ within Path of Exile.

Like everything else in Path of Exile, the labyrinth will be randomly generated. Each day, players will be able to venture into an entirely different possible experience. Not only is the layout of the labyrinth different each day, but the game will also do things like hide treasure chests behind fake walls, give players the choice between going down changing paths (by acquiring a single use golden key), and more. Even the fights against Emperor Izaro are different. We were shown one run where Izaro had a number of different affixes granted to him by three statues that rise out of the ground with him. Players must continually disable the statues throughout the fight in order to prevent Izaro from making use of their effects. Eventually, Izaro will escape to be fought again later, but if any of the statues remain active when he does, Izaro will permanently enjoy their effects in your next encounter.

The goal each day isn’t only to complete the labyrinth, but to figure out the best and fastest way to clear it in order to maximize one’s opportunities for acquiring the mode’s compelling rewards. GGG hopes that this will lead to healthy daily discussion on strategies for most efficient labyrinth clearing. Of course, there will also be leaderboards, so there may also be that one jerk that has figured things out better than anyone else has and decides not to share that information with the rest of the playerbase. Leaderboard rewards haven’t been decided on yet, but there are other rewards we were able to learn about that should be compelling enough to pique your interests.

Action RPGs live or die on their ability to create a satisfying item hunt experience, but Path of Exile is also known for its insane skill grid which features over 1,400 individual nodes. Between the items and the skill grid, players create some fascinating builds in the game, but GGG felt there was some valid criticism gamers have leveled about how classes are somewhat meaningless in the game. Sure, players can select from a number of different classes when they start out, but in practice, this just means that your class starts at a different section of the grid. This doesn’t afford the game much in the way of class identity, and that’s where Ascendancy’s 19 new Ascendancy classes come in.

When players complete their first run of the labyrinth, they’ll be able to select from three different Ascendancy classes based on their starting class. Each Ascendancy class emphasizes different flavors of gameplay, creating more of a sense of class identity. For example, the Gladiator Ascendancy class is for those who like to dual wield and focuses on bleeding effects.  These class picks are permanent and players can only select a single Ascendancy class per character. There are 12 nodes for each Ascendancy class and players will be able to earn up to six points towards those nodes by completing the labyrinth on each of the three different difficulty levels (two for each difficulty completion).

New Ascendancy enchantments will be rewarded to players for each successful labyrinth completion as well. These enchantments allow players to power up items with special skills or effects. We were given a number of examples, including enchantments that summon meteors down, another that charges up characters with a lightning blast, and even one that causes floating skulls to surround your character which then seek out and attack nearby creatures. There will be tons of these enchantments in Path of Exile: Ascendancy and players will be able to trade them freely to each other.

Ascendancy is replete with new, more traditional loot for players to hunt, too. Expect tons of new gems, unique items, and even Divination Cards designed by the community.

Look forward to Path of Exile: Ascendancy in early 2016. We’ve added some previews of the Ascendancy skill trees below, so be sure to check them out!

The Slayer

The Necromancer

The Gladiator

The Deadeye

The Champion


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB