Path of Exile will be expanding in December with War for the Atlas. While Fall of Oriath was an expansion that gave newer players a lot of great content to explore, War for the Atlas is designed to provide new experiences to the game's veteran players. Players will be able to take on challenging fights through new locations and be able to claim some brand new rewards for their efforts. We had a chance to sit down with Grinding Gear's Chris Wilson to learn more.
In War for the Atlas, players will find that a mysterious being has quite literally invaded the Atlas of Worlds. He is only known as The Elder and he comes in direct opposition to The Shaper. In fact, the entire premise of WftA is the battle for control of the Atlas.
As players look over the Atlas of Worlds, they will quickly find 152 maps scattered across its face, including thirty-two randomized maps. The layout has been changed based on player feedback to provide better navigation through each and a more intuitive relationship of the maps to one another. The journey begins at one of the four corners and works its way to the center passing through clearly marked difficulty layers.
As players begin, they will quickly note that some of the areas have wavy smoky "tentacles" around them. These locations are controlled by The Elder. Entering a map in one of these corrupted locations, a tentacle fiend appears that literally sucks the color -- and a player's power -- out of the map as long as it is alive. A variety of things can happen while the tentacle lives and players learn that it is The Elder who is the culprit behind these blighted locations.
The randomized maps are unlike anything players have encountered before. They are set in a variety of locations including lava, ice, underground, and above ground. However, tilesets have been "mixed and matched" to keep players on their toes. Some of the maps are even completely unique from any other in the game. One embattled map showed rips in the space / time continuum that reflect the damage being done to Shaper's work. To combat this, traps called "anomalies" are spread throughout the location by The Shaper to try to mitigate the damage being done to his realm.
Players that successfully complete a map literally alter the face of the Atlas. If The Elder's forces are defeated, The Shaper regains control of the map and vice versa. There is a visual display on the Atlas that reflects changes affected by the player with areas of control clearly marked. According to Chris, this way of adventuring through the Atlas opens up a world of opportunities for players.
How you fill out the map -- whether you choose Shaper or Elder -- is totally up to you, though there are reasons, perhaps, not to go all the way to one side or another. Those reasons are kept close to the GGG chest for now, however, to give players new things to work towards and discover.
We do know this: As maps are completed, it changes the Atlas and who is in control. If the Elder is more powerful based on areas of control, it can appear on the map briefly to bring in a special event. When this kicks off, The Elder literally sucks the essence out of the map's end boss and begins the Elder event where the player summon a Guardian who takes on a much more challenging version of the now-depleted boss. For instance, we saw a lightning-themed boss depleted to bring The Eradicator as the guardian.
"These are some of the most difficult battles ever and everyone's war is different. You decide what's best for you in terms of what items you want to fight for." Chris said.
The last part is key, because new Shaped and Elder items will become available, each with either a "light" or a "tentacle" background too. New themed mods will be incoming as well, though they will be quite rare but finding one is a huge boon. Chris mentioned that finding a great version of an item with a great effect can unlock a lot of new builds to give players more variety in how they play the game and to find new ways to take on a familiar build.
There are new skills coming too, though most pointedly designed for Necromancers. "We want people doing crazy new stuff they've never done before." Chris said. "All four new skills are Necro. The six new gems are, however, more generalized for support but they can change the shape of how skills work. For instance, the Spell Cascade gem takes the skill you're casting and places it behind, at and in front of the target. You hit three locations at once and can affect any skill in the game that targets a single location."
If the War for the Atlas doesn't keep players busy enough, there is also The Abyss Challenge League incoming. Players will find and run along "cracks" with a strict amount of time to kill monsters to keep the Abyss open. Monsters are, of course, Abyss themed, though they can have a wide variety of abilities and they get stronger the longer the Abyss is open. It will be similar to the Breach and, of course, the more monsters killed, the better the reward.
All in all, War for the Atlas is a beefy expansion for end-game players with more than enough to do and explore to keep them engaged for a long while. Grinding Gear once again proves that its players are the motivation to continue to create great content at a pace to keep even the busiest content locust at bay.
Launch day for the expansion also marks the official Path of Exile release in Europe along with European-specific payment methods and localization in German, French and Spanish.
You can check out the brand new War for the Atlas teaser site and look for the expansion on PC and XBox One on December 8th.