Almost every action role-playing game has the same formula: pick a class, complete the story, and then play through the exact same content on a more difficult setting. For some people it’s a perfectly acceptable scenario and an understandable grind before hitting endgame content. However, others are simply put off by the need to play identical content multiple times for no apparent reason. Path of Exile has decided to shake up this formula with its next expansion: The Fall of Oriath.
I had the opportunity to discuss Path of Exile: The Fall of Oriath, the Xbox One launch, and Legacy League with lead designer Chris Wilson. Whether you’re a new, current, or returning Path of Exile player, there’s going to be a lot of new content planned this year that should be relevant to everyone. This will be the sixth expansion for Path of Exile and the largest update released so far by Grinding Gear Games.
A Cohesive Story
Act 5 will finally have players returning to Oriath. Without spoiling too much of the story, there will be a focus on aiding the slave revolt and putting an end to the oppressive Templar theocracy. From an artistic standpoint, this will be the first time that a majority of the content will take place in a modern society, which means less mud and more gold trim.
In addition to adding in Act 5, The Fall of Oriath will completely redefine the content structure of Path of Exile. We’ve all seen the typical ARPG system that puts players through Normal, Nightmare, and Hell game modes (Normal, Cruel and Merciless in the case of Path of Exile) that tests players’ patience with recycled content until they hit max level. Once The Fall of Oriath becomes available, there will be two parts with a total of 10 unique acts.
Adding six new acts to the game might sound like an ambitious process, but here’s how it’s actually going to work. Once a player completes Act 5, they’ll be sent on a mission back to the beginning of the game. This might sound familiar, but there’s going to be a major twist. Instead of simply recycling old content, however, the landscape will be permanently changed as a result of what the player accomplished on their first playthrough of acts one through five.
As players progress from Act 6 to Act 10, they’ll see familiar locations, but the story and environments will have changed in various ways. Furthermore, the story will not culminate until the completion of Act 10. So even though the areas and some assets will be reused, it will be an entirely unique experience from start to finish. Don’t worry, Atlas of Worlds will still be there for endgame content but even high level players will need to complete the new story.
Are new items and abilities not enough raw power for your Exiles? Well, how about taking abilities directly from the gods? After The Beast was destroyed, power was inadvertently to the gods of Wraeclast. Once players return to the shores of Wraeclast in Act 6, there will be all kinds of gods roaming the world that can be killed to unlock abilities in the Pantheon System. The more gods that players kill the more powerful they can become.
There are four major gods and 12 minor gods. When players kill a god they can select its power; one major and one minor power can be active at any time. Additionally, these powers can easily be swapped based on the needs of any given fight. These powers can also be improved by defeating powerful bosses in the map system. The final details are still being tweaked, but below you can see a working copy of what to expect.
“With this system here, it’s designed that you can swap it at will based on what you’re about to be fighting,” said Chris. “For example, this god power here called ‘Soul of the Brine King’ says you can’t be stunned if you’ve been stunned recently and you can’t be frozen if you’ve been frozen recently. If you’re expected have an encounter where you’re going to be chain stunned or frozen then you can choose this to mitigate it. It lets people proactively tweak their character to prepare for the upcoming content.”
Expanding Path of Exile
Although not the major focus of our conversation, Chris mentioned that Path of Exile is more successful than ever despite being a few years old. In comparison to 2015, the amount of in-game hours played increased by 44% in 2016. Additionally, there were more than 1 million active players during December, which has been the game’s most popular month to date. A lot of this success can likely be attributed to a constant flow of updates and the two major expansions released last year: Ascendancy and Atlas of Worlds.
In order to continue building on Path of Exile’s success, there are plans to launch the game in China and on the Xbox One. Path of Exile was considered one of the most anticipated games in China last year and will be published by Tencent, which is one of the largest game studios in the world. Currently, the Chinese version is expected to be released around the same time as the expansion.
The Xbox version will contain all content through The Fall of Oriath and is expected to be available later this year. It will continue being a free-to-play title with a mostly cosmetic cash shop that stays true to the PC version of the game. The biggest differences will be a control scheme tailored to the Xbox gamepad and a modified in-game trading system.
“Our philosophy here is trying to bring a hardcore PC game to the Xbox to find the hardcore Xbox players, as opposed to ‘dumbing it down’ (as people say) to make it appropriate for what they perceive console players to be,” said Chris. “We believe console players are just as capable as PC players, so we’re going to give them a similar experience.”
Apparently, the team was incredibly dedicated to making the Xbox controller mirror the PC controls and feel just as responsive as a keyboard and mouse. Initially, the number of flasks was reduced from 5 to 4 and accessible via the D-pad. However, there were issues while trying to use the left analog stick to move and press the D-pad simultaneous. Instead, the number of flasks was changed back to 5 with default access set to the shoulder buttons.
Regarding in-game trading, there is going to be a completely different approach to the current system in the Chinese version of the game, which is also being considered for the Xbox release. In the PC version, players have access to an API system that allows players to create lists and search for items on various websites. Once a player finds an item they’re looking for, they can contact the other user in-game.
“We don’t want trade to be too convenient. We’ve seen what happens in other games, and also in our own game, when trade is too easy. It lets people bypass content way too quickly,” said Chris.
The trade system in China, and potentially on Xbox, will be more user friendly but also more difficult to find the exact item you’re looking for. Players will be able to buy items from each other in a single click, but there’s going to be a small catch. Chris described the system as a ‘garage sale’ where players can search for a type of item and hundreds of choices will come out: some good and others not so much. This type of system would be more much convenient with a controller while not allowing players to instantly upgrade themselves with the perfect gear.
Legacy Challenge League
While the main focus for the Path of Exile team is on the upcoming expansion, there will still be content for current players until it arrives. Starting on Friday, March 3, the Legacy Challenge League will begin. Challenge Leagues are competitive server resets (similar to seasons in Diablo 3) where players race to the highest character levels and unlock various achievements.
As this will coexist with the beta release of The Fall of Oriath, it’s meant to celebrate the past content of the game. First off, there will be the option to combine up to 3 of the properties from the previous 17 Challenge Leagues together. Additionally, items that were previously league exclusive will drop during the Legacy League, which means new players will have a chance of obtaining powerful items that aren’t available anymore.
“It’s a good way of going through the old content and saying ‘goodbye’ to it before the wave of new content comes in,” Chris added.
The Fall of Oriath is planned to be released in June, 2017. Prior to that, it will be available in a beta state sometime between late April and early May. If you can’t wait until then to try out the game, Path of Exile and its five expansions are currently free-to-play on Steam.Related: ARPG, Expansion, Free to play, Grinding Gear Games, Interview, Path of Exile, Preview, Steam