The Exiles’ long and winding path is almost at an end — for now. In Fall of Oriath, Path of Exile‘s mega-expansion coming on Friday, players will finally return to where it all began, before heading back to Wraeclast and revisiting old places with new twists.
We first talked about Fall of Oriath six months ago, but, as is always the case with video games, things change. Not too much, mind you — Fall of Oriath will still be introducing six new acts, the Pantheon System, and everything else players come to expect from Path of Exile — but we thought it would be a good idea to check in with Grinding Gear Games nonetheless and see if we could squeeze out any more information.
Somehow, Lead Developer Chris Wilson found the time in the days just before the expansion’s launch to answer a few of our questions, which clearly means he needs a bigger workload or a raise — or both.
MMOBomb: We first revealed The Fall of Oriath back in February. How’s the response been from the community as development has continued and progressively more has been revealed?
Chris Wilson: They’re getting more and more excited! We’ve tried hard to stagger the information so that there’s currently a crescendo of new announcements. There’s also a whole lot of stuff from Acts Nine and Ten that they haven’t seen yet. Some really awesome new areas and monsters still to unveil.
MMOBomb: Was there anything significant that you had in mind for The Fall of Oriath that you changed due to feedback? Either public feedback from fans or private from testers?
Chris Wilson: We’re constantly iterating on content and balance based on private tester feedback. Public feedback from our beta test also yields very useful information. An example is that while people loved the new acts, they found the monster variety in a few areas lacking. This prompted us to substantially improve the variety of monsters, creating a much better experience than before we received the feedback. The community has also been vocal about various balance changes that may impact character builds.
MMOBomb: We saw the battle with Avarius back in February; Yugul, Reflection of Terror a few weeks ago; and you just revealed Garukhan, Queen of the Wind. Out of all the big boss battles in The Fall of Oriath, which one’s your favorite?
Chris Wilson: The Act Ten final boss fight, without a doubt. It’s reminiscent of the Act Five fight, but is so much more. We have worked hard to make sure it’s a fitting conclusion to Path of Exile’s core storyline before players enter the endgame mapping system. It’s apparent to us that our community love complex and challenging boss fights, so our team has put a lot of work into the many new boss fights spread out through the six new acts.
MMOBomb: Speaking of killing big baddies, the Pantheon System will allow players to, in effect, kill the gods and take their powers. It’s another layer of complexity on a game that has a lot of complexity in its builds already. What’s the thought process that goes into adding elements like this? Is there a desire to balance complexity versus utility, or do you add it and assume your experienced players can deal with it?
Chris Wilson: We try hard to isolate the new complexity into self-contained systems that players can either engage in or ignore until they understand them better. This is a type of mastery behaviour — players are initially confused by a system but then learn how it works and can take full advantage of it. We are conscious of the fact that Path of Exile is a complex game and that new complexity has to be carefully considered before it is added. It’s often better to put it in a challenge league where it can be selectively enabled/disabled for the base game afterwards based on how it performs.
MMOBomb: And speaking of complexity, you’re going to generate a lot of press — and probably bring in a lot of new or returning players — with The Fall of Oriath. What have you done to ease the learning process for newbies or to help returning players get re-acquainted with the game?
Chris Wilson: To help new (and returning) players, we have added a comprehensive tutorial/help system in The Fall of Oriath. Many more early-game systems have had tutorials added, and some of them even force the user to engage with the behaviour that is being learned before they can progress. All of these tutorials are optional and can be disabled by experienced users, of course. There’s also the new help system, which provides images, text, and videos explaining most of the systems in the game.
MMOBomb: I just watched the video interview you did with Alpha Investments recently, where you talked about the influence of Magic: The Gathering on Path of Exile. That was a connection I hadn’t really considered. Is there any other game you’d say PoE is influenced by that people wouldn’t make an obvious connection to?
Chris Wilson: You’re right that MTG isn’t an obvious influence — people rarely call it out unless they notice the way we treat the collectibility of items and a few other factors covered in the video. The obvious influences are the Diablo series and Final Fantasy, though a few other games that inspired the team have influenced aspects of the game. We have played a lot of roguelikes, like Rogue Legacy and The Binding of Isaac, which help provide inspiration for everything from expansion mechanics to league design.
MMOBomb: So what’s next for you and the game? I’m guessing six-month vacation, right? 🙂
Chris Wilson: Very soon after The Fall of Oriath releases, we’re planning to enter open beta in China and to release our Xbox One version of Path of Exile. After that, we get to work on our next expansion, which is likely to hit in December 2017!
Path of Exile: Fall of Oriath launches on PC at 1 p.m. PDT on Aug. 4, with an Xbox One launch planned for a later date. You can play for free, or purchase a Supporter’s Pack, starting at $30, to show your appreciation for the game.