Path of Exile: Expedition Brings Major Balance Changes, Plenty Of Explosions, And Battle Royale
Path of Exile has taken players all around Wraeclast and into the city of Oriath, but there's more to the world than just those two lands. In Path of Exile: Expedition, you'll meet up with travelers from a faraway place, who are searching for their ancestors who traveled far afield many years ago – only to meet with a typical Wraeclast-y bad end.
Long ago, a band of Kalguuran explorers tried to colonize Wraeclast, and it didn't go well. Now, many years later, a new quartet of Kalguurans has arrived and they want your help to find their predecessors, or at least what remains of them.
(It should be noted that the exact name of the Kalguurans' place of origin was never specified. I like to think that they were from Calgary, and the name was simply corrupted over time. Canadians in Wraeclast, eh?)
The Kalguurans have erected markers over the sites you should excavate. Didn't bring a shovel? No problem, because (archaeologists should look away now) the Kalguurans suggest you use explosives. Lots of explosives. The way you set them up will determine exactly what you unearth, in terms of monster strength and chests. Yes, monsters, as the explosives disturb the remains of the ancient Kalguurans, who are going to be angry at being awakened after all those years – and there's no Tim Horton's nearby to placate them with a smooth cup of coffee.
If disturbing the dead isn't enough for you, how about (archaeologists, really look away now) blowing up some ancient ruins as well? You can blow up remnants of various Kalguuran structures to provide modifiers to the monster spawns that increase difficulty but also add to treasure quality. Sadly, no matter how much you drive up the loot factor, you'll never unearth a pristine maple leaf flag.
When you return to meet up with the four new Kalguurans on Wraeclast's shores, they'll offer various barter options for loot. One will keep trying to upsell you for better items, another will haggle prices, a third offers randomized loot, and the fourth is looking for specific items. While it's a neat and different way to do loot, I can't help but feel like their idiosyncrasies will be figured out by players before too long.
Kalguuran armor doesn't have the typical mitigations seen in Wraeclastian armor. Instead, they have the Ward trait, which wholly blocks the harsh Canadian climate, I mean, a certain amount of damage, but has a cooldown of five seconds, which can be decreased through various means. It works best with builds that attempt to get hit as infrequently as possible – i.e., builds that rely heavily on Evasion, Block, or Dodge – and you can mix and match it with other armor types as you choose.
You might also pick up logbooks, records of the earlier Kalguuran explorers. Like a map, they can have various modifiers for loot and they send you to a new, larger area, that contain items you can specifically interact with by – wait for it – using explosives (archaeologists, go home). These can reveal hidden passageways or boss encounters.
The expedition areas are a response to players' wishes for more open areas for leagues to take place in, rather than the “circular arenas” that have been the focus of recent leagues, as Grinding Gear Games' Chris Wilson told us. As for the previous league, Ultimatum, that won't be added to the base game just yet, as it still needs some polish and balance before potentially being included.
Bombs and balance
In previous leagues, Grinding Gear Games has introduced new skill gems meant to create or supplement a new build. The gems were typically small in number and fit a particular theme. For Expedition, GGG is throwing wide the doors of creativity, adding 19 new skill gems to the game. That's the same as the number of Ascendancy classes in the game, and while each was designed with the intention of benefitting one of those classes, they can be used by any character.
I won't go into detail about all 19 of them, as Chris Wilson did in the video presentation. I'll just highlight one of the more unusual ones, Explosive Concoction, which naturally arrives alongside those crazy Kalguurans, who love their bombs. It's the first ranged skill in the game that doesn't require a weapon and it thematically represents an exile tossing their flasks at enemies, with calamitous results.
Speaking of flasks, they're undergoing some significant changes that are part of an overall re-balancing effort in Path of Exile. As Wilson put it, power creep has become a real problem, with players having dramatically more power now than they did when the game first launched. It's made early content trivial, and even later content and leagues can seem like a faceroll at times.
Act 1 has been rebalanced, and the plan is to review and touch up the rest of the game “within a year or so.” That sounds like good news, but also a little bad; if GGG is going to put this kind of effort into Path of Exile over the course of a year, that likely means that Path of Exile 2 is at least a year away.
Wilson called out “flask piano” as a particular issue, where players simply spam their five flask buttons, knowing that they'll fill right back up as they slaughter closely packed hordes at record speed. As such, most utility and unique flasks have been rebalanced, and players can “expect a lot less permanent power” from flasks. Monsters in Acts 6 through 10 also grant fewer charges when killed.
To further ease up the pressure on your wrist from flask spamming, you can also obtain orbs that automatically activate flasks when certain conditions are met or reduce their recharge – and thus how often you can use them – while boosting their effects. Additionally, flasks that remove curses can't be “pre-used” to grant you immunity to an incoming effect; they can only be used when that effect is active on your character.
In other game balance news, support gems that offer multiplicative damage bonuses are being reduced and “triggering” skills will now have a mana cost.
I asked Wilson how he thought players might react to such sweeping balance changes. While some players certainly want greater challenge, many simply want the fastest and easiest route to loot – especially in an ARPG – so I wondered if he was worried if these changes would upset a significant chunk of the player base. He acknowledged that might be the case, but also said that he feels like “the game is probably too easy, even after all these changes.” We'll find out for sure in the coming weeks.
Make mine a Royale
Battle royale is back! The April Fools' Day joke from 2018, Path of Exile: Royale, is making its return to the game, now on a slightly longer – but still limited-time – basis. It's not meant to replace the main game and will be just a side activity for players looking for something different. It goes live today, running through the weekend, and will come back on the weekends following Expedition's launch as the team tweaks balance and makes other improvements.
The current version should be much better than the quickly assembled “joke” build of three years ago. This one has a completely new Royale-focused passive skill tree with 90 new nodes, and there are low-level versions of notable skill gems for you to discover and equip. The island itself is more varied, with Flask Troves that provide charges for your flasks and more varied terrain to make combat feel more interesting. There's also an improved spectator mode, leader boards, and better corpse looting interface.
The only part of the entire presentation I took issue with is when Wilson said that “back in 2018, there was a trend where every online game was releasing a battle royale mode.” Oh, how things haven't changed …
Players can (Calgary) stampede all over the new content when Path of Exile: Expedition arrives on PC and Mac July 23 and on consoles on July 28.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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