Monster hunting is all the rage these days. We have games like, well, Monster Hunter: World, as well as Dauntless, and that game franchise that’s about hunting down pocket monsters is as strong as ever. In Path of Exile‘s next update, it will be the exiles’ turn to hunt down and capture all the dangerous beasts of Wraeclast and put them to work.
As usual, Grinding Gear Games’ Chris Wilson gave me the tour of the update, but before getting into the gritty, blood-splattered details, we took a look back at 2017. Path of Exile doubled its total play hours from 2016 to 2017, from 200 million to 400 million hours. The game launched in China and on Xbox One in August, which certainly didn’t hurt.
Onto the new update, Bestiary, which introduces the Bestiary League and arrives next month. As is typical for a Path of Exile update, Bestiary adds to PoE’s UI, giving players access to a bestiary they can now use to track their hunting skills throughout Wraeclast. To add a beast to the collection, players will need to trap it using a special magical trap, the exact mechanics of which are still being worked out. Once that’s done, the creature is added to the bestiary in the UI. There are nearly 300 beasts to collect, from basic cannon-fodder up to high-tier boss monsters. Gotta catch ’em all!
Once you’ve got a solid collection built up, you can wander through your own private zoo, separated into various environments, like jungle, caves, and so on. That’s fun, but considering the amount of work players will need to round out their bestiary, more is obviously needed.
Enter the Blood Altar. It’s located is in a side area of the menagerie, where players can choose to enhance a piece of gear with specific mods. Those mods will list as their recipe certain types of creatures, such as two crustaceans and two insects. Once that’s selected, the individual beasties from your menagerie – that you captured earlier and match the requirements listed for the mod – are summoned and the player has to defeat them in order to successfully complete the crafting. The tougher the monsters you fight, the better the results – if you survive the battle, that is. Taking on four bosses at once will be a test for even the most seasoned of players. Win or lose, the monsters are then gone from your menagerie (though still checked off in your bestiary collection) and if you want to use that crafting recipe again, you’ll need to recapture more of them.
Wilson then showed me an example of using monsters with the Corrupting Blood ability, which places a debuff on your character when you strike them. This crafting try required two monsters with Corrupting Blood and two undead monsters, and victory resulted in an item with a “good” corruption – a better result than the chance-based outcome when you use a Vaal Orb to corrupt an item. “We’ve tried to have as many interesting crafting ‘things’ that Path of Exile has elsewhere, as well as a bunch of new stuff that wasn’t previously possible,” said Wilson.
Do enough crafting and you’ll get access to a special boss fight, the Spirit Tiger. Capture him and the cycle begins anew. “These fights are at the end of the Bestiary League,” said Wilson, “and we expect the top players to be repeating them a fair amount so they can get many different outcomes and get a random unique item when you kill them.”
This league also introduces gear sets, which Wilson acknowledged can be both good and bad – good in that they’re cool and powerful when you get them all, and less good and cool if you’re still working toward them and feel obligated to fill out your sets. The particular set he showed me was the Craiceanna Set, themed around a giant crab boss, that can be obtained as random drops in game. Alternatively, you can craft their effects onto existing armor, using the Bestiary system, to gain the set benefits while using whatever armor you would normally wear, so you don’t need to feel forced into using a particular gear set that might otherwise not fit your build or style.
Don’t get too excited with all your theorycrafting just yet. As will all leagues, the Bestiary League will only be here for a short time – three months, in this case – and then all the beasts you’ve captured will disappear. “The crafting here is intentionally very powerful, because it’s a league that will just be here for three months,” said Wilson. “Even if we put it in the main game in some way, we probably won’t be quite as generous with the crafting.” It’s a cool system, and I hope that GGG does find a way to add it to the main game, after it gets thoroughly “playtested” during the Bestiary League.
Prepare for trouble, and make it double
If you’re not into leagues, or you want something a little more permanent, the Atlas of Worlds is getting yet another tweak. The Atlas launched with the Shaper as the big baddie at the center of it all, and the last update added the Elder as an additional villain who’s at war with the Shaper. As if dealing with these two individually wasn’t strenuous enough, Wilson posed the question: “What if you had to fight the Elder and Shaper at the same time?”
After you’ve helped the Shaper with his amnesia problem, you’ll gain access to a previously chained-shut door and obtain the Elder’s Orb, which lets you upgrade a map to its highest tier. When this happens, you might encounter the Shaper, but he’ll be controlled by the Elder and they’ll both try taking you out. It’s such a difficult fight, Wilson told me, that it was hard for GGG to find a reasonable chunk of footage to show off, since employees kept dying to the pair of bosses “in eight seconds.”
And what do you get for all your hard work, if you do manage to win these fights? One of the items Wilson showed off was a quiver that changed your arrows to void arrows that explode but limited the number of charges that were available at one time, with those charges recovering over time. This, Wilson said, would require players who wanted the power of the void arrows to not prioritize attack speed over all else. “People are going to have to build archers that are quite different from the ways they’re currently building them if they want to use this,” he said.
As for new skill gems, Spectral Shield Throw was at the top of the list, transforming your character into Captain America – well, not exactly, but you get the idea. Its damage is based on the armor value of the shield, and Wilson hopes that will lead players to prioritize raw stats rather than the other mods on their shields.
On the support gem side, there’s Summon Phantasm on Kill, which, well, summons phantasms when the linked skill kills something. These ghostly minions provide the usual attack and cannon-fodder-style benefits but also benefit from other support gems attached to the skill. For instance, if the skill has multiple projectiles, so will the phantasms. Of course, if you have minion skills with those gems attached, then they’ll spawn even more minions (phantasms) when they kill something. Additionally, this new support gem is available at level four, so you can incorporate it into your build almost immediately. Phantasm-ic!
A new path to ascension
Ascendancy Classes are also getting a revamp in this update. “We had two problems with our Ascendancy Classes,” said Wilson. “The first one was, over time, the balance was gradually rotting slightly. We made tweaks every now and then, but realistically, 19 good classes became 15, became 12, became eight, you get the idea. As they gradually diverged, there were some that were better than others.
“In addition, while they give class identity, that was gradually seeping into the rest of the game. There were ways to do each of the Ascendancy Classes without being that Ascendancy Class.”
To address the first point, Wilson and his team have attempted to rebalance the Ascendancy Classes to make them as close to each other as they can be. For the second, each Ascendancy Class has a unique mechanic that is available only to that class, thus making them impossible to duplicate through other parts of the game.
He showed me the skill tree for the Berserker, which gains a resource called Rage. It tops out at 100, and you lose Rage if you’re not being hit. Rage increases your DPS but also causes you damage every second, so Berserkers will have to balance that mechanic to be successful. Or, you know, just chug flasks like they’re water.
Path of Exile: Bestiary releases on March 2. Learn more about it on the PoE site.