2017 looks to be a big year for Grinding Gear Games' Path of Exile, as the game receives more expansions, new language releases, and even a console version. Lead Designer Chris Wilson took some time to introduce RPGamer to some of the big changes coming to the free-to-play action RPG with its big new 3.0 expansion, Path of Exile: The Fall of Oriath, which is planned for release sometime in the middle of this year.
Before getting the new 3.0 expansion, Chris detailed the current state of the game and highlighted the two new markets where the game is headed this year. Following its two expansions in 2016, Path of Exile is currently at its most active despite being first launched back in 2013, having over one million players active during December 2016. That number is set to expand massively when the game launches both in China and internationally for Xbox One in mid 2016. Both the Chinese and Xbox versions of the game will launch with the exact same content as the PC release, including The Fall of Oriath expansion.
With respect to the Xbox One version, Chris stated that the development team has been working on it for a while, using the benefits from the development to help improve its PC version, most obviously shown with the recent release DirectX 11 version of the game client as well in various performance improvements. Chris admitted to being skeptical about the challenge of translating the PC controls to a controller but was taken aback by how Path of Exile's Xbox controls worked and said that the reception from others to the console controls has so far been pleasant surprise.
As with the 2015 2.0 expansion of Path of Exile: The Awakening, The Fall of Oriath adds in a big new story act, the game's fifth one. This takes players to the island of Oraith, which is where the were originally exiled from at the very beginning of the game. When they return to Oraith, it is in the middle of a slave uprising, with the player character quickly siding with the slaves. Oriath itself brings a fresh aesthetic to Path of Exile. Rather than the ruins of most of the rest of the game, Oriath is still very much alive with newer, well-maintain buildings, albeit with an uprising going on at the time.
The Fall of Oriath naturally features many new boss fights, and in keeping with the recent expansions all of these new major battles have been specially designed with high levels of complexity, requiring players to deal with multiple stages and mechanics. One boss fight shown features a stone statue that comes to life and attacks players before becoming inactive again, at which point it acts as a useful shield for the boss' powerful area attack.
One major part of the lore in Path of Exile that has been missing previously has been its world's gods, though its many religions have been present. These finally get the chance to show up in The Fall of Oriath following players' actions in act four, and players even get the chance to fight against them. Defeating one of the four major or twelve minor gods of the pantheon will let players steal part of their power, which takes the form of a special defensive ability. Unlike most abilities in the game, which are usually permanent, those provided by defeating the gods can be freely switched between, with players having one major and one minor bonus active at a time. Further power-ups to these bonuses will be found in the Atlas of Worlds end-game content.
The release of The Fall of Oriath will create a big change in the structure of the game. Previously players had to play through its four-act campaign three times (one for each difficulty level) before moving onto the Atlas of Worlds end-game. Now, players will play through those four acts and the new new fifth act as normal. Instead, Grinding Gear Games has looked to provide as much content for new players as possible and created another five acts, taking the game to ten acts in total.
Unlike act five, acts six through ten will not be entirely new, due to the huge amount of effort that would be required to do so. Instead, it will guide players through the same locations but with some substantial changes. Actions taken and events during the early acts of the game will impact the return to these areas, resulting in new enemies, paths, and quests. Examples given, were monsters from the first act where replaced by various tribes that have moved into that area in the sixth act, as well as the gateway to the fetid pool area now being much more ornate and the fetid pool itself has been drained and is now a lush green. All these changes should provide a lot more interest to the game's previous system of just replaying old content, letting players see how these earlier parts of the game have changed.
Path of Exile has continued to add new content and challenges through challenge leagues. The beginning of 2017 will see the launch of the Legacy Challenge League, which will start on March 3, 2017, prior to the beta launch of The Fall of Oriath. So far there have been seventeen different challenge leagues, such as the recent Breach Challenge League, and the Legacy Challenge League will bring all the mechanics from every one of these leagues together.