Path of Exile Prepares for Heist
Grinding Gear Games has announced the latest expansion and Challenge League for its free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile. The newest expansion is titled Heist, and Grinding Gear Games’ Chris Wilson was kind enough to give RPGamer a preview of what it includes.
Heist offers Path of Exile’s first content where players can choose a potential reward before they can actually get it. It also offers the first opportunity for players to check out a version of the game’s maps system before the end-game content. Heist also offers the first glimpse of potential AI party play within the game, along with new AI behaviour on the part of enemies. It’s also notably geared to let players interact with as much or as little as they’d like, as well as to work better with player co-op than previous expansions.
Heist takes players to the Rogue Harbour, where they will meet a crew of thieves and join them to plan and execute Heists. These Heists see players joined by crew members, who will need to be paid, to assist with tasks such as lockpicking or disarming traps. Players and their companions will need to head through a guarded facility, trying to not draw too much attention to themselves before they can take the targetted artifact within. Once players have grabbed the treasure, or if they make too much noise, the alarm will sound and players will need to make a dash to the extraction point. Should they die during the Heist, players will lose anything they’ve picked up during it.
Though Heists require players avoid creating too much noise, they won’t need to worry much about being stealthy. Avoiding certain enemies may be beneficial, but just being spotted by enemies will not cause the alarm to go off and killing them just raises the visible alert bar. Likely the biggest choice players will have in terms of generating noise comes from opening chests in side rooms, so players will need to weigh up the balance of collecting these. Choice in the rogues accompanying players can also have an impact, as some may be less efficient at staying quiet than others. If the alarm is raised before the artifact is found, players will have a short time to find and grab it, after which it will go into lockdown and become inaccessible.
The Rogue Harbour is a town-like area that acts as the base for Heists where players can recruit Rogues, go on Heists, or plan special Grand Heists. More Rogues will arrive as players work through the Heist content, with a total of thirteen Rogues available. Four of these offer services related to Heists, while the other nine have specialised talents — such as lockpicking, etc. — that make them vital in the field when running Heists. Each of these Rogues has one main skill and can have up to three sub-skills, with any skills that get used while on a contracted Heist gaining in experience.
In order to participate in a Heist, players need contracts and markers, both of which are dropped by monsters in regular areas as well as gained by doing Heists. Contracts act similarly to the game’s map system, each representing a particular Heist and showing the artifact reward players will be able to steal. Like almost all other items in Path of Exile, contracts can be crafted, letting players attach modifiers to increase the challenge and the rewards. Markers are the Rogues’ currency and used to hire them for Heists, undertake contracts, and other services.
Rogues are Path of Exile’s first attempt at introducing AI party members and will automatically attack enemies, but don’t take damage so players won’t have to worry about keeping them alive. However, on top of upgrading their skills with experience, players can also enhance their Rogues by equipping them with special items dropped during Heists. These items can be used to enhance their abilities, reduce a Rogue’s impact on the alert level, increase their skill gains, reduce their contract cost, and more.
As players undertake Heists, they will build up to undertaking a Grand Heist, essentially a ramped-up Heist in a facility that contains multiple wings and artifacts, requiring the assistance of multiple Rogues and more preparation. Grand Heists require a blueprint that shows the layout of the target facility, however, it will not be filled out. To fill it out, players will need to find intel from doing regular Heists, which is used to uncover the hidden areas of the blueprint. Blueprints are generally rare; however, like contracts, they can be freely traded between players.
Once players have filled out enough of the blueprint, they can start planning. While regular Heists only have one Rogue joining the player, each wing in the Grand Heist can require up to three Rogues to bypass all of the obstacles, and each wing will have its own alert level to manage. In addition, instead of having just one artifact at the end of each wing, Grand Heists contain vaults of multiple artifacts. However, only one of these can be picked up with all the others immediately being locked down, forcing players to choose which one to grab.
Heist introduces some new types of rewards to the game. Among the most notable are Replica Unique Items. Path of Exile has a large number of unique items that are the only ones of their kind. Replica Unique Items are attempted recreations of these items that are slightly different in terms of the modifiers on it. These mean that while they are still very similar to the original, they are more appropriate for different character builds. There are around 100 new replica items, with one example being a Replica Iron Commander bow that uses Strength rather than Dexterity and affects Shrapnel Ballista rather than Siege Ballista.
Another new reward type are Experimented Base Type items. There is one of these for each weapon type, as well as several varieties for jewels. These offer vastly different effects to regular base type items, such as a new type of bow that does very little physical damage but a lot of fire damage. Heist also adds a brand new equipment slot: trinkets. This is the first new equipment slot since the game’s release, and lets players improve their rewards from the Heist content without having to adjust their build. Trinkets are intentionally set so they cannot be crafted by players. Another potential reward type from Grand Heists are Weapon and Body Armour Enchantments. These were originally introduced in the Ascendancy expansion, and are special properties that don’t require a modifier slot, with around fifteen themes in total. The top tier enhancement are incredibly powerful, but also come with drawbacks that need to be worked around. Finally, around 900 new alternate-quality gems can be found from reward rooms in Grand Heists. Alternate-quality gems are similar to regular gems, but increase a different stat as they gain in quality.
As usual for Path of Exile expansions, Heist introduces some more changes to certain skills in the game. Curse skills are one of the focuses this time around. These cast debuffs on groups of enemies, with player having gravitated towards having them being cast automatically via support gems. Grinding Gear Games is aiming to make self-casting curse skills more viable, with self-cast curses growing in intensity over time. A number of other tweaks have been made to existing curse skills, with several new gems added to interact with them, including a new Impending Doom support gem that works only with self-cast curses.
Steel skills are also receiving attention. Heist adds two new steel skills and reworks the existing Shattering Steel and Lancing Steel skills. These make use of the new shard mechanic, which makes use of the Call of Steel skill that is available if any steel skill is equipped. Call of Steel conjures swords that burst into shards and effectively acts as ammunition for all of the steel skills. If any nearby enemies have any shards impaled in them, Call of Steel will cause those to burst, creating area-of-effect damage and recovering the shards for further use.
Heist will feature some reworkings of classic spells and introduce four new spells. Two of the new spells were detailed: Flame Wall and Void Sphere. Flame Wall summons a wall of fire that cause damage over time, but can also be used to fire projectiles through. These projectiles will catch fire, and burn enemies for more damage. Void Sphere creates a black hole that draws enemies towards it, though doesn’t work on unique bosses. Finally, Heist will also add another 25 unique items to the game, at least some exclusive to the Heist content.
The Heist expansion is set to launch for PC on September 18, 2020, and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on September 23, 2020. The launch of the expansion will also see Path of Exile released on Mac, with the Mac version fully integrated with and identical to the PC version.