Path of Exile: Scourge Expansion Revealed
During a new presentation, Grinding Gear Games unveiled its latest expansion for free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile. The new expansion is titled Scourge and is set to release for PC and Mac on October 22, 2021, and for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 27, 2021. Like all other content in the game, it will be free for all players.
The Scourge Challenge League sees players coming across a figure that appears out of nowhere and trying to escape from an unseen threat. She hands players a device called the Blood Crucible, encouraging them to implant it in their body, which they do. As players advance through areas, the Blood Crucible is filled with the blood of defeated monsters. Once it fills up a certain amount, players can activate it and are sent into a parallel reality. This is a version of Wraeclast in the midst of an apocalyptic event where it being overrun by demons called the Scourge. The amount of blood collected determines how long players can spend in this reality, though players can choose to shift back early if they wish.
As with much of the other Path of Exile content, the goal of the Scourge Challenge League is to weigh up risk and reward to try and obtain powerful items. Players can place an item into the Blood Crucible and while players are fighting the Scourge it absorbs corruption from the alternate Wraeclast. Once enough is absorbed the item can transform, making it corrupted and giving it an additional pair of modifiers. One of these is always beneficial while the other is always detrimental. Players will be looking to obtain useful a beneficial modifier and a detrimental modifier that has minimal effect on their build. Should players get new modifiers they are unhappy with, they can put the item back into the Blood Crucible and transform it again to get a new pair of modifiers that overwrite the previous one. Each item can be transformed up to three times, with subsequent transformations granting a higher tier of modifier.
The Scourge Challenge League introduces new currency items: Tainted Chromatic Orbs, Tainted Jeweller’s Orbs, and Tainted Orbs of Fusing. These are used to modify the sockets on corrupted items and work the same way their regular counterparts. In addition, players can level up the Blood Crucible itself. It has its own passive skill screen where players can allocate skill points and unlock things like extra item slots, faster transformation, better transformations, and more.
When players get to the Atlas of Worlds end game content, players can gain the ability to place maps in the Blood Crucible. Similarly to other items, the map gains a beneficial and a detrimental modifier when it transforms, but it also gains a modifier for how the Scourge league affects that map. Maps can be transformed up to ten times, and unlike regular items there is a chance the modifiers will stack rather being overwritten, further adding to the risk and reward element. Scourge will also add six new unique items — three of which have been added to the core drop pool and three which can be found in new endgame content — including the exceptionally rare Mageblood belt, which is stated to be one of the most powerful items in the game as it permanently enables a number of utility flasks.
Grinding Gear Games stated that the Atlas of Worlds endgame content will receive a big overhaul in early 2022, but in the meantime the release of the Scourge expansion will include changes to help streamline the current content and add new high difficulty challenges. Firstly, the number of regions on the Atlas of Worlds is being reduced from eight to four, with the number of maps reduced to around a hundred (plus unique maps) and the completion bonuses rebalanced. The reduction of regions also means the number of passive trees is reduced. To account for this, each remaining tree has been made larger, with some less frequently used and duplicate skills removed.The change should let players reach the ultimate challenge content much sooner.
To provide more challenges for Path of Exile’s experienced players who have already defeated the hardest content in the game, Grinding Gear Games is introducing “uber” versions of the Breach, Blight, and Legion content, as well as an extension to Delirium’s Simulacrum and a revamp of Delve. The Delve content has been completely rebalanced to make it more rewarding and challenging earlier on. To adjust for this, the ladder rankings have been wiped, but the depth that characters have reached is retained, so players can get back on quickly by playing at whatever depth they are still able to achieve. There are also adjustments to the catch-up mechanic and other elements.
Scourge will also include some changes to the game’s iconic passive skill tree. Grinding Gear Games stated that the goal is to keep the tree as similar to before as possible so players can still readily navigate it. The rework includes improvements to the starting areas of the tree, with new and improved skill clusters designed to concentrate more on their primary function. Meanwhile, niche stats have been moved off the main tree and received a new way to be obtained: the Passive Masteries system. Passive skill clusters now contain a Passive Mastery and when players spend a skill point on the Mastery they can select a specific stat to gain.
As with other expansions, Scourge contains a selection of new skill gems. Energy Blade transform melee weapons and convert a portion of players’ energy shield into lightning damage dealt by the blades. Temporal Rift lets players rewind their character state to four seconds prior. Tornado creates a vortex that moves towards enemies while dealing high damage that can also hit the caster. While it is forming, it will absorb damage from projectiles, including those of the player, that will increase its damage output. The Explosive Concoction skill introduced in Expedition has also been revamped.
On top of these, Grinding Gear Games is adding six Link skills for party play, with three shown during the presentation. These skills create a bond between the player and a party member, providing a large benefit when they remain in range but adding the cost that should the party member die then so does the player. Soul Link lets players transfer damage received by the other to their own energy shield. Protective Link grants the other member the same chance to block attacks as the player. Intuitive Link is socketed with a spell and causes the spell to be triggered from the other player’s location when they hit an enemy.
Scourge will include additions to the game’s guild system, with new features for guild stashes and the addition of guild hideouts. Guild leaders can select a hideout they have unlocked and use it as a template to create a guild hideout where players can hold meetings or hang out between running maps with guild members able use the hideout’s map device as if it were their own. In addition, Grinding Gear Games is removing the favour system from the game, meaning that hideout decorations under that system will be available to all players in unlimited quantities. There are also UI improvements to the hideouts system.
Finally, Grinding Gear Games announced that the Expeditions expansion content is being added to the base game, though artifacts from the expansion will be no longer be tradeable. Expeditions can be found from act six of the base game, with an 8% chance of a map containing an Expedition. The Expeditions content will replace the Perandus content, which is being removed from the base game to make way for it.