Path of Exile Delirium League: Thoughts & Speculation

Its time for another discussion about Path of Exile (I write about this a fair amount, don’t I?) and I hope you don’t mind gentle readers.

Today, I wanna talk about the upcoming announced Delirium League, launching on March 13th! Its time for RAMPANT SPECULATION YET AGAIN! That is what this is by the way, speculation and theories!

First, lets give ya the trailer (its wild everyone)

Madness am I right? Now, you can view the official launch page right here which will give you a starting point for discussion. But lets break down what we know so far.

First, obviously, we have new skill gems. This comes with every league, however, unlike previous leagues which focused on specific gem types (spell, melee, bow, ect) this time the developers have apparently been given carte blanche to do what they want. Thats why we are getting things like Kinetic Bolt which is apparently a chaining wand skill gem attack (that is supposedly available at level 1) and Blade Blast, which will detonate blades that are now left behind from other skills like EK and Bladefall. Nothing has been said about upcoming new supports at the time of writing this so I can’t speak on those. We also have new uniques which are kind of interesting, like Perfidy, which allows you to use 2 Banner skills at the same time and speeds up their charge generation.

Then of course we have the league mechanic. The basic premise is as follows: you find this “Mirror of Delirium” in a zone and walk through it. By doing so you enter a warped world where monsters are given new abilities, league mechanics from previous leagues become modified, and you can find unique rewards within it. There is also mention of “going deeper” into the madness, which I assume means that after you go far enough away from the starting point things get harder and harder, with better rewards in exchange for the risk. However, I am not sure how we leave the madness at the moment. Is there a kill counter? Is there a timer? It doesn’t way in either the trailer or on the website.

There are also indications of items that will let you “Corrupt” maps at the end game coverting them into pure Delirium Maps, which will alter the rewards of the map as well. I assume this is how you will get access to the new endgame encounter the Simulacrum, which sounds like its going to be a copy of SOMETHING that you have to fight against (thats kind of what the word Simulacrum means, my guess is you will fight yourself. What is the greatest enemy of a person? Themselves Exile…themselves…their own fear and madness!)

I like the look of this mechanic, personally. I always enjoy “breach style” encounters, especially when they are optional. I am also curious how it will interact with things like breach, the temple encounters, and especially the Blight ones! Can you imagine doing a Blight tower defense encounter while inside the Delirium Mist? Dear god in heaven Exile that is going to be, well, madness!

However, the single biggest thing that excites me about this league over all are the new “Cluster Jewel” items. These things are in a word “Bonkers”. So anyone who has played Path of Exile has run into a Jewel. These are items you socket into your passive skill tree in order to add effects. An example of a normal jewel would be this!

However, Cluster Jewels are are something special. Added specifically to Delirium League, these jewels only function when placed in a jewel socket on the OUTSIDE of the passive tree. And what they do is GIVE YOU AN ENTIRE NEW SECTION OR BRANCH ON THE PASSIVE TREE WITH NEW NODES! You can even chain the Cluster Jewels going from Large, to Medium, to Small creating new paths with unique nodes. They have a good example of this on the website, but let me show you an image with some added text giving you an idea

Cluster Jewels!

These jewels appear to come in Magic, Rare, and Unique types, meaning you can get Cluster Jewels rolled with all sorts of strange combinations. There are also roughly 280 new “Notable” nodes, which are listed on that site. I am very excited to see just what sorts of combinations you can get, and this will encourage people I think to path to the outside of the passive tree JUST so they can use these nodes. I do imagine, however, you will need to spend skill points to path thru the nodes. I also wonder what would happen if you socket a jewel, and then remove it after spending said skill points. Do you get the points back as if respeced? Do they vanish?

We need more concrete info as to just how these Cluster Jewels will work in practice. The ones listed on the website are fascinating to look at. The Large Rare jewel listed there for example adds “10 New Passive Skills” and 2 brand new Notables, all focused on attack damage (so a weapon based physical build would love it) for instance. The Unique “Voices” listed there is one I imagine EVERYONE will want as it specifically adds 3 Jewel sockets + 1 small node that does nothing, meaning you can chain a TON off it! It being a large means you could connect 3 different medium or small nodes, and if you manage 3 rare Mediums you could then in theory, assuming any add sockets of their own as shown in that image above, chain more off them.

Finally they are making improvements to the Atlas of Worlds to make it more deterministic. I got bored with my build last league but I did make it to maps and actually completed 2 of the new fights, so there is that.

I am excited to yet again dive into a new Path of Exile league, and Delirium is looking to be something amazing. It releases on March 13th, and I can’t wait to dive in.

Hope to see you there Exiles!

Path of Exile: Metamorph League & Conquerors of the Atlas Impressions

Hello everyone and happy holidays! I say that because I am writing this a few days before Christmas so I feel that it is something I can put here. Depending on when you read this, that may or may not apply.

No matter.

After about 40 hours of the new league and endgame, I felt I was ready to talk about both the 3.9 Metamorph League mechanics, as well as the new “Conquerors of the Atlas” endgame storyline that has been added to Path of Exile. Please be aware there will be some lore spoilers in this article about the Conquerors, because of how the storyline of POE has advanced.

To make things easier, I am gonna start with my thoughts on Metamorph, which is the current Temp League at the time of writing (And honestly, I think it’s going to go into the Core game so what I say here should apply to that as well.)

For reference, I started this league as an Artillery Ballista Chieftain, but ended up respeccing to an Armageddon Brand Chieftain. You can view my character here on my POE Profile. Mr Torgue San is the one used for the Metamorph League.

The Metamorph League Impressions

This time around our Exiles run into a man named Tane Octavius, an Alchemist in search of the “intrinsic darkness” inside of all the beings of Wraeclast and Oriath. You see, Tane did something horrible to his old master and, like anyone who did a bad thing, was banished from Oriath to Wraeclast (cause that is what keeps happening) and is now trying to figure out why he did the bad thing.

And how are we Exiles going to help him? But killing hundreds of enemies, taking out their eyes, hearts, livers, brains, and lungs and combining them in his giant Alchemy Doohickey (very technical term here) to create a horrible amalgamation of terrors that we then murder for the phat loots. You will first encounter him in the very first area past Lionseye Watch, and he shows up in basically every zone after that for the league. I imagine after the league is over, if it goes Core, he will show up in Maps much like Cassia does from the Blight League.

And honestly, I hope Tane does because despite the Metamorphs you create sometimes being insanely dangerous, they are a ton of fun and very rewarding.

The basic idea is that you clear out an area or Map of any and all enemies. Ones that can drop body parts appear on your mini map and are marked by a glowing green arrow like object. Prior to a patch you had to pick up the Organs but thankfully now you just automatically grab them. If the area contains a unique boss or Act boss, those will frequently drop an Organ as well. Organs can come in all 4 rarities (White, Blue. Yellow, Orange) and can contain modifiers that both provide attacks to the Metamorph, add new modifiers like Crit Chance or Fire Damage, and also influence what it can drop. Here are some examples of the various kinds of rarities and modifiers you can encounter as well as the Construction interface:

Once you have at least one organ of each type, you can use them to create your boss. If you completely collect EVERY available Organ Tane will automatically appear, but otherwise you simply click on the little button in the lower right to spawn him (that button only appears if you have at least one organ). Organs do NOT persist across maps. Each map has its own set of organs, and if the map resets you lose any progress so keep that in mind.

Now, as you put organs into the interface, the bar on the right hand side will increase. This increases the Metamorphs overall HP, Damage, and drop chance. Prior to the Map system (Endgame) this bar will not really do anything other than that. But, once you get into the Map system and start killing Metamorphs in Maps, filling that bar to the top has an added function: Creating a unique Organ Item. These items are actual drops that you pick up and if you get enough, you can take them to Tane’s lab to build a Super Boss. These bosses can drop all sorts of insane rewards. Here is an example of a Unique Organ you can find (they are of course random)

Now, keep in mind that you will want to pay attention to the modifiers on these organs. Every instance of a single modifier stacks and things can get VERY dangerous very quickly. I have been one shotted numerous times by bad combinations, and at one point I wasn’t paying attention, stacked Life Regen on the Metamorph, and literally could not out damage its health regen. I ended up running away.

A new drop type, Catalysts, were also added in this league. These allow you to add Quality to your rings and amulets, which can affect their stats as well. This is the only way to quality these items currently. I have only gotten a single Catalyst so I don’t have much to add here. There are also a few new unique items but nothing that really stands out to me.

Overall, I actually really enjoy the Metamorph league. It rewards you for cleaning out areas, lets you get insane drops early one if you are lucky, and can be as challenging as you want it to be. And at no point is it required to do. You can interact with it as much or as little as you want.

Now let’s talk about the new Endgame for Path of Exile: Conquerors of the Atlas! Again, there will be some spoilers here for how this plays into everything, and some theories from me as well.

The New Endgame Storyline & Atlas: Conquerors of the Atlas Impressions

To understand the new story, especially if you are just coming into the game, I need to explain the general plot of Path of Exile as a whole. So, again, there will be spoilers here!

Path of Exile started originally telling the story of 7 Exiles, who were banished for different crimes to the continent of Wraeclast from a place called Oriath. They started by simply trying to help their fellow exiles survive the harsh world of Wraeclast before stumbling upon a plot by the Templar Order to do something involving these mystical Virtue Gems. Eventually the Exile (you) ends up finding out there is a horrible demonic beast creature that is the source of these gems, and an ancient mystic from the Vaal empire lives inside of it. So you go into the creature and kill the entity called Malachai, thus ending the source of the Corruption.

That was the original game. Then GGG added acts 5 thru 10, which followed your Exile going back to Oriath and killing the head of the Templar Order, which accidentally frees an ancient god of Consumption and Hunger named Kitava, as well as all sorts of Major and Minor gods from antiquitiy. This is NOT GOOD, and you run back to Wraeclast to avoid Kitava and help correct the problems that you yourself created by waking Kitava up. This involves you going around and killing a bunch of ancient gods and seeing how the world changed between the fight with Malachai and the awakening of Kitava (because you sail back to Wraeclast and that takes time vs how you get back to Oriath). Upon defeating Kitava at the end of Act 10, the Endgame Storyline begins, and here is where the change was made.

Originally, you met Zana, who introduces you to the Atlas of Worlds and the Map device, and asks for your help in searching for her lost father within the worlds of the Atlas. You encounter the Shaper, and then the Elder, and a war breaks out between them with you caught in the middle. The finale of that storyline involves the Elder corrupting the Shaper (Who was Zana’s father) and you facing both at the same time, and banishing the Elder back to where ever it comes from and destroying the Shaper.

However, Conquerors of the Atlas now advances the timeline and changes things.

First and foremost, I want to say that I am fairly certain that Conquerors is the way things have gone PRIOR TO Path of Exile 2, as its already been stated that the events of POE 2 will be roughly 20 years after the fall of Kitava at the end of POE 1. Knowing that, the events of Conquerors will make a lot more sense.

Currently, in Conquerors, we meet Officer Kirac after killing Kitava, who asks for our exiles help in locating his missing brother Baran. Baran you see fell in with a terrorist / extremist named Zana (What!) and has been missing for a long time. You follow Kirac in raiding a few new locations in order to build a new map device, and once you do Kirac begins to help you explore a new revamped Atlas.

After progressing far enough (you can learn exactly how by watching this handy video by ZiggyD) you will encounter Zana. She explains that she and a team of 5 Exiles went into the Atlas, and fought and defeated the Shaper and Elder. However, the exiles who went with her kept going back into the Atlas in search of power, and slowly it became apparent to Zana that the Atlas ITSELF was Corrupting those who entered it. Eventually the five exiles broke up and in fear, Zana trapped herself and the five of them inside the Atlas and waited for death.

And then our happy ass with Kirac came along and opened the Atlas back up, and now Zana is worried that the ultra powerful Conquerors will escape back into Wraeclast and Oriath and take over. She asks for our help in finding and defeating the 5 exiles to save the world.

From here it’s all about chasing down the Conquerors and fighting them to eventually face off against the new “Shaper” tier endgame boss. I have managed to face down and kill 2 Conquerors, which given that in previous leagues I have never fought a single Elder, Shaper, or Guardian of either is really awesome. The Conquerors feel more human, and they are much more interactive in my view then Shaper or Elder. You always fight Baran first, and the fight against him and how the interactions work is very fascinating. The second Conqueror I took on was The Hunter, and he was a pain in the rear during the “Taunt” phase, which is where you are chasing them.

The way the new Atlas works does take some getting used to, and understanding how the Watch Stones (Which you get after each of the 4 basic Conqueror fights) work is paramount to understanding how to progress in the map system. Also, I feel it’s a little odd to add in what is clearly Storyline progression into the game when the other events (namely whatever starts POE 2) have not occurred, as it feels a little strange to do the same original 10 acts up to the end, and then suddenly have a time jump to the new Atlas.

Mechanically you now go from the inside of the Atlas outward. There are now 8 regions specifically (4 inner, 4 outer) to explore, and you can socket 4 Watchstones into each of the 8 regions. Socketing Watchstones increases the base Tier of the maps in that region, however from what I can tell existing maps that dropped for those (say the Pier or Beach) will STAY at the tier they originally dropped at. So if you upgrade one of the inner regions once, the first map will now drop at Tier 5, but the ones you already got of that map are still the lower tier variants. However, this new aspect of upgrading means that eventually all maps on the Atlas will be the max Tier, and this will mean you can essentially run the maps you want and still feel rewarded, assuming they drop.

And the drops can STILL be an issue. I have 2 inner regions where I have only EVER Gotten the starter map to drop, and never any connecting ones. This makes progression to the outer corners (which connect to the inner regions) more difficult. Here is a screenshot of my Atlas, and you can see that the bottom half is barely progressed, despite my best efforts at getting map drops for those bottom regions.

Overall the storyline progression however, the new bosses, and the new changes to how the Atlas functions are very welcome. For a casual player like myself even being able to engage and face off with the “Starter” Conquerors is welcome, as it makes me feel like I am actually getting somewhere in the game rather than spinning my wheels.

Another major change, by the way, is how the Master Mission system works. Prior to Conquerors, the Master Missions (Niko, Alva, Zana, Jun, and Einhar) would spawn randomly on your maps. If you had a map in your stash or inventory that matched where they were, you could run it and do their mission. However, they would despawn after a while, which meant that it was possible to miss the missions completely. It made people feel like they had to rush, and the masters could spawn on Maps you had not unlocked yet.

Now, however, you build up charges on the right side of the Atlas (White, Yellow, and Red, matching map tiers, see the image above!) and if you want to run a master mission, like say Niko so you can do some Delves later, you simply go to Niko, choose “Atlas Mission” at the top of his chat, and give HIM the map instead of your Map Device. It will then spawn portals like a normal map run at your Map Device but will always have that master in the Map so you can do their mission. It’s really handy, and lets YOU decide how and when to run certain content. If you like Delving or Incursion like I do, you can very easily run that content.

I cannot wait to see what leagues are coming in the upcoming months to the lead up to POE 2 and I really am excited to see how things progress and change for that version of the game.

Thanks for reading, and if you play POE what do you think of these changes? Right now admittedly the Awakener fight is a bit of a mess and hopefully GGG can fix it (its got some nasty bugs) but overall I like the direction of things.

Path of Exile: Conquerors of the Atlas is changing the End Game (For the Better)

It’s been a bit since I spoke or wrote about Path of Exile. On my podcast I am going to go into the concept of Conquerors briefly, but I wanted to take a moment to discuss what it’s doing, and how big of a deal this is (At least to me) and what this potentially might mean for casual players like me.

First, let’s show off the official trailer:

Now, when I first saw this I was confused as to how this would interact with the current endgame Map / Atlas system. Right now, when you finish Act 10 you meet up with Zana, who asks for your help mapping out the Atlas of Worlds, finding the Shaper of Worlds and the Elder. The big eventual goal of the game (if you are good enough to manage it) is to face the Uber Elder fight, where you fight Shaper and Elder at the same time. Only the best players tend to make it this far, as it requires a massive amount of grinding. Hell, even facing Shaper alone requires a ton, as he sits in the dead center of the Atlas, and its RNG gated to a point on getting to him (Dependent on map drops and trading maps). Elder is a little easier as there are white, yellow, and red versions of him you can do.

Sadly, I have never personally faced either. I have managed to get to Red maps a few times, but my RNG is always poor when it comes to Elder spawns and map drops, and I am too busy to ever grind out to face these foes.

However, with the upcoming Conquerors of the Atlas expansion all of this is changing, in a very massive way. And this is not the first time Grinding Gear Games has done something like this. Originally, the Maps ended with JUST the Shaper fight. Then, in War of the Atlas they ADDED Elder and the entire end storyline changed to reflect it.

But now?

Now Elder and Shaper are going away (mostly). You will still be able to face these foes if you so desire, but they are no longer the focus. In fact, the timeline has, in effect, advanced.

Turns out, if you watch that trailer, that our “exiles” have sorta kinda gone mad from diving into the Atlas in search of loot and power. 5 Exiles specifically (which apparently will be built to copy meta builds from POE’s history) got so power mad and corrupted that Zana collapsed the Atlas of Worlds and trapped them inside. This was AFTER they helped her defeat both the Shaper and Elder.

And now they have found a way out, and they want revenge.

You can see in this forum post the exact changes coming but its a lot.

The High Points:

  • We no longer start in one of the corners, but the center.
  • The Atlas is divided into 8 Regions
  • All maps in a region will be the same tier at all times
  • By defeating a Conqueror we will get a Watchstone
  • Conquerors will appear in Strongholds in a region as part of the progression
  • Socketing a Watchstone in a region will increase the tier of ALL maps in that region up to max tier
  • Socketing a Watchstone will ALSO reveal more maps
  • We can repeatedly kill Conquerors for their Watchstones to upgrade all 8 regions
  • Sextants will now apply to a Watchstone, and effect the WHOLE REGION and not a radius

These are huge deals. The fact that as a casual player I might actually encounter a Conqueror early on means I can experience the boss fights that are a big part of endgame. Further, having ALL maps upgraded means if you got a few favs you can just focus on those without feeling like you are not progressing far.

The sextants change is also great. I also had issues making the most of em as a casual player, because my map pool was always thin. Having them apply to an entire group of maps makes it much easier while still allow for customization of the endgame experience.

Also I love the fact that our loot hungry exiles repeatedly doing Maps is now the canon reason we have gone mad with power and our new exiles have to go take em down. The timeline will obviously make more sense come Path of Exile 2, which advances the overall timeline by 20 years.

I am very much excited about these changes, and the new league accompanying them (Metamorph), and am looking forward to the update which goes live on 12/13/19 (both Conquerors and Metamorph)

Path of Exile Synthesis Releases 3/8/19 – What is it all about?

So I talked about Path of Exile as a whole already, but now I want to talk specifically about the new league releasing on March 8th, called Synthesis.  First and foremost, every 3ish months Path of Exile releases a new league into the world, with a completely fresh start for players who wish to explore it.  Unlike say Diablo 3, these leagues generally offer completely new mechanics added into the game, and Synthesis is one such example.  Let’s start by showing you the trailer for the new league (expansion):

Synthesis is going to see our Exile meeting a man? entity? ghost? known as Cavas along our journey to defeat the evils plaguing Wraeclast, and assisting him with recovering his fractured and broken memories.  Mechanically, it appears we will enter his memories to defeat enemies and stabilize them before the darkness overtakes us, and the memory is lost.  These small events are very similar it seems to Incursion (a previous league), where we would enter the past briefly to defeat a boss and change a room in the Temple.  I had a lot of fun with Incursion so this excites me.

The dark areas tinged in blue are the collapsing edges of the memory, and they will erase you similar I suppose to how the darkness in Delve worked.

Once we have recovered some memories, we will then be heading into the Memory Nexus, and literally building paths using the memory nodes we recovered to lead to bosses, items, and lore.   Each node we place will have modifiers to the entire memory structure, and those modifiers stack, creating both difficulty and reward.  The longer you make your paths through the memories, the harder things become, the better the loot ya get!  Also, the nodes that are always visible apparently houses unique encounters, bosses, and other rewards.  I hope there is lore as well hidden in those nodes.

You can see the permanent memory nodes in this image, plus the list on the right of unlocked memory fragments we can use to build our paths.  However, each placed node only has so many uses before it vanishes, meaning longer paths will take more nodes, which in turn will make things vastly more difficult!

Mechanically it’s like they are combining Incursions customization and personalized Temple with Delves “choose your own path” gameplay, and I am all for this.  Plus I am honestly curious who Cavas is!  Each league usually brings its own lore and storyline that plays out alongside the main game, and after playing the main game for so long, I am ready for some new stuff.  There is a larger untold story in Path of Exile as it is involving the Elder, Shaper, the history of the Delve, the artifacts referenced by Jun in Betrayal, and more!  There is a ton of stuff going on and I am really excited to see where the memories of Cavas lead us.

Beyond the actual mechanics of the league itself of course come a slew of new uniques and a system called “Fractured Items”.  These items have modifiers that cannot be changed, which is a new thing.  Previously, any time you attempt to “reroll” or craft an item you could lose the modifiers you spent a lot of time to gain, but Fractured Items have modifiers that are locked.  Plus, there is now a “synthesis” system using a device found in the Memory Nexus, that lets you combine Fractured Items to create new items with “implicit” modifiers.  There has been some items shown on the POE Subreddit by Bex (the community manager) that are quite fascinating and I am eager to see what kind of weird items and loot we can find and build alongside the exploration aspects of the league.

There are also going to be a ton of balance changes, tweaks, and new skills being added to the game, which are being teased right now.  One thing they have announced is a rework of all SPELL type gems in the game, which is a massive undertaking if you ask me.  Right now, spells are kind of bad when self-cast (or Hand Cast as they are calling it now) and most folks (myself included) do things like using Traps or Totems to maximize their usage, but the developers goal is to make all spells viable when “hand casting”.  Plus some of the new spells released are looking quite good and are themed towards Holy and Chaos damage which is a new style as well.  If you want to keep up with all the new stuff being talked about I would point ya to the POE Reddit Thread that has links to pretty much all the teasers and releases, and will be the MOST up to date place for news and information you can find!  It’s a great resource and that subreddit is a decent place to chat with your fellow POE players and get a ton of information.  Just make sure to use the daily questions thread.

Personally I am super excited and cannot wait to play Synthesis.  I am most likely going to play as a Storm Brand Elementalist as I loved the Brand playstyle in Betrayal, and they are not super dependent on gear to really get going.  I might eventually try one of the new skills, like Purifying Flame, which seems like a fun thing to try out.  Not sure what I would do with that, maybe try a Inquisitor finally and go ham with Consecrated Ground stuff.

Are you going to try Path of Exile Synthesis?  If so, what build are you going to test out?  What has you excited in the upcoming league and for the future of the game?

Impressions: Path of Exile

Editors Note (6/10/19): The current league is called Legion and is a very solid league with a massive melee rework.

You might think that more than 300 hours in a single game would make me feel like an expert in that game.  And if it was something as simple as, say, Fallout 4 (I am somewhere around 250 hours in that) you would be correct.  But Path of Exile is something very very different, and even at 300+ hours I still have a lot to learn about the deeper mysteries of the game.  I am far from an expert, hell I don’t even feel comfortable making my own builds yet really, but I have played the game enough to talk about it in more general terms, to explain the basics as it were and the practices behind it, so that you might know what is going on and if the game is for you.  For those curious, Path of Exile is a Free to Play Online “MMO” Action RPG, developed by Grinding Gear Games.  Think Diablo 2.5 and you have a good starting point, but the game is SO MUCH MORE than that.

I started playing Path of Exile during the “Harbinger League”, which is also when the game launched the Fall of Oriath expansion, adding acts 5 thru 10 and changing how progression worked.  Previously you had to repeat the original four acts 3 times in order to get to the game’s Endgame, but now there is a straight forward 10 act progression before the end game systems.  I have since played in pretty much every league, barring one or two I skipped (Bestiary was skipped entirely, and I didn’t really get far in Abyss).  I have also never killed the end game bosses such as Shaper or Elder, but I have gotten to what players refer to as “Red Maps” a couple times.  And I figured, with this newest shakeup of the Betrayal league, and me breaking the 300 hour mark, it was time for me to get my thoughts on this amazing game on paper as it were.

Now, bear in mind, I am calling this an Impressions rather than a Review, because this is a living game much like my previous discussion on Soul Workers.  Being an online free to play game that has new leagues (for you Diablo 3 players, these are basically the game’s seasons) that add new mechanics or completely change how the game works, this game is constantly evolving.  As such, these are my thoughts at the time of writing this which is during the Betrayal League (Dec 2018 to roughly Feb/Mar 2019) but a lot of what I am going to go over is pretty standard core stuff.  So let’s jump right in starting as always with the visual presentation of the game.

VISUALS

First and foremost this is an isometric action RPG in the same vein as games like Grim Dawn, Diablo, and Torchlight.  It uses a very dark and gritty style, which fits the themes of the game completely.  Colors are for the most part muted, and each area and act has a distinct visual style.  Act 1 for example is all coastal while act 3 is in the ruins of a massive city called Sarn, etc.  There is a definite sense of progression visually as you move through the world which I appreciate greatly.  You got jungles, cities both ruined and new, buildings, cave systems, forests, deserts, and more.  Biomes are pretty diverse all things considered.

Enemies are pretty solid, design wise, and again fit the theme of each area.  In the first act you will face a lot of zombies, skeletons, crabs, and crazed bandits.  Later acts involve creepy mutant abominations and a whole lot of blood and weird shit.  It all works well.  The armor and weapon models, when you are not covering them up with your MTX (Cosmetic Microtransactions) are pretty decent as well, and each of the 7 available classes will look different depending on what they are wearing.

One standout for me however are the effects of your abilities and skills.  Whether it’s the fiery fissures of the skill Tectonic Slam, or the lightning of Arc, or the Meteors falling from the sky in the skill Armageddon Brand, they all look amazing.  The screen can quickly fill up with these effects as well, enemies firing off similar attacks and abilities to yours.  If your GPU is not up to snuff you can have some issues.  Also the water effects are really solid and recently got upgraded.  Overall I adore the visual style of this game, and have really no issues with it at all, other than the obsession with the color red at times.  Seriously, there is a LOT of red and blood in this game.  Like holy shit so much.

AUDIO

I have the soundtrack on my phone and listen to it on my drive to and from work.  That should tell you all you need to know about the music of this game.  It’s phenomenal.  The tracks are moody, atmospheric, and just perfect for each area and act as you play the game.  Each new league or expansion that comes out adds even MORE excellent music to the game as well.  Seriously, it’s that freaking good.

The sound effects are another treat.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as hearing your enemies shatter into a million pieces after you freeze them, or hearing the massive thud of your attacks as you strike the ground causing it to crack and explode.

There is also voice acting, which is for the most part stellar as well.  Each of the 7 characters have unique voice lines starting in Act 1 and up to Act 4.  Most NPCs in town also have voice lines and voiced lore / dialog you can listen to.  However, after Act 4 your character will basically cease speaking, and its a huge shame here.  I love the little quips my characters would make upon entering new areas, or killing Act bosses, but all that stops once you get through Act 4.  After that, you are basically playing a silent protagonist and this just really sucks.  Beyond that however, there are zero issues, for me, in sound design.

STORY AND WORLD

What may surprise you is that there is a ton of lore, story, and world building in this game.  Most Action RPGs in fact don’t have anywhere near the amount of detail spent in this one setting up the history of the world, its peoples, and its timelines.

And it’s all hidden in plain sight.  If you never read the extra NPC dialog, and the books hidden in the zones, you will never know what the hell is going on or how things got to where they are beyond a very cursory idea.

The game starts with your character being Exiled to the continent of Wraeclast (each character has a unique reason for their exile), washing up on the shores of a dark beach.  From there you make your way to the small outpost of Lions Watch, and begin helping the other survivors and exiles try to live in this untamed and dark world.  As you move forward in the world, you start to uncover things happening, and gradually everything gets, well worse and worse.  Once you finish all 10 acts of the main story, the secondary end game story of the Atlas starts, and I am not even going to begin to get into that.  Along the way you will meet a colorful cast of characters, interact with them, and learn their histories.

But only if you want to.  You can just as easily ignore EVERYTHING and just rush through the acts as fast as possible, and honestly most of us players do after we did em once.  I really only pay attention to the new lore added in the Leagues when it happens, such as what is going on in the Betrayal league right now.

It’s very passive storytelling, and its amazing stuff, but its stuff you can consume or not at your leisure.  You can always go back for what you missed, but if all you wanna do is blast hordes of enemies into so many bloody chunks, well, the game is built for that.  And let’s talk about HOW you do that.

GAMEPLAY

Strap yourselves in because this is going to be a doozy.  You may think this game would be as simple to understand as something like Diablo 2/3 or Torchlight.  You would be dead wrong.  Where this game excels is in its customization, options, and gameplay.  While it is a standard Action RPG where Left and Right Click are your movement and action keys, you also have 6 hot keys you can assign for additional skills (Middle Mouse, then QWERT by default, although you can rebind these.  I have the last two, R and T, as Mouse 4 and 5 on my setup).  Most people bind Left Click to Move, and setup Right Click as their Primary attack or Skill.  Controls are very simple in this game, which appeals to me personally. I can in essence play the game one handed mouse only if I wanted.

Now, when you start the game you will be presented with your choice of 6 Characters: The Witch, the Duelist, the Marauder, the Templar, the Ranger, and the Shadow.  A 7th character, the Scion, can be unlocked by rescuing her in Act 3.  All characters are Gender Locked. Templar, Shadow, Duelist, and Marauder are Males.  Witch, Ranger, and Scion are Females.  You cannot change this.  You will also choose your “League”.  You have Standard League, which is a permanent league and where any characters made in the Temp Leagues go after that temp league is done.  Then you have Temp leagues, which usually run about 3 months and frequently have all sorts of mechanics and additions.  Some of those additions will be moved to Standard, some wont.  As I write this, the current Temp League is called Betrayal, which added a group of enemies called the Immortal Syndicate on TOP Of everything else already in the game.  Oh and you can choose Hardcore if you want, which is your standard “One life” mode, but thankfully if you die in Hardcore your character gets sent to the Standard League.  The character is still playable at least.  You can also do Solo Self Found, which turns the game into a single player experience (you can normally group up with up to 7 other players, and trade, but SSF blocks all that).

Now, as far as your choice of character, it only effects your visual appearance, your voice lines, and where you start on the massive Passive Skill Tree.  What is this Passive Skill Tree?  Well, the best way to describe it is to show it.  Here is a picture of it, although its way zoomed out so you cant really tell what each node is.

If you are looking at that and going “Haven’t I seen this before?” you might have seen the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X.  It’s very similar.  The Scion starts in the center, and everyone else starts around her.  That tree is ONLY Passive abilities.  You can find simple stuff, like +10 to Strength, Intelligence, or Dexterity (your 3 core stats), to stuff like +10% more HP overall, or specific things like “You can summon +1 Totem but can’t do damage with your own attacks” or “You are immune to Chaos Damage, but your max HP is 1” and so on.  Every time you level up, and as a reward from some quests, you will gain a single skill point to put somewhere on that tree.  You can also earn respec points from quests and an item called “Orb of Regret” so don’t worry if you goof up a choice.

On top of that, starting in Act 3 you can do what’s called your Ascension, which gives you a choice of 3 “Class Upgrades” unique to your chosen class (although the Scion only has 1 choice, Ascendant).  You can ascend 4 times total: Once after Act 3, then again after during Act 7, then again during Act 10, and finally one more time in the end game Atlas system.  Each time you get 2 Ascendancy Points to place in your Ascendancy Tree.  You must complete a trial called the Labyrinth each time you want to Ascend however, and it’s no walk in the park early on.  These sheer level of customization and combinations here is staggering.  Oh, and there are also Jewel Sockets on the tree where you can slot in a Jewel Item if you find one and have unlocked that node.  7 Classes, that massive tree, each class having 3 unique Upgrade paths (except the Scion)?  You getting overwhelmed yet?

Well it gets crazier.  You see, you don’t learn new attacks or abilities, but instead slot them into your gear via Gems.  There are 2 kinds of Gems: Actives, and Support Gems.  Active gems are your active powers.  They could be things like a Ground Slam, a Fireball, summoning a totem that distracts enemies, create an aura that buffs your attacks or debuffs your enemies, and so on.  These are how you interact with the world and your enemies.  Each Gem has a color (Red, Blue, or Green) and must be slotted into a Gem Slot on a piece of your gear that matches its color.  There are white slots on gear that can accept any color gem as well, but these are very VERY rare.  The slots on your gear can also be linked, visually shown by a gold icon between the slots.  Each item can have a different number of slots on it, and links.  For example, chest armor can have 6 slots, and can be linked fully.  Additionally, links can be chained, so if you have 3 slots on your gear for example like this: Red Red Red, and between the first and middle Red, and then the Middle Red and Last Red you have a link, then all 3 slots are linked together.

Why are these links important?  Well, Support Gems are why.  Support Gems are a type of gem that modify active gems.  You could, say, turn a Curse that you have to cast on an enemy, like Warlords Mark (this is a curse that will debuff enemies to let you leech life and mana from them) into an Aura that is always on and doesn’t have to be cast by using the Support Gem “Blasphemy” for example.  Or you could take a skill like Ground Slam, and use a support gem called “Added Cold Damage” to give Ground Slam additional cold damage.  A good example of this in action is my own current characters chest armor setup.  I am using an Item called “Tabula Rasa” which has no stats, but has 6 white sockets, and those sockets are all linked.  I have 1 active gem in that setup, Armageddon Brand, and then 5 support gems in the remaining spots that all modify how Armageddon Brand acts.

Each piece of gear other than your belt, rings, and necklace, will have sockets / slots and links.  You can have 1 2 handed weapon or 2 one handed items equipped.  A helmet, gloves, and boots item, then 2 rings, 1 necklace, and a belt.  There are unique slots called “Abyssal Sockets” that CAN show up on belts but that’s advanced stuff and Abyssal Sockets don’t take Skill Gems but rather Abyssal Jewels.

Believe me when I say that if all this is confusing you or overwhelming you, then you are in fine company.  I was completely confused by a lot of this early on too, and thankfully there are plenty of people out there who specialize in this game and provide Build Guides.  Mathil, ZiggyD, and Engineering Eternity are 3 Streamer/Youtubers I suggest you watch if you want to get started with this game as they frequently have “Starter Build” guides that give you Skill Gem setups, passive tree / Ascendancy setups, and even gear setups so you can get into the game without having to get caught up in this giant web of customization.  As you get more experienced, you can start to tweak their builds, and hopefully (eventually) do your own.  I still use them even after 300 hours of play, but I do tweak things now and again, especially gem stuff to fit my preferred playstyle.

Actual mechanical gameplay is pretty straight forward.  You move around procedurally generated zones, completing quests and finding massive piles of loot and currency items, trying to find the exit to the next zone and sometimes trying to locate a waypoint so you can easily travel back.  You will fight bosses on your way to finish the 10 act storyline, and then you reach the Endgame system, called the Atlas system, which honestly is something so wild that I will not get into it here.  Just watch this video by Engineering Eternity which explains the Atlas system.  Let’s just say that the 10 acts of the game is only the START of the game really, and the Atlas is where it really gets amazing.  Also the Atlas is where the hardest fights in the game (Shaper, Elder, and Uber Elder) exist.  This is my current Atlas, which is no where near filled out.  All that empty space?  More nodes, which are maps to explore.

Nevermind that there is also the Masters system (revamped in the Betrayal League) where you can do side missions for 3 masters (Niko, Alva, and Einhar) which are another layer of gameplay further still.  Niko has the Delve system (A near infinite mineshaft to explore that unique to each character), Alva has the Incursion system (build a temple by going back in time, and then looting the temple in the present), and Einhar has the Bestiary system (capture beasts to sacrifice to create unique items).  Each of these masters can be installed in your Hideout, which is account wide player housing that you can decorate to your hearts content.  You unlock new hideouts by finding them in the wild.  Oh, and you can also craft items in your hideout using a crafting bench to add new effects to your gear like resistance to elemental damage and the like.  And let’s talk about the gear and loot!

As far as loot goes, you have your weapons and armor as well as Flasks (which are your health potions and other potions) and other items which people call “Currency Items”.  Weapons and armor can be White (Normal), Blue (Magical), Yellow (Rare), and Orange (Unique).  Flasks can be White, Blue, or Orange.  Also there are jewels which can be the same as weapons rarity wise.  Now as far as Currency Items you have to understand that Path of Exile doesn’t have a gold system.  Trading is done very much in a barter system with NPCs and other players (player trading usually uses outside websites).  You either trade one item for another (a sword for a sword) or more often than not, you trade currency items with other players and NPCs to get new items.

Currency items are things like your Scrolls of Wisdom (Identify Scrolls), various Orbs, and other things.  Each Currency item also has a purpose in that they can be used.  Chaos Orbs, for example (the standard player traded currency item) allow you to “reroll” a Rare items mods, basically making the item something new (a sword will still be a sword, but if that sword has +5 fire damage and you use a chaos orb on it, it might suddenly have +10 HP and +3 Cold damage for example, but not the fire damage).  There are also Portal scrolls which give you a quick way back to town.  Can’t be an ARPG without a portal system after all!

One final unique system is the Flask system.  You have 5 Flask slots.  You place your potions here, but unlike most games where your potions are finite items, Flasks are rechargeable.  If you have a health flask in one of the slots, and use it, it will refill as you kill enemies.  Further, there are unique flasks that have special effects, and there are flasks that do things OTHER than restore Health or Mana, like Stibnite flasks which give you boosted evasion temporarily, and also blast out a smoke cloud that blinds nearby enemies, or the Quicksilver flask which gives you boosted movement speed for a bit.  These flasks can also be upgraded into magical items with Currency Orbs.

As a warning, there is an experience point penalty for death.  Once you beat the boss of Act 5, you will suffer -30% to all your resistances forever, and if you die after that, you lose 5% of your XP.  You cannot lose a level though.  Once you beat the boss of Act 10, that resistance penalty goes up to -60% and the XP Penalty goes up to 10%.  I just wanted to make sure everyone who is interested in this game is aware of this, as this may turn some of you off.

Finally, here is some gameplay footage of my Witch character, who ascended to Elementalist, playing around in the Atlas system and doing a Delve.  I am using a skill called Armageddon Brand as my main attack, which is what is causing those Boulders to drop from the sky on top of groups of enemies.  There is a lot going on here, so it’s mostly just to show you how Links look, how Gems look, and how the Passive Tree looks setup, and how the game looks in action.  The Flasks are on the Lower Left, and my Skills are on the lower right.

I know I went over a whole lot of info in this, but thankfully the game eases you into it for the most part.  And mind you, this is not every system nor every bit of mechanical depth to the game.  My goal with this was a broad strokes overview on how the game in general works, and some of the systems involved in it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Man this has been a long post, but there is so much going on in this seemingly simple title that I had to just break down as much as I could.  And mind you, there are a lot of systems I did not even get into in the gameplay section because they only come up randomly.

For me, this is the best Action RPG on the market right now.  Every 3 months you get a fresh league, with a fresh start, that you can dive into to try all sorts of varied character builds and setups.  This is a game that rewards both time spent playing in the now (with your loot and character progression) and in the long term with knowledge of its varied systems.  It is not for everyone, by far, and if you got overwhelmed or confused by my explanation of how the game plays and how the primary systems work, you may not want to try this.  But if you are willing to do some research and experiment, the game is a fun filled and fascinating adventure full of lore, world building, and tons of spectacular action & challenge.

And best of all?  It’s completely free and available on both PC and Xbox One with PS4 on the way!  The only thing your money will get you are specialized stash tabs for your stash (your account wide bank) and Cosmetic items.  You cannot ever buy power in this game at all.  Although if you want to get into Player Trading you will want a Premium Stash Tab, which will let you list things on the official Path of Exile Trade site.

If you want to play you can either grab the game On Steam or from their official Website.  If nothing else I urge you to at least try it and see if it appeals to you.  The only thing you have to lose is some free time (and space on your systems hard drive for a bit).

And again, if you need help my advice is to check out the Streamers & Youtubers in the Path of Exile world.  My personal suggestions (but there are plenty more) are again as follows:

These are the people whose videos, builds, and streams have helped me understand and form a deep love of this game.  And honestly, I cannot wait to see what is coming next for Path of Exile and its eventual 4.0 upgrade (which, if its anything like 3.0 which is when Acts 5-10 got added, is going to be insane). Hell, watch Mathil live and you might even run into me sometime.  I am a twitch subscriber of his after all.  Oh and consider grabbing Path of Building, an external piece of software that lets you plan builds and import builds.  It’s extremely handy to help understand how things work and how changes can affect your DPS / Health / Ect.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

Path of Exile Inspired Spells

Hello readers! Today, I bring you 8 unique spells based on abilities from the Action RPG Path of Exile. I am going to discuss each spell here and the thoughts behind the design of them. I will also provide a PDF of the 8 spells in case you want to use them in your game. I got spells for Sorcerers, Wizards, Warlock, Druid, Paladin, and Ranger!

First up, Frost Blades:

So Frost Blades in Path of Exile fires a single projectile out made of ice, and it splits into to. So I went ahead, and basically wrote the spell to do the same function. I decided to make it level 1 to give a bit more area of effect options at that level, and the damage is around something like Guiding Bolt, only split between multiple targets, each one requiring an attack roll (thus having a chance to miss).

Next up, Unearth:

Now in Path of Exile, Unearth actually deals damage by firing a bone arrow out. Where the arrow ends is where the bodies appear. The idea behind this spell was to give a way for the next spell to work (combo!) but also give necromancers and clerics a way to get bodies for things like Speak with Dead or Animate Dead.

And the spell Unearth combo’s with? Volatile Dead:

This spell is generally combined with the above spell in Path of Exile. You basically alternate casts of the two, creating corpses, then consuming them and having the balls chase enemies down and create MORE corpses! To make it work in DnD I had to make it scale with spell slot level to generate more explosives. I also added a bit of danger with the balls going in a straight line, and exploding on contact with ANYTHING.

Now its time to bring up a Paladin Spell. Spectral Throw:

The spell in Path of Exile works almost the exact same, save that the projectile copy of your weapon boomerangs back to you, and if you pair it with certain other gems (like Multiple Projectiles) you can fill the screen with copies of your weapon flying out. This gives the Paladin a way to reach out and touch enemies from a distance if needed.

I didn’t forget the Ranger! We bring Spectral Shot to them:

This allows the Ranger to both hit multiple targets in a single line, as well as do a short ranged AOE with each hit. It does required a ranged spell attack against each target in the line, so it can miss every hit. The original shrapnel shot works similar, but without the piercing unless you add a support gem to it.

For our Warlocks out there, I provide you Summon Raging Spirit:

In Path of Exile, this spell literally summons a tiny angry skull that zips out and attacks your enemies. You can summon tons of the little buggers and they do some heavy fire damage. I wanted to change it up, and instead made it deal Necrotic damage, and made it a concentration spell that basically causes an angry skull to attack your target.

Here is a nasty one. Blade Vortex:

Now this is a nasty spell in Path of Exile. You create a field of knives that just does massive damage every second to enemies inside it. In Path of Exile you have to keep casting it to build up the knives. For the DND Varient, I made it concentration, and an aura. Basically giving Paladins and Rangers a way to really put the hurt on something. Now, one thing to note is this has friendly fire. Its not just ENEMIES who get hit, its ANYONE within 10 feet of the caster. And since Paladin auras only extend 10ft, this basically prevents the paladin from getting their aura effect for their allies.

Finally, we have 3 spells in one. Herald of Elements:

In Path there are 3 auras, Herald of Ash, Ice, and Thunder. Rather then create 3 spells I created one that gives you the choice of which element to use. In Path, each aura has a secondary effect on top of adding damage, so I tried to recreate these effects while also balancing out the secondary effects. I think I did ok but honestly this is the spell I would need to test out to be happy more than any others.

So there you go, 8 new spells. Hope you enjoy them, and thanks for reading. You can download the PDF right here.

And remember: Get those Crits, Take those Hits, keep pushing through and remember to Stay Nerdy!