Path of Exile is finally reaching a full release. After months in open beta and 25 content patches, the action RPG from Grinding Gear Games is set to release on October 23. To prepare players for the occasion, lead designer Chris Wilson walked me through the game's new prestige class, the Scion, which will launch with the game.
The Scion is the daughter of a nobleman, exiled to the game's continent for killing her husband. Because of her circumstances, she won't be among the selectable classes at the start of the game. Rather, this new female combatant must be unlocked after a full playthrough.
"She's actually more complicated to play than a normal character," said Wilson, "so we don't want beginner players to immediately choose her." The Scion's complications stem from Path of Exile's unique skill tree system. Our last preview briefly mentioned the passive skill tree, a gargantuan map of skills and attributes that determines a character's abilities and attacks. While normal characters start at the edge of the skill tree, the Scion will actually be positioned near the center of the tree, allowing players to branch off into multiple paths and potentially make her a multi-level threat. For example, a Scion could quickly learn to specialize with both magic spells and ranged bow attacks.
The Scion also has some of the cooler attacks in Path of Exile, including the ability to toss spectral versions of weapons at opponents. This gives players the power to unleash powerful melee attacks from a safe distance.
The other major content addition including six Trigger Gems and three new Skill Gems. The most impressive of these new gems allows players to bring inanimate objects to life. I watched Wilson discard a useless piece of armor from his inventory and proceed to apply a Skill Gem to it. The armor suddenly came to life and began fighting enemies.
In terms of new areas, Wilson walked me through a new area known as The Library. On top of introducing new monsters with new strategies, like the skeletons that deploy magical bubble shields, this stage also offers some history of the continent. "The Library is a great place to squirrel away these books," Wilson said. "So we're hoping that the very lore-oriented users will have a good time finding the pieces of different text about the backstory of the game."
Another new area is the Sceptre of God, which is home to Path of Exile's new endgame scenario and final boss fight. I went hands-on for this area and took on the demon behind the exile. The fight starts with a minion rush, with the boss firing off fire spells towards me. While I was able to wipe out some of the minor foes, they got a good piece of me when a bulk of them self-destructed. The fight got much harder when an arcane spell disabled ranged attacks. Once I got up close for melee combat, I was wiped out in short order. In short, this finale should be quite a challenge for even experienced Path of Exile players.
"The content we ended up with in beta earlier this year was nice, but it wasn't really a finale," Wilson explained. "It had a boss fight at the end and that was cool, but it didn't really have a proper conclusion. By adding these six new areas and the boss fights, it lets us actually finish the story we're trying to tell and to have a state where the player finishes and knows that they've conquered the guy who exiled them. The arc is complete." Wilson does add, however, that there will definitely be more story-related content coming down the line, even after this chapter is completed. Essentially, even a full "release" won't mean the end of Path of Exile.