Path of Exile: Delve preview: Spelunking

There are buried treasures deep within Wraeclast's Azurite Mine. Shacknews takes a tour of Path of Exile's next expansion, venturing into the game's first infinite dungeon.

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What's next for Path of Exile now that players have taken on the isle of Wraeclast's greatest dangers, explored new worlds, and even ventured across time and space? It's time to dive into the unknown, where darkness grows thicker the farther one goes. There's a mine that's ripe for exploration and that's the premise for Path of Exile: Delve, the latest expansion for Grinding Gear Games' long-running dungeon crawling RPG. Delve will contain the game's first infinite dungeon.

The Azurite Mine is rich with resources. It was a go-to destination for the miners of Wraeclast, where they would pick at the mine's near-infinite treasures. One day, a strange darkness overtook the Azurite Mine. It's a darkness that kills anyone on contact. The darkness proved to be so overwhelming that it essentially closed the mine off to scavengers forever.

That's until an inventor named Niko the Mad came along. His invention is he Crawler, a light-generating vehicle that runs on Voltaxic Sulphite. Once the Crawler is placed on a track and powered by the Sulphite, players can follow the vehicle through the mine's interior. The mine is filled with powerful enemies, but also numerous and rare rewards. While the Crawler can only go as far as its Sulphite supply will allow, the vehicle will run at the player's pace. If the player runs on ahead, the Crawler will keep up. Likewise, if there's an intense battle going on, the Crawler will slow down. The mine's layout is charted along a map, with nodes on the map indicating event encounters that offer rare loot.

Players can begin their expedition almost immediately, with each area in Wraeclast containing its own Sulphite deposits. These deposits will pop up over the course of natural gameplay. Once Sulphite is spotted, it's a simple matter of clicking on the Sulphite to bring Niko along to dig it out. Players can then opt to accompany Niko to the mine immediately or pocket the Sulphite until later. The mine's rewards become greater the farther the player is able to travel and the longer they're able to stay alive. Those looking for the best treasures can exchange larger amounts of Sulphite for more time in the mine. Of course, the trick to getting treasure is also staying alive, so be sure your character is prepared for the journey.

Aside from various rare items, players can find Azurite scattered throughout the mine. Azurite can be used to upgrade the Crawler itself, either by increasing its light radius, Sulphite capacity, or darkness resistance. Players can also opt to exchange it for certain items that will help in the mine. One of those items is the Flare, which allows explorers to stray away from the Crawler briefly and have some light surrounding them. There are special drops and items that are sometimes located away from the Crawler, but the only way to reach these far-away passages is to use a Flare. Additional secret areas are hidden behind unstable walls, which can be accessed with Dynamite. While Flares and Dynamite can be purchased with Azurite, they'll also occasionally pop up over a natural mining expedition.

The Azurite Mine can go from a simple layout to devilishly labyrinthine

As noted, the Azurite Mine is infinite, so the challenge is in seeing how far players can reach. For a further sense of competition, Grinding Gear Games is adding a leaderboard for who can make it the farthest down the mine. Those who want to compete will want to stay with the Crawler and endeavor to survive the multiple event encounters. Those looking to explore at their own pace can use Flares and Dynamite to explore different areas off the beaten path. The latter explorers will want to be careful, though. Grinding Gears' Chris Wilson demonstrated to Shacknews what it means to go off the main path and once his Flare was extinguished, the darkness wiped out his life bar in ridiculously quick fashion.

In addition to the new infinite dungeon, Path of Exile is also refining some existing mechanics for Delve. Players can now find new items that removes some of the randomness involved in crafting. Socketable Crafting Items are being introduced, along with Fossils that can help craft a more focused item. For example, players can find something like a Primitive Alchemical Resonator and fill it with a Metallic Fossil. The latter item increases the odds of rolling a Lightning Mod, while eliminating select other mods. Rolling these two together created a special Broad Sword that dals almost exclusively with lightning offense and resistance. Some Resonators can fit more Fossils, allowing for more powerful items.

Ten skills are set to be revamped with the Delve expansion, with the team going back and designing some new toys for existing classes. For example, the Guardian (a Templar subclass) can now pick up the Smite ability, which allows them to chain together lightning strikes and also grants a momentary lightning aura to both the Guardian and any allies. Another example will see the Chaos Pathfinger get a new Toxic Rain bow skill. Toxic Rain places spores on any affected enemies, slowing them and causing chaos damage right up until they explode. Grinding Gear is staying quiet on the other eight revamped skills and will reveal them closer to the expansion's launch.

The team is also going back and giving certain existing Path of Exile content a visual makeover. There are newer additions, like Global Illumination, Ambient Occlusion, and new realistic water tech with dynamic water speeds, foam synthesis, and currents. But Grinding Gear is also going back to its older assets and giving them some noteworthy upgrades. Monster art from the earliest Path of Exile stages is now being updated to visually match the game's newer content.

"We don't want to look like a game from 2007," Wilson told Shacknews, as he showed off the refined monster art.

Lastly, Delve will add a special item that readers may not even get to see for themselves. Timeworn Reliquary Keys will open up portals to special trasure rooms, but they'll contain one chest. This chest will contain a "Relic" unique item. These unique items are special drops from previous leagues that are no longer available in the game. Wilson made sure to emphasize that Timeworn Reliquary Keys are the rarest of the rare items, so much so that players may never encounter one at all over the course of their time in Path of Exile. So if anyone does pick up this item, know that it's a huge deal.

The time to go spelunking is almost at hand. Those looking to explore the mysterious Azurite Mine won't have to wait too long. Path of Exile: Delve is set to release on Friday, August 31 on PC, with Xbox One players getting the expansion on Monday, September 3.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
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    August 9, 2018 2:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Path of Exile: Delve preview: Spelunking

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      August 9, 2018 3:00 PM

      This is pretty much everything i wanted PoE to be, Iv always burned out after a month due to clearing everything the game has, but an endless dungeon to see how far I can push is going to be so good

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      August 9, 2018 3:37 PM

      Woot!

      This looks awesome. Can't wait to see what broken builds happen in it.

      Wander looks like a good choice since it is in a mine.

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        August 9, 2018 5:03 PM

        Good call on Wander

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        August 10, 2018 2:41 AM

        I find wander had great clear speed but when it comes to single target it starts to lack...which will suck when it comes to the boss you have to kill at the end of each check point...more so when you get deeper

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      August 9, 2018 4:56 PM

      Crate Entertainment recently announced that they were adding an infinite dungeon in the upcoming Grim Dawn expansion. They did a live stream and answered questions. It looked cool and I'm looking forward to it. Unfortunately, no Switch port was confirmed, but the XBOne port is coming along nicely and is in the testing/certification phase.

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        August 10, 2018 4:29 AM

        Will be nice to see a release date.

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      August 9, 2018 5:27 PM

      Sooo good

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      August 9, 2018 6:02 PM

      Whoa, this new mode looks cool.

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      August 9, 2018 6:03 PM

      Damn this looks so good.

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      August 9, 2018 6:30 PM

      Yessssssss

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      August 9, 2018 6:49 PM

      I've never done this before, but I think I'm going to take a few vacation days for this one.

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        August 10, 2018 3:57 AM

        i wish i had vacation left :(

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      August 9, 2018 6:56 PM

      Would like this one switch pls.

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      August 10, 2018 3:29 AM

      Damn, this was a bad season to skip.

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      August 10, 2018 4:55 AM

      SIDENOTE, just how in the hell is this developer able to have such a polished game with a stream of new content on a quarterly basis and still be 100% free?

      Like, I've never bought anything on the cosmetic store because I'm too poor atm, but I would if I could. That said, I looked at the cosmetic store and... I didn't see that many things to buy?

      For a model that has to sustain itself on cosmetics, it seems like there's only ~24 to 36 items you can buy with real-money. Compare with DOTA where, by now, it's gotta be into the hundreds of different real-money purchasable items. Some as high as $35 (and not even counting the super-rares that go on the Steam Market for mega bucks)

      How does Path of Exile do it?

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        August 10, 2018 5:45 AM

        There is hundreds of MTX to buy iv no idea were you are looking
        https://www.pathofexile.com/shop

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        August 10, 2018 5:47 AM

        supporter packs.

        I buy one every other league.

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        August 10, 2018 6:11 AM

        There are a lot more things to purchase than you think. Plus loot boxes. Plus limited time offer cosmetics themed to each expansion that you can't get after the next one releases. Plus cosmetics can only be used by one character at a time, so some people buy multiples instead of managing them. Plus STASH TABS. Plus their MTX are kind of expensive. (1 point = 10 cents in the US and points never go on sale. 600 point cosmetic armor set is $60.)

        Mostly, though, I think they have a ton of goodwill from their fans for providing a really great game with constant updates for free, and people buy stuff to show appreciation. They seem to have the best F2P model out there and it seems to be working for them.