Path of Exile has been out for over five years, but the dungeon crawler from indie developer Grinding Gear Games continues to trend upwards. The game's last major update, Betrayal, led to some new highs, offering the highest number of concurrent PC users since its 3.0.0 update. With Path of Exile continuing to raise the bar for dungeon crawlers, Grinding Gear is now looking towards the game's next big update.
The next big update is Path of Exile: Synthesis, which will introduce the next three-month league and push the game's narrative forward. The major motif here will be memories, recovering what's been forgotten, and expanding the world based on what's been recovered. With that motif in mind, expect to see a lot of references that existing players will be able to grasp, but like the game's other challenge leagues, the Synthesis league will remain accessible to newer players.
Synthesis introduces a new major NPC character, who calls himself Cavas. He calls himself that because he can't remember much else about himself. Cavas can only recognize himself as someone who was an important part of Wraeclast's lore. But filling in those blanks will be up to the player. Players will discover memory fragments as they play through the game. The idea upon finding them is to stabilize them in order to help Cavas remember who he was. Aside from expanding Path of Exile's lore, there are plenty of rewards that players can pick up for their efforts.
Finding memories won't be a problem. Each world area contains a portal that Cavas will open, leading to a new memory. The memory can be stablized when players activate the memory stabilizers in the area. However, the memory is rapidly deteriorating and is also full of monsters, giving players only so much time to hit all of those memory stabilizers. Successfully salvaging the memory grants players the memory piece to place on a giant board called the Memory Nexus. The Memory Nexus allows players to piece together Cavas' memories, not only re-constructing his memories but also granting access to different reward memories.
By nature, the memories decay over time. This extends to the reward memories, which can only be accessed once before they decay. The idea becomes to reach the reward memory before it decays over time and finish it in a single run. Players can open these up to even greater rewards by adding mods. For example, a fragment may have an Onslaught mod, which makes enemies faster and more aggressive. Completing fragments with these mods will offer better rewards.
Some of these rewards include Fractured Items, which can only be found within memory fragments. By nature, these items are damaged due to the decaying memories, so some of their properties will be stuck. These properties cannot be re-rolled. Sometimes, players might get lucky and find that one of these stuck properties is something really good, allowing players to re-roll and refresh the undesirable property, leading to a more perfect item. So then what do players do with those Fractured Items that don't have such great properties?
The answer is to make Synthesized Items, which is also where this update gets its name. The Memory Next contains an object called the Synthesizer, which takes three Fractured Items of the same class and pops out a Synthesized Item with random implicit mods. Crafting the perfect item through this method will take some practice, but after some time working with the Synthesizer, veterans will quickly piece together the process.
While Synthesis represents the constantly-rotating three-month leagues, Grinding Gear is hesitant to leave behind Betrayal, especially in the wake of the expansion's success. That's why it won't. Betrayal will officially be folded into the core Path of Exile experience, with Jun Ortoi acting as a Forsaken Master and appearing in the Maraketh Desert starting in Act Nine. All Betrayal content is being integrated to the point that while it won't happen as often as in the league, players will encounter more Immortal Syndicate activity in certain areas.
Speaking of the Path of Exile core experience, Grinding Gear is aiming for a complete overhaul of the game's spells. Synthesis will see the studio work in a full-blown rebalance of all 40 of the game's existing spells, with the goal to get them around the same power level. The next update will also see new incentives for handcasting. While PoE players have exercised great creativity in casting spells throughout secondhand means, like totems and traps, Grinding Gear is looking at ways to get players casting their own spells from their own hands.
Having said that, Synthesis will introduce two new character archetypes who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty:
- Chaos Spellcaster: The Chaos Spellcaster will use a variety of new and existing Chaos magicks. This includes a new skill called Soulrend, which fires off a slow-moving homing projectile at targets. When it hits, it will spread Chaos damage to surrounding targets.
- Holy Spellcaster: The Holy Spellcaster will combine elemental and physical damage to smite monsters. Divine Ire is among the first specific Holy spells, in which players channel this skill and damage surrounding enemies as it charges up. Divine Ire will then release a large Holy blast towards a concentrated area.
As is the case with every Path of Exile expansion, players will find new unique items. Synthesis will offer 16 new unique items, but Grinding Gear is starting to run into an issue where the game has hit a wall in terms of unique items. The game already offers over 850 of them, so the studio isn't looking to add to that number unless it's a meaningful addition. An example is in the new Eternity Shroud, which can trigger an all-new Glimpse of Eternity skill. The Glimpse of Eternity skill creates a time dilation bubble around the players, slowing all targets nearby for a short period. This skill is exclusive to the Eternity Shroud and is an example of a unique item that lives up to its billing.
Synthesis is Path of Exile's first expansion for 2019, but it certainly won't be the last. Look for three more expansions to hit this year, roughly 13 weeks apart. The last of them will be revealed at the first ExileCon, a Path of Exile fan convention set to take place in Auckland, New Zealand in November. Not only will Grinding Gear reveal the last expansion of 2019, but they'll also reveal news about the major 4.0.0 mega-expansion, which is set to release sometime in 2020.
Look for Path of Exile: Synthesis to arrive on PC on March 8. The Xbox One will receive this expansion days later, on March 11. As for PlayStation 4, that console's iteration of Path of Exile was delayed back in December. But the PS4 version of PoE looks to be ready to go and will officially release with Synthesis in mid-March.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Path of Exile 3.6.0 recovers lost memories with Synthesis
As a new player, should I be playing in the seasonal leagues, or just stick to the standard league? I created my first two characters on the Betrayal league, but I had two friends who started playing in the standard league, so I just rolled a new character there.
Seeing this coming out, now I'm wondering if I should have stuck with the seasonal league?