Nearly every gaming company has been affected in one way or another by the continuing spread of COVID-19. Even though New Zealand was among the countries hit the least by the virus, Grinding Gear Games has proven to be no exception. With the nation under lockdown, the team has worked mainly from home. But Path of Exile's latest expansion is still relatively on track in spite of current events. On Tuesday, Grinding Gear unveiled the dungeon crawler's next big update, Path of Exile: Harvest.
For Path of Exile players, Harvest will be one of the game's most ambitious expansions to date. Players will meet a new NPC named Oshabi, a figure cast out by the Azmeri who condemn superstitious activity. Oshabi believes in the power of the land and the potential that it holds, especially after discovering the ancient Sacred Grove. But to make the most of the Sacred Grove's power, she needs players who can help cultivate its soil.
Harvest will see players encounter magical roots over the course of their game. These roots will point them to a Seed Cache, which yields some special seeds when tagged. Those seeds can then be planted in the Sacred Grove after laying down a Lifeforce Collector. Players can then find other Seed Caches to collect more seeds. Tagging Seed Caches will also help time pass, allowing already-planted seeds to grow by one unit.
So what are these seeds for, anyway? Well, the simplest Tier 1 Seeds will unleash monsters of the Wild, Primal, or Vivid variety. Defeating those monsters will collect their lifeforce, which can then be used to craft new and powerful items. That's for the simplest-level player, but what if you want to go a little more complex?
Harvest's most novel idea is that it allows players to make complex garden layouts, like a makeshift Sim City or Cities: Skylines. Players will most likely do this to activate Tier 2 Seeds, which are occasionally dropped by Tier 1 monsters. To hatch Tier 2 monsters, players must arrange their garden with specific seed colors and line them up adjacently. These Tier 2 Seeds must also be irrigated properly, so players will need to build a dispenser and connect it to a Condenser (filled with Lifeforce storage) and their garden through pipes. Starting to see the resemblance to city-builders? If that's not enough, the Tier 2 monsters will occasionally drop Tier 3 seeds, which carry even more requirements to grow.
Growing Tier 2 and Tier 3 plants will be tough, but they'll prove to be worth the effort. They'll yield powerful items and crafting ingredients, the rarity and power level unlike anything seen in Path of Exile to date. Tier 3 Harvest monsters may even drop seeds for special endgame-level boss encounters. Of course, you'll have to earn all of this. Even if the garden layout is perfect, there's still a matter of defeating the monsters that come out of those plants. And the higher the tier, the more difficult the monster encounter. Players can grow up to 48 plants at once, which means they can take on up to 48 Harvest monsters simultaneously. Be careful about biting off more than you can chew, because you need to be able to defeat the monsters before you can collect their rewards.
Harvest is promising the most advanced crafting system to hit Path of Exile so far. While fans of city-builders can enjoy this expansion's emphasis on experimentation, Grinding Gear isn't looking to alienate any of its players. So it's entirely possible for minimalists to get strong items, too. The idea behind this league is to give players a greater amount of control over what they craft, rather than rely on random drops. Grinding Gear is also hoping to give players an idea of what to expect in the future, as members of the Path of Exile 2 development team also offered a hand with this expansion. PoE2 devs helped out with Harvest monster design, so consider that a potential peek into the visual future of the next Path of Exile.
If all of that isn't enough, Harvest will introduce 12 new unique items, some of which introduce some new mechanic ideas. For example, Doryani's Prototype is an armor that deals only lightning damage. It reduces the player's lightning resistance, but any nearby enemies will also lose their lightning resistance. This is an idea that Grinding Gear hopes will lead to some unique new play styles.
The next Path of Exile update will also update some existing skills. Herald of Thunder, for instance, is being overhauled to combine with the new Storm Secret unique ring. This chains together lightning shocks, though it will also inflict lightning damage to the player. The idea is to combine this setback with "cast when hit" traits in order to maximize damage.
Meanwhile, two-handed melee weapons are going to see some significant improvements. Related slam skills will be improved and reworked to make two-handed melee weapons more competitive. Players can find new items like the Fist of War support gem, which supports any slam skill and occasionally sees an Ancestor appear to enhance the player's slam attack. Other skills, like Tectonic Slam, are being reworked to be more viable in the field. Tectonic Slam will now only remove an endurance charge every three uses, which will work well with the ability's new area-of-effect range.
Warcry skills are likewise getting some attention in an effort to revitalize them. Four new Warcry skills are being added, while three are being reworked. Players will find new passive tree support, improved functionality, and greater power. All Warcries will also taunt nearby enemies while affecting their stats. But the biggest change is that Warcry attack power will no longer be proportional to enemy quantity, but rather enemy power level. This comes in handy for the new Seismic Cry, which creates a shockwave that pushes back enemies.
Brand skills are getting a revamp, as well. Place a Brand on the ground and watch it attach to a nearby enemy. Once the enemy dies, the Brand drops to the ground. Skills like Arcanist Brand and Penance Brand can be upgraded to chain together to hit multiple enemies at a time.
Path of Exile players should expect to see a revamped Passive Skill Tree. This will address the core tree, giving it more keystone passives and notable passives. Passive Tree support is coming for newer mechanics that haven't had such support to this point. Plus, it'll be revamped to support the reworks to two-handed melee weapons. And select Keystone passives associated with Legion's Timeless Jewels to this point will now make their jump to the main Passive Skill Tree. All of this will come alongside the rebalance of 50 of Path of Exile's unique items. Grinding Gear will have more information on the specific uniques affected in the weeks ahead.
If you've been playing Path of Exile: Delirium, you'll be happy to hear that it has been a big hit with PoE players. Grinding Gear is taking some unprecedented steps with this expansion. Not only is Delirium hitting the core game, but players will also have a greater chance to encounter Delirium content than they would any other league that's freshly added to the main game.
Lastly, after a multitude of expansions, Path of Exile has become somewhat demanding for PC users. That's why players can pick up the beta version of Path of Exile's new Vulkan renderer with Harvest. The Vulkan renderer changes up the game's resource management, offering better control over resource management of game assets during rendering. This should help rectify any stuttering problems associated with DirectX 11.
That's a lot to absorb, but players will have plenty of time to take it all in. Path of Exile: Harvest is tentatively set to release on June 19 on PC, while PlayStation 4 and Xbox One users should get it on June 22. But we mentioned those COVID-19 setbacks, so these dates are subject to change.