As Blizzard continues to struggle with the first season of Diablo 4, some ARPG fans are instead pinning their hopes on Path of Exile 2 by Grinding Gear Games. The original Path of Exile released about a decade ago in 2013 after a lengthy open beta phase as a free-to-play alternative to Diablo. Since then, the developer has successfully supported the game with over 40 expansions and seasonal leagues. While Path of Exile 2 was announced back in 2019, this sequel has gone through some redesigns, in part due to the pandemic. But the developer feels like the game will finally be ready for a closed beta by June 2024.
Let’s do a bear-rel roll!
To build upon its predecessor, Path of Exile 2 aims to emphasize the action part of the ARPG genre and make the game even more customizable. On that front, game director Jonathan Rogers showed a hands-off demo of the Druid, one of the six new classes in the sequel that includes the Warrior, Huntress, Sorceress, Monk, and Mercenary. Combining these with the six original classes, this means that the game, along with the closed beta, will launch with 12 classes altogether. In the demo, Rogers illustrated the ability of the Druid to switch between his human and bear forms, while dodging and rampaging across the battlefield with ease.
Every class has been given additional options for mobility, primarily through a dodge roll with no cooldown that is performed at the press of the spacebar. This simple change makes almost every attack avoidable with precise timing, making it possible to defeat a boss without taking any damage. Of course, that requires that you have experience with the enemy’s attack patterns and move away.
Fortunately, nearly every ability can be dodge-canceled, so there’s now little risk of channeling a spell with a long casting time in case you see that a boss is winding up for a heavy strike. Many abilities have been given inherent movement too, be it an ice comet that pushes the Sorceress back a few paces, a Monk’s spinning attack that can fluidly carve a path of your choosing, and a Druid’s rampage that sees his bear form barrel through like a freight train. In the instance of the Druid, rolling will actually change him back into human form (on a more adorable note, though, you can roll as a bear in town).
Even the gems have gems
The other marked improvement in Path of Exile 2 is the depth of how skills work together and how much control players have in making optimal builds. The Druid’s basic maul attack as a bear doesn’t inflict a lot of damage to a boss unless it’s connected to other abilities. The combo string that Rogers showed me was particularly intricate and not for the faint of heart. It included raging as a bear, casting a lightning storm, creating a volcano, summoning wolves that apply a debuff on enemies, and slamming on the ground, which both stuns enemies and makes the volcano blast more projectiles. Performing this combo actually requires a few more parts to it, but suffice it to say, it melted bosses within seconds. Indeed, a part of the Path of Exile experience is working out the puzzle that is dealing high DPS by using every feature available to you.
One of the main features of the original Path of Exile is the ability to link gems together in sockets on an item so that you can create incredible attacks, like a lightning arc that grows exponentially so that it can effectively obliterate every enemy on the screen. The sequel takes this to the next step by avoiding the necessity of having an item altogether and introduces gems that have the ability to socket other gems within them. In particular, there are Meta gems that allow you to embed skill gems within them, creating a lot of connections where skills can trigger when others are cast. It sounds complex, but it’s actually meant to simplify combos by automating them to a degree. To do this, you’ll need to spend a portion of a new resource called Spirit that’s specifically allocated for buffs, auras, or anything that your character needs to concentrate on.
Behold the power of the swap option
Using points from specific skill books that you can find throughout the game, you will be able to apply passive skills to certain weapon sets. This new system in PoE 2 called Dual Specialization lets you switch a certain number of passives whenever you change weapons and forms, allowing the druid in the demo to increase spell damage when using a magic staff in human form and then do increased melee damage while in bear form. In fact, the “Dual” part of the feature is a bit of a misnomer, since Rogers showed me that you can set different passives for two weapon sets and one shapeshifting form. He also suggested that there might be ways to add additional skill sets on top of that.
Ultimately, given that the passive skill tree contains about 1500 nodes and a Level 100 character will have somewhere between 100 to 115 skill points, there’s an extraordinary number of builds that players can make. That’s not even mentioning weapons, skill gems, and other items that can radically transform your build. Like in the original Path of Exile, you can choose pathways that allow you to move across the passive skill tree board quickly so that you can select passives that are generally meant for other classes. However, while you can respec active skills freely so that you can experiment with different attacks, changing passive skills is purposely limited so that your decisions have some weight to them.
Grinding Gear Games will be focusing on polishing Path of Exile 2 before it’s ready for the closed beta on June 7, 2024. It is expected to include all six acts of the game, endgame features, and a few league options for testing purposes. They hope that the closed beta lasts for three months, if not longer, so that they can analyze how the economy will work. The sequel will introduce gold as a currency, but they plan on gold to be set aside in favor of items for crafting and upgrades by the endgame. More information on how the closed beta will operate, particularly whether it will test crossplay across PC, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles, will be shared at a later time.
This preview is based on a hands-off demo of the game behind closed doors as shown by the developers.
Nick Tan posted a new article, Path of Exile 2 aims to be an ARPG with much-improved action
Sad that this thing is still like a year away…