Path of Exile: Awakening will expand Wraeclast while adding major skill tree additions

Path of Exile's Act IV expansion, Awakening, is adding a slew of new features that includes a major new addition to the game's skill trees. It's so major that the expansion will require a beta that will kick off on April 20.

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The continent of Wraeclast has been home to the damned for a couple of years. As the warriors of Path of Exile continue to forge ahead in the name of survival, they're about to encounter things they have never seen before. Yes, the crew at Grinding Gear Games have something special in mind for the game's upcoming Act IV expansion. In fact, the expansion dubbed "Awakening" is so big that the developers are going to need to launch a closed beta before launching it for everyone.

Path of Exile is looking to expand the main continent of Wraeclast for the first time since the game's launch, adding whole new areas, dungeons, monsters, and end-game scenarios. Examples of new areas include dungeons like the Mines, a challenging and dimly lit area filled with all-new enemies. The story will visit the continent's lore further, going into the history of the behemoth known as the Beast. Each time the Beast has awakened, it has brought cataclysm and world-ending mayhem in its wake.

The main objective of the Awakening expansion is to try and prevent the Beast from waking up and causing another cataclysm. Even in its dormant state, however, the Beast has created entirely new areas of exploration. These areas are largely based on characters' dreams, as well as various events recounted in the vast Path of Exile lore. One such area saw a Ranger going into a gladatorial arena, where he was ambushed by hordes Massive Pitbull enemies. Just as with the rest of Path of Exile, encounters can be randomized. In this particular case, the Ranger was ambushed by rarer, more powerful Massive Pitbulls, albeit in smaller numbers, that yielded rarer drops.

One of the main new features of Awakening, however, is quite the game-changer and is the main reason that a beta has become necessary. Not content to boast the biggest skill tree in all of MMORPGs (and pretty much video games, as a whole), Path of Exile is introducing new sockets that will fit items called Jewels. Jewels will allow players to craft entirely new passive skills that will affect that portion of the tree. More than that, Jewels can also have an area of effect across all surrounding gems, allowing for entirely new and never-before-seen possibilities.

Examples include the Selfless Leadership jewel, which will gift all surrounding passive abilities to all summoned minions. That means any bonuses like health drops, higher percentage rare loot drops, or additional summons upon death can also be applied to any friendly minions summoned. It opens the door for adding passives that were never originally intended for minion characters. Likewise, boosts that were meant for certain weapons can be applied to different weaponry if the right jewel is applied. The expansion will introduce 20 jewels to start and gradually add more in the weeks and months ahead. The possibilities have expanded so much that Grinding Gear needs a beta period to evaluate any unforeseen issues. For Path of Exile players, the addition is truly an exciting one and makes the meta-game of creating the ultimate character even more engaging than it already is.

This is all scratching the surface of the new additions set to debut in Awakening. New minion options will become available, such as fire and ice golems that can add some elemental punch to your party. War Cries will grant buffs to players, as well as surrounding allies. Awakening will debut 13 new skills, in total, with more set to be added later. The expansion will also add new base types, recipes, mods, over 70 unique items, and nine bosses that have been conjured by the Beast. An example of the bosses set to debut includes the hammer-wielding fire warrior King Kaom, who will strike down with his hammer and make certain parts of the arena hazardous. The other bosses, all taken from Wraeclast lore, will likewise exercise complex attack patterns that put the focus on action-RPG-style skill over button spam.

Grinding Gear will also continue to support Path of Exile with additional patches after Awakening's release. Future updates will look to address various quality of life improvements, such as font changes, new UI options, and even a real-world clock displayed in-game for those that tend to lose track of time. The developer is looking out for player-requested features, noting that anything added via player hacks by popular demand is something they will be aiming to address through official updates. An upcoming patch is also set to address network issues that are causing a handful of players to desync.

While all of this may sound like information overload intended for diehard Path of Exile players, Grinding Gear does have the new player in mind, as well. Awakening will completely rebalance the game from scratch all the way from the first level. This means certain skills and unlocks will come sooner to help deal with all the new content (and danger) that's being added to Wraeclast.

With so much coming down the pipe, Grinding Gear is looking to get the Path of Exile; Awakening beta up and running as soon as possible. In fact, sign-ups are happening right now over at the expansion's official website, with the beta set to begin on Friday, April 20. And in true Path of Exile spirit, the expansion will release shortly afterwards to all players for free.

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?

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