Path of Exile: Ascendancy runs the labyrinth in early 2016

Grinding Gear Games has announced the next expansion for Path of Exile, which will take players through a dangerous trap-filled labyrinth. Get ready for 'Ascendancy' early next year.

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There's been an abundance of dangers on the continent of Wraeclast for a couple of years. Up until now, those dangers have largely consisted of skeletons, demons, dragons, and generally anything living... or undead. However, Path of Exile is about to enter some uncharted territory with its upcoming Act IV expansion. Path of Exile: Ascendancy will introduce something never before seen in the MMORPG: a labyrinth filled with dangerous traps.

The story follows players are they confront a deadly labyrinth, constructed by the powerful lord, Emperor Izaro. While the maze is filled with its share of enemies, the main allure is its puzzles and a frightening variety of traps. These pitfalls include spike pits, furnace traps, laser blasters, guillotines, blade spinners, and several others. Staying alive will mean mastering the game's movement and exercising precision timing. It's one of Path of Exile's most ambitious efforts to date and according to the folks at Grinding Gear Games, some of the previous expansion's major additions made this next step entirely possible.

"In the last expansion, we improved our net code drastically," technical director Jonathan Rogers explained to Shacknews. "Now we're able to do this kind of thing, where we're sure exactly where you are, so that means you can do these fiddly little sections of having to go through traps and dodge various things."

The labyrinth won't be available to players right away, since they'll have to prove themselves worthy first. There are six trials to complete, each scattered in various parts of the world. Upon finding a Tear of Ascendancy, players can walk in and find a sequence introducing one of the game's new traps. The idea is simply to survive and reach the end of the trial. Once those trials are completed, it's time to enter the labyrinth, proper.

The labyrinth is a marathon of horrors, as players will need to set aside an average of 45-60 minutes to complete it. This will be one of the first additions that will introduce roguelike elements to Path of Exile, as anyone that dies will have to start the labyrinth over from scratch. Partying up may help some, but it won't help too much. There are no revivals here, so any party member that perishes within the labyrinth is done for good until the whole party either dies or completes the labyrinth.

There's an element of trial and error involved, but players will mostly be tested on memorization. While most aspects of Path of Exile are procedurally-generated, the labyrinth will have a static layout... for 24 hours. Labyrinth layouts will be refreshed on a daily basis, allowing for players to get a daily challenge, while also giving them a chance to assist their friends that may be trying out the labyrinth during a later part of the day. While the average time is a little less than an hour, Grinding Gear will be keeping track of who can complete labyrinths the quickest by instituting leaderboards.

Of course, it wouldn't be Path of Exile if there wasn't a little bit of procedurally-generated luck involved. Keys are placed in different locations, as are secret passages that will lead to different parts of the labyrinth. Some of these areas will contain secret doctrine items that can add a variant to the labyrinth. Sometimes they'll be beneficial, like offering extra crit chances to all players, but other times, they'll also throw in negative effects, like giving monsters an extra chance to inflict poison on every hit. It's ultimately up to the player whether they'll want to take this gamble.

The ultimate goal of the labyrinth is to face off against Emperor Izaro, himself. This boss battle will take place across three different phases, each of which will differ on a given day. For this particular demo, Izaro was in a chamber with three statues, each of which offer him specific buffs. The idea was to deactivate the statues to weaken Izaro before attacking. Upon depleting his health by one-third, the boss took one of his statues and moved on. After completing another part of the labyrinth, it was time to take on Izaro again. For the second battle, his remaining statue was off-limits in the distance, so the idea was to weaken him by luring him into a runic circle. After weakening him by another third, it was time to finish the last part of the labyrinth and trigger the final battle. This final clash saw Izaro fight alongside lieutenant characters that would join the fight at various points. The lieutenants have 16 different variations to them, offering a different twist on the final battle each day.

Assuming players can survive this brutal endeavor, there are substantial rewards waiting at the end. Over 19 Ascendancy classes will be made available (three for each existing class, with the exception of the Scion), with their own Ascendancy Skill Tree. Powering up these classes can be done through repeat labyrinth runs, but their abilities are worth the effort. Examples of these classes include Slayer, which gets some obscenely powerful offensive abilities; Champion, which can help buff party members and gets benefits for taunting foes; and Gladiator, which has skills that help it strike more quickly. When combining these new skills with the existing Path of Exile skill tree, it opens the door for even wilder character builds than the ones that already exist.

There will be plenty of more information on Path of Exile: Ascendancy in the coming month, with Grinding Gear aiming for an early 2016 launch. Path of Exile remains free-to-play and Ascendancy will likewise be free to all users.

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
  • reply
    November 20, 2015 12:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Path of Exile: Ascendancy runs the labyrinth in early 2016

    • reply
      November 20, 2015 12:56 PM

      iv put many many hours into PoE and many many hours into D3 , I wish the two would have a baby

      PoE skill and gem systems
      D3 Art work and animations
      PoE Item system that enables you to make a whole build around just one item
      D3 Drop system, rift and paragon system

      • reply
        November 20, 2015 12:58 PM

        Never played D3, but I didn’t put that many hours into PoE because it just felt like too much for me and I didn't care about the storyline. So when I feel like clearing dungeons I still boot up Torchlight 2 with some mods.

        You post makes me think about the complex world out there in these games when I mostly see them as loot clickers.

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          November 20, 2015 1:04 PM

          Torchlight 2 is still super fantastic. I think I prefer path of exile though. God PoE's skill and gem system is so fucking good.

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        November 20, 2015 1:05 PM

        Can we merge the PoE Map system with the D3 rift system? They're fundamentally similar in a lot of ways but the map system offers more customization and stuff (random properties and all that) that is cool. Rift system offers easy access.

        Maybe the GRIFT system could be replaced with the map stuff! So you find grift keys with random properties like rare maps.

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        November 20, 2015 3:10 PM

        PoE is also insane how they create so many mini leagues with varying mods.

        I can't believe how many updates and changes PoE has for a completely free to play game.

        Currently playing the Darkshrine League at the moment but the new Talisman league that's coming looks amazing.

        Once that is finished we get this update ... The only problem with PoE is it ends up becoming hard to stop playing :).