- Character Customization
- End-game Mapping
- Labyrinth Requirements
- Penalties & 1-shot Death Mechanics
Path of Exile 3.0: The Fall of Oriath Review Introduction
It’s easy to forget how far Path of Exile has come over just the past few years. Desynchronization, broken Cyclone, disbalance in double-dipping, and more. This game has evolved since its initial release far beyond any other release I’ve seen for the PC, and now we also have it on Xbox and localized in China. Second only to the Diablo franchise, PoE and Grinding Gear Games has grown to levels only a handful of independent companies and products ever dream to achieve, and there’s no indication of PoE slowing down with its grand success.
When 3.0 was announced with six new acts (to remove the different difficulty levels), the player base went crazy; and rightly so. The game is now one excellent linear story that takes the player through a fantastic fantasy journey, including revisitng previously conquered realms with the reflection of changes based on the story and the character’s actions.
This review will cover all the new features, changes, pros and cons the new 3.0 version of PoE has to offer. For those who are interested, you can find the complete 3.0 patch notes here.
The new content is top notch. 6 new acts have been added; after killing Malachai the player gets to journey to Oriath in Act V and slay … a god. Once this is done, Part II of the story begins with 5 new acts. This includes going back to Wraeclast and revisiting numerous regions from the first four acts mixed with a number of new areas. Some of the new zones are beautiful, my favorite being The Beacon; the water and synergy of the beach makes it one of the best looking areas in the game.
The story is very well-written and immersive for those who pay attention. Each act has a focal story that’s just one piece of the whole, with the ultimate goal being to kill Kitava, the hungering god. This includes taking care of (terminating) his followers, of which there are many. While the story is much more in-depth, I don’t want to give up too much for those who haven’t played it through as of yet – needless to say, pay attention. It’s very good. Many don’t know when you complete the storyline and go to the Epilogue zone, Kitava’s head is on display in the right region of the zone. It’s fantastic.
There are many new bosses to kill, and many of them are quite difficult, with the final Kitava fight in Act X universally being accepted as the most difficult (as it should be). It’s not for the faint of heart. Other boss fights include killing (again) known prior bosses (Maligaro, Doedre, etc.), and new visually stunning fights such as the Lunaris and Solaris battle from Act VIII. The Innocence fight is also very well-done. We also have the Brine King (which can be difficult for new players), and everyone’s favorite (and I mean hated) side boss, Yugul. All of these bosses (and more) make for a great experience, and nearly all of the fights are very well balanced. There are also new Vaal side areas and bosses to conquer as well.
I also want to make a comment about the new music; it’s fantastic.
The launch of 3.0 also brought with it the Harbinger League, which brings “other world” creatures (complete with their own gibberish language) that summon enemies to kill you. Once you kill enough of the enemies they summon, these Harbingers drop “shards” of currency like Alchs, Chaos and Exalts (even Mirrors). They also drop shards for new currency (orb of Annulment, Binding, Horizons, Engineer’s Orb, and Ancient Orb). The most common is the Orb of Binding. It upgrades a normal item to a rare item with up to four linked slots, allowing for starting characters to quickly acquire 4L items. Engineer’s Orb improves the quality of a strongbox, but it’s hard to say the exact impact they have on the contents. Orb of Horizons reforges a map to another of the same tier, making it easier for players to explore the Atlas. The Harbinger’s Orb reforges a map to another of a higher tier, supporting a player to explore and grow their Atlas (and pursue higher-level content). Ancient Orbs reforge a Unique item to be another within the same class; this is interesting, and a new twist on gambling. So you can reforge that useless Bramblejack Vest for a chance to get a Kaom’s Heat. Rare, but possible. And finally, we have the Orb of Annulment, which removes a property from an item. While this can ruin an item, it can also save it by removing a bad stat, which can result in saving dozens of exalts for end-game crafting. I believe these currency items are going to stay in the game after the end of the Harbinger league. The Harbinger League also brought with it the Beachhead Harbinger Map, which is the new “farming meta” for 3.0. Bring your friends; it’s fun, and rewarding!
For players who are interested, here are: Harbinger League Statistics I, and Harbinger League Statistics II. The most popular skill in the Harbinger League is Ancestral Warchief. #2 is a tie between Cyclone and Sunder. Other popular skills are: Righteous Fire, Barrage, Essence Drain, and Summon Raging Spirit.
GGG also added a new Tutorial to the game; the core of it is solid and will definitely help new players, but it’s missing a number of components including an overview that covers item crafting (one of the most important features of the game).
Balance & Gameplay
By removing cruel and merciless difficulties, the game now imparts a permanent resistance and experience loss hit when you kill Kitava (both times). The nice part about this new approach is you always know what your resists are, even when you’re in a hideout. The numbers are still the same as before; a 30% resistance hit each time with 5% experience loss and then 10%.
The Bandits have also been redesigned; you can receive 2 points by killing all of them, or Helping Oak grants: 1% of Life Regenerated per second, 2% additional Physical Damage Reduction, 20% increased Physical Damage. Helping Alira grants: 5 Mana Regenerated per second, +20% to Global Critical Strike Multiplier, +15% to all Elemental Resistances. Helping Kraityn grants: 6% increased Attack and Cast Speed, 3% chance to Dodge Attacks, 6% increased Movement Speed.
Access to the Labyrinth has also been reworked; once you unlock the trials and enter the Labyrinth from Act 3, the waypoint to the Aspirants’ Plaza can be accessed anytime. Within the Aspirant’s plaza, the character then uses the Labyrinth Activation Device to choose which labyrinth to run (Normal, Cruel, Merciless, or Eternal). The Normal and Cruel labyrinth have been shortened substantially (about 1/2 the length as before) so they are much easier (and more fun) to run. Killing Izaro now also disables traps in the room.
Cyclone has been fixed! This is a big deal; before, cyclone would get stuck on the smallest object. It now spins around any obstructions. With the changes to 3.0, Cyclone is now one of the most played skills in the game.
Prior to 3.0, Volatile rares were the #1 cause of death for players at end-game. The insta-corpse exploding damage was devastating, and players complained about it for years. Now in 3.0, when you kill a Volatile, a giant glob of glowing goo chases the player around, and can be dodged.
Another one of the biggest changes is that of Energy Shield vs. Life. With 3.0, life-based builds are not only more viable, they are now the norm. ES builds (which used to dominate end-game) are now much more rare, and not as strong as they once were. The current market’s movement of Belly of the Beast and Kaom’s Heart reaffirms the interest in life-based builds vs. ES. This was a very good change; players can still pursue ES and low-life builds; they just don’t have the crazy shield (14k+) that they had before (it’s now closer to 11k).
There are three new Action Gems in 3.0: Dark Pact, Storm Burst and Charged Dash. There’s no question Dark Pact is the most powerful of the new skills, allowing for end-game shaper-killing meta builds. Storm Burst and Charged dash seem to have fallen by the wayside as far as being “meta strong”, but there are viable fun versions of each to play.
The biggest enhancement to character builds is really from the new Support Gems: Ignite Proliferation, Chance to Bleed, Lesser Poison, Deadly Ailments, Decay, Efficacy, Vile Toxins, Maim, Immolate Support, Unbound Ailments, Brutality, Ruthless, Onslaught, Arcane Surge. While I won’t go into detail relative to each skill, these have enhanced the game greatly. Poisoning, Bleeding, Igniting and other augmentations have made previously “meh” builds quite powerful now. The addition of these support gems has also created a completely new set of viable end-game builds, which is what PoE is all about. Nearly all of the new support gems are great and very useful.
3.0 also added 24 new Unique items and 36 new Achievements. You can see the complete list of the 3.0 uniques here. It’s hard to say which new uniques are the most influential in 3.0, but my vote is for the Allelopathy Sorcerer Gloves, which make a huge difference with Blight builds. The Wasp Claw also opened the door for enhanced ST and other builds as well.
There were also a number of changes to many Threshold Jewels, which has helped revitalize builds that people were not interested in prior to 3.0. Changes were made to Dead Reckoning (skeleton mages), Growing Agony (viper strike), Omen on the Winds (+5 pierces) and Spirited Response (Rallying Cry). New jewels include Hazardous Research (Spark) and Spreading Rot (Blight). Note that Spreading Rot fundamentally changed how powerful Blight was, now making it viable for farming shaper with the right equipment (showing how much a single jewel can change a skill/build). Ring of Blades was nerfed from 10 additional projectiles to 5, but it’s still quite viable and fun for end-game.
Double Dipping was the most controversial issues prior to 3.0. Tied to Damage Over Time (DoT) from sources such as fire and poison, the mechanics behind DoTs in 2.6 allowed for an insane amount of damage that made numerous builds overpowered. Double dipping is now gone, and the the DoT system has been completely reworked (redefined as Ailments). Chill, Shock and Pierce were also adjusted. For example, with Pierce, instead of a percentage chance of piercing (which could allow unlimited pierces), pierce can now only happen a specific number of times. Having run Bow, ED and other pierce-based builds in 3.0, I think the change was a good one. The game still plays great and the redesigned mechanic works perfectly.
There were so many other minor changes to existing skills (Kinetic Blast, ire Trap, Scorching Ray, Glacial Cascade, and others) it’s too much to list here. Definitely check out the Patch Notes for details.
Boss health is now more than double what it was prior to 3.0. This has a great impact on many systems such as freezing (which was based on the bosses total health); as such, most bosses can no longer be frozen. This also balances out map-clearing with boss killing, making it much more difficult for top tier builds to efficiently handle map clearing just as easy as bossing. Ultimately, bosses are a lot harder now, and with more health, that means they live longer and have more time to kill you. I personally think this was a good change because prior to 3.0 too many meta end-game builds were destroying both maps and bosses. Players must now decide if they want to be a boss killer, a map clearer (usually skipping bosses), or balance the two.
There were also a number of adjustments to the Passive Tree; this includes enhancements to bleed, poison, ignite and other damage enhancements. While the changes did make a substantial difference for end-game builds, they weren’t too invasive and ultimately didn’t really redefine the game any more than fixing/adjusting a few areas.
The Ascendancy Tree also had a number of adjustments made to it, changing some end-game builds entirely. This includes a complete Redux of the Scion, which was a long-time coming. The Scion is now more viable than ever. In the end, each ascendancy is still quite powerful even though some were buffed while others were nerfed.
The Pantheon system is a new passive buff system where the character unlocks the “powers of the gods”. Selections are unlocked through the storyline and can be changed on the fly, allowing for things like chance to avoid projectile damage, increased movement speed, and reduction in elemental damage. All of the options are defensive in nature and provide no offensive benefit. Divine Vessels allow the player to unlock additional values that one cannot acquire through the storyline. Ultimately, I’ve found the Pantheon system to be poorly designed; the interface is clunky, and the system as a whole really needs a “redux” to make it more familiar and focused. Once the storyline is completed, most players forget the Pantheon system even exists. That’s not good.
The 3.0 patch notes talk about a Passive Skill Tree Planning System, yet it was removed right before the 3.0 launch. It’s unknown when/if it’ll be re-implemented.
Systems & Technical
While the new MTX system was launched prior to 3.0, I’m covering it as a 3.0 feature because it was released shortly before the Fall of Oriath expansion; and boy did it change everything. MTX (Micro Transactions, the bread and butter for GGG’s income) is now easy as cake to use – and to buy. The new design is one of the best systems I’ve seen, and it’s easy to quickly adjust your character’s look with custom armor, weapons, skill FX, and other augments. Nothing like making your level 1 character look like a level 95 end-game badass!
The new Automap is one of the most loved changes to 3.0, revealing the game map as the player explores. This is very helpful when clearing maps or looking for the next entrance/exit.
DirectX 11 is now the default rendering option. There is also a new Lighting Quality option. But the biggest enhancement is that of Dynamic Resolution, which directly addresses the “screen freeze” issues tied to numerous particles on the screen at once. No longer will it burn out your GPU and lower the FPS to single digits when a party of players are running Magma Orb Totems. The Dynamic Resolution system counts the particles and as the screen fills with them, lowers the rendering quality (and even display count), thus saving precious GPU (and even CPU) cycles.
Back in April I wrote an article titled Path of Exile: State of the Game. This covered the many issues that PoE has. Some of those issues (such as Volatile and Cyclone) have been fixed, but many of the issues still persist.
- THIS HAS BEEN FIXED! | Pathing AI for monsters has been degraded in 3.0. Monsters and zombies, etc. now aren’t as smart as they were before. My guess is they had to adjust the code in 3.0 to make the server load easier with so many players.
- Exploding Corpse is the new Volatile, often 1-shotting players. There should be some sort of visual indicator and delay that allows the player to escape the insta-gib.
- As mentioned above, there is nothing in the new tutorial to help players with crafting items. There is also the whole suffix/prefix issue, which is not clear at all, even for those who have been playing for years. Some sort of identification/marker when holding down ALT while highlighting an item as to which mods are prefix/suffix would make a huge difference and improve the QoL greatly.
- THIS HAS BEEN FIXED! | Players have been asking for Persistent Spectres for years. Still, nothing from GGG. Very disappointing.
- I don’t know what was changed with the map generation algorithm for 3.0, but there are definitely more dead-ends in the world/story zones now.
- There’s definitely an issue with trade botting and market cornering. There were also no trade system enhancements with the release of 3.0, even though GGG said there would be. Trading in PoE is currently brokered through a 3rd party, and it’s often out of synch, showing items sold hours ago still for sale. It is very unwise for GGG to put the trading of PoE in the hands of a 3rd party system, and even more unwise to ignore the importance of a solid trading infrastructure for a game like PoE.
- There were no enhancements to the guild system at all. This is very disappointing because GGG could do so much more to bring players together through the Guild system.
- There are still no messages informing you what killed you. Because PoE has so many 1-shot mechanics, even though I’ve been playing since BETA, I’ll still have occasional deaths that leave me scratching my head wondering what just happened. Can’t learn to avoid something if you have no clue what it was. This is something the community has been asking for years.
- Players have been asking GGG to add minimap icons for unique/currency drops. Playing a sound FX just isn’t enough, and players often don’t even know a Unique or Exalt has dropped off-screen because they play with the sound off. This is like the Volatile issue; everyone wants it, everyone knows it’ll make the game better, but GGG is doing nothing to add it. Sometimes you have to wonder what on earth their dev team is thinking.
- Self-activating waypoints would make a lot more sense. Even as a veteran player, I sometimes forget to click on a waypoint because I’m accustomed to other games activating them based on proximity.
- When you are about to die, the screen will only grow dim based on health in low-lit areas (it lowers the lighting coming from your character). However, if you are outside with complete lighting, there is no visual indication you are about to die. Corrupted Blood kills players left and right solely because they don’t even know their health is dropping. A “low life” indicator system is already in the game, but GGG has yet to properly adjust it to work in all lighting conditions.
- It’s annoying the game still doesn’t default to last selected league for the character list. Once again, players have been asking for this simple feature for years.
- It would be great to invite Tasuni to your hideout so you could turn in Divination cards.
- Siosa is a great gem seller, but requires you to have the currency in your inventory. This is a major pain, and players have been asking for Siosa to use currency in the stash for quite some time now. No idea why GGG hasn’t fixed this major inconvenience.
- Still can’t toggle the UI on/off to take screenshots.
- The Death System for PoE is specifically designed for hardcore players, ensuring the greater majority of all PoE players will never get beyond level 90. I have covered this in detail in the past, but feel it’s important to mention here because it causes players to abandon characters and “take a break” from the game when such a system is wholly unnecessary due to the sheer amount of time, energy and effort it takes to reach level 100 even without death. It’s important to note the China release has “resurrect coins” which can be used to restore experience lost from death.
- The Labyrinth is still one of the most controversial and hated features of the game, shown by this ever-growing thread of more than 700 pages. While Normal and Cruel labyrinth has been simplified with 3.0 (which is a good thing, and also shows GGG acknowledges the lab is a problem), Merciless is still quite difficult and Eternal (previously Uber) is nearly impossible for the overwhelming majority. Forcing players to dodge traps while engaging in a very difficult boss fight where you cannot die in order to secure character progression just frustrates and angers people.
- THIS HAS BEEN FIXED! | There are still random crashes in PoE. There is also a strange desync “stuttering” when running around (confirmed by others). Granted the crashes are rare (only once every day or two) and the stutter doesn’t impact gameplay at all, there’s definitely some technical refinement that’s necessary.
Don’t get me wrong; PoE is an amazing game, but there are some “no brainer” things that need to be addressed/fixed (many of which have been requested for years) that GGG is simply ignoring. This is very disappointing, since most of these changes are easy to implement and would enhance the gameplay experience greatly.
The 3.0 release of Path of Exile has completely redefined the game and made it even better. This is apparent by examining the Steam Charts, which show the greatest growth of the game since it was released. While the Harbinger League isn’t held as one of the best, the new content, features, mechanics, and balance changes to the game show excellent growth and retention. It also shouldn’t be long before we start receiving information on the success of the Xbox console release, and the launch in China. But as a player who has built more than a dozen characters and played end-game in 3.0, I can personally say with all honesty that the Fall of Oriath release is not only the best expansion PoE has launched so far, it’s just another step toward PoE dominating the ARPG industry. Keep up the great work, GGG!