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Path of Exile: Fall of Oriath – First Look

Sometime last week, I had the opportunity to play an alpha build of Path of Exile’s new expansion, Fall of Oriath.  Grinding Gear Games has boasted that this is the largest content expansion for the game since its release and, after having played it, they aren’t lying.

Fall of Oriath takes the story to the frozen peaks of Mount Veruso; Your character and the allies you make along the way are the only thing standing between the liberation of the slaves trapped in Oriath and the High Templar Avarius. This premise is the central focus of Act 5, the first of six new acts added to the game. Due to my inability to successfully beat High Templar Avarius, I was only able to experience the entirety of Act 5 in the Alpha. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the final fight with Avarius is a two-part fight that gets downright brutal. The fight employs all kinds of crazy new mechanics that are going to challenge your timing, decision making, and preparation skills. The road leading through act 5 to reach him is lengthy as well. I don’t know if it’s my imagination, but these maps feel much bigger and much grander than past chapters of the story. Grinding Gear didn’t just add a bunch of empty space either. As you would expect from Path of Exile, every square inch of these well-designed terrains is teeming with enemies to slaughter for treasure and experience. There are also side areas that add entirely new segments to the map like the coves in the first few acts but on a larger scale. These side areas also have random effects added to them that buff monsters and further raise their difficulty. There’s a lot of experience and potential treasures to be had in these side maps though, so make sure you take time to explore them when you come across them.

Also new to Fall of Oriath is the Pantheon system, which is a new way to add additional powers to your characters. They’re introduced in Act 6 of the story and are continually introduced through Act 10. The world is threatened by both minor and major Gods; defeating them allows you to absorb their powers, giving you advantages or protections against that god’s natural domain. For example, defeating Arakaali, the Vaal Spider God will let you use her powers to reduce the damage you take from poisons and other damage over time effects. You can only have one Major and one Minor power active at a time, so it’s a good idea to choose which ones you want to have active based on the type of trouble you think you may run into on your adventures. The system is designed to focus on preparation. The more thought you put into your build and the accompanying Pantheon powers, the more payoff you’ll see in combat.

The new expansion also adds a series of new unique items, new skill gems, and plenty of other cool stuff to find that help to flesh out the already incredibly detailed world. The only real concerns that I have for the expansion are regarding new players. Path of Exile, with its massive skill trees and seemingly endless options for build customization can be daunting enough for new players. My worry is that adding in yet another system with the Pantheon Powers to keep track of could be even more intimidating. Personally, I think it’s a wonderful addition and that longtime players and fans of the game will be thrilled with the extra level of power you can grant yourself.

This expansion features many quality-of-life and balance changes as well. The minimap has been rebuilt to be easier to read and navigate. A new way to see where you have and haven’t been in an area has been added also. This will make completely clearing out areas much more efficient. Damage over time effects, which have been a staple of endgame builds for a while now, are being adjusted as well. As it is now, damage over time effects apply cumulative bonuses to tick damage based on the damage of the initial hit, which leads to those effects doing excessive damage. This is being fixed to make it more in line with how damage over time effects should work. The microtransaction system is being overhauled too, which will make managing your real currency purchases much cleaner. They are now going to be equipped to their own slot, so players can switch between them more easily without constantly recovering and reclaiming purchases. Players will also be able to move items from one character to another with a single click which should prevent them misplacing their purchased items.

Overall, the Fall of Oriath expansion is brimming with personality and genuinely feels different to the environments I’ve seen so far in the game. The enemies are different, unique named mobs are more powerful and seem to fight smarter, going to great efforts to dodge when their health gets low to allow their shields to recharge, and the new boss mechanics, even for just the first boss, are vicious but make you feel like a proper god-killer once you figure them out. Fans of action RPGs and especially fans of Path of Exile’s offerings to this point will be blown away by Fall of Oriath, which launches into beta on June 7th. The expected full release for the expansion is July of this year.

Make sure to also check out our beta preview from Proxzor!

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