Path of Exile: Chris Wilson Discusses The Blight Expansion

Ever since its initial release on PC in October 2013, followed by its arrival on Xbox One in 2017 and PlayStation 4 earlier this year, Path of Exile has become a monumental success for Grinding Gear Games. The company has noted that audiences have doubled since launch on console, while the team continues to make changes with new additions and tweaks to keep the game’s consistency up to date.

Path of Exile Blight

That means big updates every now and again, including one set to take place this September that brings a big Blight change to the fold. Don’t worry; nothing big enough to change the way you play will take place. Some tweaks will help keep things going in a big way, and should bring some new players into the fold as the fall season comes around as the forthcoming ExileCon prepares to make its debut this November in Auckland, New Zealand.

With that, let’s get started on what players can expect from this new update!


The Players Rise – and the New Expansion

With the game’s debut on consoles, concurrent users for Path of Exile continues to grow monumentally. With the latest 3.7.0 update, according to Grinding Gears’ Chris Wilson, the game has seen just under 225,000 concurrent users. That’s a steady high considering it was just around 110,000 with the 3.1.0 update not too long ago. This is a truly impressive rise for a game that’s just gotten past its fifth anniversary.

Now comes the Blight expansion, which will be broken down into many components. The first comes with the Blight challenge league, as well as three revamped balance archetypes with additional skills and support gems. Through these, players will have the opportunity to pick up an abundant amount of new items to add to their collection. 

In addition, two older leagues will be making their return, but with a better focus for players to take appreciation of.

In the Blight, a character by the name of Sister Cassia will take focus. According to Wilson, she’s a new non-playable character that will lead you to a number of Fungal Growths that pop up throughout the world of Wraeclast. These are pretty hard to miss, as they look like large flowers that appear ready to burst at any given moment, with devastating ground tendrils that pretty much leak out everywhere within a certain radius.

This area has some importance to the Fungal Growths. Any monsters in it are automatically under their control, and come to defend it right off the bat. It’s up to the player to fight off the monsters while working with Cassia to destroy the Fungal Growth. It’s a bit more challenging than you might think, especially as you come across new Growths. They grow greater armies as you go along, meaning you’ll have to use more tactics in order to keep them off Cassia and cut them down.

As Wilson explained over the course of the demo, the player is responsible for wiping out the enemy forces. The game does have a tactical tower defense-like system, but you don’t necessarily have tools that kill the opponents automatically. Instead, it slows them long enough for you to move in and make the kill. Wilson notes there’s a better satisfaction to it, and based on the footage we saw in the demo, he’s got a good point. With the moves each character class has, it’s not like it’s a struggle to bring down the monsters while Cassia drains the necessary ichor to defeat the Growths.

In his post-demo notes Wilson said, “Our goal was to combine this popular genre of game with Path of Exile‘s action combat and to make it a bite-sized experience that lets you test your character in new ways, earn some cool rewards, and then get on with killing monsters.” Getting the hands-on approach is definitely the better way to go, he feels.

Path of Exile Blight

There are general monsters that are easy to kill, but Wilson also warns to keep an eye out for the “infected” ones. These creatures are a lot tougher, which means you’ll need to build additional defensive towers to slow them even further, so that no harm will come to your player or Cassia long enough for you to deliver the fatal blow. Finding the right weakness may take some practice, but you have enough tools in your arsenal to chip away at them.

And this practice will certainly pay off. Once you clear out enough lanes for each of these Growths, you’ll be rewarded with a Chest, packed with goodies inside.

Over the course of the game, Wilson explained that you’ll be able to “buff other towers” for additional strength as well as spawn minions. These become quite useful over the course of the game, as they’ll attack other enemies almost instantly, doing the “dirty work” for you.

“It’s quite important to read the lanes to work out what types of monsters are coming and to strategize accordingly. Tower placement is also important, so that your towers affect as much of a lane as possible and slow down the enemies while you deal with them,” Wilson explained in his notes. Again, practice makes perfect.


Rewards Aplenty

And what are part of these rewards? That includes Oils. You’ll run across different ones that you can actually combine together to add properties to certain items over the course of the game. For instance, Sister Cassia can show you what some of these Oils can do for her, like combining them with her Rings or Amulets.

You can try out different pairings in whatever order you’d like (it doesn’t really matter, Wilson explains). 12 tiers of Oils available in all, with rarer types available over the course of the game, you’re sure to find some that will give you something powerful for your next encounter with monsters.

Once you add these Oils to a Ring or Amulet, you’ll come up with enchantments. These are new to Path of Exile, and add new properties that can stack value to the item. This can be quite a game-changer for some so don’t be afraid to experiment a little!

Wilson explained that “two oils can anoint a ring,” which can add an enchantment to modify the functionality of your tower. You can equip more than one at a time, but if you have three oils, you can “anoint an amulet.” This is even more powerful, as you are able to grant the “full properties of a Notable passive skill on the passive skill tree,” per Wilson.

“Each combination of three oils (where order doesn’t matter) grants a different notable passive skill, and some are a lot rarer and more powerful than others,” he explains.

Blighted Maps are also added over the course of the game. They take you to a new area that features a giant Blight encounter, but without any general monsters to take on. These are incredibly difficult and pack a dangerous challenge, but as a result you’ll earn some special items for your collection, so they’re well worth the risk.

Four Blight uniques are also available, set to be “anointed” by Cassia. We took a look at a couple of these during the demo, such as the Triad Grip gloves. They fit particularly with different elements for characters, such as the Necromancer, and give you control over what damage can be converted based on the colors of the sockets of the item.

Path of Exile Blight

Give These Archetypes a Try

Speaking of the Necromancer, this Archetype has gone through some revamping with its reintroduction into Path of Exile, but Wilson notes it’s for the better.

With this character, the minions can now be better under your control with the help of three support gems. They’ll act more aggressively, as you can guide them towards specific targets, depending on the gem you’re using. As you level up, they become more of a primary “meat shield” of sorts, so that you stand less of a chance of getting hit, even as tougher enemies enter the fray. “This leaves the player room to choose how to specialize their minions in a way that is different from other players,” Wilson notes.

There’s also been a slight bit of redesign when it comes to the effects of the Necromancer, with more minion types that can be used overall. The Carrion Golem can also be used for buffing purposes, both for you and your minions. Once utilized, you can use a wand, available in most Atlas map areas, which can use minion properties once applied.

That leads to the other Archetype revamp joining the game – the Poison Assassin. Wilson explained this was once removed from Path of Exile because it was simply far too powerful, but thanks to some balancing, it’s bound to be more players’ speed this time around. 

He noted “seriously broken critical strike math” being the big problem with the character, with large amounts of poison damage crippling foes. “We eventually had to fix this system to act more reasonably, and that reduced the character down to just another fair build that was semi-popular but not one of the top ways to play any more. Players have asked for a return to the glory days, and we believe we have a way to achieve this without being quite so unstoppable,” he said.

With that, the character now has five new skills, along with a new support gem that adapts to this play style. One particular move that players should enjoy is the Cobra Lash. This actually throws out a copy of the current weapon that chains out onto enemies, combo-style, creating a poison effect. It’s not nearly as overpowering as the “broken critical” strikes, but is still highly effective.

What’s more, a new buff called Elusive can be applied across the Ascendancy tree. With it, Wilson explained, defense and mobility become more of a factor for the Poison Assassin. It lasts for a short while, but doesn’t turn off right away once its effects are done. Instead, it weakens a little bit, giving the player more of a chance so they can prepare defensively for when it’s gone.

Wilson also made note that the Assassin’s Ascendancy tree has gone through minor changes, with additional options for critical strikes and poison. Players should have a lot more fun with this Archetype once it’s available.

Then there’s the Saboteur. This seems to be an old-school explosive Archetype that some players will enjoy. It has an Ascendancy option for the Shadow class, which sets off traps and explosives that can be chained together. There are some adjusted mechanics, as mines can now be thrown at range, with much more expediency. You can also set them off in sequence, if you feel like timing should be on your side. You do need to set aside mana to utilize them, though.

Stormblast Mine is a low-level mine skill that players should enjoy, as it opens up some nearby enemies to damage, while setting up shockwaves for other blasts from other mines.

Three new Mine skills are also included, along with minor changes to the Notable passives.

Path of Exile Blight

Ready For the Endgame?

Finally, Wilson addressed the Atlas of Worlds endgame, in which the player comes across the five Masters and the missions they demand of them. Wilson did note some issues with this particular set-up though.

“This system had two problems. The first was that players felt that being surprised with a substantial and time-consuming mission made them feel forced to do it right then or miss out, when they potentially weren’t keen or ready to spend a lot of time on that content immediately,” he said. “The other issue was that taking advantage of the random occurrences on Atlas maps required quite a large amount of trading for maps as they came up, which was also very time-consuming.”

So what to do? Why, fix both of course which lead Grinding Gears to change the system. Now the encounters will be deferred, with the game keeping track of missions and the difficulty they’re completed on. What’s more, the Masters can be spoken to within the hideout, and you can apply the maps at any time, instead of just getting random ones that pop up. Two master missions will also be added to your total with each day, so something will be available for each session you log into.


This One’s For the Old League Players!

In addition, Wilson also made note about changes to the Old League content:

First up, for the Betrayal League, the Mastermind encounter will now provide a reward room for each member of the Immortal Syndicate, instead of just the ones in that branch. You can also share your Syndicate state across all characters in the current league, so you don’t have to worry about restarting the game if you begin a new one.

As for Delve league, there’s rebalancing, so Path of Exile isn’t such a struggle as you get deeper into the game. 69 fewer depths and lesser rare Delve encounters will take effect, and you can also expect a higher diversity of encounters and reward types. All your characters will have Sulphite in the league as well.

When Will All This Take Effect?

As for when the update will take place, it’ll hit the PC version of Path of Exile first on September 6th. Don’t worry console owners, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions wont be far behind  and will get it on September 9th.

As for the future of the game, that’ll be discussed at ExileCon in November. Expect some big changes in the future, but for now enjoy the Blight, if you survive that is!

Thanks to Chris Wilson at Grinding Gear Games for talking to us! Path of Exile is available now!

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