Path of Exile: Legion First Look – A True Battle Lies Ahead

Grinding Gear Games’ Path of Exile has become a monumental success since its initial release on PC in 2013. And the developers expanded upon that success recently with the Xbox One version in 2017, followed by the PlayStation 4 edition early this year. It presents a number of challenges for those looking for a unique alternative to the Diablo series, especially when it comes to conquering classes such as the Duelist, the Marauder and the Ranger. But there’s more where that came from.

The developers recently announced that a new add-on for the game, Legion, is in the works. It’s set to drop very soon here, coming first to PC on June 7 before making its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 just three days later on June 10. With it, players will be introduced to a number of new challenges, ones that they’ll have to act to quickly, lest they become overrun by armies that want nothing more than to swat them down.

So let’s take a close look at what this expansion will have to offer before it arrives in just a few short weeks:

 

Say Hello To the Blood and Sand Gladiator

With Legion, Grinding Gear Games will introduces two new archetypes to the game, which players can experiment and grow with as they become better and mow down enemies like grass. First up is the Blood and Sand Gladiator, who acts as a Duelist. His name indicates that he can utilize “Blood” and “Sand” stances to knock down opponents, both of which can come in pretty handy.

“Their stances are mana reservation effects that give benefits depending on the theme of the stance, and you can switch between the stances at will. Blood Stance is great for dealing lots of damage to close enemies, while Sand Stance is defensive and has more area of effect. The Blood and Sand skills have very different behavior in each stance, so you want to switch stances to best adapt your skill and benefits to the situation,” the development team explained during its presentation.

Not only does the Blood and Sand Gladiator take advantage of newly introduced skills like Blood and Sand, Flesh and Stone and Bladestorm, but you can also utilize existing skills as well, such as Lacerate. Once you get used to him, you’ll find his abilities are perfect for taking down armies.

The Rage Berserker Demands You Respect

The next archetype that enters the fray is the Rage Berserker. And he’s just as angry as his name lives up to. Rage is definitely his ally.

“Rage is an attack buff that increases attack damage, attack and movement speed and stacks up to 50. In Legion, it no longer drains life over time, though the Berserker can chose to restore that effect in exchange for increased power. A number of new skills such as Chain Strike generate Rage, and the Berserk skill consumes Rage to grant very powerful multiplicative attack bonuses,” the developer continues. “The Berserker ascendancy class has reworked bonuses to improve its interactions with Rage and Berserk.”

Based on what we’ve seen from his gameplay thus far, the Berserker is definitely in a class by himself – and he’s a character that you won’t want to miss.

 

A Whole New Kind of Combat

While Path of Exile has an exceptional combat system, it’s one that has its fair share of shortcomings. For instance, in the past, you weren’t able to dodge attacks so easily. However, with Grinding Gears’ new monster rebalance system – which will be introduced in the Legion update – you won’t have to worry about that anymore.

As part of the improvements to the melee system, you’ll now be able to dodge attacks pretty handily. This will enable you to save some of your strength when you need it the most, while at the same time quickly working your way to the next enemy. “We wanted to take advantage of this by having more of the monsters and bosses perform much more signaled attacks,” the developer explained. “Because of this, we decided to do a rebalance of all of the early campaign areas of Path of Exile. Our plan was to rebalance a lot of monster attacks that used to have poor signaling to now have a wind-up before their attack. 

“This rebalance became a larger project than we expected because we started improving AI, adding monster skills, improving boss fights and basically polishing early areas to a 2019 standard.” It sounds like both devoted Path of Exile players, alongside newcomers, will have a lot to look forward to with this improved-upon system.

On top of that, you can also cancel attack animations if you feel like you need to change direction. This can be completely helpful if you become surrounded or what to focus your attention on striking elsewhere. It never hurts to have this at the ready, based on the video that you can watch above. Considering the bosses are a handful, every correct move has to count for something. Movement helps, but be prepared for the fight of your life against these guys.

The team also discussed about making vital improvements to the maps. Though not all the layouts in Path of Exile are affected by these changes, eight of them did go through specific tweaking, “with a specific focus on making their boss fights better. Among the changes are also some pathing/layout improvements and a complete overhaul to the Coward’s Trial unique map,” the developer explains.

 

So…Why Is It Called Legion?

Thus far, we’ve explained what balance changes you’ll go through with this new expansion, along with the characters that will be introduced as archetypes and some other little tweaks to the world. But that may not explain to some of you what the word Legion is all about. Well, let’s just say you’re going to have to deal with a lot of enemies.

Over the course of their demonstration, the developer showed off a showcase dealing with the Domain of Timeless Conflict. Once your player enters this, you’ll see two different armies frozen in place. You only have a few precious seconds to carve down as many of these enemies as possible. It serves as an advantage to get them out of the way before time expires and the remaining soldiers charge at you. It certainly stands as a challenge for some, but those that are truly devoted – and prepared with their abilities – will no doubt welcome the fight.

While being able to defy armies is a cool thing, it helps to get rewarded for your progress, right? Fortunately, you’ll be able to do that once you cut down certain enemies. They’ll leave behind Splinters. With these, you’ll be able to summon a large army with the help of the Emblem through the map devices, getting a little support when you need it the most. That said, however, you may want to prepare for a grind – in order to earn some Splinters, you may need to battle for quite a long time. The developers didn’t give an exact estimate, but you’ll need to put a little work in for it.

Items, Anyone?

Along with that, you’ll also be able to use a dozen or so new items in the midst of battle, each of which have their own special abilities. The one that stands out the most for us – at least, as far as the demo is concerned – is the Aukuna’s Will Clasped Mitts.

With these, you’ll actually be able to call upon zombies (without corpses, mind you) to count. This will increase your body count and stat as a result, plus give you a little addition as far as dexterity and increased cast speed are concerned. Plus, you can also get better evasion, along with an energy shield that can protect you just a little bit longer, as needed.

There are other items to play around with as well, including the Voll’s Protector. This will allow you to build up your strength, as you may have done in the past with a previous version. The other abilities sound like they’ll be just as promising as well, so keep an eye out for what becomes available.

Path of Exile Legion

 

That Precious Fifth Slot, Incubation and Jewels

One unique addition to Path of Exile that a long of fans will notice – after completing the four-army battle, anyway – is the ability to up your map device slots. You typically start out with four when you get into a game. However, with the Legion update, you’ll be able to crank that up to five!

Once you open up that fifth precious slot, you’ll be able to make room for another legion emblem. Of course, that means more enemies coming at you, but that also means more rewards for your trouble. Ain’t nothing wrong with getting paid for you work, right?

There’s also a new thing with the “incubation items” that will come into the game. With these, if you reach a particular kill count taking down opponents, you’ll be able to earn a unique weapon for your trouble. This is useful when you’re trying to expand upon your arsenal.

Some of these “incubation items” have requirements, but they’re fairly easy to keep track of, with a certain number of kills and leveling required. Once you get to that point, you’ll earn all sorts of goodies, including the aforementioned weapons, along with armor, divination cards and high-end currency. Who knows? If you’re good enough, you might even snag a Mirror of Kalandra for your trouble.

Last but certainly not least, there’s a complicated – but well-structured – road map that will allow you to collect jewels. While a lot of these can take a while to get, they’re worth it, as you can pile up your passives tree and really open up your character’s abilities, such as granting an extra maximum frenzy charge or boosting your life a little bit. It’s a lot to study up, so make sure and look at all the ways you can possibly expand upon it.

What’s Next?

Once Legion wraps up development and heads out in June, that doesn’t mean Grinding Gear Games will take it easy. The team filled us in on their plans with Path of Exile, and there’s a lot of store – namely with the launch in another country.

The team confirmed that it will launch the game in South Korea on the same day that the Legion expansion arrives – on June 7. It opens up an entirely new market for the release, and should bring in lots of avid players that want to dig in with everything that it has to offer. It’s also partnered up with Kakao Games to make sure that everything runs smoothly, including dedicated servers and Korean language support and translation. They definitely won’t be left out in the cold. There also won’t be that many changes to content, so they’ll get the same game that we have, for the most part.

There’s also a devoted Path of Exile convention on the way. ExileCon 2019 will take place in Auckland, New Zealand on November 16 and 17. During this time, the developer will fill us in on what’s happening next with the game, and will also hold a number of events to keep fans happy. Various special guests will also make the trip, including legends like David Brevik, Eric Schaefer and Max Schaefer.

A Bright Future of Exile

Between what’s going down with the new Legion expansion next month and what’s to come later in the year, Grinding Gear Games has some promising stuff coming with Path of Exile. It’s already grown an impressive audience thus far, and with the new balance changes, archetypes and other content, they’ll be gladly coming back for more. And who knows what other surprises it has in store with its 4.0.0 update, or other potential releases down the road. One thing’s for sure – with a name like Exile, it’s a bit surprising that you won’t be stuck alone.

(Thanks to Grinding Gear Games for taking the time to chat with us about the game!)

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WoW Wednesday: Identifying Class Identity

World of Warcraft and its latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, are perhaps one of the greatest representations of the high-fantasy genre in popular gaming culture. While others have done it first, and some might argue better, the wide world of Azeroth has taken us on wide-reaching journeys in its twenty-five year history. Coming off of a gigantic demon invasion and with a Lovecraftian foe not far off on the horizon, Warcraft is certainly not short of its diversity when it comes to the fantasy genre. However, whereas the denizens of Azeroth have a flourishing world to inhabit and survive in, the players sadly do not.

Fantasy has always been a vital part of any RPG game, let alone the MMO genre. Warcraft, however, suffers from missing any sort of fantasy or lore in its most vital areas: the character classes.


Class Fantasy is a very broad topic to touch on, especially for a weekly column. The idea of Class Fantasy is every effect and piece of world-related lore that helps build out the concept and identity of your player-class. Some concepts are easier to build out than others; Warriors are fighters of martial prowess and weapon skills. Priests are typically healers of faith who use religious powers to support their comrades in battle. Not all classes are built on so simple a concept, nor are their roots so cut and dry; Shamanism in the world has seen many things from ritual sacrifices to communing with ancestors, Pagan Druidism contains more concepts of religiosity in line with a typical Priesthood.

This is where we stumble upon the need for Class Fantasy and history in RPGs. These ideas and concepts flesh out not just the lore of a class but its very identity to the playerbase. A lot of it can be built up through flavor text and ability animations but Warcraft has issues with its class fantasy due to how it conveys its main point of storytelling.

Take for example Star Wars: The Old Republic, the MMORPG developed by Bioware Houston. As the player-character progresses through the game’s main storylines they are also driven by a personal class storyline. This storyline is tailored directly to the idea and fantasy of that player’s class and is built around the core design concepts during development.


World of Warcraft has no such thing for its player classes. Older players may remember systems in Classic that helped to convey these ideas. While many classes had particular quests to unlock major spells or ability upgrades, some like the Rogue Class had entire professions dedicated to vital performance enhancing abilities like poisons. Each player class filled its own niche uniquely, some to the controversy of others in comparison to Paladin and Shaman buffs. This idea of unique systems continued to stretch forward even into Wrath of the Lich King, with Death Knights inheriting their Runeforging system to enchant their blades with class-specific buffs.

An extensive amount of these quests and systems have been removed over the years, the only remaining artifacts being old cooking recipes some classes used. Due to very legitimate complaints of class stacking in some end-game instances we have seen those niches widened to accommodate multiple classes. Some of this has been completely unintentional simply due to the fact that not every class specialization in Classic was viable; Discipline Priests and Enhancement Shaman had at one point intended to be tanks, but the specs were simply incomplete.

This idea of, “class homogenization,” has become more prevalent over the years as specializations begin to share some of the design and gameplay concepts of others. More and more we see the Rogue Combo-Point system spread into Monk, Warlock and other caster designs. We see Warrior Rage mechanics pushed into newer and creative avenues in the Shadow Priest. Core concepts and niches can realistically be filled by almost any particular class or specialization.

So now we come to a very important question, “What makes any class different from the other?” Certainly, Mages are not Demon Hunters, as they play completely differently. But what separates Demon Hunters from Rogues? What is the difference between Warlocks and Mages, realistically?


Legion answered the question masterfully with its Class Order Halls. Tied into the main storyline of the expansion, players took a vital role in banding together famous paragons of their classes into Orders to fend of the demonic Burning Legion. While panned for being not as widely utilized as many hoped, the Order Halls injected an incredible amount of lore and storytelling into a field that players had been craving for years. Some of the Order Halls feature my personal favorite storylines to date, with the Rogue and Death Knight campaigns being some of my most vivid experiences in Legion. Many introduced brand new possibilities and characters, while others saw the changing of an old-guard in pushing new characters to the forefront.

For new players to Azeroth, this is the only sort of building out class identity receives. There is realistically almost ten full hours of adventuring throughout the wide World of Warcraft before players experience any sort of building out of their class. While we touched on the issue of the new player experience last week, this issue radiates beyond just that. In Battle for Azeroth there is no semblance remaining of the Order Halls, instead abandoned for a rather stilted faction war. With the abandonment of tiered raid sets for armor-type designs it really feels that there is no intent to illustrate the cultural ideas of each class anytime soon.

So what makes any class different from the other? While a Druid casts Nature magic and a Paladin throws about hammers of Light both heal their allies adequately enough. A Warrior tanks damage just as effectively as a Death Knight. What separates each class aside from ability flavor in Azeroth? What makes each player class realistically stand out from its peers in their fields aside from a nameplate and a class color? The answer that I come to again and again is nothing. After an expansion that put the ideas of its classes to the forefront, after looking at other MMOs that put that emphasis on individual designs of its unique heroes, it simply makes the World of Warcraft look a little flatter and darker in comparison.

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WoW Wednesday: Demon Hunter Ruins Warsong Gulch RBG

Vengeance Demon Hunters are breaking Warsong Gulch Rated Battlegrounds. To most World of Warcraft players this won’t matter, but after experiencing this first hand and hearing that this has been going on for all of Legion, I thought I should share this. Now, I haven’t done many RBGs since Mists of Pandaria when I reached 2200. For those who don’t know, Vengeance Demon Hunters are now mandatory for every serious RBG group as a dedicated flag carrier.

With the content drought and still not having access to Beta, I decided to try and get back into Rated Battlegrounds so I could get more of that sweet Grand Marshal transmog. After over an hour of searching for a group and waiting for that group to fill we finally jumped into our first match, which was us on the Horde side vs the Alliance in Warsong Gulch. It started just like every other WSG match with both sides rushing to the others’ flag. Once the enemy’s Demon Hunter made it back to their base with our flag, it was the offense team’s job to kill him and retrieve the flag. We grouped up and headed over to their base, but we weren’t prepared for what their Demon Hunter had planned for us.

Leaping Over Walls

After chasing their flag carrier up the ramp and to the second floor of the Alliance base, this Demon Hunter did something I haven’t seen in all the years I have played World of Warcraft. On the second floor on the outside of the Alliance base, there is a wall that blocks you from just walking off the edge, you either have to go along the path to the left or the right, unless you’re this Demon Hunter. That’s right, as soon as we got to their flag carrier he just lept over this wall and landed on top of their tunnel roof.

Demon Hunter Ruins Warsong Gulch RBG

After being shocked by what just happened, we ran the long way to get over to him, but as soon as we did he just lept back over the wall. Yes, Warriors can also leap over this wall, but unless you’re Fury and specced into leaps the Vengeance Demon Hunter will out leap you. Our next plan was to split up our offense group and have one half waiting for him on one side while the other half tried to catch him on the other side. Little did we know that there is an even worse leap bug.

Leaping Through Walls

Leaping over walls in one thing, but being able to completely leap through a wall is another. Once we put our plan into motion and chased their flag carrier down, he then jumped off the tunnel roof, ran to the left side of the tunnel, and then lept through the walls into their tunnel. After seeing that their flag carrier had the ability to completely ignore walls, while ours had nothing like this, our group ended up just quitting at that point. It was upsetting seeing how one-sided things were if a Vengeance Demon Hunter was the flag carrier on the Alliance side.

Demon Hunter Ruins Warsong Gulch RBG

Demon Hunter Ruins Warsong Gulch RBG

In the screenshots above you will see me standing at the rock to the left of the Alliance tunnel. The red circle indicates where they used Infernal Strike to leap up and through the mountain walls and to end up inside the Alliance tunnels. The distance you travel will put any Demon Hunter at a huge advantage when running away from the enemy. A lot of the time players don’t even know where you went until you’re back in your flag room, it’s ridiculous.

Final Thoughts

I honestly don’t know how Blizzard has let this go for all of Legion. I could understand maybe the first season, maybe the second season since Demon Hunters are new to the game, but six seasons? Maybe Blizzard has just given up on Rated Battlegrounds and just couldn’t be bothered fixing something like this. I understand the first leap isn’t too bad and is just a very frustrating thing, but being able to leap through a wall just shouldn’t be a thing, to begin with.

As for the Horde side, I couldn’t find anything this game breaking besides a jump that would allow you to be stuck between mountains unable to be attacked, but something like that will get you banned so that isn’t really similar to the two Alliance leaps. So as long as this stays, Alliance has a massive advantage over the Horde in Warsong Gulch Rated Battlegrounds with a Vengeance Demon Hunter as their flag carrier.

Let me know what you think, am I way off with this and it’s just something that players should get used to, or should Blizzard fix this?

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