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Feature Video

Exclusive First Details on Path of Exile's Upcoming Expansion and its Forsaken Martyr

"It is the cause, not the death, that makes the martyr." - Napoleon Bonaparte

Even excellence can be improved. This seems to be Path of Exile developer Grinding Gears Games' philosophy, a philosophy readily apparent not just in the aforementioned action role-playing game's overall quality, but in the clear zeal the Grinding Gear leaders have for their art. Each time I interact with a member of Path of Exile's development team, I'm struck by the breathless passion which talents like lead designer Chris Wilson can barely contain. It is with this same passion that Wilson recently described to me the upcoming Path of Exile expansion called Forsaken Masters, which will seek penance in full on August 20th.

By the time I caught up with Wilson the team had already announced to the world Forsaken Masters' fundamental setup, but I had Wilson catch me up in his own words, though much information is available already. "The core thing we're trying to do with the expansion," says Wilson, "is add a ton of main content to the main game world. The seven masters you encounter [in Forsaken Masters] are set up so that they have their own unique missions you can do. We've announced two of them to our players; the third one is a Templar master called Elreon."

Elreon joins armourmaster Haku and master assassin Vorici as one of several experts in their respective fields who dared to oppose Dominus, the High Templar and commander of the Ebony Legion. In my first encounter with Dominus when first playing Path of Exile, the tyrant scolded me for daring to bite the master that called me to him. Wraeclast is fortunate that I was not the only one to stand toe to toe with him, however, and it's clear that master Elreon has more to offer this broken land than I ever could. Wilson says of Elreon, "He's made it his quest to try to defend holy relics that are scattered throughout the world. Every time you encounter him, he's praying next to some relics. Inevitably, the relics get attacked by a whole bunch of monsters, and his goal here, ideally, is to defend the relics."

As Wilson told me Elreon's story, I was reminded of famous flagellant Dominic Loricatus, who whipped himself while reciting psalms as a means of providing penance for his mortal sins, and wore chain mail to further chafe his punished flesh. "As you talk to [Elreon], you find out he's going for a bit of martyrdom. There's an undertone in his speech: he kind of wants the monsters to win and make a martyr of him, because he's been exiled and so on." Wilson also shared what writer Royal McGraw has authored on the subject. "Elreon has a death wish. He's been betrayed by the Templars and has come to question everything about his faith. Where stronger minds have prevailed, Elreon's has crumbled. All he wants now is to take his place at God's side, but in order to do that, he must become a martyr, no easy feat in Wraeclast. To this noble end, he has concocted a desperate plan: a series of last stands that will one day see him slain and conveyed to the kingdom of God above."

You may encounter Elreon or any of his six fellow masters anywhere in the world, including within Path of Exile's endgame map system, and each time you encounter him, the ensuing battle will play out rather differently from the last. Every fundamental aspect of the skirmish is variable: the numbers of relics and how they defend themselves ("lots of relics where there's failure if they all die, lots of relics where there's failure if one dies, a high-life relic that shoots projectiles"); monster types ("monsters that explode on death, monsters that have projectiles, fast and tough monsters, weak and slow monsters, monsters that spawn other ones, monsters that come back from the dead"); intricate monster behaviors ("whether or not the monster goes straight for the relic or whether it attacks the player, or whether it goes for the thing closest to it so you can lead them around"); and how the monsters spawn ("whether they spawn in waves, whether they spawn in a particular pattern"). The relic itself can impact the battle as well, perhaps reflecting damage back at attackers, creating consecrated ground that grants you life regeneration, and so forth. Even your goals may change; one encounter may have you destroying the relic before it kills you, while another may have you protecting it for a certain number of waves.

It doesn't surprise me when Wilson says that 70% of the work has gone into varying Forsaken Masters' battles, though the masters and their associated combat is not all that shall be new. Once you've offered enough assistance to Dominus' archfoes, you unlock a personal hideout, a personal space you might think of as a massively multiplayer game's housing, or perhaps even a guild hall. Your hideout is more than just a confined abode but an entire town for you to customize with props and decorations. Elreon's associated hideout is a library, though the way Wilson describes this library reminds me more of Wan Shi Tong's lost library in Avatar: The Last Airbender than a typical repository of knowledge. Says Wilson, "It's a little bit like The Sims, to be honest. We didn't expect we'd take this direction with this part of the expansion, but you get to place these props around your library, and our developers are addicted to sitting there and making little houses."

Path of Exile has always been good at compelling you to keep playing once you start; now I am worried that adding a Sims-like element would keep me from quitting the game at all. If your idea of a proper reward is less domestic and more discordant, however, you will probably greet other changes with hand-rubbing glee. Masters allow you to craft items, and Elreon in particular offers to teach you the fine skill of jewelcraft. Until now, it's always been difficult to find just the right piece of jewelry, for there are so many benefits any given amulet or ring might offer. The game's very nature makes loot, as Wilson admits, "a grab bag of random stuff," and thus it can be difficult to have all of your equipment aligned in a way that brings you the greatest potential benefit. The benefit of having hideout access to Elreon is that he allows you to replace a jewelry modification that doesn't suit your character with one that does.

Wilson stresses that this additional element of customization won't break the item system. "The mods you're adding aren't the largest in the game," he says, "but they're large enough to be impactful without ruining the expectations of those who want the best items to come through the random process." And of course, Elreon is not the only master offering his services, though your hideout will not be large enough to accommodate all seven of them. Initially, only two of them may be present in your hideout, but as you level up your primary master by performing more and more related tasks, then you may add a third and eventually a fourth master. Following the master's wishes will not hinge on encountering him in the wilds of Wraeclast, however: masters within your hideout will offer daily quests, which are variations on the masters' standard quests that can be accessed immediately without having to hunt for them.

With Forsaken Masters, Path of Exile provides more and more variables, thus inviting mouse-clicking aficionados to keep slashing and ensorcelling their way through the game's melancholy maps. Wilson expects that most players will have met each of the seven masters either once or twice in the first difficulty level, but warns that it won't be until after the first playthrough of the first difficulty. For me, it's the very description of Elreon himself that makes me most intrigued. In a sense, the self-appointed martyr represents myself and my fellow role-playing enthusiasts, delighting and punishing ourselves in equal measure in the name of earning a helmet or pair of boots that better reflects our digital delusions of grandeur. Fortunately, playing Path of Exile has always been its own reward, and never a punishment, and Forsaken Masters is the summons for action I've been awaiting.

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Kevin-V

Kevin VanOrd

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play bass in Rock Band.
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80 comments
Tharizden
Tharizden

Just not enough hours in a day to play, and now more features!  woo hoo.  Well done GGG on such a fantastic game & so polished - all this and F2P.  Big 'High Five' to Chris & crew.  

Slagar
Slagar

Looking great. I'm running out of things to buy in the cash shop ;\

Karmazyn
Karmazyn

Should I play this or Divinity Original Sin. I do not have much time these days so I need to choose one game to complete at the time. Has anyone played any of these and if so what would be your recommendation?

Slagar
Slagar

@Karmazyn Play whichever one looks most appealing to you.

I have played PoE, and it is a really great game if you liked Diablo 2. I haven't played D:OS yet, but it looks more like Baldur's Gate - so choose which kind of game you like the best..

blackothh
blackothh

@Karmazyn PoE is free, and really fun if you like a diablo like dungeon crawl. They do a bunch of things slightly different then the standard formula, but it adds up to something fun.


I have Divinity, but have not gotten down my list to play it yet, but ive been very impressed with PoE every time I fire it up.

Code135
Code135

PoE will forever be a punishment until you get /oos and /itemlevel in a macro ... still no keys bound for the commands :P

Tharizden
Tharizden

@Code135 Plenty of keys on a keyboard.  Macro-binding, zillion-button mouse etc jest adds to a mess - everyone wants something different & no one is happy. KISS principle applies here - Keep It Simple Stupid


boi4one
boi4one

I play this game almost 1 year and i can't stop.When i saw skill tree and socket/link system i am fall in love.INow i am back the days when i farm Baal hundreds of times and seems to be even better!!!

sepheul
sepheul

I think Path of Exile is the best free-to-play game, i usually don't agree with f2p model, tried so many, mostly financial traps, poor quality, but not this one. This is a AAA game with no pressure on players's pockets, no Stupid dlc map for 20€ ( Promotion!!) like EA does (have to say last EA game buyed was 5 years ago, next one.. in 1000 years give or take). I also have Diablo 3, i won't say it is bad, but Path of exile launched a much much better game, when Blizzard had a big fail and made Diablo 3 a farm fest for a few $/€, i feel sorry for the people who spent k's on that greedy RMAH.

TheExxorcist
TheExxorcist

If only Diablo 2 ran on that engine!!!

I would buy 5 copies

marcosyy87
marcosyy87

this is the best game i ever played. lots of grinding, farming, lots of build designing and refining. one must think and learn a lot while playing, not an easy game to master

anab0lic
anab0lic

My experience with games like this and diablo/torchlight etc is its just a mindless spamy click-fest for hours on end....really doesnt do anything for me... i need games that actually make me think and are challenging...

sugarboy79
sugarboy79

@Poidad @anab0lic I have and my experience is the same as @anabolic 's. I don't understand the appeal. Click click click loot, rinse, repeat. 

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@sugarboy79 @Poidad @anab0lic It's a little more than that. The genre is mostly "kill everything and loot" but good ones do a few things that draw me in: One, loot. I love loot. The quest for more good loot is an awesome carrot on a stick for me. Two: character building. I have character building OCD so it's fun for me to make the perfect build. Three: Higher level gameplay is a bit more than click and kill if it's done right. You have to kite etc properly or die horribly. Or, make an OP build.


I don't blame anyone for not liking the hack'n slash genre, on paper it sounds boring, but it's awesome if you like carrot on stick games.

uninspiredcup
uninspiredcup

The animation lag and jumping around killed the game for me ultimately. Depending on what class you play and what skills you play, it's less of a problem. If (as I did) you go a thief/rogue type characters, you are basically forced to endure this.


The game has been out for ages, hasn't been fixed, no word on it being fixed and probably will never be fixed. It's free, so it's much more difficult to complain about. Still, it killed the game for me in the end.


Poidad
Poidad

@uninspiredcup I have to say I never encountered any of those problems. With any sort of set up on characters.

Slagar
Slagar

@uninspiredcup I have played the game a tonne since open beta, and I'm not sure what this commenter is referring to. Never had any problems here, game looks and plays gorgeously.

Perhaps he's referring to syncing ie. lag? For the most part I've found it to be no more of a problem than it is in most games, but there are a few quirks in some places (e.g. Brutus). But I've never found it to be something I can't deal with.

fatee
fatee moderator moderator

I almost feel bad playing this game for how much they give me for free!
That being said, I did support them in closed Alpha and I received a signed thank-you letter - totally unexpected!

marcosyy87
marcosyy87

@fatee me too, this is the first thing in the world that make me feel that way

blackothh
blackothh

@fatee I feel the same way, but the problem i have, is that, I want to give them money, but there is nothing worth getting with the in game currency. I would pay for an inventory capacity upgrade in a heartbeat.


I cannot willingly waste my money on hats............

roberttowne
roberttowne

awesome game. wish i had more time to play it.

ruhan
ruhan

You have to admire the passion GGG has for this game. It's already a brilliant game with high replay value, yet the developers are pushing for new skills, contents and re-balancing older contents to keep the game fresh as new. It has tons of awesome builds and yet newer ones still popping out. This is just a mini-expansion but the number of added contents, skills, quests, crafting systems, system overhauling etc. are just mindbogglingly larger than all typical patches of other games are. Totally hyped for the patch.

trollkind
trollkind

Between other games, work and socializing, I can hardly keep up with the content. It's amazing and nothing any 12.95$ per month title ever provided. There's always something new to try and having one unqiue drop may instantly open up a new character build for you. I often start out as one character in a new league only to start new ones as I get early quality gems or specialized gear for other builds drop and end up with half a dozen characters by the end. XD

trollkind
trollkind

@drysprocket @trollkind Over closed and open beta and release I actually paid close to 500$ for cosmetics and stash tabs so far, that's rivalling my on/off 8 years of WoW in money but with PoE it really feels like I'm just supporting the development of a great company with a great product and I want to see it go on for years and years. They may make a bad game design or balancing decision here and there and yes Desynch can still catch you off-guard but the good certainly outweighs the bad here and just their passion for this game and stuff like the super fast, personal and flexible customer support (for a FREE game!!!) just makes me want to throw money at them.

flipityflu
flipityflu

i really enjoy this game. it certainly filled the hollow feeling D3 left behind.


maybe its because i play solo, but i don't have too much of a problem with desync.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@flipityflu desync becomes a problem with specific skills. Most skills are perfectly fine, but a skill that transports you (leap, whirling blades, teleports, etc) are where the desync comes from mostly in my experience. It doesn't really matter if your playing with yourself or a full lobby, though I imagine extra players doesn't help.

flipityflu
flipityflu

@---Cipher--- @flipityflu 

fair enough. i have never used a teleport/transport type skill, so there you go. i wonder if just making builds that don't rely on that mechanism is a good way to  play until it is fixed, especially considering how flexible the character building system is.

Caldrin
Caldrin

@---Cipher--- @flipityflu it cant be all the teleport spells.. not played in about a month because of other gamers but my main character i use has used a teleport spell since I started and I have never had a dysync issue. I also realyl only play in the normal mode so I guess even if i did get ti now adn then and die it would not be a major issue.

nomailx
nomailx

Uninstalled this game the min I saw the "3rd Person" Angle. They are using a weird angle which makes the game unplayable for me.

iamacyborg
iamacyborg

@nomailx It's not a third person camera, it's an isometric one, which is standard for the genre.

zeca04
zeca04

@nomailx You're that guy that can't play games with texts from "Divinity:Original Sin"? And now can't play games with this camera? Man, you must have a deficiency so serious that i feel bad for you. It's ok, hope you find some game that is simple enough for you to enjoy.

bobbo888
bobbo888

@nomailx Oh look, the kid who didn't like Divinity because he had to read! Now he doesn't like "3rd person angles" which are really isometric. Why are you even a gamer? Find a new hobby dude. Sounds like you just install any game you can find without doing any research. Go play hello kitty island adventure, or neopets.

huangyanping
huangyanping

@nomailx Wait a minute; screw the camera angle argument. You installed a game with an average file size of 4GB without viewing any gameplay videos or images of said game? Sounds legit.

zeca04
zeca04

@bobbo888 @zeca04 Ah, really sorry. It's just that a brazilian youtuber made a vid with you avatar (just different back ground) and i thought you liked him. Sorry

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

People are complaining about server lag a lot, but you *can* play the game offline just like Diablo 2 right?

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

@naryanrobinson @Arcamonde It's not THAT bad. The only time I get the rubber banding is when I use specific skills that teleport me or move me long distances very quickly. Other than abusing a skill like whirling blades, I rarely experience the lag. 


Besides, I'd suggest getting it. You can play solo and the price is right: F2P done right.

Coseniath
Coseniath

@naryanrobinson @Arcamonde Actually the problem you are talking about called: "Desync". If you played Diablo 2 at battlenet you can understand what people are talking about. Do you remember sorc teleporting some ms later after casting rather than instant? Its something like that. But if you get used to this you will not have any problem...

Caldrin
Caldrin

@naryanrobinson its not bad at all have played this game on and off since release and maybe had desync once or twice.

Arcamonde
Arcamonde

@naryanrobinson No. The game cannot be played offline. Unless they have added that feature since my last excursion into that game.

Eraldus
Eraldus

@iamacyborg @naryanrobinson @Arcamonde lag, random dcs, rubber banding... the list goes on

Eraldus
Eraldus

@Coseniath @naryanrobinson @Arcamonde you "can't get used to it" on merciless... if you die, you'll lose 30 min+ of gameplya, becuase the game will eat 10% of your exp, which takes the fun of the game

Coseniath
Coseniath

@Eraldus @Coseniath @naryanrobinson @Arcamonde I know, I have a lvl83 witch... and its more than 30mins :P.

Its just like if you want to lvl up you will go to the more safe way of lvling in maps with easy mods or at crypt (lvl67) where you need to try really really hard in order to die :P.