Path Of Exile: Echoes Of The Atlas Expansion Revealed, Adds New Endgame Content And Loot

Releasing on January 15, the latest expansion coming to the free-to-play RPG updates classes, adds new gear, and improves the Atlas gameplay.

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Over the years, Grinding Gear Games' Path of Exile has steadily improved its core hack-and-slash gameplay as it incorporates significant new features that spice up the flow of the game. While the developers are still working on its sequel, Path of Exile 2, the original game isn't showing any signs of slowing down. As revealed during a livestream, the latest expansion, Echoes of the Atlas, will upgrade the action-RPG's extensive endgame, and will launch on PC January 15, and for Xbox One and PS4 on January 20.

Just before Grinding Gear Games' reveal stream, we had a chance to speak with managing director Chris Wilson about Echoes of the Atlas, how it will change the endgame and incorporate gameplay from previous expansions. Along with his thoughts on the state of the game, he also explained how work on Path of Exile 2 has improved the original for the better.

The Echoes of the Atlas expansion features a whole suite of changes coming to the game, which includes rebalances, new endgame content centered on the Atlas of Worlds world map, and new pinnacle boss fights that can open up pathways for more powerful loot. While previous expansions like Harvest, Delve, and Heist was available to all players, the core content from the Echoes of the Atlas expansion is catered more towards high-level players with decked out character builds. The expansion will also add in new passive skill trees that can be unlocked from completing high-end challenges from the new NPC known as the Maven, who appears after clearing bosses on the world map.

Chris Wilson explained the developer's reasoning for re-examining the endgame, and why the team wanted to give players more freedom in how they want to progress and improve their characters.

"We typically modify aspects of the endgame in a big way at least once per year, we find that that's a reasonable cadence and things don't change too much, and it gives players a chance to tackle the new content and master it, and by the time a year comes up, they're ready for new content," said Wilson. "What we wanted to achieve with Echoes, both by the Atlas [passive trees] concept and the Watchstones that can be acquired in the Atlas, was to give endgame players more control in what type of content they can get from it."

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As with previous expansions, Echoes of the Atlas not only has a core focus, but it also features a set of quality-of-life improvements and the start of a new challenge league called the Ritual League. Here is a quick rundown of the expansion key new features, changes, and upgrades based on our impressions.

  • Upgraded Atlas Gameplay: The Atlas of Worlds is currently an endgame focused world map that allows players to travel to different areas to explore isolated dungeons clearing monsters, and gathering loot. With the Echoes expansion, endgame level players will modify regions of the map to increase the difficulty and add more rewards. The Atlas expansion adds new Watchstones, items that upgrade the map, that introduce more persistent changes. These new Watchstones from the Echoses expansion can also be traded and crafted for other players. With these new stones and other changes to the map, you can now optimize and alter the Atlas gameplay to your liking.
  • Maven's Challenge And Atlas Passive Skills: The new Maven NPC can be summoned by the player with beacons, allowing you to summon the character to watch your battles. If you complete dungeon runs, she will invite you to her domain to engage in more challenging fights. After you clear fights, you not only get greater rewards, you can also fight the Maven herself. Completing her challenges will give you new skill points to spend in the Atlas passive trees. The skill trees are located on the map, and they can increase drop rates or add the chance for special monsters to appear in specific regions.
  • New Maps: The expansion will introduce 11 new maps layouts. What makes these maps different from PoE's current suite of locations is that they feature dynamic camerawork and more intricate level design. According to Wilson, the developers' work on Path of Exile 2 influenced the changes map to the current game's current map designs.
  • Reworked Ascendancy Classes: PoE's ascendancy classes are special subclasses that open up new skills and perks. The Echoes expansion will update four classes--The Slayer, Deadeye, Inquisitor, and Elementalist--with buffs, rebalances, and other upgrades that will make them more defined and viable for longterm play.
  • Harvest and Heist gameplay reworked: The farming and stealth action gameplay introduced in the Harvest and Heist expansions respectively are set to be introduced into the core loop of Path of Exile. Both pillars are presently experienced in isolation, but with the new expansion, they will be a part of the story progression and included in the Atlas endgame, presenting them more organically in the experience.

Path of Exile's next expansion looks to be just the endgame refresher that the hardcore players in the community want to see, and its core content is certainly meaty enough to dive into. Our previous looks at the game's other expansions made it clear that support for the game is still going strong, and it doesn't look like that'll stop any time soon. Echoes is an undoubtedly dense update for the game, yet it feels totally appropriate for a robust and customizable game as Path of Exile.

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