Every time Grinding Gear games puts out a new update or expansion for Path of Exile – and they come like clockwork – it creates a conundrum for me. Each new league is invariably cool and I can’t wait to play it, but I also am never finished playing the old one! I am all for frequent updates, but as a more casual player I can never get enough of the cool content before it’s gone. If you are like me, then this next expansion is custom-made just for you! On December 7th, Path of Exile launches Betrayal, its largest expansion in a while. Well, that makes sense when it is incorporating the last three expansions into it! In fact, it is actually the culmination of a year-long arc that GGG has been slowly introducing to players.Chris Wilson to discuss the ins and outs of Betrayal, from its multi-expansion twist to its unique story to the new skills and items. And of course, there’s a new league as well!
Tying it all together
Throughout my years of playing Path of Exile, I’ve always been impressed that the new leagues had such unique twists. Each was different from the previous with no connection. And the same is true for 2018’s releases — until now. It turns out that Grinding Gear Games had a plan all along, and Betrayal reveals that and ties all of this year’s releases together. Wilson explains that the plan was to finally give the Forsaken Masters content, which originally came in 2014, an update. These old masters (Haku, Catarina, Elreon, Tora, Vagan, Zana, Leo, and Vorici) “have been a part of the game that the players have known and loved for a number of years, but gradually they’ve loved them less as we haven’t really revamped their content a whole lot,” Wilson said. It’s understandable that players would be weary of those same masters’ missions they’ve done over and over and over for years.
So the 2018 agenda has been to simultaneously phase out the old masters and introduce new ones. Can you guess who these new masters are? Yup: Einhar from Bestiary, Alva from Incursion, and Niko from Delve. And Betrayal introduces the final master, Jun Ortoi, whom we’ll discuss further in a bit. With the launch of Betrayal, every old master except for Zana the Master Cartographer will mysteriously vanish. The new masters take their places in the main game and deliver their special content to players. As Wilson emphasized, each set “represents three months of development of a 100 plus-person team rather than two weeks of development of a 10-person team.”
And just what will that content be?
My first questions were about the Bestiary tie-in. As mush as I enjoyed the others, this was a favorite. Wilson explained that when players encounter Einhar, he will take them on a hunt to capture a beast. Unlike in the league, however, the master will be the one throwing the net, so players needn’t worry about managing that aspect. Captured beasts will be recorded in the bestiary book and they can be used to craft items. Sadly, the menagerie itself is not making a reappearance in that form. Even though the menagerie was very easy to make, Wilson explained that many players were horrified at what they thought was an extreme waste of resources. If you will miss that private like I do, take heart: Wilson teased, “We have some interesting plans for that in the future.”
I never got my fill of Incursion or Delve either (even though Delve is not done yet!). Those Masters will give me the chance to continue with that content as well. When bumping into Alva, players will have the chance to be taken on multiple incursions into the Vaal temple to build up and gather loot. And Niko is there with all of his funky technology that will allow players to delve down into the mine. One difference with the Delve content Wilson noted was that the sulphite won’t be as prevalent in zones, but when players find it they will be able to collect much more at one time to allow for longer delves.
The one returning master, Zana, will maintain her position working with the endgame maps. That leaves Jun Ortoi as the fifth and final master. Players get to meet Jun and experience her content in the Betrayal league (and when that league is over, in the base game).
Betrayal, the league
Once again, the new league is going to suck me right in with interesting new gameplay. In Betrayal, the entire theme is investigating a criminal cartel, complete with a bulletin board of pictures and strings to show relationships and note significant information. When I saw that I was really intrigued! And who will we be investigating? That would be the Immortal Syndicate. This syndicate has discovered a way to revive its fallen members and bring them back to life using an artifact stolen from Jun Ortio’s Order of the Djinn. Jun Ortio’s goal, with your help, is to find out who is in charge, what its goals are, and thwart them. In a nutshell, players will be investigating the four branches of the Syndicate: fortification, transportation, research, and intervention. Chis explained that information includes relationships, items they have, and who is superior or subordinate to whom. And here is where things get really interesting.
To start, each branch of the Syndicate has a different encounter type. Fortification is just as it sounds, with an encounter consisting of a fortification protecting Syndicate supplies. For transportation, players encounter a convoy of supply vehicles. The research arm involves stumbling across an underground lab where players must stop members from destroying evidence. As for intervention, that means that you’ve gotten the attention of the Syndicate and it has sent assassins out to get you!
Although all 18 members of the Syndicate are initially unknown, players will uncover information about them as they play, starting with the underlings and moving to the leaders. But players don’t just uncover information, they manipulate it! Each game world area will have some form of Syndicate activity, and players will need to subdue the Syndicate member (or members, as there is often another who comes to the aid of its fellow!). Once subdued, players have options on what to actually do with the enemy. Will they interrogate to learn more info, or will they strike a bargain? Perhaps players will just outright execute the Syndicate member, which in turn gets that member promoted for that ultimate act of loyalty of not divulging any info or betraying. Or maybe, just maybe, they can get the Syndicate member to betray his fellow. Each decision will be remembered, and once the syndicate member is restored to life, he or she will remember exactly how things went down before. Each decision has a consequence. Using these methods, players will get to manipulate the relationships between Syndicate members as well as determine who is in power, who is imprisoned, and who is in each branch’s safehouse that you get to fight for your loot.
The safehouses are the boss encounters of Betrayal. When players learn enough info about a safehouse — as indicated by the progress bar — they can raid it. They will face all Syndicate members allocated to that department (perhaps one players manipulated to be there for their specific loot), and upon defeating them can raid the chests in the personal living quarters. Wilson pointed out that different safehouses will give different properties to the loot, so it matter not only who you send ot the safehouse for the gear you want, but which safehouse you send them to. Safehouses are also where you gain knowledge on the Syndicate headquarters where the mastermind behind the whole operation is. And that mastermind is the ultimate boss in Betrayal.
I may not be a hard-core player who will min-max my Syndicate, but I will sure as heck have a blast with this character-driven investigation. It’s a combination of story and investigation, which is perfect for me. To add to the fun, all 19 characters (Jun and the Syndicate members) are voice-acted, and there is already over 40,000 words of text!
Hideouts, mods, and more
If this expansion already sounds meaty, well we aren’t done yet. Hideouts are getting a major overhaul. The biggest change is that players no longer need to make a new hideout each and every league! Instead, hideouts will be saved as templates that players can load up instead of spending time starting over again and again. Once unlocked, the hideout template can be saved — decorations and all! I admit I have avoided the whole hideout feature (Me, ignore housing?! Crazy!) precisely because I didn’t want to get a home, spend time decorating, and then have it all wiped and have to do it over and over. I can’t bear having my housing poof, so I have just pretended there wasn’t housing so far. Now, I don’t have to! I can delve in and decorate to my heart’s content and be able to keep that progress. I can also switch between hideouts I’ve unlocked at will in order to do a new decorating project without losing the ones I’ve already done. Unlocking hideouts is now done through gameplay, either given to you as you progress or stumbling across one and clearing it out instead of being tied to any master. Note, templates can also be traded! If you don’t want to spend time decorating, you can obtain a cool template from someone who does.
Hideouts are pretty important when we are talking about master crafting. This is the name of the process of using the crafting options provided by the masters in your hideout to modify your items. This system has been revamped, from a better user interface (not the newsworthy change according to Wilson) to changing how recipes are learned (this is the good part!). Gone are the days of repeating master missions to gain influence and fill up a progress bar in order to learn recipes. Instead, players will unlock recipes through an achievement system as the players play the game; completing various objectives within the master missions themselves (delving, hunting for beasts, and temple incursions) will unlock the recipes. Wilson also noted that many mods are tied to places/situations that make sense, such as a poison mod in a poison room in an incursion. Wilson expects the wiki to be updated fairly quickly as players determine exactly where and how to find each mod recipe.
In the Betrayal league, targets have the chance of dropping any of the 15 new veiled mods, which are the rare and unique item of this league. Jun Ortio will unveil the item for players, which will uncover three possible modifiers. Players then choose one of those three. A little RNG and a little choice, the best of both worlds. Wilson noted that these modifiers have unique effects not found on any other item, and have three benefits. One, you get to specialize the item how you want to. Two, these crating options become permanent crafting options you can use when creating other items. And three, the more you craft that mod the more it can level up and become more powerful for you crafted items.
The endgame Atlas also gets a new feature in the form of daily master missions called bounties. A special icon will appear when an objective is active, and it will only be on maps that a player can easily get to. When players enter that particular map, they will encounter that specific master whose icon showed up and be able to take a mission. Speaking of maps, Wilson said that there will be new maps introduced, one being the mushroom cave from Delve. Note: instead of being daily, Wilson emphasizes that the objectives will randomly pop up, but the longer a player plays the more that will likely pop up to do. Currently it is set that each master will pop up each day, but Wilson said playtesting can ultimately adjust the frequency and such.
Of course, this expansion includes new skills; 10 total skills will be introduced or adjusted for three player archetypes. One introduces a brand-new mechanic. Two of those are skills are Storm Brand and Winter Orb. The rest will be unveiled as we draw closer to the expansion release. Personally, I am really looking forward to Winter Orb, which is a floating orb that pelts nearby enemies with exploding projectiles, and the more you power it up the faster it fires. Players can learn a number of ways of customizing this skill, including increasing area and duration.
Some players maybe be much more interested in Storm Brand and the new mechanic that it is heralding. Brands are runes placed on the group that bind to enemies that get too close. These brands activate repeatedly until its time runs out or the enemies die (and if the latter, it resets itself to wait for the next enemy to bind!). The Storm Brand specifically zaps three nearby enemies as well as damages in an AoE range. Pairing this skill with other supports like chain or increased area support will customize it further.
We’d like to thank Producer Chris Wilson for talking to us as always. Stay tuned for the launch on December 7th!