Wandering Wraeclast: First impressions of Path of Exile’s Synthesis

Something’s different about Wraeclast. The air, the ground… it’s changed. What could it be? If I could just put my finger on it before it disappears into the blue mist of oblivion. Oh wait, I know! We’ve been Synthesized. Path of Exile looks different every three months when a new league launches, and this past weekend Synthesis started. That means three months of new goals, new story, and new challenges. But wait, that’s not all that’s new!

Welcome to Wandering Wraeclast, a new bi-weekly column delving into the realm and lives (and paths) of Exiles. I am very excited to being more of this world to you. Using the column as an incredibly valid excuse to play more has nothing to do with it. Nope, no siree. We could all use more vitamin PoE in our lives. I did this for you.

So new league = new column = and new way to explore and enjoy the world of Path of Exile. And what makes the most sense for this inaugural column? Why, first impressions of Synthesis, of course.

Can I Synthesize?

As cool as it looked (the rich blue is truly stunning!), I had my reservations about this league. Oh, that’s not on Synthesis — it’s totally me. Synthesis is outside my comfort zone. Not just a hop, skip, or a jump, either: We’re talking so far out I need a map and a tour guide. Well, assuming I used maps. I still have flashbacks to talking to the devs at GDC way back in the beginning and then seeing the skill map for the first time and nope-ing right on out of the game for a couple of years! Learning about Synthesis returned me to that feeling.

This league hearkens back to Breach and Abyss with their timed instances — leagues, I might add, that I actually avoided. Why? Because they are all fast-paced skill-and-kill while I am more of a meandering mosey-er who likes to wander and explore at a decidedly leisurely pace. I totally understand that those speed-run instances need some serious min/maxxing for optimal results, and if there is an opposite to a min/maxxer it’s me. I get anxious and flustered when rushed, so I mess up more or even freeze up. So yes, I was hesitant to do Synthesis. That said, I still wanted to, and thankfully Grinding Gear Games helps me get past some of my hesitancy hurdles by allowing me to play with friends, so this time I dived in anyway. And I am glad I did.

The need for speed

Despite my speed-related shortcomings, I am definitely digging Synthesis. I am back to my Witchy ways, this time trying out a Chaos build to coincide with the chaos changes. And even as the memories collapse around me and I fail many times, I am still progressing and  — perhaps even more importantly — actually strategizing some on how to better equip myself for the challenges. How many leagues have actually got me spending my skill points and planning out skills and gems? Yeah, crazy. I can feel myself moving from super casual to I need this to get me through the story and see it all!

I admit, the coolness of the memory fragments’ look probably is part of what drew me in. Also a good reason to play another Witch, my all-time favorite — and practically only — class to play. But I am intrigued by the story of Cavas and want to learn more. This is the first time I have jumped right in at the beginning and kept going this quickly. Sure, I am still low-level while others are already at max (a completely insane feat to get to 100 already!), but I am progressing as never before thanks to this league.

I am still not a fan of the timed instances decaying around me — not because it isn’t cool but because I still get flustered and make mistakes. It didn’t help that I have been repeatedly swarmed even on the entry pedestal to the point I couldn’t move from the start and got booted instantly. One time the void engulfed me without even taking a step! Now that latter one was just not fair, but the former got me planning out ways to get a movement skill so I could escape those mobs when they pinned me. Of course, I wouldn’t even try to do these instances solo (I know my limits), so I am eternally grateful that GGG lets players join friends in these endeavors. That helps me to have another watching my back and increases the odds of finding those memory stabilizers before time runs out. Without succeeding there, I wouldn’t get to participate any in the next part of the leave, the memory map.

I admit that even though it isn’t intricate, I like the idea of having to piece the puzzle of the memory map together. Sure there is RNG involved when it comes to which pieces you acquire, but it gives me motivation to get even more pieces so I can fit them together where I want. Finding out there was a planning mode that let you test place memory fragments was nearly game changing! You don’t have to commit to a placement until you actually use it, which allows you to swap fragments around when you get something that works better. To get to this planning stage, press V.

One thing I didn’t like — yet is driving me to keep going — was getting a sucky piece of armor after synthesizing the fragment pieces. I was happy I at least got the right type of headgear, and thankfully I could alter its socket number and such. But to lose my robe into chain! Getting that chain armor piece when I was expecting/hoping for a robe was quite disappointing. I won’t complain about the 6.5 health regen per second it has, however, and will just flaunt the shiny chain on my Witch. Even in this disappointment, it pulls me into wanting to do more so I can try to make a new one. Before, I would just settle on what gear I found; now, I am actively seeking out better.

Speaking of getting better…

Things can get better

I haven’t bested the league so far, and I am certainly not the top player, so I can’t make calls on what is most out of balance and needs work in that regard, but I do love the game. (Plug: If I can love this game so far out of my usual realm, it is so totally worth anyone checking it out!) That said, during my first foray into this league, I noted a couple of areas that I’d missed before at my more casual pace that could use attention to improve the quality of the game even down on my level.

One, we really need the option to turn off those “first!” announcements. I get that to many gamers, the league is all about getting those firsts and winning the race. And I am all for y’all doing that! However, in the beginning of a league the community is pretty much barraged non-stop by the messages. Personally, I don’t care about them. They detract and distract me — and totally ruin numerous screenshots! I am all for folks gloating over their accomplishments, but I very much would like the option to turn that system announcement off. It is just way too frequent at the start of a league because everything gets a first. It makes me want to leave until all that gets done and I can game in peace.

A second improvement would be the ability to gift items from the store! I hadn’t noticed before but unless I am totally missing something, there is no way to buy an item to send to a friend. Why can’t we gift store items to others? I’d love to be able to send an in-game gift to friends (or receive one, since a friend has already tried to gift me a special kitty!). Why isn’t this an option? Is there an RMT worry? Because I for one am way more likely to spend money on presents than I ever am on myself. So I’d definitely boost sales if there was a gifting option. Unless, of course, this is a special safety feature to help my pocketbook not drain too quickly and completely. Have you seen all those cool cosmetics?!

Coming next

As much as I loved Bestiary, I’ve got to say that I think Synthesis might be my first time I make it to the end of a league. I can’t wait to learn more about Cavas and find out how he fits into the the whole Wraeclast story. And I can’t wait to share the journey with you all. You can even join our Minions guild in game and play along with me. After all, I already said I loved it more with friends!

Now as the Wandering Wraeclast wraps up, what things would you like to see in coming editions? What types of interviews, guides, or highlights would you like to see most? Let me know below!

What if your world changed every three months? What would you do differently? Path of Exile does, and MOP’s MJ Guthrie explores and experiences each new incarnation in Wandering Wraeclast. Join us biweekly for a look into each new challenge league and world expansion — and see whether MJ can finally reach the end of one world before it ends!
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