ExileCon 2019: Diving deeper into Path of Exile’s Conquerors of the Atlas expansion

    
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December tends to be a bigger content release in Path of Exile , and 2019 will be no different. (2020 will be even bigger if that’s when PoE 2 hits!) Managing Director Chris Wilson took the stage at ExileCon 2019 this weekend to elaborate on the upcoming Conquerors of the Atlas expansion launching on December 13th. And the focus of this expansion on endgame and bow rebalancing.

“We knew we needed to reinvigorate Path of Exile’s endgame,” Wilson explained. Even though expansions since War for the Atlas have instituted changes over time, such as introducing the Shaper, Grinding Gear Games felt the endgame was getting a little stale. So it was time to shake things up. As for bows, spellcasting, melee, and mines and traps have all gotten their rebalancing, so it was high-time for bows’ turn. Here for you are the highlights of the 3.9.0 deep dive, from endgame to story to skills.

When Exiles go bad

As someone who just finally pushed through PoE’s story so I could have it done before the con, I was obviously looking forward to where the story would go. And I was not disappointed! Can I just say how much I love that the trailer of Conquerors of the Atlas poked fun at the endgame grinding of maps? The story of this expansion is a metagame tease of players while still fitting in lore and I love that. Conquerors of the Atlas is a humorous twist that I definitely didn’t see coming, but I think it is perfect.

The premise behind this expansion is that one group of Exiles defeated The Elder, but they were drawn back into the atlas again and again and again seeking more power and more wealth. Sounds familiar, right? But as they continue to return, the void slowly warps them, driving them insane. Finally, fearing what they were becoming, Zana destroys the atlas to trap them inside and protect the rest of Wraeclast. But as you might expect those bent on power and domination aren’t ones to stay contained, and they break free. These five former Exiles have become the Conquerors. And now, current Exiles will be seeking out and destroying these new ultimate bosses. (Fun fact: As former exiles, these bosses have been based on mega builds done by players.)

The map has changed

With the destruction of the atlas it makes sense that the atlas itself was changed when the Conquerors found a way to rebuild it from the inside out. Players will now start in the middle of the map and work out to the corners. The map is also separated into regions delineated by yellow lines. These regions are specific little microcosms, and unlocking and enhancing the map will be individual for each region.

In the beginning, 19 maps will be visible to players. To unlock more and level the maps to hier tiers, players will need to find a defeat Conquerors and collect watchstones. These watchstones are then socketed into a region of the atlas, revealing more maps and upping the level of them. If you fully socket a region with four watchstones, it raises the maps within it to tiers 14-16. Sextons are now placed directly on watchstones, so their effects are applied equally to the entire region. Wilson quipped, “It solves all of our problems to do with stupid radiuses and overlapping circles.” And yes, you will be able to unsocket, move and change those watchstones.

Besides watchstones to enhance the atlas itself, Conquerors also drop a brand-new loot called support gem plus. Wilson described these as super powerful versions of support gems already in game, such as fork plus and ancestral call plus. These gems start off as better than a level 20 gem, but they will take longer than regular gems to level up. There are around 35 of these in total for players to  discover and use.

Wait! This all sounds exciting… but with such an extensive change of the maps and the move away from The Elder and The Shaper in favor of the Exile Conquerors, what happens to all of the amazing Shaper and Elder things you worked so hard to earn before? Wilson assured players that they will not be going away. In fact, the Shaper isn’t going away either; Zana’s missions can give players Shaper and Elder guardian maps to run. Over time, players can collect fragments to challenge the Shaper again. Wilson noted that the team is currently considering a fragment system to enable players to also face the Uber Elder again, though that is not set in stone yet. Additionally, the Shaper and Elder guardian mods are staying in game — after a balance pass is done on them. Part of the balance is they will be even harder to get, although Wilson warned that a couple will likely be turned down or completely off. So you can still get them – they just aren’t the focus anymore.

Don’t worry, though: The primary function that those mods used to serve will now be provided by four new influence types: warlord’s, hunter’s, crusader’s, and adjudicator’s. (Those happen to be the names of four of the five Conquerors.). The mod pools for these include a selection of Elder and Shaper mods as well as new ones. Those four Conquerors can also drop an exalted orb bearing their names.

Lionseye gets easier on the eyes

As with many expansions before it, Conquerors of the Atlas keeps with the trend of improving graphical quality with expansions. This time around, the first area players see after washing up on the beach gets some beautification. Lionseye Watch is improved, and Wilson described the enhancements as “raising the graphical quality by about a decade or so.” That’s going to be a big boost for new players who hop in and gauge the game on this first impression.

Balancing the bow

You don’t have to be big on endgame to enjoy Conquerors of the Atlas. In fact, if you prefer to wield bows, rejoice! It’s the bow’s turn at rebalancing, and GGG has a number of fun changes in store.

First, the rebalance includes more than just the bow; it also includes ranged attack totems, which have been renamed ballistas and given more appropriate art to resemble exactly that. Other differences in these newly renamed ballista totems include being able to place three at once and placing them even faster than before. New passive skills are also being introduced, such as being able to put more ballistas out at one time. Wilson emphasized how you’ll be able to specialize entirely in using ballistas by  new support gems: artillery ballista (Fiery arrows that intelligently target and rain down on enemies? Sign me up!) and shrapnel ballista (Pummel even single targets with limited-range projectiles, oh the fun!)  Wilson noted that general ballista support also still works with wands.

As for the bows themselves, it’s raining arrow skills and supports! Ensnaring arrow slows and increases ranged damage, barrage support fires projectiles in sequence (also works with wands), and arrow nova support plunks an arrow on ground that shoots more arrows out in all directions while granting additional projectiles. Wilson then went on to describe that skills with ailments have also been reworked; burning arrow has a stacking effect along with its ignite, and explosive arrow has many more explosive arrows on the target. Note on explosive arrow: Repeat shots no longer refresh the timer! The bows themselves also have increased damage whole leveling. While not strictly related to bows, Wilson also wanted players to know that the ability to apply elemental ailments, especially to high health mobs, has been improved.

That was just the tip of the… arrow. As happens with every expansion reveal, Grinding Gear Games leaves more to be expounded on as the time for the launch draws nearer. But one thing players can count on: With many other skill changes, Wilson declared the reigning king of bow shots dethroned with a nerf. “Rest in Peace, Tornado Shot,” he said. “You were far too good for far too long.”

Disclosure: In accordance with Massively OP’s ethics policy, we must disclose that Grinding Gear paid for our writer’s travel to and accommodation at the ExileCon event. Grinding Gear has neither requested nor been granted any control or influence over our coverage of the event.
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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Ashfyn Ninegold

MJ, thanks so much for this terrific update. Wielding a bow is always my first choice, and I’ve always enjoyed the ballista, so this is great news all around.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Well just tried POE again, keep dying all the time at low levels (don’t have this problem in Grimdawn or Diablo 3), then I exit game and my PC crashes so I’m freeing up some HD space.

No game is for everyone I guess.

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Bryan Correll

four new influence types: warlord’s, hunter’s, crusader’s, and adjudicator’s. (Those happen to be the names of four of the five Conquerors.)

Is the other guy named Zeppo?

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Arktouros

I still don’t really get this new story.

So before someone did Act 1 -> Act 10. Then they went into the maps. Then they defeated the Shaper. Then they defeated Elder. Ok. Now…we’re…also…going through Act 1 -> Act 10. Then we’re going into the maps. To defeat the guys who defeated Act 1-10 and then the Elder…? What?

The first set of people who killed the Elder and became the conquerors should have already done Act 1 through Act 10 to get to that stage. How are Acts 1 through 10 still “undone” as it were with all the pieces reset? It makes no sense story wise unless they just retconning the whole story so it’s just no longer a thing? Just seems weird.

Either way, loving the end game revamp idea. While it seems to take some people months to get through the Acts most people I know tend to do it in about 10-12 hours on average untwinked (and the speed runners are in the 4-5 hour range). This usually means I’m hitting maps a day after league launch and yes the game had become super stale after numerous leagues like this. Blight it was really silly and after a week I had Uber Elder on easy farm and felt done with the league and was planning on skipping 3.9 entirely. Hopefully the new Atlas is interesting and keeps things interesting for a while.

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losludvig

there is now a time-skip between you killing act 10 Kitava and Zana inviting you to the templar lab.
I totally agree that atlas has been stale for a bit, and not having to worry about messing up influence + having the correct luck when elder spawns is going to feel nice.

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Arktouros

The entire influence system was garbage in my opinion so I am super glad we’re getting rid of it.

Moving the Elder was basically impossible. The number of times I’d try to spread Elder and have Shaper just undo everything as he “pushed back” was beyond annoying. It was always invariably better to kill off Elder then repeatedly run the map of the tier you want to get Elder to spawn at that map level. This let you basically chain run Uber Elder over and over by just running T15/16 maps after defeating him. However the frustration was real each league trying to get Elder to move up into higher tier maps for orbs/quest progression/zana maps.

Not having to deal with that is going to be pretty amazing.

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losludvig

iirc they said that we’d be able to kill one of the new guardians every 6 or so maps which is also a huge improvement. I’m also very happy that the altas now opens up as you progress, instead of providing you with less and less options per tier

Cyclone Jack
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Cyclone Jack

My guess is that these Exiles either A) have been on Wraeclast for longer than your characters, went through their own Acts 1-X, and could have been assisting Zana even before you arrived (Zana has been in charge of the Map Device since 1.2.0, back when there were only Acts 1-3, so it could be a character of that era), or B) these Exiles were running through Acts 1-10 alongside your character, and these 5 particular Exiles were the ones to canonically defeat the Elder/Shaper.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Trying to download this game and it’s got to be the slowest download I’ve ever had, been at this 4 hours and it’s only at 25% for 18 Gigs.

Smithwicks
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Smithwicks

Steam is a better launcher for PoE imo. Especially after they fixed the weird updating issues steam was having.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Steam made all the difference.

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Arktouros

On Steam I usually get the full patches very fast.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Steam made all the difference.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I’ve been playing PoE since early beta and have always cursed how slow it is to update. I don’t usually use Steam for games I already play with their own launchers, but this tempts me to at least give it a try with PoE.