Path of Exile’s Harvest introduces growth of passive skill tree, brands, and two-handed weapon skills

In an update themed around gardening, it seems only natural that there would be plenty of growth in Path of Exile beyond just the new league. Harvest, which starts its life cycle on June 19th on PC and the week of June 22nd for consoles, introduces not only a massive new league focused on cultivating your own encounters and filled with new uniques but also major revamps to the core game. When Harvest begins, players will find major revisions to two-handed weapons, brands, the passive skill tree, and over 50 unique items. On top of that, Delirium also integrates into the core game.

Before the big announcement this evening, I sat down with Grinding Gear Managing Director Chris Wilson, who elaborated on all these upcoming changes. Read on!

Getting back in gear

Before launching deeply into the update, Wilson and I talked a bit about how the pandemic affected the company. Wilson said that working from home affected development speed quite a bit due to the difficulties in teamwide communication. The quarantine definitely slowed things down, which is one reason Path of Exile 2 devs were brought over to help design some of the monsters. But now that the team has been back in the office for a couple of weeks now, Wilson said that development was back on track.

A “new” crop of uniques

As with every league, there are new uniques for players to find and use to create new play styles. Harvest adds 12 more to the crop of over 900 in game. The first two revealed are related to lightning. Doryani’s Prototype Saint’s Hauberk encourages players to make themselves vulnerable by keeping their lightning resistance low, which in turn makes all the enemies’ resistance match that low level (meaning your lightning attacks are that much more powerful). The second is the Storm Secret Ring, which pairs well with Herald of Thunder skill; the ring allows players to use Herald of Thunder as a primary source of damage.

Wilson noted that more than 50 current unique items have been rebalanced. Rebalancing not only refreshes and makes current items better but ensures they take less development time since the assets already exist in game. This is a win/win for players and devs. One rebalance is to Moonbender’s Wing unique axe, where the lightning warp skill is now triggered automatically and you get added elemental damage instead of just converting part of physical damage. The Wake of Destruction unique boots were also repolished; instead of the old chance to flee property which chased mobs away (bad for melee!), it now leaves a trail of shocking ground that damages any enemies that stand in it.

Two-handed weapons grow in power

Path of Exile already had a melee revamp, but two-handed weapons weren’t given enough attention then. Wilson shared that after the melee revamp, players specifically asked for improvement to two-handed and slam skills, and this update is in response to those requests. Harvest doesn’t just introduce just better skills and more passive skill tree support; the base items themselves have also been improved.

To start, several melee skills have been recategorized as slam skills, emphasizing this as a playstyle. (By the way, it also helps out one-handed play!). Much like the Ranger’s Mirage skill, The Fist of War support gem adds a spirit that can periodically appear alongside and perform the same slam in unison with you, adding both more area of effect and damage. Tectonic Slam has lowered the number on endurance charges needs per use (to one every three attacks), increased the AoE per endurance charge, and gotten flashier new visual effects.

Introduced five years ago, Warcry skills are not being using much, so Wilson said the team wanted them to be more impactful. This was achieved by slowing them down but making them more powerful with larger effects. Plus, on top of reworking the the three existing Warcry Skills, PoE is getting four new ones. Wilson revealed two now: Seismic Cry (new) and Rallying Cry (reworked). Seismic Cry throws a shockwave that pushes enemies back as well as taunts them and grants a temporary damage and AoE buff to slam skills. These exerted attacks also become progressively more powerful with each attack. Rallying Cry, on the other hand, no longer regenerates mana; instead it but now grants a percentage of your weapon damage to each of your allies based on the power of nearby enemies and causes your next few attacks to become exerted (which grants a bonus to your damage based on the number of your nearby allies). 

Brands blossom into something better

Once you start revamping, it may be hard to stop! Brands were next on the list of reworks for Harvest, making them better at what they were meant to do and becoming more interactive according to Wilson. He explained that the team wanted to reduce the ability to run through a map only casting brands once while also providing more options of stuff you can do. One main mechanical change is that players will have to occasionally recast the brands.

Wilson shared there will be three new Brand skills, one new support, and a revamp of the existing ones. The two he demonstrated were Arcanist Brand and Penance Brand. Arcanist lets players use almost any spell as a brand; it attaches to an enemy an trippers all linked spells. (See, spellcasters are getting some attention, too!) Penance also attaches to a target, but it builds up energy and spreads to other enemies every time it activates. When the brand is removed, it causes an explosion.

Not pruning the skill tree

When non-gardeners think of pruning, it is often the vision of cutting things back and making them smaller. That’s not really what’s going on: The trimming and shaping is all about making a bigger, better, more beautiful thing. And that’s what has happened with the PoE’s passive skill tree. Wilson assured me that the team was careful to not scramble the tree much, but it is growing bigger. “We didn’t to capricious and arbitrary changes; we just tried to add stuff,” he said.

On top of the Cluster Jewels added in Delirium, the passive skill tree will now include many new support mechanics for playstyles introduced over different leagues, and more support passives for two-handed weapons. Additionally, there are new keystone passives and notable passives as well as popular keystone passives from Legion’s Timeless Jewels that are hard to get (such as the Agnostic Keystone that prevents players from utilizing Energy Shield as a defense but allows the use of mana as an essential life-saving tactic).

Keeping Delirium alive

Like many previous leagues, Delirium is going to part of the main game. However, it will not be implemented quite like other leagues have been; instead of granting a 10% chance to encounter a Delirium, the plan is for the chance of encounter to start off lower but be proportional to the amount of other additional content in the area. So stack on those mods if you want a higher chance of falling back into the madness of Delirium!

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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