Wandering Wraeclast: Introducing Path of Exile 2’s Mercenary crossbow class and WASD


Looking forward to new Path of Exile updates has been a quarterly spectacle for many years. It’s only recently, however, that fans also can start looking forward to more regular Path of Exile 2 progress updates. And today was the day: The newest Grinding Gear Games livestream reveal led off with POE 2 Game Director Jonathan Rogers introducing the sequel’s next class, the crossbow-wielding Mercenary. But don’t think of the crossbow as just an alternate way to shoot arrows. No, in POE 2, the crossbow more closely resembles a gun. And not just any gun, either. Rapid fire comes in many forms: a sniper rifle, a shotgun, an assault rifle, and even a grenade launcher!

The reveals didn’t end there. Rogers also shared that POE 2 will have WASD as a movement option. So if you wanted some FPS feel in your AORPG, between the Mercenary and movement, you’ll have it. You can likely hear the hearty hallelujahs from all those (like me) who want to jump ship from the click-to-move method. Rogers also shared more tidbits on this during our press preview interview, so let’s dig in!


Although introduced today alongside with the Mercenary class, the ability to use WASD is not restricted to that FPS-feeling class, even if the class appears to have inspired it. As Rogers put it,

“In order to really get shooter-like gameplay, we wanted to go further. In Path of Exile 2, we now support WASD movement. You can now walk around in any direction independent of aiming. In fact, if this is your preferred method of gameplay, you can use it on any class regardless of what weapon type you are using. You can change between Click-to-Move or WASD at any time.

This change is only for POE 2, however, as Rogers explained during the interview that it’s unlikely to make it into the original game. “We can’t really do that,” he said. “The reason is that the animations required to be able to do WASD, the rigs that POE1 has, won’t really support that. […] It’s a pretty monumental animation task to be able to create all that animation data.”

Mercenary makes my day

It’s not a secret that I prefer to play female characters, even when classes are locked to gender. My playtime outside of Ranger, Scion, and Witch in Path of Exile can be counted in tens of minutes. But that might all change with the sequel. First, there’s the Druid, and now there’s the Mercenary. After watching the preview of the reveal, I was on board with the class that feels a bit like a combination of my two favorites, Witch and Ranger. You’ve got the (cross)bow as well as plenty of elemental attacks — especially fire. Fast firing fire… what more could I want? I even liked the gritty merc vibe that came from his outfits and his voice clips. Now, I am unsure which class I want to start with in POE 2.

Who is the Mercenary? Mercenary joins the current line up of Warrior, Monk, Druid, Huntress, and Sorceress. Each has its own feel and focus. Rogers explained that when GGG devs think about each new class, “[they] really try to think about what can make combat feel different from all the others.” The crossbow is that difference for the Mercenary. The crossbow fires instantly just like guns in an FPS. Rogers shared that once the devs experienced the FPS feel of instant firing, they fully embraced the many design lessons they could learn from shooters.

“It basically is a twin-stick shooter,” he says. “When we were like, ‘What is going to make this fun,’ we looked at twin-stick shooters and were like, ‘this is effectively what we’re making here.'”

Rogers also shared that there were folks in the studio who were a bit leery of making the kind of a changes that were required to actually get really good twin-stick shooter-type gameplay for that class, but once the changes were made, they ended up being fun.

“We want to make sure that every class feels like it has that kind of cool stuff, where the gameplay has been tailored to make it so that it is actually good for that class,” he told press.

Tools of the Mercenary trade

As mentioned previously, different crossbows act like an assortment of guns, from a sniper rifle to a shotgun to an assault rifle. Examples are the power shot crossbow, the burst shot crossbow, and the rapid fire crossbow. With special attachments, a crossbow can even become a grenade launcher. Players will be able to have only two crossbows at a time, but they’ll be able to add variety with their ammo. In fact, the ammo itself is what acts as the skills. Rogers demonstrated armor-piercing ammo (self-explanatory), incendiary (ignite and burn), and permafrost (slow and freeze).

A note on attachments: Attachments are just like skill gems, effectively giving players extra skill slots that can be augmented with support gems just like regular skills. The grenades do not explode immediately but lie on the ground where fired. These can be affected and set off by other ammo skills. Flash grenades do stun and oil grenades can even slather enemies with oil (which makes them easy to light on fire for extra damage!).

One thing that keeps the action going is the fact that POE 2 allows players to continue to move when using some skills. “Being able to create skills like this opens up a lot of new design space and allows us to really increase the pace of combat,” Rogers explained.

Here are a few final fun facts: The rapid shot crossbow has a really large clip size, so rapid fire it all you want. Then, when the crossbow is heated up for so much successive firing, it adds extra fire damage to any grenade that you launch. Power shot is basically your sniper rifle, but the incendiary version of it is more like a rocket launcher! It does a big explosive blast at a distance. You can see each of these demonstrated in the trailer above.

After watching the demo, I’ve found it hard to choose which crossbows I want the most, but I think I’ll start with the power shot for my love of snipers and the rapid fire so I can pummel things quickly with fire. I really can’t wait to play, and hopefully I won’t have to wait long, as closed beta is still set for June of next year.

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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