Forget about setting clocks back: I set my clock to Path of Exile updates! And it is time for the final quarterly update of 2023, which dives deeper into this year’s last league, launching for PC on December 8th, Affliction. One thing that was different this time was that Grinding Gear Games co-founder Chris Wilson passed the reveal baton to POE Game Director Mark Roberts.
Roberts shared a plethora of details on Affliction and the journey to cleanse that pervasive and foul darkness from the Viridian Wildwood, including the extra ascendancies available (that stack on your current one!). And then came a very crowd-pleasing announcement: Ultimatum is returning.
Where the wild wisps are
Viridian Wildwood. Doesn’t that place sound nice? Viridian describes a chrome green pigment, and it echoes some similarities to verdant, so my first thoughts are a lush little untamed forest. Except in POE, it’s not. Maybe it was, but not in this new league! The Viridian Wildwood is a special area that has been ravage by a vile affliction. Players will come across sacred wisps in their adventures, and those wisps will take folks through an overgrown passageway to the Viridian Wildwood, which is enshrouded by a foreboding darkness. The goal of the wisps is for the player who uncover the forest’s mysteries and stop the source of the affliction.
Mechanically, the wisps that surround the players burn away the darkness, opening up a small circle around them that uncovers whatever was there. And what’s there includes cursed monsters that want you for a snack! Folks have a limited time to explore and investigate at the wisps have only limited power. That said, there are opportunities for players to replenish the wisps at some points, but count on having a limited access to the Viridian Wildwood on each trip.
In addition to the cursed monsters, players will also find other types of wisps trapped inside the darkness. The other wisps are clues, and the wildwood itself wants to lead you to many secrets that will help you to solve the mystery. So players collect those other wisps and follow their trail, uncovering shrines, new NPCs, and even boss battles and rewards.
The mechanics of affliction are not relegated to just the Viridian Wildwood. Although the sacred wisps are present for the journey, all other wisps found in the wildwood return to Wraeclast with players. Free from the affliction, these wisps will disperse into the environment and inhabit randomly chosen monsters in the area, increasing their power, and also their rewards. Each type of wisp will have a different effect on monsters; the wisps can even team up on the same mobs! There are three types:
- Primal Wisps — grant an item rarity bonus to inhabited monsters
- Wild Wisps — grant an item quantity bonus
- Vivid Wisps — cause mobs to drop currency items
Additionally, players can discover three new Ascendancy classes in the Viridian Wildwood. Note: These Ascendancy classes are in addition to players’ regular ascendancy class! They are available upon finding and assisting the last few of the Azmeri wanderers who have managed to survive in the forest since it was cursed. These warriors have different survival specializations that they are willing to teach if the player agrees to help them defeat the source of the Affliction: the King of the Mists. Of course, you can pick only one! And as you train under the Azmeri, you can earn up to eight points to unlock in that Ascendancy. The three Ascendancies are Warden of the Magi, Warlock of the Mists, and Wildwood Primalist.
The Warden of the Magi is taught by The Warden of Eaves. This class takes advantage of wilderness knowledge, using tinctures to coat weapons to add powerful effects. Besides their given effects, tinctures can also get random mods. Tinctures are equipped in the flask slots, and while only one can be enabled at a time, they can be toggled on and off at will. Players can buy tinctures from The Warden of Eaves using Primal Wisps. As for leveling in the Ascendancy path, folks aren’t stuck with only advancing tinctures, as there are more abilities that can be unlocked, such as Barkskin.
Warlock of the Mists, which specializes in darker arts, is taught by the Breaker of Oaths. It offers a trio of curses players can choose from, and those who who get this class’ Blood Hunt ability can use a skill called Ravenous to see what type of monster is under its life bar, whether it is a demon, beast, undead, construct, or humanoid. Then, by consuming a corpse, the player gets a buff that increases damage to and reduces damage from that type of monster. The shop the Breaker of Oaths offers is selling corpses for wild wisps. Most of the corpses he sells are not monsters players normally encounter, so they might be extra helpful with bosses or to be turned into specters.
If you don’t want either of these, you can select the Wildwood Primalist, taught be the Primal Huntress. Unlike the other two new ascendancies, the Primal Huntress lets players customize their tree using charms purchased from the Primal Huntress for vivid wisps. These charms have randomly generated mods that give stats from regular ascendancy classes, allowing players to create a personalized hybrid ascendancy class. Note: Players can buy charms from the Primal Huntress even if they aren’t currently a Primalist.
Wait, what do we mean by “currently a Primalist”? Well, you don’t have to stick with the Ascendancy you choose in the Viridian Wildwood! Each time you find an Azmeri Wanderer, you can select his or her quests to gain the ascendancy points for that class. These quests are what lead the player toward that ultimate goal of finding and defeating the King of the Mists, then cleansing the Viridian Wildwood of the Affliction for good.
Of course, every new update and league also brings changes to the core game, and update 3.23 is no different. The big news that Roberts started off with was that Ultimatum is finally going to the standard league. He added, “When [we were] talking to players at ExileCon, it was the number one feature that people requested.” And the same thing happened in the POE reveal livestream chat: There were multiple shouts for Ultimatum scrolling by constantly.
The Ultimatum addition means that players can encounter the Trialmaster during endgame maps. He offers players a choice to undertake a deadly Vaal trial in exchange for great rewards, as well as offers a change to go double or nothing if you succeed. This chance is offered up to 10 full rounds. As it has to weave into the fabric of the core game, Ultimatum did go through a full rebalancing, and Roberts stated that GGG added many new mods and rewards, including both new and reworked uniques. New Ultimatum passive skills have also been added to the Atlas tree.
Ultimatum is here, but Metamorph is now gone. Roberts noted that all catalyst rewards from Metamorph have now been moved to be rewards for Ultimatum. Additionally, a Vaal-themed catalyst that works on corrupted items has been added in. Heist is still around, but changed up. Its rewards have also been rebalanced as have the experimented base types, new replica uniques have been added and old ones altered, and the amount of currency from display cases has been increased.
Metagame modification — transfigured gems
The final subject Roberts talked about was what he called, “one of the largest metagame changes [the devs] have ever made.” He said GGG has been trying to subtly modify the behavior of skills using three systems: alternate quality gems, labyrinth helmet enchants, and unique threshold jewels. Those three have now been combined to create a new system called transfigured gems.
“Transfigured gems are alternative versions of existing skill gems that have different functionality and balance from their regular versions,” Roberts explained. “We have added a huge number of these with interesting variations that drastically change how existing skills play.” A few examples include:
- Frost Bomb of Instability: Changes from a large explosion cooldown skill into a less damaging one that can be cast continuously
- Detonate Dead of Scavenging: While it can’t be used on corpses created by Desecrate or Unearth, it does much more damage.
- Raise Zombie of Falling: Instead of raising a zombie from a corpse, they are summoned from mid air and fall down dealing AoE damage where they land.
- Blight of Contagion: This version of blight is now spread by contagion, so you can use it as part of your Essence Drain build.
Transfigured gems are created through crafting at the The Divine Font at the end of the Eternal Labyrinth. This new crafting device has other gem-crafting options as well, including adding quality to gems, adding experience to gems, sacrificing a gem for one or more Treasure Keys to open Izaro’s Chests, and even exchanging Support Gems for Exceptional Support Gems like Empower or Enlighten.
A last change shared was that devs went through and buffed the quality stats on most damage-dealing skills. Roberts stated that in most cases they will be significantly more powerful as well as more interesting.