Path of Exile's next league will start next month, which will give players a series of new challenges to take on during the three-month cycle. The new league is called Bestiary, and as you could expect from the name it is something of a challenge. The new league adds a monster hunting component where you weaken and trap monsters with nets to hold them in a zoo-esque section of your hideout. You can then use them to craft new recipes by performing sacrificial rituals, that is, by battling them to death inside an arena.
The world has also been populated with 41 legendary beasts, which are tougher variants of existing enemies, with more complicated attack mechanics. There are also four completely re-skinned spirit beast monsters that serve as the league's boss fights. To take them on, you'll first need to craft a portal to their realm, once you enter the portal you'll have to kill or be killed. Boss rewards will come in the form of unique items or materials that can be used to craft the best items and recipes in the league.
"Basically, we've tried to come up with wacky stuff that's possible in Path of Exile," Chris Wilson, producer and lead designer at Grinding Gear Games, told Game Informer. Those powerful recipes might instantly generates five prophecies for the player, re-roll numeric values on an item, or create mirrored copies of a flash or map.
"When we release a challenge league, we want that league to be powerful during the three months that it's on Path of Exile," Wilson says. "We may keep it afterward in some form, or we may just put it to one side and not roll it into the game. But we want those mechanics to be something the people love doing. Because of that, this crafting stuff is quite generous People ideally will look at this and say, 'Oh, I'm doing a lot of that. This is how I'm getting my power for the next three months.' It's pretty much guaranteed that if we're keeping the bestiary into the project in the future, which would be nice because it's a lot of work, the crafting will be in a different form that's much less powerful. It's intentional here that the crafting is a big carrot to make people collect all of the monsters."
The Bestiary league is adding set items, which was something the dev team had been reluctant to add that type of armor system to the game, but they seem to have found a way that works within the game's overall design philosophy.
"Armor sets are tricky, because Path of Exile traditionally doesn't have set items," he says. "If you remember in the Diablo series, you could accumulate set items, and when you got them all you got a big bonus. Those kind of games have a tricky balance, because on one hand they want to incentivize you into completing the set and having escalating bonuses, but on the other hand they don't want to create a situation where the player feels obliged to complete the set as though there's no other choice.
"Our main goal here was when we asked our developers how many pieces of the crab armor set would you wear if you were playing as a marauder who is defensive, that everyone would have a different answer. Some of our developers say, 'None,' and then get back to work. Others say, 'The whole thing, obviously." Wilson says other team members would have spirited discussions about whether you would only wear the gloves and boots, reserving the chest piece for another piece of gear, or find any number of other alternatives. "That's good, because it means we've hit the rough point where it doesn't feel mandatory to have the entire set on."
But that's not all.
In addition to having a starting class, Path of Exile characters can eventually pick a second specialization class called an ascendancy. The Ascendancy system is getting a major overhaul with the release of the Bestiary update. Much of the reason for this is because many classes have become much better than others, making certain ones "prime" and others pointless, which counteracts Grinding Gears' purpose of giving players flexibility within their classes.
As Wilson explained to Game Informer:
We did two things. The first was a full balance pass to make sure that all of these were equivalently powerful and they feel good when you get them, and they'd increase the power levels of the bad ones without disturbing the power levels of the good ones. From the players' point of view, we've buffed the ascendancies and they'll be pleased with that. We've basically revamped and retrofitted all of the ascendancy classes to do new stuff, and it's going to feel like a big difference to the players. As an example, the berserker is a marauder specialization that likes to do a lot of damage to monsters, but it does it by being completely fine with sacrificing its own life. The berserker is totally cool with giving 10 percent of its life to do a big hit, and so on. It's not necessarily a hardcore playstyle, but it's one that's very popular. Now we've introduced a new mechanic called rage.
The way rage works is that whenever you kill a monster or do damage to a boss, it accumulates rage. Rage makes you attack faster, move faster, do more damage, but it also gradually hurts you for each rage charge that you have. Once you're fully enraged, you're like a killing machine, cutting through huge swaths of enemies, but you're losing quite a bit of life per second, which is cool because the player is regenerating life per second and drinking flasks and doing all the combat tricks to get life back. He's not in imminent danger, but it does force him to keep managing his life. The rage mechanic has only been added to the berserker, and it only will be added to the berserker. Our intention is for each of these new mechanics to not go elsewhere in the game for someone else to get. That way, if you want to be enraged and do this, you have to be a berserker to do it. It's bringing back the class identity as a strong thing that no one else has.
The Bestiary update is coming to PC on March 2nd, with the Xbox One version planned for a few days after.