In 2019, Grinding Gear Games gave us our first look at Path of Exile 2, and with the exception of a couple of small teasers, we’ve heard almost nothing about it since then. It was supposed to be a sequel akin to Overwatch 2—originally not really a new game per se, but more like a giant patch or remaster that would update the game with new graphics, content, and systems.
At ExileCon this year, all that got blown up. Path of Exile 2 is a separate game, and it’s a true sequel set 20 years after the original. I for one can’t wait. We learned a ton about GGG’s new baby during the keynote presentation, so let’s get into it.
Two games, one Path
The story of Path of Exile 2 is one of scope creep. It all started with a desire to update some ancient (2007ish) character models. Then, as game director Jonathan Rogers described it, it became a series of fun projects. ‘Why don’t we update the models’ became ‘Why don’t we update Act 1’ became ‘Why don’t we fix the way skill gems work’ became ‘Aww screw it let’s make a new game.’
“We realized that our plan to replace PoE 1 with PoE 2 would essentially be destroying a game that people love for no reason, so we made a decision,” Rogers said in the keynote. “Path of Exile 1 and 2 will be separate, with their own mechanics, balance, endgame, and leagues.”
What this means for us as players is essentially twice the Path of Exile. Both games will run concurrently, with a league each every three months (a new league every month and a half for sickos like me who will almost certainly play both). Rest assured, however, that your beloved stash tabs and Righteous Fire skins won’t be going to waste. Your impossible to craft legacy six-links in Standard won’t be retconned to have funny new gem links, and anything you purchase in the future will be usable in both games (unless it’s something like a shapeshifting werebear skin, ’cause that’s not in PoE 1).
Oh yes, my friends, we’re gonna be shapeshifting. Here’s a quick (and almost certainly incomplete) list of new features for Path of Exile 2.
- Six new character classes, along with the six from PoE 1 for 12 total (Sorceress, Monk, Huntress, Mercenary, Warrior, Druid)
- New ascendancies, with three for each class
- A revamped skill gem system where the links are in the gems themselves, not tied to equipment
- Tons of new skills, including shapeshifting (bear, wolf, cat) and giant comets
- Meta gems, which are gems that can have other gems socketed into them (think things like cast on crit or spell totem)
- New weapon types, like spear and crossbow that have their own skills
- A six act story campaign set 20 years after the death of Kitava
- A new map-based endgame
- A dodge roll for everyone that doesn’t require a gem link, with the ability to dodge-cancel abilities
- Changes to crafting and the economy, including changes to the way chaos orbs work and the introduction of gold as a currency
- Over 100 new bosses to battle, each with unique mechanics
All systems nominal
So there’s… a lot there. In a decision that’s telling of the studio’s overall philosophy for PoE2, not only do we get a new character class for each attribute and two-stat combination, but the original six classes are playable as well. It seems like every time GGG asked itself ‘well, should we do A or B?’ the answer was always ‘why not both?’
Skill gems receive a major overhaul in Path of Exile 2, fundamentally changing the relationship between gear and skills. Instead of items dropping with sockets to slot your skills in, your skill gems will have the sockets. Uncut gems drop off monsters, and can be assigned to skills of your choosing. Item level will still determine the number of support gems that can be attached, but these gems drop at the level of the monsters you’re fighting, so you don’t have to level them up from scratch. This should allow players to use more skills with greater flexibility, since you won’t be locked in to one or two six-link items for your main damaging skills.
Speaking of items, it should be much easier to swap them in and out. Since your skills are no longer tied to item sockets, you won’t have to forgo a big upgrade you find just because you don’t have the jewelers, fusings, and chromes to make it work. Just swap it out. You can also assign whole sections of your passive skill tree to a weapon swap, so if you want to clear packs with shock or arc and then swap staffs and drop an ice comet, your skill tree will come along with you.
These changes should make combat a lot more dynamic, since we’ll be able to use more than just one or two skills at full or close to full capacity.
Meta gems will further let you customize your kit. These gems allow you to socket multiple skill gems inside them, letting you reserve Spirit to automatically cast skills when certain triggers are met or tying multiple skills to a single button press. You can even link multiple skills to intelligently cast in order, such as a spell totem gem that first casts a curse, then casts an attack skill. Spirit is a new resource used to reserve things like buffs and trigger skills, which opens up mana to be more than the 15 points I have left behind after reserving grace, hatred, and skitterbots.
Opening up this design space makes mana costs more relevant, and allows for some nutty skills that cost lots of mana but hit like a truck. Like ice comets. I love ice comets.
Grinding Gear Gambling
One thing I always tell people about Path of Exile, provided they allow me the time to clamber onto my soapbox, is that one of the most brilliant things it did was not include a generic currency like gold in its economy. Every currency orb does something, like reroll an affix or redo the gem links on an item. This gives them an intrinsic value that naturally anchors the player-driven economy. So it was with some trepidation that I heard Rogers tell us that they were implementing gold in Path of Exile 2.
To be fair though, their reasons are sound. The intention is to smooth out some things in the early game without the gold piece becoming the de facto trading currency. After all, if I have to portal back to town to get an orb of chance for Siosa one more time in the library in Act 3, I might punch someone. Having gold will allow GGG to streamline some of the fussiness of early currency drops and reduce the need to drop as much trash gear to sell, which might give our loot filters time for a rest… they’ve earned it. It’ll be implementing gambling as a gold sink, which honestly is the best use for gold anyhow. Zana knows exiles love to gamble.
Path of Exile 2 looks like a massive undertaking, and a true sequel to a game that’s been growing for a decade now. Once initial development is done, I’m told that the GGG team will be split pretty evenly between the two games, making for an ambitious content release cycle that might just actually be incredible. If the end result is that we get leagues every month and a half instead of three months, with new classes, skills, endgame, and who knows what else, we could be in for a golden age of Path.
The Path of Exile 2 closed beta starts on June 7, 2024.