Grinding Gear Games today announced War for the Atlas, the latest expansion to its free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile. Lead Designer Chris Wilson recently gave RPGamer a sneak preview of the expansion ahead of its unveiling, detailing many of the features included.
War for the Atlas builds on the end-game content introduced in Atlas of Worlds. In Atlas of Worlds, players collect special map items, which correspond to nodes on the titular Atlas. Players play through these maps, gaining new maps in the process, attempting to get to the centre and defeat the mysterious Shaper. War for the Atlas features a brand new Atlas, with thirty-two more nodes, and a new entity called the Elder.
Both the Elder and the Shaper are vying for control, and players will see their influence spreading across the Atlas: marked by tentacle or starry-based sections. Players are able to change how this plays out by going through the maps on these nodes, potential helping the Elder or Shaper by reducing the other's controlled area.
Like Atlas of Worlds, each map ends in a boss fight, and Grinding Gear Games has taken steps to keep these interesting by using multi-stage encounters. One example shown was a giant scorpion that would sometime bury itself in the sand and head elsewhere on the map, making players chase after it.
When players do enter a map under the influence of one of these entities, it will have an impact. Those under the Elder's tentacles will cause parts of the map to becomes corrupted, the example shown sapped all the colour from the surrounding area, making the player weaker. Meanwhile, those under the Shaper will impart starry areas as well as orbs that create damage-dealing rifts in the ground, along with various other potential modifiers. When the Elder's zone becomes large enough, there is a chance he will manifest in a particular map, replacing the boss with a more dangerous creation of his own called a guardian. War for the Atlas will feature various endings that can be triggered, with players able to go through a fresh Atlas in order to have another shot at seeing other endings.
As with other expansions, War for the Atlas features plenty of new items and some additions to the extensive skills systems. This expansion adds four new skill gems and six new support gems, which provide intricate ways to tie in with other build types. One example shown was a skill called Unearth, which sends corpses out as projectiles, which ties in with another called Cremation, which turns those corpses into volcanic geysers, and effectively lets the necromancer act as an offensive spellcaster. Another combined the Unearth and the usually movement-based Body Swap skills on a melee build, letting the player zoom around the map and quickly clear out an entire room of enemies. A support gem called Spell Cascade was also shown, which affects spells used on the ground such as Frost Wall. It causes three instances of the skills in front, at, and behind the targeted location, letting players block off large areas of the screen.
Tying in with War for the Atlas is a new set of challenge leagues. The Abyss Challenge Leagues build on the Breach Challenge Leagues. As players explore Wraeclast, cracks will appear in the ground and spawn various enemies. Defeating these enemies in time will cause the cracks to extend, causing more powerful creatures to appear, giving players a risk-versus-reward strategy as they try to rise up the leaderboards.
Path of Exile was originally released for PC in 2013, with an Xbox One version (including all the PC expansion content) released earlier this year along with a Chinese version released in partnership with Tencent. War for the Atlas will be released on PC on December 8, 2017, with the Xbox One version planned to follow within a week.