Path of Exile’s Abyss league promises groundbreaking action

Path of Exile

Last week, I got to take an early peek at Path of Exile‘s upcoming War For The Atlas expansion, set to release free for all on December 8th. As impressive as it looks, it is geared heavily towards the more hardcore end of the playerbase: those who have conquered the main story and hunger for more challenge.

For the less experienced or dedicated among us, there is a sizable chunk of new content on the way focused around the Abyss league, their latest game-changing seasonal event. Grinding Gear Games have just announced exactly what the new league is all about.

Building on the theme that Wraeclast is the most absurdly haunted continent in any fantasy setting, the Abyss league is all about dealing with nameless undead horrors from a time long forgotten that are only now burrowing up to the surface. What this means is that you’ll frequently stumble upon big cracks in the ground – yes, the post title is a pun. Getting close to them will cause the gap to open further, letting a swarm of new (or reskinned) Abyssal monsters out.

Killing them quickly enough and following the line of the crack will see it spread further across the map, leading you into further encounters. This repeats until the crack either seals itself, or leads you to a deep chasm, from which you’ll have to contend with increasingly dangerous waves of monsters. Clear them all out before the (hidden) time limit expires and the crack continues to spread, eventually leading you towards a final, potentially rewarding encounter.

Among the rewards you can get for completing these chains of combat encounters are a new class of jewel, which can be slotted into either your passive skill tree’s neutral slots, or into special abyssal equipment, most of which can only be gained from going deeper underground. Later in the game, these chasms can open up further still, becoming entrances to Abyss sub-dungeons packed with dangerous enemies and capped off with a boss fight against a Lich. Kill the boney git and you’ll have a chance of receiving one of the unique Abyss artifact items.

If any of this sounds familiar to veteran players, that’s because the Abyss league is largely building on the foundation set by the previous fan-favourite Breach league, wherein players rampaged through expanding extra-dimensional rifts. The longer they kept up the killing, the longer the rift stayed open and the tougher the monsters got.

During our chat about the War For The Atlas expansion, Path of Exile producer Chris Wilson talked a bit about how risk/reward systems like this have become especially popular, and Abyss will build on what they learned with Breach by forcing players into a more aggressive and reckless playstyle, navigating the map quickly and risking stumbling into additional unplanned encounters if they want the best possible rewards. It’s like a slot machine that’s actively trying to beat you to death with every spin of the reels.

If nothing else, the Abyss league should give you something fresh to do on your way to the expanded endgame. On that note, Grinding Gear released footage of one of the new endgame bosses, seen above. Looks like a tough fight with a nasty quicksand mechanic seemingly forcing constant movement lest players be overwhelmed by scorpions and maybe even drown. It’s a complex looking fight. Those put off by the relative simplicity of the early bosses can expect this sort of thing as standard later on in the game.

You’ll have to roll a new character to get into the Abyss league once it launches on December 8th, but this’ll put you on a fresh leaderboard, with a whole new set of achievements to chase, with several milestones rewarding you with permanent cosmetic upgrades. Once the league ends (3+ months later, most likely), all characters will be transferred back to standard mode, along with the entirety of their stashed loot.


  1. Ghostwise says:

    Reaching the endgame is *relatively* quick once one knows what they’re doing.

    Following a well-explained beginner build, reading the (sparse) dialogues and help texts, and *not* expecting the game to be Diablo III do help in finding one’s footing.

    • indigochill says:

      Do you have recommendations for beginner guides? I took a quick look and saw “Arc witch is easy” but nothing explaining the whats whys or hows of that statement, so stuck with a witch summoner build that I’m just stumbling my way through without much knowledge of what synergies I should look out for. I love PoE’s branching passive skill tree, but do wish it was easier to find passives that would be useful for my build without just looking at everything.

      I know there’s a forum with full builds, but I don’t know how to adapt them to my current level/equipment/playstyle.

      • Horg says:

        The easiest build in the game to play is probably Cyclone Duelist (Slayer). It’s 1 button spin to win with buffs, massive life leach and the option to go pure physical, use bleed, or full damage conversion to elemental. All you have to do to reach maps is get a 5 link for Cyclone, keep your weapon relevant and stack health / resists on your gear. It also scales quite well and can clear all content with minimal optimisation, making it a good option to farm items / currency for other builds. There are dozens of cyclone guides out there, just ignore the ones that build around expensive unique weapons for a starter build, you can do fine with a well rolled rare sword or axe.

        For a spell build you can start with Freezing Pulse Templar (Inquisitor). All you need is two First Snow threshold jewels to give you the extra projectiles (you get one for free in act 5) and you can chain freeze a screen of monsters. It’s very safe and can be built with just rares, although there are some great unique items for FP. It scales reasonably and has decent clear speed, although not a great choice for the hardest end game content, it’s one of the strongest and safest starter spell builds.

      • Ghostwise says:

        The advantage of Arc is that you don’t need to aim, so it can be redoubtable at clearing packs even if you don’t quite know what you’re doing. My main is still based on a personal variant of an older version of the Whaitiri’s Arc Witch build. OTOH you also need a single-target electrical attack for bosses.

        “League starter”, “Solo self-found” and “Beginner” builds tend to be flagged on the forums and on YouTube. That doesn’t mean they’ll be explained well, alas. But it also means they won’t be resting on complex synergies with high-end items and gems.

        ZiggyD and LiftingNerdBro on YouTube tend to explain things well, and for once a video (backed by a text forum thread) is a good format to show how things work.

        After reviewing enough builds with such tags, and seeing the questions and discussions about them, stuff slowly starts making sense. :-)

  2. Abrusio says:

    I’ve been there myself at the beginning of the (soon ending) league. I found a youtube channel with very detailed and nicely done videos on each aspect of the game. Search ‘engeeniring eternity’, they have boss guides, builds, mecanics, almost a video for each important topic you could think of. Also, ‘league starter’ and ‘cheap budget’ are great when looking on the forum.

    • Unclepauly says:

      I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you meant “engineering eternity” for that search instead of the garble you typed.

      • Minsc_N_Boo says:

        That is a great channel for builds. I would also recommend having a look at the popular PoE streamers channels- ZiggyD, LiftingNerdBro and Lighty are all worth a look