It’s all change for free-to-play action-RPG Path Of Exile today. As well as the usual quarterly start of a new league with new quests and challenges for players, Grinding Gear Games have rolled out their long-awaited melee overhaul. Animations can be cancelled out of and into, movement skills have become instantaneous and your character will automatically switch targets if you hold down the attack button. On an aesthetic level it should be more satisfying to whack people with swords too, thanks to more varied animations. Below, a trailer giving an abridged version of the enormous patch notes.
The new league (which you’ll need to roll a fresh character for, such is the nature of the genre) is a lot more straightforward than the previous Synthesis league. While you’re levelling your way to endgame, Legion will occasionally put a crystal obelisk in your path. By touching it, you get a few seconds peek into NotValhalla, where armies from Wraeclast’s past fight endlessly, frozen in time. By bopping these frozen warriors with an attack, they’ll be brought back to your world once the obelisk timer ends, giving you a custom battle for extra XP and loot. It gets a little more complex in the endgame, but for the most part it’s basic risk/reward stuff, and doesn’t take you off the beaten track.
Of course there’s a bunch of new loot, seasonal challenges to permanently unlock cosmetic goodies plus some new character archetypes and skills, but the melee rework seems most important. The majority of the 14,000+ words of patch notes are dedicated to it. A huge number of skills have been re-balanced, a few entirely redesigned, and skills can now be queued, so the moment you finish your current action it’ll immediately perform the next. All melee attacks have a cone of attack denoted by the physical space your weapons pass through. A swinging greatsword now has distinctly different utility to a rapidly thrusting rapier.
The melee rework also affects enemies, with them given longer wind-up times and clearer animations. Grinding Gear have reworked many of the early game encounters — especially bosses, but including regular monsters — to make them more challenging and require mobility instead of just spamming. Thanks to assorted upgrades players have received over the past few leagues, the early game became too easy. With this update, they reckon they’ve tuned up Acts 1, 2 and 3 to make them as challenging as you remember them being. Poor forgotten Hailrake may even kill you again.