This might actually be brilliant. I mean, everything in Diablo-ish ARPGs is ripe for the socketing, right? Maybe you stick some molten rock into your blade and get a fire sword. Or perhaps you imbue a hammer with lightning bonuses and make Mjolnir. So, in essence, Path of Exile's saying, "OK, well, why can't we use that idea on places?" The promising-looking pulverizer's solution? Portals to procedurally generated maps can be stored in your inventory, and a series of hyper-specific, maniacally murderous mods can, for instance, make their monsters stronger, resize locations, curse your character, or make the ground sprout unquenchable tongues of flame. See the diabolically smart system in action after the break.
A complimentary blog post explains the specifics of your power over maps in exhaustive detail:
"Maps can drop as normal, magic, rare or unique with higher rarity Maps yielding more items. Using a Map item opens six portals to the area, which can each only be used once. Like most other items in Path of Exile, Maps have mods that change their risks and rewards. Map mods can affect the size or complexity of the level, monster packs, monster properties or even alter characters while in the level. Players can modify Maps themselves using their currency items. For example, you can use an Orb of Transmutation to turn a normal Map into a magic Map, or use an Orb of Alteration to reroll its mods."
"There are a variety of mods that change monster properties. For example, adding high resistance to one element, preventing them from being stunned, or causing them to gain frenzy charges periodically. Many of the Map mods alter characters while they are in the level. For example, reducing their maximum resistances, cursing them with the Vulnerability curse, putting them under the effects of the Blood Magic keystone, or preventing their life and mana from regenerating."
And, of course, there are also sorts like the pleasant set everything on fire mod demonstrated in the above video. So basically, modified maps will take grim pleasure in adding ludicrously large stacks of circles to your character's personal hell, but - in exchange - you'll probably walk out with cooler stuff. Or crawl out. Or drag yourself by your one remaining eyelash because the rest of you is gone.
If you want to give it a go as soon as the patch drops, you can grab an early access pack and gain immediate access to the closed beta. Otherwise, you can sign up the old-fashioned way and hope for the best.