When is an update not an update? When it's a whole new game, patched in entirely free on top of one that you already play. Announced at ExileCon today - Path Of Exile's first fan convention - Path Of Exile 2 was the ace up Grinding Gear Games's sleeve. Path of Exile 2 is an all new story set decades after the original action RPG, pitting a new set of characters (albeit in mostly-familiar classes) up against a fresh hell's worth of grim and gothic ghouls and gribblies. Check out the debut trailer plus fourteen minutes of footage and new systems breakdowns below.
While there's likely at least a year until Path Of Exile 2 officially launches, Grinding Gear Games weren't just showing and telling. The lucky couple thousand fans (and a handful of press folks, myself included) attending got to try their hands on an early demo build, and I can confirm that it feels like a real sequel. Graphically, it looks like a generational step up, with some lovely lighting effects, and wet and slimy surfaces feeling fittingly icky. Monster animations are much more expressive, too, with even the smallest, weakest foes telegraphing their attacks, and the bosses are expressive enough to feel like they're moonlighting from a Dark Souls game.
While some of the new skills and spells are impressive (like shapeshifting into a werewolf), the star of the show (for me, at least) is the underlying system that supports them. In the original game, every item had a randomly generated pattern of gem sockets which held both your active skills, spells and attacks, and also any augments that you were using to power them up. Every time you wanted to pick up a new weapon, if it didn't have the exact right set of slots, you'd have to fiddle round with your skills, forcing you to limit your play-style. In Path of Exile 2, the weapon type determines what skills you can equip, and the skills themselves have augment slots within them.
For a new player, this is just plain more intuitive, a little more in line with Diablo 3's flexible and fast skill system, letting you pick and choose what suits your character as you go. For a veteran Path Of Exile player, it means you're able to attach a huge plethora of tweaks and upgrades to every skill you have equipped, whether it's active, passive or reactive. It's all a bit complicated, but lead dev Chris Wilson does a decent job of explaining it in the walkthrough video below, which features some big, mean multi-phase boss fights.
From my frequent chats with Grinding Gear folks at ExileCon, the concensus seems to be that they're hoping to release Path Of Exile 2 by late 2020, but don't want to commit to any kind of hard date. There's still a lot of work to be done until it's ready to roll out. Once I'm back securely on British shores, I'll be sharing my thoughts of my time with the Path of Exile 2 show demo, breaking down exactly what they've changed under the hood, and what perks are getting back-ported to Path Of Exile 1.