Path Of Exile, Grinding Gear Games' huge free-to-play action RPG, has a new expansion - Heist - coming on September 18th. The titular Heists are the main pull, in which you charge into various dungeons and strongholds with your team of goons, get as much loot as you can, and escape before you're caught and killed.
It's a daunting proposition for new players, but I had a chat with lead designer Chris Wilson about the new expansion and all the new stuff available, as well as where ideas keep coming from almost seven years after launch.
Heist will be one of the larger expansions Path Of Exile has added in quite some time. To take on a Heist, you have to reach the Rogue Harbour, a new area populated by thieves and misfits. It'll be a bit of a hub for your heisting activity, allowing you to recruit new NPC characters called Rogues to help you on your mission, up to 13 arriving as you progress. You have to pay for everything in the Rogue Harbour, even just for access. According to Chris, this should give the area a mercenary feel - everything you do is a bit of a give-and-take. These cool kids all have unique skills to help you in your criminal activity, so it'll be interesting to see how impactful they end up being.
The final goal of all this is to prepare for a Grand Heist. In Heists, you have to trundle through all manner of dungeons, stealing loot and trying not to alert the guards, before charging out of there after the alarm is raised. In a Grand Heist, you'll have to use your allies' various abilities to complete multiple individual Heists, which are very expensive to plan and prepare for. Some Rogues might have special lock picking abilities that'll help you on your way, whereas others may help you climb through ducts and sneak past baddies to avoid detection. Grand Heists are the end goal, and you'll need to use all the skills you've gained so far to succeed for huge rewards.
If you're not into the Heists though, you can always trade away your Markers and Contracts (important requirements for Heists) and just enjoy all the new loot, from trinkets to 'replica' unique items, which according to Chris encourage weird and wacky character builds to take full advantage of the variety of effects and modifiers.
Why heists? Path Of Exile is a huge game and even the developers don't always know what's coming next. Wilson told me that it'd been a huge struggle to find new ideas, but inspiration can come from anywhere.
"We were running out of ideas because we'd done about 40 of these things by now, and we were inspired by the fact that Magic: The Gathering continues to come out with new ideas after 27 years, you know, they've done hundreds of sets. We figured there's gotta be stuff available for us to do, and so when looking for inspiration we loaded up Netflix and started looking at movies.
"Can we do a game about heists? Well of course we can! Everyone starts throwing ideas out about what it means to have heists in Path Of Exile, and it became very obvious that would be a super easy one to do."
The only issue was scope, and the team ended up having to postpone the release date from June to now, meaning they've been working on Heist for longer than most expansions - it grew far larger than they initially expected.
Wilson made sure to emphasise that the start of a new league is a perfect time to get into Path Of Exile, since you start on more of a level playing field with all the other players. Each new expansion starts with a fresh temporary league, transferring older characters into the permanent leagues, so it's essentially a server reset.
You can play Path Of Exile: Heist on September 18th at 2pm PDT on PC and the 23rd on console. The new Mac version is launching alongside Heist too. On Mac it will use the exact same account and information as on Windows, so you'll be able to keep hold of any progress and characters you've worked hard on so far.