Using my mystical powers, I am able to look into the future and tell you that Path of Exile's newest update, Prophecy, will be arriving June 3. But wait, there's more! I sat down with Chris Wilson, producer and lead designer at Grinding Gear Games, to get a peek at how Prophecy is going to be mixing up Path of Exile's loot grind - and I'm quite excited by what I saw.
A large focus on Path of Exile has been its challenge leagues, which are essentially special servers that open periodically for months at a time and mess around with various elements to Path of Exile's core leveling experience. In order to play in these leagues, you have to start a new character along with everyone else. Normally these challenge leagues tend to roll out every three months, with bigger expansions arriving every six—but Prophecy shakes up the core of Path of Exile so much that you'd be hard pressed not to just call it an expansion in itself. At least, that's how I felt after Chris walked me through everything that Prophecy includes.
For those participating in the Prophecy challenge league, their new best friend is going to be Navali, a soothsayer who inhabits the four towns that you'll frequent on your adventure. She isn't cool just because she has a weird demon monkey on her arm, but because she can peer into your future and speak prophecies over you, altering the events of Path of Exile according to each unique one.
Earning these prophecies will take special silver coins which periodically drop from the various monsters you kill, and Chris estimates players will probably find one every fifteen minutes or so when they're out in the field butchering stuff. Taking a coin to Navali will earn you a random prophecy, which you can then keep and try and fulfill or spend more coins to turn into a tradeable item—I'll get into that a bit later. According to Chris, there's going to be anywhere between 150 to 200 prophecies that Navali can make and you're able to hold up to seven at a time. In essence, each prophecy alters elements of Path of Exile's random nature in such a way that players will want to collect them in order to guarantee certain events will come to pass.
If you're not already familiar with how Path of Exile works, there's the basic story quests that you chase down to proceed through each of its main acts, but as the game has evolved Grinding Gear have layered on all sorts of fun little distractions that happen randomly. For example, Elreon is a special NPC that players can sometimes stumble across who needs a bit of help surviving a monster attack. Saving him gives Elreon experience that levels him up and unlocks some powerful crafting recipes for players to use—but because finding Elreon is completely random, leveling him up quickly can be frustrating and time consuming.
One of the first and simplest prophecies Chris showed me involved making an encounter with Elreon happen sooner rather than later—something that would be valuable to a lot of players with the intent of leveling him up. Of course, there's always the option of spending a few extra silver coins at Navali and having that prophecy bottled up to be traded to another player, adding more depth to Path of Exile's already incredible item-based economy.
The prophecies that Navali gives you are always random, so players will frequently be earning coins and turning them in so they can get new ones or package up those they don't want for sale to other players. True to Path of Exile's nature, even the coins can be traded, which Chris explains was done so that players who have no interest in actually fulfilling prophecies can still play in the league and profit. It also creates an interesting relationship between newer and older players on the server as a newer character might obtain a rare but challenging prophecy that they'd rather trade away for a considerable sum than try and complete themselves.
Speaking of challenging prophecies, there's going to be a ton. Some involve killing bosses while equipped with terrible items, others pit you against significantly more dangerous monsters that can even use player spells. In one encounter Chris showed me, a boss is possessed by the spirit of another villain, gaining access to her abilities in addition to his own. Completing these prophecies comes with its own rewards like special items or low level equipment that's been repurposed for use by endgame players. There's even prophecy chains, where completing one prophecy will open up access to another if you have the good fortune of getting it from Navali—kind of like an ongoing quest line.
With so much freedom in Prophecy, players should be able to dictate their own goals for what they want to achieve, whether that's leveling up NPCs like Elreon or farming incredibly rare items that can only be found through certain prophecies. There's also challenges that can be completed across the three month period that Prophecy will be live for, and in doing so players will earn unique cosmetic rewards like ominous purple footprints or weapon skins. For the truly dedicated, Navali's demon-monkey-thing can also be earned.
But what if you don't like challenge leagues (see how I read your mind there)? Prophecy contains other updates for those who don't fancy rolling a brand new character and starting from scratch. Chief among those is a new endgame Labyrinth for Path of Exile's veterans. This new dungeon is a maze of deadly traps and monsters that they can access after completing six new Trials of Ascendancy that sometimes spawn in endgame maps. Beating the new Labyrinth unlocks some more Ascendancy Points, which opens up powerful new options for building your character as well as new enchantment for your helmet.
If you're not quite at the level where you're tackling Path of Exile's endgame content, Prophecy will also introduce a host of new skills to play around with as well as some always welcome performance improvements like faster loading times. But really, if you're not jumping into the Prophecy league and trying to wrestle Path of Exile's random events into submission, this update probably won't have you very excited and you'll need to wait until September for a true expansion. I haven't played Path of Exile in quite some time, but after talking with Chris and seeing all the interesting ways the new league adds depth to the trading economy, I fancy another stroll through the bleak ruins of Wraeclast.