It's all-change day for free-to-play action RPG Path of Exile. Out with the old animal-bothering Bestiary league, and in with Incursion, an even more morally questionable side-adventure for players to work their way through as they level and loot their way across the incredibly cursed continent of Wraeclast. This time we're travelling back through time to murder the heck out of the ancient Aztec-like Vaal civilisation before they have a chance to go extinct on their own terms. Did I mention that a rather Conquistador-looking lady is involved?
Unlike the rather fiddly Bestiary league, Incursion keeps it simple: Find the new NPC, Alva Valai in each and every zone you visit, and she'll send you back in time to cause trouble during the construction of a great Vaal ziggurat a thousand years ago. After eleven of these little incursions, you'll unlock the option to invade the now-completed ziggurat in the present and claim the rewards of your temporal meddling. Completing special objectives during incursions can alter the structure of the building in the future, too, so pick and choose targets carefully.
While I got to cover the broad strokes of what the Incursion update would include in my preview back in May, now seems a good a time as any (being an hour until the servers go live again, plus there's a nearly 5gb patch download for Steam users) to dive deep into the very extensive patch notes.
For starters, we've got: 12 new skill and support gems, with a broad focus on trap-type skills, giving Dexterity-focused characters a lot of options. There's 31 new unique items, undoubtedly providing new and interesting ways to break the game, and 22 new Divination Cards to collect and trade in for goodies, because you weren't hoarding enough already. The number of balance changes is quite frankly a little silly, so it'll probably be a few weeks and patches yet before any kind of meta is worked out for this iteration of the game.
Probably one of the most exciting mechanical changes for me is a complete rework on how Vaal skill gems function. While previously hyper-specialised, they now also double as the regular version of the skill gem, while still offering the option of using the smartbomb-like charged variant. This has come at a cost, though, with more souls needed to charge each gem, plus after using the powered version of the skill, you lose the ability to gain additional souls for a few seconds. Fair, but slightly frustrating nonetheless.
The passive skill tree has also been rejigged a little, mostly to make Ignite-focused builds more viable, and improve trap and mine-related skills as a whole, so expect to see some fun new builds coming out of this release. They've also made some balance tweaks to late/endgame content, with Act 10 picking up some entirely new enemy types, and the War For The Atlas balance and rewards being hammered a bit more into shape. Plus, if you ignore the Elder long enough, he'll get bored and go home, allowing you to avoid a confrontation if you so desire.
Path of Exile is free to play and can be snagged from both its official site or via Steam. You'll need to roll a new character to join the Incursion league, putting everyone back on equal footing as players race to the top of the refreshed leaderboards.