It's our design philosophy that if we're making significant balance changes, the best time to make them is at the start of new four-month leagues, such as the Domination and Nemesis ones that launch with Release. There are several reasons for this:
- The new four-month leagues encourage players to play new characters.
- Everyone is given a one-off passive skill respec which allows them to alter old characters to the new balance.
- Having a major metagame shift at a time when players are creating new characters is least disruptive.
- New players who start playing in a four-month league provide great data that is unbiased by previous balance decisions.
We're not afraid of changing balance during the four-month leagues (and we will be continuing to improve it). The following changes are being deployed at the start of the new four month leagues (which is Path of Exile's release day - October 23).
End Game Parity: Maps, Farming and Boss Runs
In the 0.11.6 version of Path of Exile, end-game Maps are the best place to play. They have a very high economic and attention cost associated with playing them, which some players are less interested in engaging with.
We've rebalanced some of the various end-game options as follows:
- Boss Runs: We're roughly doubling the rate of item drops from important bosses in Merciless difficulty. We want Vaal, Piety and Dominus runs to be a great way to stock up on rares and Unique items. While you won't find the absolute best top-tier gear from these bosses, they're probably the most time-efficient way to get a lot of wealth that can be traded with mappers.
- Farming: Many players want to kick off their shoes when they get home from work and farm The Docks (or similar areas) for hours without having to think about the difficulty of running Maps or Bosses. While this strategy obviously can't yield the best items in the game, we've decided that players should be able to get to level 100 eventually by playing these areas. We're changing the experience equation so that you don't encounter as much experience dropoff farming late Merciless difficulty. This won't make it any faster than it currently is for players to get to level 100, but it will open up area farming as a way to get there (so that you don't have to be part of a 74+ mapping group to have a shot at the upper ladder).
- Maps: Maps are the best place to find end-game base types and high Unique items. This is appropriate because they're gated behind high currency requirements (to reroll the mods you want). In addition, the highest ones are great for experience gain. They also offer the highest challenge levels for extreme players who want to test themselves against brutal combinations of mods.
After these changes, there should be far more options that are equally appealing for end-game players to spend their time on.
We had two problems with Auras:
- Using various tricks like Blood Magic, end-game builds would run six or more auras at once. This resulted in very little aura diversity or interesting party synergies.
- Their effects were not impactful enough. If you had six active ones, it was a big difference, but each individual aura wasn't incredibly meaningful.
To solve this, we're making auras more powerful but are increasing their mana reservation costs. There are new aura cost reduction passives that allow you to specialise in having many auras if you still want to be a full-on aura character. Now each aura that affects you can really be felt and there's a lot more diversity in aura loadout. When we're testing high level characters it's amazing how different they feel when different combinations of auras are selected.
Item Quantity and Rarity
Far too many items drop towards the end of the game. You've all seen the screenshots from maps where the ground is literally plastered in items.
The party bonus to item drops is being changed so that it is more in the direction of Item Rarity and doesn't have as much affect on Item Quantity (you still find the same rate of Magic/Rare/Unique items as before). We're making sure that it has its full quantity effect on the drop rate of Skill Gems and Currency Items. The Item Quantity Support Gem and Item Quantity mods on magic/rare items do not spawn in the new Domination and Nemesis leagues (they still appear on Unique items). The results of this experiment will help us determine how much Increased Item Quantity should stay in the game.
We have globally altered the diminishing returns values for Increased Item Quantity and Increased Item Rarity so that they are a little less effective. It's not a major change - MF characters will still be quite useful, but will feel less mandatory.
Note that while this may seem like a strict nerf to item acquisition, we've made these changes in conjunction with other changes like doubling the drop rate of act bosses in Merciless and the addition of Rogue Exiles to the core game (which drop a lot of items). There's slightly less emphasis on personal MF values and more on environmental ones. We believe that's a good thing.
Damage over Time (NOTE: Delayed until 1.0.2)
We've added the ability to scale Damage over Time effects. This means that you'll have more tools available to specialise in this class of skills, but has also resulted in rebalancing of all DoT effects. Some may be weaker until augmented, which is appropriate considering skills like Poison Arrow and Viper Strike were powerful without support gems.
Socket Fusing and Level 40-55 Quest Rewards
These two topics may not appear related, but we're improving both as the result of a specific observation: some players have a very tough time after around level 40 and often fail to get to the end-game.
While it's completely intentional that poor character builds should struggle (to encourage people to plan a better character), we found that many players were giving up because their item progression was stalling their progress. We're making the following changes to address this:
- It's approximately 233% easier to obtain four linked sockets.
- It's approximately 25% easier to obtain five linked sockets.
- Quest rewards for Cruel difficulty onwards have been improved so that you receive more rare items as rewards.
We're specifically targeting these two areas because we believe that giving people easier access to (the relatively mandatory) four linked sockets and supplementing their progression with more random rares will help them keep up with the harsh character progression demands that these difficulties impose. We've purposefully picked changes that don't interfere with the end-game. Note that even after these increases, you may still get junk from quests rewards and take quite a few Orbs of Fusing to roll the sockets you want!
Improved Two-Handed Weapons and Mods
We feel that there should be more incentive to use two-handed weapons and to be exposed to additional combat risk by not having a shield.
We've increased the damage of all Two Handed Weapons and have introduced a new set of two-handed physical and elemental damage mods that they can receive.
The two-handed damage increases also affects bows. They now receive the new two-handed physical damage mods and the old one-handed elemental damage mods. In addition, the slowest high level bows have been given implicit mods to provide a more interesting tradeoff against fast bows.
Staves can now receive new two-handed spell damage mods.
There are plenty of other balance changes coming - we'll be posting full patch notes early next week. Also please remember the above changes are still in testing and may be different in the final version.
Many people have asked if they can get access to the new Passive Skill Tree earlier than the patch deployment time. This is both difficult from a technical point of view (our site version is based on the current patch that is on the realm) but also because the tree is currently changing on a daily basis. We're very aware that it'd be awesome to have it up early and will do what we can to achieve this, but no promises!