Path of Exile: Expedition introduced new skills and bosses, as well as reimagining the Act 1 Brutus fight. In today’s news, our talented sound design team wanted to share some of the thoughts and processes that helped bring the expansion to life.

Greetings Exiles!

Kane here, Audio Lead on Path of Exile. We thought it would be nice to share a bit of the work that our team produced over the development cycle of Expedition. Naturally, the ‘boom’ was a lot of fun to make! But there were also a great deal of exciting new skills, monsters and core game improvements that we worked on over the last few months. So without further ado, I hope you enjoy some of the insights into our recent work.


Eye of Winter

I was very excited when I started designing sounds for Eye of Winter. Those icy visuals inspired me to gather some messy crunchy ice creaks of varying sizes and to blend them together with some scratchy whooshes. I then finished with a lightweight icy impact as it ended with an explosive spin. I tried a bunch of different approaches on this until I found the right combination that you are hearing now. This skill wears it’s inspiration on its sleeve and I was conscious of both acknowledging this lineage but also creating something fresh. For me, the sound that keeps it engaging is the icy-start cast sound and the natural tail for when projectiles shoot out of the sphere. It can be a real challenge for us to keep elements of skills sounding unique, with their own characteristics, but to also make them balanced and not annoying when spammed.

Summon Reaper

It's interesting to juxtapose my thought process behind the sound design of Summon Reaper and Eye of Winter. I had to focus more on its gorey dual scythe skills rather than what it should sound like as just a regular minion. We wanted to give players a strong sense of satisfaction when directing the reaper towards attacking an area you select. I used layers of frequency filtered metallic swings for when it hits monsters in the targeted area. Then I blended the reverb tail of that dual swing with another reverb tail from a combination of distorted roaring sounds. The latter acted as a unique tonal layer for the reaper’s scythe. I also have numerous variations, with different lengths and layers of splattering blood sounds, to make its blood thirsty aesthetic.


Druidic Dire Familiar (or Rat Monster, as we call it)

By far my favorite monster from Expedition League. I loved making such a repulsive and dark creature come alive in Wraeclast! I wanted it to sound crunchy and ‘dehydrated’ with it’s movements, and for that I used a combination of dirt, wet pasta and latex gloves processed together with some phase modulation, stretching and pitch shifting.

For me it looked like it should have a starving, pained voice. I made that by mixing pig squeals and capuchin monkey expressions, processed with pitch shifting, chorus and distortion.

The highlight for me is the skill where it summons little rats from its decaying body. That animation sequence has a painful voice, rat sounds, and 3 layers of foley effects. The first is a dry, crunchy, bone breaking layer, similar to it’s normal foley. The second, a gory organ stirring wet version of it, made by crushing fruit with latex gloves. Thirdly, the sound for the ‘dark magic mist’' (it's not that present visually but was a good resource to add more expression) which I made with a heavily processed geothermal puff and a spread-nozzle water mist. Their treatment included distortion, reverse delay, pitch shifting, convolution reverb, phase modulation and tremolo automation.


This is a new melee skill released in Expedition League to wreak havoc in Wraeclast. I wanted it to have a really satisfying gritty sound each time you hit, rather than just a big impact. I took the Boneshatter name as inspiration and went full ‘ASMR’' on that bone cracking. The main impact sound was made from a mix of bullet and hammered wall impacts with rocks, marble, celery, styrofoam and rupture sounds. The charge up was a buzzing, spark, energy mix. And the shockwave was made with wind and dirt movements, focusing on the high end to be less present and leave more space in the lows and mids for the impact to be really felt.

Scavenger Blood Rage (Microtransaction)

I immediately really loved the style of this one, with a kind of dark, ashy fire for how the scavenger effects are visually portrayed. I used two layers for the start sound and one for the end. The base layer is made from slow burning sounds of paper, oil and charcoal that I stretched and pitched shifted, getting a slightly more tonal version that I would continue to process with delay, reverb and chorus to get an ‘aura’ vibe. The layer on top is a spinning gritty fire sound. I used different fire assets and played with their transients to make it punchier and sharper, and then added a doppler effect to give it movement. The end sound is a slower mixed version of those building blocks with more emphasis on the aura sound fading out over time.


Rage Vortex & Sweep Remake

We are always hesitant to change audio which has been in the game for a long time as there is a fine line between something nostalgic, and something that just hasn't aged very well. Sweep fell into the latter category so it made sense to update this while working on Rage Vortex, as it uses the base sweep animations. For the new sweep audio, I mostly wanted something that was heavy but allowed space for other skill audio to come through, so each ability still keeps its own identity. The first layer was simply the original sweep audio, as building on top of that would work in this case. Most of the additional pieces are what you would expect, with distorted metal scrapes and whooshes. A couple of stand out layers used would be the sound of a snake hiss and strike (which sounds like a whip), a torch whoosh and the sound of an industrial refrigerator. Altogether making a tight, but meaty weapon swing.

For any skill I work on, if possible I try to start with the core sound which in this case was a metal container being slammed shut. Passing that through a chain of light distortion with high feedback, into an exponential distortion with moderate feedback, it turns the impact into a tonal whoosh with a doppler-esque quality. I then added a couple of fresh whoosh layers, some metal scrapes for the high end and a small amount of reverb, bringing it all together as a rather pleasant dirty mess.

The thrown portion of skill consists of a loop of a stone grinder pitched an octave down, some geyser eruptions and ambience from a heavily distorted industrial cacao grinder. All sent through some pitched delays and a light tremolator to help convey a spinning motion.

Mystic Burning Arrow (Microtransaction)

Microtransactions are where we get to be a little extra creative with our sound design, while still adhering to the game's darker roots, we can add small elements which might not fit in a completely organic audio scheme for any given skill. On that note, I've been experimenting a bit more with using synthetic layers for tonal elements, or adding brittle high end to bring otherwise mild sounds to life. We try to keep similar themed microtransactions consistent with one another, such as how all Celestial effects have an otherworldly, almost sci fi flavour. With the Mystic theme, I thought it would be cool to combine synthesised and organic elements. In particular, the sound of flapping wings and bird calls. This is most audible in the Vaal portion of the skill, to really accentuate the difference in power between the regular and Vaal version. The bird call was pitched down an octave or so, sent through some distortion and phasers, then some light delay to give it space. To add a little extra 'weight' to the Vaal version, I added a stereo cannon, some extra explosions for bassier rumbling, and then I doubled those sounds and reversed them to create a suck-back effect for where the fire retracts back in on itself.


Uhtred, Covetous Traitor

I was able to get started on Uhtred early in league development and with him being a pile of rotting flesh, old rags and metallic armour, I made Uhtred’s movement audio sound as gritty and horrific as I could. With deliberate audio processing and great voice acting, his dialogue sounds painful and fatigued. Designing his spell casts and other effects, I used abstract sounding synthesis and samples along with heavy distortion to start as a base for some building blocks. Building blocks are custom assets that we create to help us form a sound palette for particular things. These assets sounded rough, but I did this intentionally knowing that with some cleaning up using iZotope RX and Oeksound’s Soothe2 I would create some really unique, dark and gritty magical elements for Uhtred’s skills. This technique of distorting and deliberately over-compressing audio crucially followed up with intense clean-up is a great way to design unique sounds that work really well as tonal magical elements, which were perfect for Uhtred.

The Disciples of Uhtred

It was appropriate to use the base building-block magical elements of Uhtred’s magic, morphed together with heavy metallic tonal layers to create a lot of the audio for Uhtred’s disciples. Being larger and deadlier than your regular monsters, I really focused on making sure their abilities were telegraphed well and stood out in the mix as something dangerous, using higher pitched and sharper sounding elements at the start of their skills. For the vocals, I felt like this monster didn’t deserve some generic grunts and groans and instead I grabbed a mic and pressed record. I recorded disgusting, undead-like and painful sounds with my voice. Stacking a couple of my recorded vocal layers on top of each other and then mixing in some animal vocalisations using Zynaptiq’s MORPH 2, I got the exact sound I had envisioned before picking up the mic.



These kinds of fights are a real joy to work on. A lot of Path of Exile's boss fights consist of several phases with notable transitions and events that take place in each. The Olroth fight is a great example of this. You must reduce his health several times and destroy the Triskelion Flame before you are able to truly beat him. This gives us the opportunity to inject more character into the fight with special dialogue and sounds to signal transitions between phases. I am particularly happy with how his shield functions during the periods where he is invulnerable to damage. The effects here perfectly suited a sort of warbly, other worldly sound as your attacks fail to penetrate the shield. This sound was mainly made from pitch shifting subdrops and modulating them in various ways, giving a very strange sort of sound that occupies its own space and helps clarify that you are unable to attack Olroth during this time. Overall, we work very hard to try and communicate important elements during these encounters, which in itself can be difficult due to the immensity of things transpiring at any given time. Another example of this, is the charging up sounds on Olroth's sword and the way the Triskelion Flame charges up, these are intended to clearly indicate to the player when it's time to move. When designing audio for these complex fights, I make an effort to ensure that each element has some sort of unique sonic identity. This helps to balance the sound of the fight, taking away from the clutter. Using a balanced palette of tonal layers and foley, we can ensure we are communicating what we need to throughout boss fights.

Who Let Brutus Out?

We've been making a lot of tweaks to compliment revisiting Act 1 of the main storyline. You may notice the cannibals have more personality as well as Fire Fury and Hailrake, among other improvements. This requires some thought and caution, as we want to tread lightly when making any changes to existing content. Just because a sound is rather old, doesn't mean it is automatically bad. So we try to review things considerately and at first we may tweak existing audio, but in some cases it is better to rework it completely if it doesn't hit the quality mark we aim for today. Brutus provided a unique opportunity (after someone accidentally left his door open) as he now finds himself in a different setting, I felt it was time to give him some love. His vocals were improved, to go with his new door smashing skills as well as reworking his fight audio in general. I went about creating some temporary voicing for him to see how it would feel giving him a fresh voice, as temporary voicing is something I do quite a bit of during development to flesh out ideas and to test dialogue. After pitching it down and gruffing it up a bit, it felt like it fit very well. At that stage it didn't make much sense to re-record it with someone else and Erik thought it was great as it was. So somehow, I became Brutus re-born. We don't often put ourselves into the game in such obvious ways, so for me, it's a nice bonus to be in that space, jump-scaring unsuspecting Exile's as they walk down the hallways!

What do we use?

I saw some comments on our last behind the scenes post and it appeared some people were interested to hear more details about our workflow. Our team all use Pro Tools as our DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) for sound design, though we have been experimenting recently with Reaper as well. Our audio middleware is FMOD. FMOD is what we use to control the interactive aspects of sounds in the game, such as variations on things like pitch, volume or even what file is played. In FMOD we can also use parameters that are triggered by code which gives us a lot of flexibility on how we implement sounds. We then have our own in-house development tools for attaching sounds to animations and testing these out. As for the sounds themselves, we have a vast sound library to pick, choose and blend from. We also record bespoke audio from time to time as we need it. For voicing, we have three different methods. For main NPC dialogue, we usually record this at a local audio post studio in Auckland called Native Audio. For monster dialogue, we use Source Connect and work with actors via Zoom. Lastly for any other bits and pieces that need to be recorded, I do this in my home studio. We also have some field recording equipment which we use to add local elements to the game, this is especially going to be more prominent in Path of Exile 2, so stay tuned for some insights into that later!
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Grinding Gear Games
*plays suffering sounds from community/reddit*

first try on hillock
Last edited by auc_martin on Aug 22, 2021, 6:28:27 PM
I can vouch for Reaper DAW. Been using it for several years and it has proven to be compatible with a lot of MIDI controllers and VSTs.
Still waiting for MTX preview
nice ty GGG
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Great work, but Russian Brutus is still my favourite. :D

Wait for it...
Beauty, I play with only sound effects and this is a treat for me.
I have to highlight the ambient destruction on Brutus fight very poe2 ex (kinda of topic I know) :D
Alysma wrote:
Great work, but Russian Brutus is still my favourite. :D

Wait for it...

OMG, I remember these videos, they were awesome! I miss those times. Sad that Russian VA is not in the game anymore IIRC.
The Bother progress: 11%

You don't even imagine how much harm you've caused. I'm not sure I'll live long enough to finish "The Bother". You're one of my murderers. You will never get my forgiveness unless you make up for what you've done.
Last edited by Iangyratu on Aug 22, 2021, 8:03:28 PM
Did the portal sound get quieter? Some portal effects almost have no sound.
God I miss doing sound design properly..., Thank you for sharing as always <3
Hi can we get an option to turn off individual sound effects from skills? Basically some sounds make it so I have to turn off all sound effects from Poe.

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