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Preview: Path of Exile: Blight – PS4

Path of Exile: Blight is the next expansion for the free-to-play, loot-filled hack ‘n’ slash, and it’s coming September 9th. As usual, it will bring some new additions, improvements, and tweaks to the old content as well. Keep reading for the full scoop.

The big new mechanic in Blight introduces a tower defense game within the main game. The NPC Sister Cassia has a weed problem. There are giant fungal growths infecting Wraeclast, and she needs your help. She has a machine to eliminate them, but, whenever the plants are attacked, it spawns zombie monsters to destroy the machine.

The monsters follow the path of the plant’s tendrils, and you can build little towers that kill them, but you’ll still need to take a hands-on approach to defeat these tougher than normal enemies. Towers will attack with different elements, such as lightning or fire, allowing you to match damage types to weaknesses.

As you fight, you’ll collect more resources to build more towers or just upgrade your existing towers. It’s tower defense lite, but the end game maps will allow you to take on up to 24 paths if you want a deeper tower defense experience. You can and probably should bring some friends if you want to tackle these higher level maps. No matter what you play, defeating all the monsters along a certain path will give you a chest to open. (NOTE: All the screenshots in this preview are from the PC version, but the PS4 version shouldn’t deviate from the standard UI there now.)

If you have a new type of game, you need a new type of reward. Oils can be used to anoint amulets and rings to create different buffs. Rings can give you an advantage such as more damage with a particular tower type.

That’s cool, but I’m more excited about the advantage you gain by applying oils to amulet. Hundreds of passive skills are scattered across the skill tree. I want some of them, but my character would have to waste many points to obtain ones far outside my area. By using the right combination of oils, I can add a particular passive skill to an amulet, and this can be a huge boost to your custom build. If you already have an amazing piece of gear, it doesn’t change anything else. It’s just the icing on the cake.

Oils come in different rarities. It takes two for Sister Cassia to anoint a ring and three for an amulet. If you find three of the same kind of oil, you can combine them to create one oil of the next rarity level. In case you were wondering, oils can also anoint maps, so there is a lot of flexibility in how they are used. You can also trade them for other things you need like any other item in the game.

Several of the archetypes are receiving some major changes in this expansion as well. The first is a focus on minions, control, and adding more power. In the example of the witch’s necromancer ascendancy class, you can give your minions basic marching orders by choosing a particular gem that tells them to be more aggressive, defensive, or attacking certain targets.

The skeletons, zombies, specters, and the new carrion golem are powered up by leveling up gems, so you can use your points to specialize them. You could run into a summoner with the same type of creatures, but they may have prioritized speed over something else.

The Shadow class is receiving changes to two of its ascendancy classes. The poison assassin build is making a return to it’s former glory without being too overpowered. There are five new skills and one new ascendancy skill named Elusive. When activated, it will give you more defense and mobility, but it will become less effective until it completely turns off.

The Saboteur’s mines will now be much more useful. You can throw them faster and farther, and they will go kaboom in order. This can be used to set off a string of mines with increasing effects and rewards when more are detonated. Armed mines reserve some of your mana, and there are new skills with new mechanics for this class.

If you have dipped into the Atlas of Worlds end game content, it’s now a lot more convenient to play master missions. If you happen to randomly encounter one of the masters, the mission they offer can be delayed to whenever you want to play them, instead of a use it or lose it system.

Although you can find the masters here and there, it’s also easier to find the missions. You can talk to them in a hideout, give them the map you want to play, and run through it. Two new master missions are added daily. The content is harder and longer, but the rewards are better too. It’s just another way that Path of Exile puts the content and decisions in the hands of the player, and I like that very much.

If you do want to play the new season, you’ll need to create a new character, and I’ll probably be trying one of the new archetypes. Even if you want to keep playing with an old character, some of the previous seasons will be added to the core game. The boss fights from Synthesis and some items will be added. The boss fights can be accessed by talking to Zana. Legion encounters will be available in some end game maps. This is the result of feedback from the fans, and I would expect it to be improved and changed over time like everything else in the game based on fan feedback which the developer takes very seriously.

With big updates every three months, the growing player base around the world might wonder what’s next. Exile Con will be held in New Zealand in November to answer that question. Along with demos, the con’s 1500+ attendees will be among the first to hear about the new expansion coming in December and the mega-expansion coming sometime next year. The keynote address will be streamed, so you can hear about Path of Exile’s future even if you can’t go.

Path of Exile is a game that I just keep coming back to play even if it’s only to try the new content. It’s one of the few free-to-play games that’s designed with no way to pay-to-win. It has in-game aesthetic purchases only. It prizes player freedom and customization and has hours of content and story.

If the dark fantasy setting and hack ‘n’ slash looting gameplay sounds like your cup of tea, give the new content in Path of Exile: Blight a try on September 13th.

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