Path of Exile’s Sacrifice of the Vaal Keeps Things Fresh
Free-to-play Action/RPG Path of Exile has just launched a mini-expansion, Sacrifice of the Vaal [excerpt], being careful not to label it a full-fledged expansion, which will be coming down the line. The mini-expansion addresses some of the tedium and boredom of playing ARPG zones over and over in some clever ways. There are a bunch of new skills, a new end boss, and changes in Sacrifice of the Vaal, but the highlights are strongboxes and corrupted zones.
Random chests have always been an ARPG staple, tempting players to peek inside. Strongboxes are far more interesting versions of the classic loot vessel, and can spawn with a wide variety of different properties. These strongboxes spawn a pack of monsters as part of the cost to open, and these can range from enemies you’d normally find in the area to rogue exiles and boss-style monsters. There are often one or two of these in any given zone, and they break up a map clear considerably by injecting a sense of discovery and exploration to areas that players may have cleared many times.
The corrupted areas are even more interesting, allowing players to randomly stumble across special zones that have random properties. The enemies may be tougher, but the loot rate may be modified as well. These are in some ways similar to the map system found in Path of Exile’s endgame, but players will begin seeing these zones as early as the first few levels. Exploring zones that you’ve played through dozens of times and unexpectedly running into a gaping sinkhole is a nice change of pace.
After playing for a few hours, these changes feel like exactly what the ARPG genre needs to keep things interesting. Exploration, discovery, and the prospects of new and interesting loot are now lurking potentially everywhere. I expect Grinding Gear Games to continue bringing upgrades of this nature to the forefront with the release of the next “real” expansion.
Path of Exile features four-month “leagues”, the strongboxes have been added to the default or “softcore” league. The hardcore league, which features permadeath, has added the Invasion mechanic – Players will run into monsters from other levels and acts in maps, and unique boss monsters lurk within each level. If you’re looking for a challenging league and ruleset, give Invasion a try.