Since its 2013 launch, the free-to-play action-RPG Path of Exile has seen many changes and upgrades. Originally released for PC, the slash and loot game expanded to Xbox One, and will also debut PS4 in December. Throughout 2018 in particular, the developers at Grinding Gear Games released a series of expansions that continually expanded the scope of what players can do within the world of Path of Exile. And now, the creatives are set to close the year out with their most ambitious update yet, which will place a greater focus on storytelling within the game.
In Path of Exile Betrayal, a new threat in the form of the Immortal Syndicate emerges after the events of the previous expansions Delve and Incursion, which altered aspects of the timeline. The changes have also caused the disappearance of the Forsaken Masters, who previously helped your character gain new skills and gear throughout the journey. This mysterious organization has amassed immense power, and you’ll need to dismantle their influence–one member at time.
Speaking with GameSpot, managing director Chris Wilson detailed what Betrayal changes to the core of Path of Exile, and how it’s a culmination of not only a year’s worth of expansions, but the work they’ve done since launch.
“At the beginning of 2018, we took a long look at Path of Exile and asked ourselves ‘what piece of content needs the most attention?'” Wilson said. “Our eyes fell on the content of the Forsaken Masters, which was something we introduced fairly early on in the game back in 2014. These NPCs give you missions to do and gave you hideouts in return. It was a solid expansion, but it was really starting to show its age. We’ve done our best to keep the game up to date, so we decided we had to do something about it. Betrayal is our way of tie up all that came before, particualrly with the previous expansions this year.”
Just like the other updates, Betrayal adds in new areas, loot, and monsters to battle–all of which will be accessible on the mid-point and into the end-game. However in a bit of a departure from the previous expansion, Betrayal focuses a little more on storytelling and choices. While the focus is still primarily on hack-and-slash gameplay with ample amounts of loot to collect, the added narrative is all in service to the minute-to-minute gameplay–giving it extra impact. In the various dealings with the organization, your decisions on which characters live or die will greatly influence the power structure of the Syndicate and its different branches. In similar vein to Shadow of War, you can view these changes within the game’s connected web of characters, allowing you to chart out your path to eliminating the group’s influence.
As the most character driven expansion to date, Betrayal places greater emphasis on interacting with the many NPCs you meet throughout the game. With over 40,000 lines of new dialog, you’ll be able to learn more about familiar allies and new characters to understand their connection to the Syndicate. One of the new allies heading up the investigation is Jun Ortoi, a member of the Order of the Djinn. While learning more about Order and its conflict with the Syndicate from her, you can also unlock high-end gear, offering its own set of special perks.
Here’s a quick rundown for what’s to come for the expansion, as written by the developers:
- Syndicate Encounters: In every world area, players will encounter some the Syndicate and its four distinct branches. These encounters can occur in a variety of different ways, which include Intervention, Interrogation, Bargain, Execution, and Betrayal. Your choices will determine how the power structure of the Syndicate can advance.
- Safehouses: Once you have enough information about one of the arms of the Syndicate, you can invade its unique safehouse. Each of the different Syndicate arms has a different style of safehouse that contains the characteristics of that department, along with a set of chests to pillage.
- Veiled mods: Loot dropped from special targets in Betrayal can sometimes have unique mods that will require extra effort to unlock. By visiting Jun Ortoi, you can partially unlock the mods to gain a slight bump. By completing more goals, you’ll be able to amplify its power.
- Hideout Overhaul: In Betrayal, the entire hideout system is overhauled so that you have one unified hideout between leagues (rather than having to make a new one per league), can load/save templates and can unlock the hideouts by encountering and clearing them as you play through the game.
- Forsaken Masters: Betrayal sees the old Forsaken Masters (with the exception of Zana) mysteriously vanish. In their place, NPCs from recent leagues rise as Masters to provide you with missions, help you craft items and find hideouts.
- New End-game Maps: Betrayal bolsters the end-game with four new randomised maps. While these are based on the community’s favorite tile-sets introduced with Delve, they have been fleshed out to offer full endgame map tilesets in Betrayal to offer more variety.
In addition to the larger pieces of content coming in Betrayal, there’s also a number of quality of life updates and gameplay tweaks that have been included. For starters, content from the Incursion and Delve expansions will be better integrated into the main campaign, as opposed to being largely isolated activities. The expansive Atlas will also see some new missions and tweaks as well to fit in with the new Betrayal narrative. Along with new skills and abilities to use, Mastercrafting has also been slightly streamlined, and unlocking perks and buffs for gear has been overhauled. Instead of having you farm the same encounters to slowly activate them, these perks are now tied to goals, such as clearing out enemy hideouts or having a particular gear set equipped.
December will be a particularly big month for Path of Exile. In addition to the launch of this expansion on the December 7, the game will also see its release on PS4 soon after. While the bulk of players are playing on PC, the developers are quite pleased with the growth the game has seen on the Xbox One, which offered a solid entry point for many players looking to get into the game. While Betrayal won’t launch on consoles the same day as the PC release, the developers state that it will arrive in the weeks after.
2018 was a particularly strong year for the free-to-play action-RPG. The game it was at launch isn’t the game it is now, and the developers have been continually surprised at how much the game has taken off since its mostly humble beginnings. 2019 will see another set of expansions coming, in addition to the first convention–Path of Exile-Con in New Zealand–which will bring many fans of the game together in real life for the first time.
For more on Path of Exile, along with coverage on the upcoming PS4 launch, be sure to visit GameSpot in the weeks ahead.