This week saw the release of the next mini expansion for Path of Exile. Patch notes for Forsaken Masters can be found here.
It looks like a lot of things have changed, and probably for the good. They've added in a set of random quest givers that spawn throughout the world. Do quests for them to earn reputation and gain levels with each quest giver. As you level up with them they unlock more and more things. Daily quests. Living space to customize. Crafting abilities! Apparently some of these things can be shared across a guild? As much as some people may hate daily quests and reputation grinds in World of Warcraft I always liked them... As long as the quests were interesting enough, anyway. I'm going to be wandering around and killing things, might as well get a little bit of direction and some rewards for doing so!
It's also brought with it the launch of brand new leagues. The softcore one has the added bonus that killing lots of monsters in a row makes you move faster and do more damage. As long as you don't go more than 5 seconds between kills every 15 kills gives you a new stack of a brutally powerful buff. I didn't know what I was doing but I managed to get over 100 kills in a row on the ledge... I stopped caring about loot (and frankly loot from the ledge is probably pretty questionable anyway unless it's yellow or orange) and just ran in a straight line spamming my mana and run speed flasks. Kill all the things! Move faster! Kill more all the things!
The hardcore one has a weird mechanic where each time you kill an enemy you have a chance to spawn a portal, and if you spawn lots of portals in one spot they combine to make bigger, scarier portals? I haven't played it yet but it at least sounds interesting. And it sounds like it doesn't make hardcore appreciably harder than softcore which may be a good thing.
They also did a pretty big revamp of the sphere grid. Everyone gets more health per level base and all the health nodes in the tree got worse. This should open up more viable builds I hope? You should be able to get the same amount of health as before from fewer points which should let you put more points into interesting things. They also made pretty major changes to the witch/shadow/ranger section of the tree since it used to be terrible. I don't know if it's good now or not, but any change has to be a good one. They also recently changed one of the map mods to make more builds viable. (Chaos damage per time is gone. They added in two more mods to give chaos damage over time while fighting or while standing in goo but you're now allowed to stand someplace safe and actually regenerate energy shield, so an energy shield build without chaos inoculation is now at least theoretically viable.)
They changed their buff system on the backend to remove snapshotting. A lot of the powerful/degenerate builds back when I last played were based on abusing the snapshot system and I for one am glad that's gone even if my last character abused it. It was fun to figure out gem combinations for summoning zombies and then for playing the game but actually making all those gem swaps every time I wanted to play was annoying. They buffed summons to make up for it which is going to be a big boost for anyone who played the game without being an abusive lunatic.
They also changed around the power level of a bunch of skills. One thing in the patch notes that caught my eye was they made all bows just do 10% more damage. Combined with changing the ranger part of the tree I figured I'd make my first character a ranger and just pick things without planning a build. I can always toss the ranger away later if I feel like it, right? Right. I tried out ice shot this time around because it was the only real reward from a quest and it actually felt really good. Turns out it got buffed to do 20% more damage in this patch! On top of some other recent buffs to it as well I think. One of which may have just been visual? It certainly looks like it does a lot of damage now, and entire packs keep dying in one attack, so I like it so far.
One thing I was confused by was a note saying the arc spell was nerfed to do 10% less damage. I used to use arc on my old character but the damage was sketchy so I kept it at level 1 to keep the mana cost low and just used it to proc culling blow. Well, I went back today and read the patch notes from other patches since I last played and in one of them arc was buffed to do 60% more damage and gain more chains as it levels up. Huh... I might want to try a straight up arc mage now...
Am I going to try to get a t-shirt this time? I doubt it. But playing yesterday was fun, so I'm going to at least play a bunch more and see what happens!