Path of Exile's player customization is ludicrously complicated—a near infinite mix of powerful loot, abilities, and a passive skill tree with over 1,300 different abilities to mold you into a monstrous murder machine. Despite that variety, community-recommended builds become commonplace. With Delirium, the upcoming March expansion, Path of Exile is sending players off the grid to carve out a brand new section of its passive skill screen. You just have to slay a few thousand weird new monsters along the way.
There’s likely a year or more until Path of Exile 2 lands, but while we wait, Grinding Gear Games aren’t skimping on the quarterly updates to their free-to-play action RPG. I got to chat last week with Chris Wilson, the studio’s managing director, about the next challenge league coming to Path of Exile.
Like many of Path of Exile's expansions, Delirium is all about players challenging themselves on their own terms and deciding how much (if at all) they want to play with its new systems and quirks. When Delirium releases on March 13, players who start a new character in the Delirium league will find fragmented, creepy mirrors scattered throughout the world with a hazy mirror image of themselves visible just beyond them.
Stepping through will transport you into a foggy parallel dimension. For about a minute, you’ll be beset by horrific new monsters and strange fog-borne mutations of existing foes. These hordes are much tougher than the normal rank-and-file critters, and the further you push out from where you found the mirror into this strange new world, the harder things become. Powerful new mini-bosses lurk on the periphery of these mirror dimensions, but that's exactly where the best rewards are, too.
Those really looking for punishment can pass through the mirror and then take on major story bosses while still in the fog, significantly increasing the challenge of any given boss fight. Wilson showed me what happens when Delirium hits the Brine King, a giant crab-like sea-god from the main story. Ol’ Briney is scary enough as is, but under the influence of Delirium, the oversized crustacean gains some nasty new abilities like a giant spectral figure that erupts from its shell to strike you. It's a weird twist, and I can't wait to see what Delirium does to other fights.
So why is it worth putting yourself in all this extra danger? Story-wise, Wilson was unusually coy, saying that the narrative behind all of this is going to remain under wraps for a while longer. As is standard with Path of Exile's temporary Challenge leagues, completing Delirium events will eventually lead to a new story-focused finale to all this mirror-world malarkey.
The extrinsic reward, however, is the same as everything in Path of Exile: Loot. There’s the usual bundle of new unique items to collect, including a full set of gear that mirrors (har har) the look of Delirium’s villain, but the main reason to hunt nightmares is an all-new type of game-changing item, currently exclusive to this league.
In the name of loot
These new gems are called Cluster Jewels. They slot into the edges of Path of Exile’s notoriously intimidating passive skill grid. Normally, you can collect jewels that make small tweaks to nearby nodes on the passive grid, but Cluster Jewels add whole clusters of nodes, effectively expanding the passive tree in all new ways. Some even come with additional extension points―allowing you to chain multiple Cluster Jewels together to create almost entirely new custom character classes. By placing these jewels on the edges of the skill tree, you’ll create a new branch off the beaten class progression path, letting you invest in new stat tweaks and even a few character redefining perks.
One of the more interesting is Hollow Palm Technique, which forbids you from using weapons or gloves but enables powerful bare-handed martial arts attacks that scale in power with dexterity. Path of Exile now has a monk class, I guess.
The ways these new Cluster Jewels change Path of Exile's metagame is tantalizing, and I’m excited to see what new character builds come from this system. If well-received, I can see it becoming a standard part of Path of Exile’s complex tangle of interlocking systems.
It wouldn’t be a Path of Exile league without some new skills, either. Blade Blast causes any summoned blade-type projectile of yours to violently explode for extra damage. To enable this new behavior, summoned blades are now technically considered projectiles, which also allows players to combine any summoned blades with the Animate Weapon spell, for example, to create a swarm of knife-minions—or to make them explode.
What good is having all that loot if you can't sell it to other players? If you're new, our comprehensive guide on how to trade in Path of Exile is a must read.
Filling a long-ignored niche, Kinetic Bolt is a forking projectile ability that bases its damage off the power of the wand used to cast it. Spellcasters might finally have a reason to care about the basic damage stats on their magic sticks.
Normally, when a new Path of Exile league starts, the previous one either gets removed entirely or compartmentalized into an out of the way corner of the expansive endgame. Not this time. Because the previous Metamorph league (where you collect monster organs to alchemically brew up custom shapeshifting boss fights) was so well liked, Grinding Gear Games is making it a semi-regular fixture. You won’t be building bosses in every area you walk through, but the opportunity will present itself frequently.
Conquerors Of The Atlas, the other half of the last update, is also here to stay. This sweeping rework to the Atlas Of Worlds endgame has seen some refinement, with UI tweaks to make it clearer when major Conqueror bosses will appear, and what choices of yours are drawing them closer. Interestingly, Delirium effects are also designed to play nice with every other kind of endgame event, meaning that the most dedicated loot-hounds can multiply the difficulty and loot in whatever they’re doing.
For those waiting on further Path of Exile 2 news, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but due to Coronavirus fears, Wilson says at least one contributing team on the expansion-turned-sequel has been temporarily shuttered, and production has slowed. Development is business as usual for Grinding Gear’s main team in New Zealand, though.
The Delirium update launches on March 13th, and will be free.