Path of Exile's massive melee update could fix the game's biggest problem

We're big fans of Path of Exile. It's a great action RPG and one of the most generous free-to-play games in the world. However I've always found that the combat lacked impact compared to its genre stablemates, especially in close quarters. That could be about to change with update 3.7, which reworks core animation systems, adds more detailed hit detection, and boosts melee stun to make close combat snappier.

The changes are covered in detail in a cheerful chat on the Baeclast with studio cofounder and technical director Jonathan Rogers. With the god-like powers of the command console Rogers shows how in future movement and attack animations can cancel into one another. 

It sounds like a small detail, but it will have a big effect on the way the game feels for melee characters. Currently when you activate a strike the entire animation plays out from start to finish and you can't react to get away from enemy attacks. It sounds like the devs have had to reach deep into PoE's code to adjust these fundamentals.

"For quite a long time I would say, really since the beginning, melee has just not really been as good as we'd hoped, and I think that a lot of the reason for that is because we needed to go down to a pretty low level of the game with animation systems, action system, targeting system, all these different things" says Rogers.

Enemy animations and attacks are also being reworked to have longer wind-up motions. Ideally this gives players cues to use defensive skills. New movement skills are going to be added and melee skills rebalanced to make fighty builds more viable and fun. 

The new animation system will also register hits against multiple adjacent enemies if your weapon passes through them, and targeting ought to be easier. The whole rebalance seems designed to help players pick up some arcane swords and get away from powerful AoE ranged builds. It's a good move. Path of Exile has vast character-building systems and there's loads to do in each season, it's a good time to focus on the way the game actually feels to play.

The changes are due to arrive as part of the June 7 Legion update, which also lets you teleport into frozen battlefields. Hit the enemies you want to unfreeze, and then squash them for loot. Judging by the official trailer, that's going to be a good time.

Tom Senior

Part of the UK team, Tom was with PC Gamer at the very beginning of the website's launch—first as a news writer, and then as online editor until his departure in 2020. His specialties are strategy games, action RPGs, hack ‘n slash games, digital card games… basically anything that he can fit on a hard drive. His final boss form is Deckard Cain.