Path of Exile's next expansion has you unearthing ancient relics with dynamite

Path of Exile's quarterly expansions and seasonal leagues have left very few stones unturned. We've had Pokemon-style collect-em-all leagues, leagues where manage a garden of monster crops, and even an interdimensional fight club. And now Path of Exile's July expansion is turning players into their own twisted version of Indiana Jones—only instead of whips and Harrison Ford, you just have dynamite. Lots and lots of dynamite.

It's an enormous free update arriving on July 23 that also includes a variety of new spells intended to rattle the character build meta alongside sweeping nerfs to make earlier acts of the campaign feel a lot more dangerous. Oh, and there's also a Battle Royale mode—out now—but we'll get to that.

(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

The Temple of Loot 

These special digs may also contain some new bosses—some of the most stylish looking undead seen in the game

Like all of Path of Exile's quarterly expansions, Expedition adds several features that slot into the main campaign and provide fun distractions while you level up and hunt for loot—but you'll also have to start a new character. Early on in the story, players will bump into the Kalguur, a band of foreign traders on the trail of some long-lost colonists. The trail stops in Wraeclast, which (being unbelievably cursed) is probably where they died. The Kalguur want to recover the magical relics that their forebears carried. But as they know that digging up anything on this continent is just going to piss off the undead, they're opting for dynamite instead of shovels and brushes.

Each job you do for the Kalguur takes you to a field that they've handily marked with signs indicating what's buried around that location, be it undead or treasure. You'll place a chain of explosives around the site, all linked to a single detonator. Prime the area, push the plunger, and get ready to fight whatever you just loudly woke up. If you're feeling daring, you can also blow up remnants of ruins left behind by the colonists, each one adding a difficulty multiplier to your dig while also multiplying rewards. Risk versus reward, baby.

In practice it, the whole routine doesn't look overly complicated—which tends to be a good thing as Path of Exile players resent expansions that end up being too involved. This is just a new way to build yourself a custom combat encounter. You also have a chance to dig up logbooks, which reveal places that the colonists found notable. These behave a bit like PoE's endgame maps, offering customizable extra missions in new and unique locations. These special digs may also contain some new bosses—some of the most stylish looking undead seen in the game—and, of course, a set of unique weapons and armor pieces to collect.

A curious twist of this league is that each of the four Kalguur merchants runs a different type of store, and is after a specific kind of artifact. One is a gambler, offering you unidentified items, one is a haggler, letting you push your luck for a bargain, one will upsell you on progressively better take-it-or-leave-it upgrades, and the last just offers specific, high-cost trades. Between the four of them, it should make for some interesting shopping trips. 

(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

Expeditions can also reward you with items with an all-new kind of defensive item: wards. Working independently of armor and energy shields, wards outright negate a fixed amount of damage from one hit every few moments. This seems like it'd pair well with high-evasion builds, so that when you're unlucky and do catch that one big hit, it'll be greatly reduced or even nullified entirely.

There's also a new suite of skills and spells intentionally designed to shake up Path of Exile's meta, potentially leaving popular character builds in the dust. There's one new attack skill designed around each of the nineteen ascendancy classes, and each one looks extremely cool.

My personal favorite (as I tend to gravitate towards lazy pet classes) is the new Reaper summon, designed for Necromancers. Stylish, fast and aggressive, it almost looks like playing alongside a bot. The only downside is that it'll reap any other minions you have to heal itself. How selfish. Rage Vortex is a projectile built for Berserkers. A single large angry red circle of hurt that slows down if it doesn't instantly kill a target, letting it deal extra hits for focused DPS, or just flying through squishier packs.

Aimed at Ascendants, the Spectral Helix skill is a quirky ability inspired by the Vaal Spectral Throw skill. It launches your equipped melee weapon (multiplicatively, if you use multiple projectile support gems) in a spiral outwards, bouncing off walls—a fun way to turn swords into spinning projectiles. Probably the most interesting new skill is Explosive Concoction, which is designed for the Pathfinder. It can only be cast when you're not holding any weapons, and it lets you throw exploding bottles with extra properties based on any elemental flasks you may have on your potion belt. Suddenly you're a crazed potion-hurling alchemist.

(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

Grinding Gear also plans to rework the early game. While some (speedrunners especially) love that you can now breeze through the first half of the game, Path Of Exile has undeniably become easier over time, and it wants to bring back some of that old fear.

Rather than just making enemies tankier or more damaging (although enemy stats are being revised) they do want to eliminate some dominant strategies and reduce exploitable tactics. Flasks are being tweaked so you're not just mashing hotkeys to chug every potion simultaneously and refilling them faster than you can drain them. Some highly abusable attack-while-teleporting skills have been brought more in line with other movement skills, and support gems that outright multiply the amount of damage you do are getting a firm whack from the nerf bat.

This decision was partially inspired by player reactions to Path Of Exile 2 at Exilecon in 2019. The show-floor demo was a tough cookie, with tougher enemies capable of wiping out half your health with a solid (if well telegraphed) hit, and bosses being genuinely menacing. This raised tension made for a great experience, and they want to bring the original PoE more in line with it by the time the sequel drops. Personally, I kinda miss being menaced by Act 1's minibosses.

(Image credit: Grinding Gear Games)

Wraeclast royale 

A full game of PoE Royale is twelve minutes long at most, and many will have been wiped out long before that.

Grinding Gear had one last surprise announcement to make, and this one is playable right now: Path Of Exile: Royale is a new game mode and exactly what it sounds like. Up to 100 players dropped into a monster-and-loot-filled miniature Wraeclast, and the last one standing wins. Regulars may remember that this was a surprisingly popular April Fools event, despite being a very low-budget production. This time Grinding Gear has gone all-in.

The pace of this mode is vastly accelerated. You'll find rebalanced mid-to-high level equipment and skills with minimal stat requirements and you'll get two skill points per level. Most interestingly, the intimidatingly huge passive skill grid has been boiled down into something far more bite-sized, and progression through it isn't limited by class, letting you improvise all new character builds.

Matches are set to be downright frantic. A full game of PoE Royale is twelve minutes long at most, and many will have been wiped out long before that. Players are racing for XP and loot, gearing up and improvising character builds on the fly. Of course, the best gear will come from killing and looting your fellow exiles.

PoE: Royale is purely for fun and bragging rights. Repeated wins will give you an upgradable trophy barbecue grill (designed for cooking the giant Rhoa birds) to use in your hideout, but nothing that'll give you a material edge in the rest of the game. Royale seems like a cute bonus and if it does well during this league, it'll become a permanent addition.

The Path of Exile: Expedition league launches as a free update on July 23rd. Path Of Exile: Royale is open to play now.

Dominic Tarason
Contributing Writer

The product of a wasted youth, wasted prime and getting into wasted middle age, Dominic Tarason is a freelance writer, occasional indie PR guy and professional techno-hermit seen in many strange corners of the internet and seldom in reality. Based deep in the Welsh hinterlands where no food delivery dares to go, videogames provide a gritty, realistic escape from the idyllic views and fresh country air. If you're looking for something new and potentially very weird to play, feel free to poke him on Twitter. He's almost sociable, most of the time.