Grinding Gear Games debuted a lovely big chunk of Path Of Exile 2 this evening, taking us through a section of Act 3 of its campaign and showing off two of its six new character classes: the Monk and the Sorceress. With almost 30 minutes of uninterrupted gameplay, we got to see exactly how they work in practice, and most importantly, we got a big long look at the monk’s beautifully choreographed staff twirling melee attacks. Yes please and thank you. I have to say, this is instantly more exciting to me than biffing skeletons with my Druid in Diablo 4, and I’m very pumped indeed to try the Monk out for myself when Path Of Exile 2 enters its closed beta in June next year.
“In POE1, we had one character class for each of the combinations of Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence. But looking at the design of POE2 though, we realised that many of the new skills we were trying to design just didn’t really fit thematically with the existing classes that we have,” creative director Jonathan Rogers told RPS in an advance press briefing ahead of tonight’s ExileCon.
“Being a spellcaster with a bear form makes sense for Strength [and Intelligence], but it doesn’t really sound like something a Templar would do. We realised that since we had new mechanics for every attribute combination, it actually made sense to design new character classes to explore the new themes.”
As a result, every attribute combo in Path Of Exile 2 will have two classes associated with it. Strength/Intelligence will have the Templar and the Druid, for example, while Dexterity has the Ranger and spear-focused Huntress. Dexterity/Intelligence, on the other hand, will have the Monk and Shadow, but the Sorceress will be reserved for pure Intelligence players, alongside the returning Witch.
Sitting on top of those six character classes, however, are their respective Ascendency classes, and each class will have three of these that let you explore specific specialisations. Grinding Gear Games didn’t reveal too much more about these during the stream, but we’ll no doubt be hearing more about them soon in the run-up to its closed beta next year.
The Monk’s melee combat looks particularly dazzling, and Rogers says they’ve “done a lot of things to add mobility to combat” here. Indeed, “practically every melee skill in POE2 has some kind of movement to it,” he adds, and you can see that in spades in the gameplay demonstration. His wide staff twirls are particularly great for harvesting ‘power charges’, too, which the Monk can use to enhance his skills. One ability called Falling Thunder, for example, only spits out a very small AOE attack on its own, but do it with some power charges in tow and the attack gets much larger. The Monk will also have ice and wind attacks at their disposal, too.
The Sorceress also looks pretty rad to be fair. Whereas Path Of Exile’s Witch class is themed around occult magic and summoning, the Sorceress is all about “pure elemental destruction,” says Rogers. Some of her skills will be familiar in name to returning Path Of Exile players, but Rogers assures me that they’ll play very differently in practice.
In fact, one big change for Path Of Exile 2 is that there’s now a new resource called Spirit, which you’ll need to maintain ongoing effects and buffs. “We were kind of sick of the fact that basically every character was playing with no mana pool [in POE1], so we decided to change the way that reservation works,” Rogers explains. “Everyone starts with 100 Spirit which is enough for most ongoing effects, but if you want to use more than one of them, you are going to need to get some more,” such as from item mods or passive skills.
If you do happen to run out of mana, though, then spellcasters have a new emergency option, as each staff comes with a built-in free spell they can cast, Rogers says.
He also went into detail about how they’ve gone about making it easier to specialise in more than one spell type this time as well, thanks to improvements made to their Weapon Swap feature.
“In PoE1, weapon swap isn’t really used much for its originally intended use case,” he says. “We imagined that people were going to be swapping in and out between different weapons to deal with whatever situation we were in. People don’t do that at all, and a large reason for that is because it’s really awkward.”
To rectify this, you can now choose which weapon sets can be used with each skill. It still looks a little fiddly, mind, as you’ll need to uncheck a bunch of tick boxes on the skill options menu, but if you’re diligent in assigning, say, all your ice spells to your ice staff, and all your lightning spells to your lightning staff, you’ll be able to benefit from each weapon’s mod benefits whenever you initiate that attack, as your character will effortlessly swap between weapons on the fly. You can do the same with some of your passive skills, too, and assign them to specific weapons.
“You can’t do this with every passive on your tree. Only points granted from Skill Books will allow this kind of dual specialisation, so you can’t change from a Mace Slamming Warrior into an Fire Elementalist with the press of a button, but it certainly increases the number of options you have for builds,” says Rogers.
With so much going on, it’s no wonder the devs decided to abandon their plans of trying to make this an expansion to Path Of Exile 1, and instead make it its own separate game. I’m certainly excited to see more of it, and hopefully we’ll get another glimpse of its other four new classes in action ahead of its closed beta next June.