The original Path of Exile is known for its massive skill tree, and its sequel, Path of Exile 2, stays true to that legacy. The game features the expansive systems that made its predecessor popular, such as equipable gems and multiple classes. However, the developers have taken steps to make the game more accessible to newcomers without sacrificing depth. Game director Jonathan Rogers explains that the goal is to strike a balance between complexity and approachability.
I had the opportunity to witness this balance in action during a gameplay demo for Path of Exile 2, which showcased the new Druid class. Similar to spellcasters in games like Diablo IV and Baldur’s Gate III, the Druid possesses the ability to shapeshift into animals. In Path of Exile 2, the Druid can transform into a bear, although some may argue that this leans more towards a werebear lycanthrope than a traditional druid. Nevertheless, the Druid’s arsenal includes lightning and volcanic fire abilities that complement their wild side.
During the demo, Rogers demonstrated how the Druid’s unique abilities can be combined. As a bear, the Druid can unleash powerful roars and claw at enemies, building up rage to unleash devastating rampages. In humanoid form, the Druid can summon storms of lightning, create small volcanoes that spew fireballs, and even summon a pack of wolves. To effectively tackle the hordes of enemies in Path of Exile 2, players will need to master the art of utilizing these abilities simultaneously.
However, managing all these abilities can be overwhelming. Remembering to unleash a volcano, summon wolves, transform into a bear, build rage, and go on a rampage requires a lot of mental effort. To address this, developer Grinding Gear Games has implemented shortcuts that allow players to program combos into the game. For example, players can set it so that a wolf is summoned every time the Druid casts a lightning storm or have the bear form automatically unleash a powerful area-of-effect roar upon transformation.
I witnessed some of these self-made combinations in action, and it made Path of Exile 2 feel much more approachable for someone like me, who had never played the original game and felt intimidated by the complexity of the gem and skill systems. After the demo, I had a chance to play for a few minutes, trying out both the magic-flinging Sorcerer and the hit-and-run specialist Huntress. I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the multitude of skills and the need to use them in the right order. However, the option to program certain combinations to work automatically alleviated some of the pressure of memorizing complex sequences.
Whether Path of Exile 2 manages to maintain this level of approachability across all its classes remains to be seen. We still have to wait for the closed beta, which is set to launch on June 7, 2024.