Grinding Gear Games is finally taking the game out of open beta on October 23 and simultaneously releasing on the Steam network. Version 1.0 of the free-to-play action RPG will include several new improvements such as a new prestige class (awesome: wields ethereal weapons like boomerangs!), three new areas filled with sub-zones, and new PvP modes. The release also marks the conclusion of the third act in which we face off against Dominus himself. Well, himself and legions of dead, demon-y things.
And, that's just the beginning.
Meet the Scion
She's the daughter of corrupt nobles, which means she can throw a good punch. The Scion is PoE's first take on the prestige class and the seventh unfortunate soul to be exiled to Wraeclast. Unlike the other classes, the Scion is a bit more difficult to play, according to Chris Wilson, Managing Director of Grinding Gear Games.
The difficulty begins with unlocking her as a playable character. Players will have to search the world looking for her in a locked cage, a potentially rough task given the randomly-generated quality of the world's landscape. Once released, she is available as an option at the character creation screen.
The difficulty continues in the types of skills central to the Scion's gameplay. Wilson shows me how the character creates a fan of ethereal blades that shoot out and return like boomerangs. The initial damage isn't very high, but he shows me how drawing the blades through enemies as the weapons return increases the damage output significantly.
New Zones and Shrines
The official release will add three new zones to the end of Act III. The first zone is made up of gardens outside a large library and contains few new monsters and a rather lush environment. The gardens lead the player into the library. The library is dark and ominous in atmosphere with books and bodies laying scattered around the interior landscape. Wilson says that lore fans will find lots of secret goodies in this area in the form of discoverable pages that are randomized with the zone's layout. He claims it will take several runs to piece together everything from the library. The third zone is called the Scepter of God: a giant tower that leads, floor by floor, to the final showdown with Dominus.
Shrines are a new mechanic being added the game's new Domination league type. Each shrine acts as a station in which a player can pick up a certain buff that can give them various benefits or spells that automatically cast around them for a period of time. The difference from other isometric shrine iterations is in how these shrines passively buff any enemies in the area with the same skill. Wilson says that players will have to make a choice or gamble on whether grabbing the shrine is something they need to get by enemies or vice versa. In my ignorance, I questioned whether players would actually find grabbing shrines to be difficult, and Wilson let me know that when they finish balancing the mechanics, shrines will be incredibly difficult to just run and grab. The goal being a reward for players that take them seriously -- death to player's that don't.
PvP, Guilds, and the Future
PvP is being expanded through two new systems: speedy tournaments and capture-the-flag (CTF). Tournaments will be shotgun-style matches between fellow players in which the winner moves up and starts their next fight almost immediately. Wilson says they pulled much of their inspiration for this style of tournament from speed chess. He likes the style because "players can know all the moves but have no time to think about it." The more matches you win the higher your rank in the tournament. This method, as Wilson put it, also forces players to play decisively without wasting time with builds only meant to kite players to death. The team is also very excited to see how their previous Twitch.tv integration will help spectators get into the quick match action.
Guild features such as storage and ranks will be added in version 1.0, as well. As players contribute towards tournaments, leagues, and races, the guild will earn points that will unlock awards from more storage to unique gear rewards. Guild storage will have the usual access and rank controls players would expect from an online game. According to Wilson, players are already enjoying these aspects of the game and they want to continue to incentivize working toward a goal with a group of friends or other players.
As far as Act IV goes, he says that won't come out until sometime next year and, if it's anything like this update, it will be worth the wait.
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