I’m not even going to waste any time, let’s just dive into the patch notes for Path of Exile 3.5, and its Betrayal Challenge League. If you have no idea what’s going on, head over to the main announcement to familiarize yourself with the new League and then come back over to see what the patch actually contains.
In terms of new gameplay mechanics, there’s quite a bit here. One of the additions is a new ailment of sorts called Brands that allows for Damage-Over-Time to be applied in a new semi-random way. There’s two other new ailments/skill designs as well, Banners, which apply buffs. There’s also Impale, which works like an explosion of gory damage when it stacks, think of it like a form of Sunder Armor from WoW which also deals damage.
Of course, this is just scratching the surface, let’s dig into the patch notes for 3.5 and see what we can uncover about the league mechanics.
The Betrayal League sees the introduction of Jun Ortoi and the Immortal Syndicate, a powerful and shadowy group hellbent on taking down Death itself. The player will raid Safehouses belonging to the Syndicate looking for clues as to the whereabouts of their leaders. Each hideout encompasses a particular segment of the operations of the group, according to GGG, “. . .as you seek to dismantle Syndicate fortifications, halt the transportation of Syndicate resources, prevent the Syndicate from destroying vital evidence in their research compounds, and fight off their attempts to assassinate you.” And it’s not just about smashing up their stuff either, interrogating or murdering their members can be useful too, and is part of a core meta-game mechanics in Betrayal League.
How you defeat the Syndicate and its challenges will determine what rewards you can earn. You might even pick up some powerful veiled modifiers which can completely change the build you’re playing.
Of course, Betrayal League also launches with 40 new challenges and some special rewards from completing them, as well as new Supporter Packs.
Some Ascendancy Classes are also getting new Notables to work with new mechanics like Impale or Banners. Notably, the Champion, Hierophant and Occultist are getting new Nodes. The Occultist is getting adjustment to Cold damage and some buffs for Banners. The Champion will focus on Impale, while also having a choice for builds using Banners. And the Hierophant is getting a Brand-focused node, with Ritual of Awakening getting a pretty major change for Totems. It now causes skills that would Summon a Totem to summon two Totems instead, and grants 3% more Damage per Totem.
One major change GGG announced is a complete removal of “stat sticks”. In simple terms, these were weapons that could be held in your off-hand to grant stat buffs, but that wouldn’t affect your attacks. Now, it’s required to use weapons that are actually supported by your attack skills in order to pass bonuses. Needless to say, but the community is split, with some arguing that build diversity is ruined and melee has been nerfed heavily, while others are arguing that it’s a necessary step to remove overpowered gameplay elements. Betrayal League is already really divisive and it’s not even out yet.
In terms of more general changes, things like Crafting and hideouts have been massively streamlined to be much easier to work with. Hideouts, favour and decorations are now shared account-wide. And unlocks in the new unified Crafting Bench are no longer tied to Master Quests.
Skills and Gems
There’s even a ton of new Skill Gems which encompass a variety of skillsets and play styles. So here’s a quick rundown of the new Skill Gems and the basic idea behind each one:
- Intelligence Skill gem – Winter Orb: Summons an AoE orb pelts nearby enemies with projectiles that explode when they hit the ground.
- Strength/Intelligence Skill Gem – Armageddon Brand: A blending of Curses and AoE attacks that rains down fire periodically.
- Strength/Intelligence Skill Gem – Brand Recall: Works alongside the previous skill, allows transferring Brands.
- Strength Skill Gem – Dread Banner: Cast to reserve mana and carry a banner which lets nearby allies inflict Impale with attacks.
- Strength Skill Gem – War Banner: Cast to reserve mana and carry a banner which increases the accuracy of nearby allies, and the physical damage taken by nearby enemies.
- Strength/Intelligence Support Gem – Multiple Totems Support: Supported skills have +2 to maximum number of Summoned Totems.
- Dexterity/Intelligence Support Gem – Bonechill Support: Supported skills have increased effect of Chill on Enemies. dealing more Cold damage.
- A new skill called Focus allows players to unlock Veiled modifiers in new and interesting ways. The Focus skill is enabled when you equip any item with a mod that interacts with Focus, but is not supportable.
There’s also 13 new Unique Items, and GGG has announced that they’re fully rebalancing a large number of older Uniques as well. In total, I count more than 40 adjustments to various Uniques. Some notable nerfs include Queen of The Forest being a lot less generous with Movement Speed; Reach of the Council losing bonus arrows; Sadima’s Touch getting it’s Quantity roll lowered; and then there’s Windripper getting a nerf to Crit Chance but a minor DPS buff. That’s just the few obvious ones, comb through the patch notes to see more.
A variety of skills are also getting buffed or nerfed, depending on the skill. Here’s a quick list, head over to the full patch notes to see the details as there’s just too much to include here. Most of the additions look to be adjustments to cast time and cooldowns, many of these are now instant.
- Arctic Breath – Major rework, basically a different skill.
- Tectonic Slam – Buffed overall, but slower procs will make it harder to use
- Ice Spear – No longer pierces at short range.
- Tempest Shield – Instant, also grants +3% chance to block Spell Damage.
- Vortex – No area buffs, but instant cool down.
- Ice Nova – A slight base damage buff, but much less useful when paired with Frostbolt.
- Cold Snap – A slight buff to base damage.
- Molten Strike – A bit weaker due to changes to enchants and the jewels that get paired with it.
- Whirling Blades – Now uses weapon attack time +0.6 seconds, rather than overriding your base attack time.
- Phase Run – Nerf to invisibility, making it much less useful.
- Leap Slam – Now uses weapon attack time +0.55 seconds, rather than overriding your base attack time.
- Herald of Purity – Now deals Physical Damage, instead of base Damage.
- Herald of Agony- Now deals Physical Damage, instead of base Damage.
- Vaal Haste – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Grace – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Clarity – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Discipline – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Impurity of Fire – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Impurity of Lightning – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Impurity of Ice – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Molten Shell – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Vaal Righteous Fire – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Gluttony of Elements – Now all instant, with a very short cooldown.
- Cast On Critical Strike Support – Massive reduction to cooldown.
This of course just the tip of the iceberg with 3.5, as there are a bunch of passive tree adjustments too. Most of it focuses on better synergy with DoT skills, as well as support for the new Brands and Banners.
In terms of overall skills a few winners and losers have emerged.
Winners: Arc and Blade Vortex will still be a good choice. Totems and Cast on Crit builds are good too thanks to buffs.
Losers: Molten Strike and every “statstick” and dual wield builds are objectively weaker. Tectonic Slam got buffed, but will be more awkward to play.
Haku, Elreon, Tora, Catarina, Vagan, Leo and Vorici are no longer Forsaken Masters. In fact, they’ve disappeared entirely, probably to take part in the new League mechanics surrounding the Immortal Syndicate. Prophecies, Beasts and other older League systems have been adjusted as well. For example, Prophecies have been rebalanced to make certain ones rarer. The new stable of masters will unlock throughout the course of playing the game. If you’re unfamiliar with the Hideout and Master changes, head over here to learn more.
And of course, there’s also a bunch of UI tweaks and bug fixes too.
All in all, Path of Exile 3.5 is shaping up to be a massive shakeup for both the POE community and the meta-game in terms of build variety and play styles.