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Path of Exile’s new expansion expands the endgame

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Path of Exile’s 2020 updates included some unique Leagues for players to explore, like Harvest and Heist. But the first expansion for 2021 contains more than just a handful of activities, new loot, and new builds. Echoes of the Atlas expands Path of Exile’s endgame with new bosses, systems, and skill trees.

A new livestream from developer Grinding Gear Games revealed the upcoming expansion and its accompanying League, Ritual.

After Path of Exile players reach the current version of the game’s endgame, some of the new Echoes of the Atlas systems will kick in. A mysterious entity known as The Maven demands to watch players battle bosses in various arenas, making the fights more difficult with her presence.

As players impress The Maven over time, she’ll ramp up the challenge, asking them to defeat familiar bosses simultaneously — up to 10 at once. The Maven will eventually challenge players to a duel. Since she’s the most powerful being players have faced so far, defeating The Maven comes with powerful, unique rewards, like the ability to build out a new kind of skill tree.

Path of Exile is infamous for its ridiculous skill tree — a spider’s web of options to fully customize each character in a unique way. But the new Atlas Passive Skill Trees, for which players gain points by defeating The Maven, are a bit different.

The new Maven boss rush in Echoes of the Atlas.
Image: Grinding Gear Games

Instead of directly contributing to a character’s power, the Atlas Passive Skill Trees shape the Path of Exile experience. Players can invest points toward a specific kind of activity. For example, in the Lex Proxima region of the Atlas Passive Skill Trees, players who enjoy the Harvest activity can invest points that help them find more Sacred Groves (random Harvest events) or earn more crafting rewards from Sacred Groves. Other regions offer similar perks for certain activities, like increasing experience gains from Beyond Monsters.

This new customization system is a way for players to choose the kind of endgame content they want. Both Heist and Harvest return to Path of Exile as part of the core game, adding even more random encounters to the world that players can stumble upon. Naturally, some players will enjoy some of these activities more than others. With the Atlas Passive Skill Trees, players can invest heavily in an activity they love, like Harvest, while straying away from upgrades for activities they dislike, like Heist.

In addition to Atlas Passive Skill Tree points, players can pick up new Waystones from The Maven, or a special item that allows them to change the properties of their items.

Echoes of the Atlas also reworks numerous Ascendancy Classes — advanced versions of the base classes that players can choose after reaching a certain in-game point, giving them further customization options and skill trees. The Elementalist, the Inquisitor, the Deadeye, and the Slayer will all see improvements with Echoes of the Atlas. These reworks add new skills while also fleshing out each Ascendancy’s identity more clearly.

Path of Exile: Echoes of the Atlas’ Ritual Challenge League

One of the titular Rituals from the latest Challenge League
Image: Grinding Gear Games

Despite being a massive, endgame-focused expansion, Echoes of the Atlas also comes with a new Challenge League: Ritual. As with all other Challenge Leagues, players can choose to start Path of Exile with a fresh character and race to the endgame, taking on new challenges.

With Ritual, players can stumble upon Altars strewn about the world. After killing the monsters around the Altars, players can activate the Altars to return the enemies to life, empowered by the mysterious magic. Subsequent Altars will then spawn their unique enemies and the enemies from the previous Altars in the area. Players can increase the difficulty of their Rituals — and the rewards — with items called Ritual Vessels.

Path of Exile: Echoes of the Atlas Ritual Tribute shop

The Tribute store after completing a Ritual
Image: Grinding Gear Games

Depending on the Ritual, players will earn a new currency called Tribute. Players can spend Tribute to buy new items from the defeated Ritual. Players lose their Tribute when they leave an area, so it’s impossible to amass it. If players find a desirable item they can’t afford, they can make a partial payment to defer the item. This ensures the desired item will reappear, cheaper, in a later Ritual.

Echoes of the Atlas also comes with a host of new Unique items and Skill gems, which players can use to craft powerful new builds. This expansion also comes with 11 new maps for players to play through.

Grinding Gear Games will launch Path of Exile: Echoes of the Atlas on Jan. 15 for Windows PC, and Jan. 20 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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