[Exclusive] Path of Exile Preview: The Fall of Oriath
Been a while.
First, a warning: this is a directly transcribed article. That means aside from some editing here and there, is written just as we held the conversation. There are also some questions that I asked later on but then put them in the middle so that they are read in accordance to the contents they are about.
Anyway, as you may have guessed, I had the opportunity to talk with Chris Wilson about the new Expansion of Path of Exile: The Fall of Oriath, as well as some other big events like their Chinese and Xbox One version release. Hope you enjoy it!
For me, is always kind of a thrill to have these conversations with Chris. He is always pretty supportive and fun to talk with, and he also understands English isn't my native language, so he is patient and understands pretty quickly what I want to say. In this mindset, the first thing he showed me was an image with different data about Path of Exile till now:
Chris: "So, talking about path of exile in 2016, you are pretty aware of this stuff because you helped cover this releases , but it went really well last year. The game was already popular but it became a 44% more popular in terms of played hours. So by that I mean just the number of hours of people in the world who played PoE was 44% higher compared to last year."
"We also had over a million active players in December. Now, the reason I'm posing active players: is pretty easy for game publishers to say how many registered users there are. Like we have five million, then ten, then fifthteen, and the numbers just keep getting bigger as people try out the game and make multiple accounts. But, this makes it kind of hard to know how popular the game is, because you hear about these titles who have a great number of registered players but then the game shut downs because nobody plays it. This is why I'm saying that we had over a million players active in December, to state that the game is still popular and that we've made it to a bunch of top list sixteen and that kind of stuff."
No news there. I mean, Path of Exile is already popular only from its no pay-to-win micro transactions. If you add the passive tree (from which I'm still dropping some friends' s jaws that don't know about the game everytime I show them an image) the quality and quantity of content... well. It speaks for itself.
Chris:"There are two new markets in 2017. We have the big Chinese launch which is coming out in the middle of the year, that's kind of huge for Path Of Exile. And we also have the Xbox One release which I'm also happy to talk about... because, all of our content that I'm showing you today will be available in it as well. So is basically a full copy of the game, it has both: the core game of PoE as well as the expansions and full new content also. So we are trying as hard as possible to have it fully featured."
Me: "How does it work? I mean, maybe is because I don't actually know much about it, but how did you make the transition from mouse to controller in the Xbox One?"
Chris: "I also was a bit sceptical at first. I mean I'm not a console gamer, you know, never actually owned any consoles myself. So I wasn't sure how it was gonna feel. But the team were really confident. Johnathan, who is running that project was really confident that he could get a good feeling in the Xbox One version, and he did. Honestly, it just feels really good to play. And that's the thing we've been hearing from journalists when we showed them that version this week, as they pick up the controller and they say it just feels really precise, fast and responsive."
"So, the way it works is basically you use the left joystick of the controller to move you character around and you've got your right joystick for aiming. You can cast your skills with the buttons on the right, you can hold on a trigger to swap between an alternate set of skills, the flask are on the shoulder buttons... Is a very intuitive way of playing and it feels really good. Like, if you have to cast a skill like a curse that you'd usually cast at your mouse, the game just searches for monsters in front of you that you are probably meaning to target, and it curses them. It works really well."
Me: "Seeing that there have been some performance issues with the PC client, there have been some doubts about the Xbox One version... "
Chris: "We have been working hard on performance and believe that we'll hit a solid 60fps on the Xbox One. We're almost there! These performance improvements are directly rolled into improving the PC version as well."
Me: "And regarding the Chinese release, you mention it will have all the contents we are discussing right now.."
Chris: "Yeah, everything we are discussing will be present in the Chinese and Xbox One version, and we are planning the Chinese release later this year whenever Tencent is ready to do a big launch. They are the Chinese publishers so we are working with them to make sure the game is a good fit for China, which means small changes to the game, you know, pass local changes and censor laws and that kind of stuff."
It was then that he showed me the trailer of Fall of Oriath:
I gotta say it surprised me that they actually went and developed them all the way to act ten, which is something that I made manifest with my "Wait... WHAT?" that escaped my mouth while thinking Chris was away. And yeah, he wasn't.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ A little unprofessional, but it depics exactly how I felt.
Anyway, after that I told him my impressions, at which he answered:
Chris: "The reason why we did this: as you know the game got cruel and merciless difficulty in it, and that means replaying the current content several times. So we felt that this wasn't the right way for the game to be you know, with people getting bored of running cruel difficulty. So we decided to make new five acts that are elusively based on the first ones, like is the same kind of areas but with entirely new bosses, new quests, some new monsters and some new areas to go along with the old ones. This way you have a new story to playthrough that continues from where Act V leaves off, so is like one big ten act playthrough."
I kind of knew that "recycling" the previous areas could come as a disappointment for some people. In fact I was about to point it out when Chris showed me a gameplay. It was then that I realized that maybe I was being too hasty in my judgement.
Chris: "As you know at the end of Act IV you killed the beast and finished most of the content there, and so you are told there is a way to get back to Oriath by using a device at the top of the mountain next to the Act IV town. If you climb the mountain you get a chance to teleport back to Oriath in hope of a peaceful retirement, but instead you arrive in the middle of a slave revolution. all of the slaves in Oriath are rising up to try to take control of the island and get rid of the templars who are running everything. You know, Dominus's friends basically."
"So even though you've already killed Dominus yourself, there is a new High Templar in charge. And so you join with the slaves to advance further into the city: most of Act Five takes place in Oriath where you are initially working with the slaves and controlling areas and so on, until you eventually get into the Oriath Square which is a nice outdoors area with snow gently falling, and you get to fight some cool soldiers there who all have cloak physics going on, so we are pretty pleased with how it turned out. It was an interesting challenge to come up with the art here, because a lot of it is very cleaned up, like this is a city where people live instead of an old ruin, so we had to put a lot of effort into making an Act that feels kind of... seems like there are people apparently living there. "
"Next, is a mid act boss fight: High templar of Oriath, who is kind of the guy who took over after you killed Dominus, and is an interesting fight as well. Is a relatively long fight. There are multiple stages to it, it uses a lot of different spells, and honestly now we are making boss fights a little differently. Previously we'd took a monster and made him big with the name of a boss and maybe a glow with the cool of a boss, but now we are actually putting a lot of effort into making these boss fights."