Path of Exile - Reflecting on Past Releases, Part 2

Last week, we got a chance to look back at Path of Exile's early releases, starting with the game's closed beta back in 2011. And now, the second article in this retrospective series takes a moment to remember Path of Exile's 2015-2016 period that started with The Awakening expansion and ended with the Breach challenge league. Check it out:

The Awakening (2.0.0)

When it launched in July 2015, The Awakening was our biggest expansion so far. In terms of new content and scope, it absolutely eclipsed all prior expansions. It introduced Act Four which included 13 new areas, a new town with a cast of new NPCs, 40 new monster varieties, 6 new quests and 9 new bosses. It also introduced Divination Cards, Maraketh Weapons, Warcry Skills and the socketable Passive Skill Tree Jewel system.

Despite this huge amount of content, there is a strong argument to be made that the most notable improvement was the introduction of Lockstep mode, which "fixed desync".

The Warbands and Tempest leagues launched alongside this expansion and were the last of our split Hardcore and Standard leagues. Neither of these leagues made it to the core game but still appear in special events from time to time.

Talisman League (2.1.0)

We initially intended to release the Ascendancy expansion in December of 2015, and Talisman was the league to go alongside it. As release date approached, we realised that Ascendancy could really do with three additional months of polish, and Talisman was growing larger than we initially planned also. We decided to release it by itself. There were three significant changes to note with this release:
  • It was the first of our leagues to be shared across Standard and Hardcore. Previously we had developed two leagues in parallel, but the benefits of this were not worth the significant cost. We felt it was better to focus our resources on making one much-more-complete league than two small ones.
  • Talisman was the start of the 13-week development cycle that we have (mostly) stuck to, to this day. This was a turning point in Path of Exile's history, as the reliable schedule has led to consistent growth since this point.
  • This was the first league to culminate in an end-game boss fight, which is something that we have tried to do in each league since.
The Talisman release focused mostly on the league but also introduced a plethora of new skills, unique items and Divination Cards.

Ascendancy (2.2.0)

Ascendancy launched in March 2016 and was another significant expansion that changed the way Path of Exile was played. In addition to adding Trials of Ascendancy, The Lord's Labyrinth and Enchantments, it also added 19 Ascendancy Classes which allow players to specialise their characters and hone their skills.

The Perandus League launched alongside this update which remains one of the most well-liked leagues to date. It followed the trend that Talisman set with content scaling up into an end-game encounter over the league. One week before this league was released, we took a lot of its mechanics back to the drawing board and substantially altered how the encounters play out. This gamble was worth it, because the new version was a lot more fun than the one we were testing before that.

Prophecy League (2.3.0)

The Prophecy League launched in June 2016 and was an update that focused mostly on its league, however, it also introduced the Endgame Labyrinth, new skills and a slew of technical improvements. The league itself also included an end-game encounter, following the trend of Talisman and Perandus, but this time of a more significant scope. It also introduced Fated Unique Items!

With the content spread out among over 200 Prophecies, this league taught us that it's better to do a few things well than to attempt too much content at the same time.

Atlas of Worlds (2.4.0)

Atlas of Worlds launched in September 2016 and was a significant improvement to the end-game mapping system, giving it both shape and context in the scheme of Path of Exile. The expansion included 30 new maps, 19 new bosses, and the Atlas itself.

It also launched alongside the Essence League which introduced powerful new crafting options which still benefit character building in Path of Exile to this day. Essence was initially called "Monolith" internally, and is loosely inspired by a "Monster Cages" league we had been discussing for a few years prior.

Breach League (2.5.0)

The Breach League launched in December 2016 and remains in the unofficial Hall of Fame in terms of popularity among the Path of Exile community. It included difficult end-game encounters as well as a thrilling core mechanic with generous rewards. Since its release, every single league has had to pass the "Breach test" of being compared against it in terms of risk and reward.

Breach was initially designed as Beyond 2, though we dropped a lot of the more-apparent theming before announcement, giving it its own identity.