Path of Exile 2 Preview, Conquerors of the Atlas Changes

Path of Exile 2 was revealed at this year's official ExileCon together with the Conquerors of the Atlas challenge league expansion for the original iteration of the free to play action-RPG. And if you'd like to know what the upcoming sequel has in store for us, you should read this PC Gamer preview based on the demo presented at ExileCon.

But if you're more interested in the short-term changes to the game, you should consider checking out the recent announcements related to the Conquerors of the Atlas expansion. There, you can learn a bit about the upcoming Atlas changes, new bow skills, and the so-called Support Gem Plus feature. For example, here's a quick look at the new Ballista totems:

And a preview for the upgraded skill gems:

And just for good measure, here are a few paragraphs from PC Gamer's preview:

Each of the bosses I fought were exceptionally good at keeping me on my toes and fighting for my life. In a later zone, The Rusk King pelted me with jagged bits of metal. If I got nicked even a little bit, I could quickly bleed out.

That high-stakes combat trickles down to regular packs of enemies. Contorted witches spawn occult symbols on the ground that explode seconds later, while hulking ghouls slam stone slabs into the ground, sending shockwaves in my direction. I still slaughtered hordes of imps, skeletons, and slimy bugs with reckless abandon, but I also felt far more aware of how they could, in turn, slaughter me.

Path of Exile 2's combat benefits greatly from an improved graphics engine, too. Environments in the original campaign were great, but better lighting and particle effects enhance the creepiness and danger of some areas. A zone called Grimtangle is a dark and colorless knot of gnarled branches that would be boring to look at if it weren't for the searing glow of yellow fungi found on the floor. These mushrooms aren't just pretty to look at, though. Venture too close and they'll explode, coating you in acid. What's worse is the zone is full of infected zombies with a special attack that coats the ground in more mushrooms, forcing me to always be on the move.

More demanding combat means players will also have to make smarter use of whatever skill gems they happen to find. Fortunately, this is another area where Path of Exile is significantly improved—especially for new players.

And an overview of the new Atlas layout:

The Atlas of Worlds will be undergoing a number of changes in the Conquerors of the Atlas expansion. Today, we're going to detail several new systems and clarify what will happen to any existing systems affected by these changes.

The first thing that you'll notice when opening your Atlas that you no longer start at the corners, where the Tier 1 maps were previously. Instead, you'll now be starting next to the map device in the centre of the Atlas. The Zana questline in which you pursue the Shaper and Elder throughout the Atlas has been replaced with a brand new story immediately following those events.

The Atlas has been divided up into eight regions. As you play through each region, completing maps as you go, you'll have the opportunity to fight new endgame bosses, who take up a Citadel on a specific map within a region. Upon defeating these bosses, they will drop a Watchstone. Watchstones can be socketed into your Atlas in any region of your choosing. Upon socketing a Watchstone, the associated region will be upgraded, increasing the tier of all Maps within that region and revealing previously hidden maps. Defeat each of the Conquerors and you'll be able to fully upgrade any given region, resulting in every map in that region ranging from tier 14 to tier 16. Repeatedly defeating conquerors will drop additional Watchstones, eventually allowing you to upgrade all eight regions. One neat result of this is that this means that all Unique maps will be able to drop at much higher tiers than previously possible.

Sextants are no longer applied to individual maps on your Atlas. Instead, sextants are applied to Watchstones and will affect whichever region that Watchstone is currently socketed into. This means that each region can be affected by up to four sextants at any one time. You will also have the ability to move Watchstones between regions freely. Additionally, sextant modifiers are no longer shared between one another. Instead, Apprentice, Journeyman and Master Cartographer's Sextants each have their own pool of modifiers that they can apply to maps. Naturally, the rarer the sextant, the higher quality of modifiers it can apply.

Shaper and Elder influence are no longer found on your Atlas. Shaper and Elder items will still be accessible through their usual means such as some league rewards, divination cards and drops from the Shaper and Elder encounters and Guardians. You will occasionally be able to obtain maps that have Shaper and Elder influence through the use of Scarabs, as well as maps that have a modifier which applies influence to the area. Shaper's Strongholds will also cease to exist. Shaper's Orbs and Elder's Orb will no longer be obtainable and existing orbs will be destroyed. Unshaping Orbs and Cartographer's Seals will no longer be usable.

Shaper Guardian Maps are no longer found on the Atlas. Instead, you will be able to find them through Zana missions. They will continue to drop their unique items and fragments. Combining each of the Shaper Fragments will continue to open portals to The Shaper's Realm. If you're interested in obtaining the Celestial Hideout, you'll want to do so before these changes, as access to the Shaper encounter is likely to be more difficult and expensive than it is currently.

Elder Guardians and The Elder will occasionally replace the Map boss of various Zana mission maps. Both Shaper and Elder will have a chance to drop fragments. Combining these fragments will open portals to the Uber Elder encounter.

We're very excited about the upcoming changes and boss encounters in the Conquerors of the Atlas expansion. We will likely have additional information to share in the near future but please let us know if you have any other questions pertaining to existing features and functionality and we'll do our best to get them answered as soon as we can!