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With Echoes of the Atlas set to go live on January 15, 2021, we can now check out this development manifesto that outlines Grinding Gear Games’ approach to balance in the upcoming Path of Exile expansion. And once you familiarize yourself with that, you can also check out the game’s updated Ascendancy Classes and the complete Echoes of the Atlas patch notes.
Here’s an excerpt from the manifesto:
As with every new League and expansion release, we're making a variety of balance changes to broaden the number of builds that are competitive in the end-game while lowering the power of specific mechanics that outclass the rest. We've outlined the most important changes below, and discussed our reasoning and methodology. Specific values will be available to read tomorrow in the patch notes.
Game Balance in Path of Exile: Echoes of the Atlas
Ascendancies In addition to reworking the Elementalist, Inquisitor and Deadeye, we’ve made several changes to every Ascendancy class. Rather than going over every single change, here are the general philosophies behind the changes:
- Improve interesting stats on Ascendancies, while removing less-interesting or less-essential secondary stats. This brings these ascendancies closer to the style and design intent of Path of Exile 2's ascendancies, where notable passives have fewer stats, but are individually more impactful and interesting. For example, Quartz Infusion on the Raider now grants Phasing at all times, and a 15% chance to dodge attack and spell hits. Previously it granted a variety of ways to gain Phasing, a damage increase and a smaller attack dodge value.
- Rebalance the power of notables within ascendancies. We want the choice between notables to be more flexible, with power moved away from generic bonuses. For example, Master of Metal has had one additional impale hit and its chance to impale removed as the passive granted too much power, while Inspirational now gives a higher value of Aura Effect in place of its movement speed bonus to focus more power on its aura investment.
- Rebalance the power between ascendancies to encourage players to re-examine optimal strategies. For example, the Trickster’s Escape Artist node provided too large a concentration of offensive and defensive power for hybrid Evasion and Energy Shield characters so the chance to Dodge Spell Hits if you have Energy Shield has been removed, while the Attack and Cast Speed per Ghost Shroud has been slightly lowered. The Slayer’s Masterful Form node was seldom taken and wasn’t providing enough power as it should, even for Frenzy Charge invested characters, so now grants +1 to Maximum Frenzy Charges instead of charge duration modifiers.
- Reallocate stats between Ascendancy passives and change the layout or bonuses of the Ascendancy where it would make the Ascendancy more attractive to a wider range of character builds. For example, the Chaos/Cold Damage over Time Multiplier on Occultist’s Withering Presence and Frigid Wake instead grants more Chaos/Cold Damage instead, making these nodes useful for Hit based Chaos and Cold builds, while leaving the nodes similarly powerful for Chaos and Cold Damage over Time builds.
As new mechanics have been introduced and players have optimised builds, characters using multiple auras have grown significantly in power, both offensively and defensively. These builds moved above our acceptable top end level of power. The addition of Alternate Quality effects on Aura Gems which added extra effects to your auras were a large contribution to this. We have made a few radical changes here:
- Aura alternate qualities that granted you and nearby allies extra effects have all had significant value reductions. We believe in the general case, especially when playing solo, these will still be desirable given the regular quality effects on aura gems provide very little in most scenarios. This is something that will be revisited if the standard quality bonus granted by all auras is changed in future.
- Small Passive Skills on Cluster Jewels that granted increased effect of Non-Curse Auras from your Skills and increased effect of your Curses now grant 3% (from 6% and 5% respectively). These desirable stats were scarce on the regular passive tree, often requiring large investment to reach each cluster, but they became very accessible once cluster jewels were introduced. After this change, using multiple Aura Cluster Jewels together should be less efficient relative to the regular passive tree.
- We have also adjusted the Cluster Jewel notable passives Stalwart Commander and First Among Equals as they also were providing too much accessible aura effect.
By using the Impaler Keystone in combination with the Call of Steel skill, Warcry-based characters could deal unreasonably large amounts of damage with a single hit followed up with Call of Steel. The Impaler Keystone now prevents Call of Steel from removing Impales from enemies for 4 seconds after you Impale them, similar to how it prevents the enemies being impaled again. This allows builds to retain some interesting interactions but prevents all damage being completely frontloaded before a boss has a chance to act.
For all builds utilising Call of Steel, the Lord of Steel unique jewels provided too large a damage bonus from a single item. The Lord of Steel jewels that granted increased Reflected Damage now grant 20-25% increased Reflected Damage (from 40-50%). To allow players to invest in Call of Steel without requiring a specific unique jewel, the Swift Skewering passive tree cluster has been adapted to accommodate a new notable passive, Blade Sovereign. This half of the cluster allows players to invest in Call of Steel maximum shards, use speed, damage and area of effect.
Raised Spectres and Golem minion builds usually outclass other minion alternatives and are one of the most optimal mid-investment builds, so we've made some significant reductions to their power.
Raised Spectres will now be monster level 72 at gem level 20 (from 76), have lowered Accuracy (to roughly match Raised Zombies at the same monster levels) and slightly slower monster level scaling past gem level 20. In addition we have made minor changes to the They of Tul spectres, which no longer grant reduced damage taken to allies and grant slightly less chance to dodge attacks and spells for their Snow Cloak skill as this ability was providing more defensive power than some of the most effective player defense skills. The knife-throw skill used by Syndicate Operatives is no longer considered a spell, as this created unintended uses by combining both Attack and Spell supports while ignoring their penalties.
Carrion Golems and Stone Golems have had their damage reduced at all levels, with Carrion Golems getting the more severe reduction as their power exceeded that of other golem types. Elementalist’s Golem Passives in general provide fewer offensive bonuses to Golems, in part because the rest of the Elementalist now provides effects that can increase damage taken by enemies.
The Minion-related Cluster Jewel notables, Rotten Claws and Renewal, have had value reductions as they provided effective damage multipliers at high values.
We've made buffs to the damage of Skeleton Mages, the speed of Unearth and the Offering Effect of the Leash of Oblation unique belt as they were not as powerful as other alternatives.
Improving Underused Skills
While lowering the power of specific abilities, we've also improved the power of others that haven't seen the limelight recently to bring them up to a more competitive level. We have buffed more than 40 underrepresented skills. Note that if a particularly unloved skill has not been touched, that doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about it! Rather that we believe that numerical tweaks alone won't be sufficient to provide the experience the skill could offer, and we're intending mechanical changes to the skill some time in the future.
Patch Note Teasers:
Other Skill Changes
- Scorching Ray now has a base cast time of 0.25s (from 0.5s)
- Scorching Ray now has a mana cost of 2-5 (from 4-11). This makes this skill ramp up damage on tougher enemies much faster, and reaching the state where it applies Fire Exposure faster.
- Cobra Lash Projectiles now deal 5% more damage for each remaining Chain.
- Cobra Lash now converts 60% of physical damage to chaos damage (from 50%). This damage multiplier per remaining Chain has been added as there is no longer a stat of this kind on the Deadeye ascendancy, and the mechanic is an interesting way to improve Cobra Lash. The skill's conversion has been increased to make it easier to fully convert the skill's damage to Chaos.
- Frost Bomb now has an added damage effectiveness of 300% (from 200%).
- Frost Bomb now deals 14 to 21 cold damage at gem level 1 (unchanged), up to 1336 to 2003 at gem level 20 (from 959 to 1439).
- Frost Bomb now gains additional radius as the gem levels, up to +7 at gem level 20. This change enables the skill as a powerful nuke ability when fully supported.
Earthshatter now has slightly more variance on the distance spikes appear from the initial slam location and the explosion radius for spikes has been slightly lowered. The intent of these changes is to reduce the spike explosion overlap, particularly on large single targets.
Contagion has had a small reduction to the skill’s radius. In combination with Essence Drain, it has consistently been one of the most efficient skills to clear packs of monsters.