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Path of Exile’s latest Echoes of the Atlas expansion launched roughly ten days ago, and already, it’s become the game’s most successful launch to date. With that in mind, you might want to check out these preliminary patch notes for the game’s upcoming update, and follow that up with some lore related to one of the expansion’s new characters. Have a look:
In Echoes of the Atlas we introduced a character called the Envoy, a cryptic character of unknown but distant origin. Today, Senior Narrative Designer, Nick Kolan is going to explore what went into creating the Envoy.
I have talked previously (albeit in vague terms) about our narrative plans for the Atlas, and trying to reestablish a sense of eldritch, unknown horror in Path of Exile's endgame. The Envoy, one of two new characters introduced in Echoes of the Atlas (the other being the Maven), is one of the ways we are injecting some of that horror.
The Envoy's role in Echoes of the Atlas is to initially foreshadow the arrival of the Maven, and specifically warn you of your first upcoming boss encounter where she's present. From both a mechanical and narrative standpoint, it is important that players don't find themselves surprisingly overwhelmed by what the Maven adds to the boss fight. Narratively, however, the Envoy serves a larger purpose of beginning to illustrate, in florid and opaque language, the broader unknown and dangerous universe the Atlas seems to reside in.
We made a few decisions to make the Envoy stand out a little bit when compared to, say, the journals left by the Conquerors. First, his appearances are unpredictable and infrequent. You don't know when he will show up, nor where in a map he may be. He's not an enemy, either -- merely a messenger.
The things he says are also randomised, and are spoken based on proximity rather than player input. When he does show up, unlike nearly every other NPC in Path of Exile, the Envoy's voice plays at a level volume regardless of your distance from him. This was an intentional decision to set him apart, both from other NPCs and the land surrounding him.
The broad intent was to provide interesting, flavourful glimpses of what may lurk beyond the borders of the Atlas. Though these little lore chunks are told nonlinearly, there are actually a few little cohesive stories he is telling, about his own origin and history, that of the Maven, and of several other entities.
But, we also didn't want you to necessarily be hit by a bunch of incomprehensible lore as soon as you meet the Envoy, and wanted to ensure that the sense of discovery and pulling back the veil could be sustained for long enough that you'd be surprised when, a few hundred hours in, you may still find yourself hearing new lore tidbits. So the Envoy's lore is divided into five tiers, with new dialogue added to the pool based on the number of Atlas passives you've unlocked.
An NPC is often made or broken by its voice actor, and in the Envoy's case, Matt Sunderland knocked it out of the park. He struck a balance between distant neutrality and haunting foreshadowing that, when combined with the lovely echoes of certain words layered into the dialogue, really gives the Envoy a tone unlike any other.
The lore the Envoy touches upon hopefully paints a vicious and vengeful universe beginning to bear down upon the visitors to the Atlas -- themes I am sure we will explore more in the future.
And here’s a quick numbers-focused press release:
Auckland, New Zealand, January 22, 2020 – Grinding Gear Games is announcing Path of Exile: Echoes of the Atlas has already become its most successful expansion to date.
"Echoes of the Atlas has been Path of Exile's most successful expansion so far," Chris Wilson, co-founder of Grinding Gear Games said. "We are so pleased to still be setting new player number records after over 30 quarterly league releases since 2013. It shows us that our development methodologies are evolving in the right direction as we work towards completing Path of Exile 2."
Interest in Path of Exile has not dwindled in the least as nearly 300,000 fans were viewing the Echoes of the Atlas expansion debut livestream simultaneously while a total of 782,000 unique viewers tuned in. When the highly-anticipated expansion launched, it reached 265,250 simultaneous players, becoming the #4 most popular game on Steam at the time. Since launch, player numbers have been 11% higher than Path of Exile’s previous highest launch, which was Delirium in March 2020 during the peak of the first global lockdown.