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As a bit of a side project, a number of Grinding Gear Games developers are currently working on a new, particularly heinous, way of playing Path of Exile. Known as the Ruthless Mode, this new challenging addition to the game is expected to launch into beta with the next expansion, or in other words around December 2022.
Here's what you can expect from it:
Ruthless (previously codenamed "Hard Mode") is an additional character creation flag alongside Hardcore and Solo Self-Found that allows you to opt-in to extreme item scarcity and various other changes. This article explains some of the major changes, the release timeline, and how you can sign up for Alpha testing if you're interested.
This article is not a set of patch notes. Only significant changes are described, but without numerical detail. There are a lot of other small changes that aren't covered here, but this article should give you a decent overall impression of Ruthless.
What Ruthless is not
Ruthless is not for everyone. If you don't like the sound of it, then it's probably best you continue playing the regular Path of Exile modes. It's like Hardcore or Solo Self-found. Some players really enjoy the additional constraints as a way of enhancing their game experience. Many players do not, and that's okay.
Ruthless is not a replacement for regular Path of Exile. It's a challenging mode for a specific type of player. A change being made in Ruthless is not an indication that we will make that change in the regular game. In fact, if we felt a particular change was good for the regular game, we'd just make it there to benefit everyone.
Ruthless is not monetised any differently. You can play it for free and your existing microtransactions will work in it.
Ruthless is not consuming significant development resources. It's a pet project that some senior designers have been working on in their spare time over the last 18 months.
What Ruthless is
Ruthless is a mode about friction, tension and anticipation. It's brutally difficult, but overcoming that difficulty feels highly rewarding. In a world where your items are far below par, every item drop has the potential to be the breakthrough one you need.
Ruthless is a mode that re-imagines traditional understanding of where Path of Exile's endgame is. It redefines the entire game as the endgame. Even reaching higher campaign acts, let alone maps, is an achievement. Traditionally weak items are suddenly very valuable. High level characters and good rare items infer immense bragging rights.
Ruthless is a mode where you barely find any items. You might get to act four without equipping a pair of rings. But each ring you find represents a huge power boost.
Ruthless is a mode where most items are normal rarity. You don't see a lot of magic items, and even fewer rare items. But finding a rare item of a base type you're looking for feels amazing.
Ruthless is a mode where you find very little crafting currency. You might only find one Orb of Alchemy throughout the whole campaign. But that orb lets you convert any base type of your choice to a rare item.
Ruthless is nostalgic. We picked the name partly because it was what the third of four difficulty levels was called back in closed beta. Aspects like item scarcity and support gems being valuable really feel like the early days of Path of Exile, just without desync.
The core Ruthless experience is that you don't have strong enough items to handle the content. Every item that drops has the potential to be an upgrade to your current gear.
In Ruthless, the quantity of items dropped has been massively reduced throughout all game content.
The rate of finding magic, rare and unique items has been massively reduced throughout all game content.
Rings, Amulets and Belts are much rarer than in regular Path of Exile. They cannot be purchased from Vendors.
Most league reward systems have been changed to only grant item rewards that are specific to that league (for example, Cluster Jewels only come from Delirium), plus items from the core drop pool. In Ruthless, getting items from the core drop pool is a valuable reward, especially when there is an item rarity bonus.
Many deterministic items like Divination Cards or Oni-Goroshi cannot be obtained. Many bosses like Atziri that guarantee unique drops still do, but are often harder to access.
In Ruthless, most of your items come from killing monsters. It's hard to find magic, rare and unique items, and it's even harder to craft them. Crafting is a powerful luxury that you'll have to use sparingly for the right items.
The drop rate of crafting currency items has been massively decreased.
The rate at which you receive shards of crafting currency when vendoring items has been decreased.
Master crafting is not available. The crafting bench cannot be accessed and recipe plinths cannot be found.
Veiled Chaos Orbs, Orbs of Binding, Orbs of Dominance, Influenced Exalted Orbs and Awakener's Orbs cannot be obtained.
When an Influenced Item is reforged or the Influenced Mod is removed, its influence is lost.
Most vendor recipes are not available. A few new Ruthless-specific vendor recipes have been introduced.
Skill and Support Gem Changes
In Ruthless, Skill Gem drops matter. Support Gem drops matter a whole lot.
Gems cannot be purchased from vendors.
The Fixture of Fate and Death and Rebirth quests each award you a token that can be traded to Siosa for any Skill Gem of level 31 or lower.
Support Gems can only be found as random drops. You cannot obtain them deterministically. Ruthless is a league of item scarcity. When items are scarce, they are exciting to find, exciting to look for and exciting to trade. We are defining Support Gems as items. This means some builds are harder to assemble, and careful planning is needed by SSF Ruthless players.
Gems gain far less experience than they do in regular Path of Exile. It's a lot harder to level your skills up, which is another axis of reduced character power in Ruthless. A melee character's damage comes from their weapon. Spellcasters get a lot of their damage from their gems as they level up. This change helps reduce the power gap between these two playstyles that is otherwise exacerbated by item scarcity in Ruthless. It also means that when you're farming an area for item drops, you can grind for gem experience at the same time.
Almost all movement skills are not available in Ruthless. In this mode, movement skills trivialise game systems that matter a lot more, such as terrain layout, monster body blocking, and actual level traversal.
Here is a full list of movement skills that are not available in Ruthless: Dash, Frostblink, Flame Dash, Lightning Warp, Leap Slam, Shield Charge, Whirling Blades, Blink Arrow, Smoke Mine, Bodyswap and Charged Dash. Venom Gyre relies on Whirling Blades and is hence also not available.
Ruthless is challenging and punitive. It contains a number of changes that make Path of Exile harder and allow skilled players to differentiate themselves from everyone else.
A compounding character experience penalty applies from level 68 onwards. It takes a lot of investment to achieve a high-level Ruthless character.
Item drops are not allocated to specific party members. Looting is entirely free-for-all. Items really matter. Better pick them up before someone else does.
Flasks and Life/Mana are not restored upon entering town or your hideout. Vendors that sell Flasks (and Helena in your hideout) can refill them for you. This disincentivises the strategy of using Portal Scrolls as an instant full heal.
Onslaught does not grant movement speed in Ruthless. This relates to the absence of movement skills.
If you die near a quest boss in the campaign, a chunk of its life is recovered.
Hardcore Ruthless characters are not migrated to Standard Ruthless upon death. They are just permanently dead.
Utility Flasks can not gain charges while active and have lower duration than they do in regular Path of Exile.
Scarabs only enable mechanics in a map. They do not scale in power with their tiers. Instead, higher tiers of Scarabs are needed for higher tiers of map. Winged Scarabs do not exist.
There's a Ruthless-specific Atlas Passive Skill Tree.
Content from past leagues is encountered less often than in regular Path of Exile.
You do not accumulate free daily Atlas Missions.
Vaal Side Areas, Enkindling Orbs and Instilling Orbs do not exist in Ruthless.
Ruthless uses separate item filter files which must be created specifically for it. If players used regular Path of Exile ones then they would filter out items that are actually very useful in Ruthless.
We're running a small-scale Alpha test for Ruthless and are looking to recruit some players from the community. We're very interested in getting gameplay feedback from players who love the sound of everything Ruthless embodies, so if this is you, please fill out this form. We'll pick some waves of players to be added over the next few weeks. This Alpha is based on 3.19 and we do not allow streaming or distribution of footage from the initial version of this Alpha. We will likely allow streaming at some stage before release, but will let you know. Please limit discussion of Ruthless Alpha testing to the relevant discord server until the NDA is lifted.
We expect to publicly release Ruthless alongside the 3.20 expansion in December. The first league with Ruthless active will still be deemed a bit of a Beta Test, and hence we will not be afraid of making mid-league adjustments to Ruthless, which is something we try to avoid doing in the regular game. Challenges will not be enabled in Ruthless in 3.20.
Ruthless will launch as an additional character creation flag. We will support all permutations of Hardcore/SSF/Ruthless, as each combination targets a different type of player. Some people will play Hardcore Ruthless for the ultimate adrenaline rush. Some people will play SSF Ruthless because they want to demonstrate mastery of Path of Exile's item progression. Some people will play with all three modes turned on because they can.
Ruthless is a mode where you aren't expected to get to maps. Even if you do get to maps, you're probably not going to reach red maps. If you somehow get there, how will you sustain them with such little access to currency? Will anyone manage to kill pinnacle bosses? Will anyone even see an Uber pinnacle boss? We're very excited to see how this experiment plays out.