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The Forbidden Sanctum challenge league expansion for Path of Exile will be getting its proper reveal in a few days, on December 1, 2022. But in the meantime, we can check out this here Balance Manifesto that serves as a quick overview of Grinding Gear Games' new approach to curses.
Have a look:
Our last three manifestos covered Jewels and Ailment Mitigation, the replacement of Archnemesis modifiers and Eldritch Altars. In today's final 3.20 manifesto, we're discussing changes to Curses (specifically, Hexes) and our goal of making their effectiveness against different rarities of monsters more balanced.
For more details, see below:
- Hidden monster penalties against curses have been removed.
- Hexes are now stronger against unique monsters and at least twice as strong against pinnacle bosses, but are weaker against regular monsters.
- The Doom mechanic has been removed, to simplify the Hex system. Anything related to Doom has been reworked so that it's comparable to before.
- The Occultist ascendancy class has had some stats removed and moved around to counteract some of the power gain from the above changes.
- Enfeeble and Temporal Chains have been buffed.
- To aid the above changes, some less-accessible sources of Curse Effect have been removed. This also acts as a nerf to Hex Support builds.
- Hex gems have been rebalanced with the goal of ensuring that self-cast remains relevant compared to automatic curse application.
- We've buffed a bunch of Hex-related unique items and reworked unique items that previously interacted with Doom.
- We've also added some powerful new unique items that interact with Hexes.
Hex Strength Against Different Monster Tiers
Currently, Hex Builds are at their weakest against monsters where they matter the most and at their strongest where they matter the least. This is partly because Hexes have hidden penalties which reduce their effectiveness when fighting unique monsters and pinnacle bosses (currently 33% and 66% respectively).
It's normal for these monsters to have various hidden penalties, as noting every single one would create a lot of clutter in their mod descriptions. Players can reasonably expect these monsters to be more difficult to fight, so in general, showing the entire list of penalties is not very necessary. However, the penalty against Hexes is an outlier because it's much more significant compared to other hidden penalties.
Because it is so substantial while also being hidden from players, it is unlikely to be compensated for during build creation and creates a notable disadvantage for Hex builds
We have removed both of these penalties so that Hexes will be consistently effective against all monsters in the game.
The Doom Mechanic
Another issue that we feel undermines Hex builds is the Doom mechanic. We designed Doom with the goal of making self-cast Hexes more effective than other more trivial applications of Hexes, such as the Blasphemy and Hextouch Support gems. The Doom mechanic was somewhat successful in its goal, but came at the cost of adding a lot of complexity to Hex-related mechanics.
We are removing the Doom mechanic and as a consequence will be making several other changes to mechanics that previously interacted with Doom. For example, all stats that reference Doom have been replaced with other curse-themed stats.
Hexblast has had its skill mechanics and damage adjusted to account for the loss of Doom's scaling. Impending Doom has also had its base damage roughly doubled to compensate for this loss. We have replaced the Doomsday keystone with a new Hex-themed keystone.
We've buffed a bunch of Hex-related unique items and have reworked unique items that previously interacted with Doom such as the Fated End unique ring. We've also added some powerful new unique items that interact with Hexes.
This new ring lets you scale your curse limit in a completely different way, by tying it to your power charge count. Or you can simply not scale it and put this on to apply 3 curses!
Here is an example of one of the rebalanced curse uniques. The Reservation Efficiency mod has been buffed from 20% to 30%, and the level of socketed curse gems has gone up from +1 to +2.
Ensuring Self-Cast is Powerful
In most cases, systems that facilitate somewhat automated gameplay, like Hextouch applying Hexes automatically, should either come at a much higher cost or be less effective. In some cases, both are needed to counterbalance the significant upside of automation. Otherwise, the option to automate will always be the obvious choice and eclipse other more interactive gameplay styles. The Doom mechanic was aimed at fulfilling this function for Hexes, and is being replaced by alternative, simpler solutions.
We have added penalties to both Blasphemy and Hextouch Supports which grant less curse effect at all gem levels. Additionally, item mods that inflict a specific Hex no longer do so with increased effect. This includes items where the Hex is meant to be a downside on the player, such as Coward's Chains, Coward's Legacy or Soul Mantle.
Hex Skill Gem Scaling
Different Hex types are not evenly balanced when applied via Hex-on-hit modifiers. Some Hexes like Vulnerability and Despair are much more powerful than others. This is because Hex-on-hit modifiers apply a Hex equivalent to the level 1 version of the Hex skill gem. Some Hexes are very strong at Level 1, relative to their Level 20 power, because they scale in a more gradual way with gem level. This means that in some cases, using Hex-on-hit is too powerful alongside its benefit of also applying Hexes automatically.
We are stabilising the gem scaling rates of Hexes. In general, they should be twice as powerful at gem level 20 than they are at gem level 1.
Scaling Curse Effect
We feel that there are currently too many sources of Curse Effect available. This has created a large power gap between players that have no investment in Curses and those that have heavy investment into Curses, which has continually caused us to have the baseline effect of curses to be lower than we'd like.
We are regulating the number of sources of Curse Effect throughout the game. This will also rein in the power of players building Curse Support characters. These changes have been focused on less-accessible sources of Curse Effect, such as Eldritch Implicits on helmets, rather than accessible sources like the Passive Skill Tree. The curse effect notables on cluster jewels have been replaced with other appropriate ones. For example, the one that used to grant Flammability effect now allows your Flammability Hex to apply to hexproof enemies and also causes your ignites on cursed enemies to deal damage faster.
The Occultist Ascendancy Class
We have removed the '15% increased Effect of your Curses' and 'Enemies you Curse have Malediction' stats from the Malediction notable in the Occultist's Ascendancy. The 'Your Hexes can affect Hexproof Enemies' stat has been moved from Profane Bloom to the Malediction notable. We will be renaming this notable passive as it no longer causes you to apply Malediction to enemies you Curse.
Due to the significant increase in the power of hexes against tougher monsters, the effects of this notable are still very strong, as the removal of the hex penalty cannot be understated. The massive buff to hexes especially applies to Occultists because they have access to more Hexes than other Ascendancies.
The curse effect removed from the notable previously known as Malediction has been moved to the passive skill tree, where it's available for everyone. This is important, because while the Occultist is still the strongest overall Ascendancy for someone who wants to specialise in applying many hexes, it's not mandatory to play for someone who merely wants to apply really strong hexes.
Temporal Chains and Enfeeble
The current balance of Enfeeble and Temporal Chains makes them exceedingly strong against normal and magic monsters while being relatively ineffective against pinnacle bosses. For example, a level 20 Temporal Chains gem currently reduces a Pinnacle Boss' action speed by just 4%. You can get more than twice as much action speed reduction using any skill that chills. This is another case of Hexes being weakest where they matter most and strongest where they matter least.
Because of the changes to Curse Effect, we're now able to make Temporal Chains and Enfeeble strong defensive options without requiring large investment into Curse Effect. In addition to changes to their overall gem levels and scaling, we are also planning to increase the "Cursed Rare and Unique Enemies have x% less Action Speed" modifier on Temporal Chains as well as increasing the "Cursed Rare and Unique Enemies deal x% less Damage" modifier on Enfeeble.
Vulnerability and Despair
While working on the updates outlined above, we took the opportunity to make some stat changes to Vulnerability and Despair to help make these gems cleaner. They are now more focussed on making enemies vulnerable to Physical and Chaos damage in ways that are generically useful for any build dealing primarily Physical or Chaos damage. We will confirm the specifics of these changes in the 3.20 expansion patch notes.
Hexblast has had its skill mechanics and damage adjusted to account for the loss of Doom's scaling. Broadly speaking, it does less damage at the very top end of gameplay but getting it to a fairly decent level of damage is easier than before. It now removes a random Hex from an enemy and will deal more damage with hits and ailments if a Hex was removed in this way. Its damage is also more consistent because you no longer need to wait for Doom to build up.
In general, Hexes will be stronger against tough monsters and weaker against lesser monsters. We've removed Doom in order to simplify how Hexes work, introduced penalties to automated Hex application methods to keep them from outclassing self-casting, and made several other balance changes as a consequence of these overall changes.
Please note that the above plans are still subject to change in the lead up to the launch of The Forbidden Sanctum expansion. We'll reveal the specifics of these changes in the patch notes.