Every expansion provides an opportunity for us to reassess the current meta, improve game mechanics that are currently weak and reduce the power of those that are excessively strong. You'll see more detail in the patch notes tomorrow but in the meantime, our team has outlined some of the changes you'll be reading about and the goals we had in mind while making these decisions.
Game Balance in Path of Exile: Harvest
In Path of Exile: Harvest, we're putting much of our balance focus on Brands, Warcries and two-handed weapons. As a result of Delirium going core, we've also taken the opportunity to balance cluster jewels and their place within the game. We've worked to improve two-handed weapons with big slow hits by improving these investment options across the board.
We've also lowered the output of some of the most excessively powerful builds from Delirium like those that utilised the Purposeful Harbinger notable passive and the Archmage Storm Brand builds. Simultaneously, we've also introduced many new options and playstyles for people to gain new levels of power.
Two Handed Weapons and Slow Attacks
Two Handed Melee Weapons focus on having great risk for great reward, but over time their power has dropped relative to one handed weapons. We intend to bring this power back, while still keeping the risk. They're slower on average than one handed weapons, without the free mechanics that come with Shields or Dual Wielding, but now have more defensive advantages available to them. Slow, heavy hits now deal enough damage to stun even the toughest bosses without as much investment in stun mechanics. New sources of Area of Effect and powerful inherent damage from skills and supports free up passive points for life and defences if you choose to, including new options for a defensive Warcry effect and a new Armour keystone.
All high-level Two Handed Melee Weapons have been rebalanced, pushing greater disparity between weapon types. The goal is that every high-level Two Handed weapon has a role and is an ideal base type for someone. For most Two Handed weapon types, each weapon has its own implicit mod focusing on a specific mechanic associated with its weapon type.
There have been new additions to the passive skill tree providing power and utility, especially for melee characters, like the Tribal Fury notable that was once only available from Blight anointments. Leech passives give much more total recovery per second for life leech than before, so reaching maximum leech is much easier for slow attacks and two handed attacks with some accessible investment.
Many skills intended to work well with Two Handed Weapons have been reviewed. Sunder, Static Strike and Tectonic Slam were changed significantly, while many others had numerical changes. Some slow attacks with added damage have had it removed and their damage multiplier improved, as flat added damage inherently favours builds with high attack speed. Ground Slam, Earthquake, Ice Crash, Vaal Ground Slam and Vaal Earthquake have had their added physical damage or added cold damage removed in exchange for improving their damage multiplier.
Many of the new Warcries and the new Fist of War support for Slam skills greatly benefit slower attacks, synergising very well with Two Handed Weapons. There are now many powerful options to invest in for slow attacks, rather than the handful of mechanics that existed previously.
Herald of Purity has been changed from adding physical damage to granting more physical damage, giving 12% more physical damage at gem level 20. This was to provide an equal benefit to weapon attacks regardless of their speed.
Shockwave Support now has multiple cooldown charges. As the new Fist of War Support doesn't work with the triggered Shockwaves, Shockwave Support is best suited for slow non-slam attacks.
The Physical Damage multiplier when Dual Wielding has been removed. This was originally added as a fix from half a decade ago to improve the damage of Dual Wielding relative to the higher damage of two handed weapons and the overwhelming defensive power of shields at the time. This allows Two Handed Weapons to remain the kings of damage, while Dual Wielding is the king of speed, with some defensive benefits.
The design of brands make them very powerful for clearing out areas with a very passive playstyle, as well as dealing damage to bosses with very little time spent standing still. This often meant Brand characters weren't engaging with many challenging mechanics, instead running around waiting for enemies to die.
We've known for some time that parts of these mechanics needed to change to tone down these advantages before we could introduce new Brand skills, and have endeavoured to make these changes without heavily impacting the core identity of Brands.
Brands now drop at their original or recalled location when the enemy they are attached to is slain. This prevents them chaining repeatedly out of the player's control, killing monsters that haven't had a chance to meet the player yet.
Brand Recall no longer refreshes the duration of Brands. We very much appreciate the utility of Brand Recall, but it has played a significant part in making Brand skills feel very passive. We want to move in the direction of players having to re-cast their Brands more often, with the option to invest in Brand Duration to reduce how often one must re-cast Brands.
Brand Recall has a longer cooldown and a lower value of cooldown recovery per level. We've added Brand Recall cooldown recovery to a number of places on the passive tree to give new avenues for investing in this rather than receiving the full bonus just for leveling the gem.
We've lowered the detached duration of brands to bring them in line with Mines, which also had their detached duration lowered when last reviewed. This is simply because the duration was unreasonably long, especially with the new and plentiful Brand Duration passives.
Because of all of these changes, we've been able to slightly improve the power of Storm Brand, greatly improve Armageddon Brand, improve the utility and power granted by Brand passives, add a new Brand cluster and of course introduce new Brands including the Arcanist Brand that lets you trigger many different spells using Brands. The Hierophant brand node has also changed, mentioned below.
Warcries have changed significantly. Using a Warcry is now far more powerful than before, but comes with a longer use time and a longer cooldown. Cooldowns are no longer shared between Warcries. More notes can be found in the Warcry reveal post.
The goal of these changes is to have Warcries be something that has a far more significant impact on combat, with great reward for taking the risk of standing still and using an ability while surrounded.
Using multiple different Warcries is now possible, and a reason to heavily invest in a mechanic that you're able to take advantage of multiple ways on a single character. For those that prefer the old playstyle, we've added the keystone that lets you use the Warcry instantly at the cost of being unable to take advantage of multiple warcries. This isn't a keystone that's designed for characters that have heavily invested in Warcries, but rather for characters that have a specific single Warcry they wish to take advantage of.
Many new Warcry passive clusters have been added, providing more avenues for investment in cooldown recovery, faster use time, giving powerful damage bonuses when using Exerted attacks, and rewarding the use of multiple Warcries.
Many existing Unique items with Warcry related mods have been changed significantly, with some giving entirely new effects, most notably the Warbands shields.
Changes to the power of slow attacks have resulted in it being much much easier to stun bosses, simply because of how much damage you can do in a single hit relative to their health. Rather than increasing the stun threshold, bosses now become immune to stuns for a short duration after being stunned.
Most major bosses and Map bosses have a stun immunity duration of two seconds.
This duration is longer on powerful bosses like Guardians, the Shaper, the Elder and Sirus, lasting four seconds.
Stunning is now a great defensive advantage for slow, heavy-hitting characters without completely mitigating the threat of an encounter. Stun Duration becomes more important as you can no longer chain together many short-duration stuns.
We've made some changes to the Hierophant, Chieftain and Berserker that we'll be revealing soon. These are changes to one major notable on each tree, focusing on creating powerful individual mechanics that greatly influence how you play rather than overloading Ascendancies with a plethora of related stats.
The Necromancer's Corpse Pact notable now has a maximum of 200% increased attack and cast speed from consuming corpses, as it was possible to get the value to self-scale to problematic numbers using Arcanist Brand.
We've added new keystones to the Marauder-Duelist section of the tree. These allow investment in slow Impale attacks, mitigating big hits with Armour, and making Warcries more accessible to non-Warcry-invested builds. Each of these allows you to improve some weakness that certain strength-based characters, especially two handed melee characters, could have.
Many powerful keystones that were previously only available from Timeless Jewels have been moved to the passive tree, such as Glancing Blows, The Agnostic and Wind Dancer.
Other Passive Tree Changes
We've made a large number of changes to the passive tree, with the intent of supporting recently introduced mechanics as well as providing more variety to clusters, especially those lacking in obvious power.
We wanted to add support for mechanics that have been added in the past few years that as of yet do not have adequate support on the passive tree. Some of these mechanics include Rage, Unleash, Corpse manipulation, Warcries, Heralds and Banners. The Warcry clusters that affect Exerted attacks are very useful for slower attacks.
The Martial Experience cluster is a good example of how total recovery per second from Life Leech has improved; Now taking the longer path through this cluster will give 220% increased total Recovery per second from Life Leech, enough to cause a single hit to be able to leech up to 6.4% of your maximum life per second. These changes were made so a big hit against a boss still provides significant life leeched per second, rather than having to attack rapidly to reach maximum life leeched per second.
Many passive skill clusters offered the same thing as other clusters, with the only differences being the location on the tree and the number of passive skills in the cluster. In this patch, we have endeavoured to give each cluster its own identity and function.
Critical Strike Multiplier values have been lowered from almost every passive, as well as from some items. Critical-based characters far-exceeded non-critical characters later in the game; this will bring the two a little closer together.
We've added a new Indigo Oil between the Azure and Violet Oils. This has made more common oils slightly rarer, without making rarer oils even rarer. Some Notables will have updated oil costs as a result of changes to the passive tree. Not every Indigo Oil combination on Amulets will yield a notable yet. There are no new Blighted notable passives and two existing Blight notable passives are now on the passive tree. New Ring and Blighted Map anointments have been added.
Cluster Jewels will remain in the game, available from Delirium encounters. Delirium encounters will be less common, but will drop significantly more Cluster Jewels than before as we still want Cluster Jewels to be an accessible and major part of character development, especially if you're actively trying to find them.
Many Cluster Jewel notables were problematic when stacked multiple times. Rather than limiting notables to one, we've instead rebalanced or significantly changed these notables, or added caps to the maximum value you can receive from a certain kind of effect.
Of particular note, Purposeful Harbinger now gives "Aura buffs from Skills have 8% increased Effect on you for each Herald affecting you, up to 40%". This means that with five Heralds on you and one Purposeful harbinger notable, you can reach full effect, or you can use three heralds and two Purposeful Harbinger notables.
Changes to Warcries have meant that all Warcry Cluster Jewel notables have been reworked, which also introduces some new effects.
Some Cluster Jewel Brand notables have also been rebalanced.
Weightings of Notables and other modifiers have been adjusted, with the most powerful notables and two jewel sockets being much less common, as crafting an exceptional cluster jewel was far too easy.
The Unique jewels from the Simulacrum will still be available, though will be rarer as a result of Delirium not being in every area. Voices and Megalomaniac are unchanged, while Split Personality is now limited to two. This jewel was the go-to jewel for any attribute stacking build, so we want to push more variation.
No Keystones from any of the Delirium Unique jewels have been changed, though like the Simulacrum jewels, these will be less frequent as you'll be encountering the Unique bosses that drop them less frequently.
These Cluster Jewel Notables will no longer be available: Gladiatorial Combat, Deep Cuts, Intensity, Confident Combatant, No Witnesses. Any existing notables already on jewels will be retained. Some notables or some of their effects have been moved to the passive tree, with Deep Cuts being the only exception.
Vaal Molten Shell
Vaal Molten Shell was providing too much damage mitigation for too long with too little investment. This resulted in Vaal Molten Shell being used on a huge proportion of characters, including those that didn't get much armour beyond a Granite Flask. We intend to keep it as the best defensive Vaal skill for Armour-invested characters, while bringing it closer in power to Vaal Grace.
It will still last for a long duration, but now requires a greater value of armour to reach its cap and mitigates a much lower percentage of damage. While active, it also gives More armour, instead of a flat value of armour, multiplying your existing armour value rather than giving an effect that is less relevant to armour invested characters.
Vaal Molten Shell also removes and is removed by other Guard skills. Previously it only had this effect with Molten Shell.
Molten Shell itself will remain unchanged.
We have removed the stun immunity from Cyclone, but made no other changes to it. This immunity was originally added to prevent implementation problems when positional desync was common, not as a core part of the skill's design. Being able to move while dealing damage is already a powerful defensive benefit, and melee attackers are usually more resistant to stuns. The skill will still make you immune to knockback, and Vaal Cyclone still retains its stun immunity.
Archmage support provided too significant a power increase for builds when built around very heavily. We've made changes to bring it more in line with other builds, while still noting that it's going to be a huge source of power for mana-invested builds.
It now provides less added lightning damage based on mana spent than it did before, down to 108% of mana cost at level 20 of the gem.
We've changed most items that increase mana cost. Fevered Mind has been reworked, and is now limited to one. Voidbringer and Apep's Rage now add a flat mana cost, rather than a percentage modifier. These items provided too great a damage multiplier from a single unique, as their once downside had become an upside.
We've added a new passive cluster on the tree to let you increase the mana cost of your skills as a new avenue of investment, though at values much lower than what could be gained from those unique items.
We've made many changes to unique items that were either failing to achieve their desired goals, had fallen behind other competing items, or were not deemed interesting enough for our current standards for unique items. Our goal for each of these unique items is to make sure there is a place for them on characters, even if that place is while leveling, and to do this in more interesting ways where possible. Many of the changes are numerical, either because the item was already sufficiently interesting or because it would stray too much from a supporter's original intention when the item was designed. More information will be coming in the patch notes.
Two handed unique weapons have been reviewed and tweaked as a result of their base types being changed. Overall, Rare items should be more competitive with the most powerful unique items, and there will be a greater variety of useful Unique two handed weapons. A few unique weapons that provided too much power, especially after changes to their base type, have had some values lowered. Starforge, Disintegrator and Hegemony's Era will now have lower damage per second than on live, while other items remain the same or improved.
Starforge received the most significant reduction of damage. It provided more physical damage than any other unique weapon by a huge margin, as it was designed before pure physical damage was a competitive way to build skills. It is now more in line with the damage of other unique weapons while retaining its special Shock, Area, and Life modifiers. It now has a custom Implicit of 30% increased global Physical Damage, as the Infernal Sword base type now usually gives 30% increased Elemental Damage with Attack Skills.
The Circle of Fear, Nostalgia, Regret, Anguish and Guilt Unique rings that affected Heralds now give lower values of Reservation Cost reduction and lower values of Buff Effect. These rings provided too much power and were too obvious a choice for so many builds.
The Unique Threshold Jewels for Dual Strike, Magma Orb, Molten Strike and Fireball have been changed. They now provide effects that change how the skill is built or downsides to offset their beneficial effect, each acting as a way to change how you build or play a skill rather than a must-have boost at the cost of a jewel slot. Glacial Hammer's "Shattered Chains" threshold jewel will no longer drop.
All of these skills have been given increases to damage, area or utility to compensate for the power lost from the Threshold Jewel.
We'll continue to look at the roles of other Threshold Jewels over time, making changes when possible and appropriate.
The Slower Projectiles Support Gem now grants a lower value of Less Projectile Speed than before; This is because this single support was massively multiplying the close range damage of certain skills, and all of them were being balanced around the value from this support. It also means we can be more generous with projectile speed granted by other sources.
Molten Strike, Magma Orb and Ball Lightning have had their damage and some other properties improved, as their close range damage is now affected by lowered projectile speed.
Other smaller changes
The Shakari Pantheon has had its modifiers changed to halve the duration of Poison on you, and prevent you being poisoned while you have at least 5 poison effects on you. This pantheon power trivialised a mechanic that was the core of one of the four major Guardians of the current end-game, and prevented poison being a threatening mechanic to any character.
We've made improvements to totem AI for certain skills that had special targets, like Blade Blast and corpse skills like Detonate Dead, Volatile Dead, Cremation and Bodyswap.
Hexproof now gives immunity to curses, on top of preventing any curse being applied. This means that if you gain Hexproof, you'll immediately remove any curses on you. This was an oversight that this wasn't already the case, and will mean that stealing Hexproof from enemies will now clear all curses off you.
This outlines just a portion of the changes you'll see in Path of Exile: Harvest. They are still subject to change prior to release and you'll see more information in the patch notes tomorrow! We look forward to seeing how players wield the new power introduced in Path of Exile: Harvest and in the meantime we'll pour out a flask for our fallen meta builds.