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How Path of Exile 2’s combat learns from Elden Ring

Path of Exile 2 combat makes some big changes from the first game, and its lead developer tells us how games including Elden Ring inspired some of its design.

Path of Exile 2 combat - a woman wearing leather armor in the jungle holds a dagger, her eyes glowing orange.

Path of Exile 2 combat is looking really good so far. The Path of Exile 2 reveal at ExileCon shows how developer Grinding Gear Games is making some really interesting decisions to help create the next generation of combat for its beloved loot-chasing RPG game. As part of this, Path of Exile 2 creative director Jonathan Rogers tells PCGamesN how Grinding Gear Games looks at other genres to see what interesting ideas might suit its game well.

“We’ve always drawn inspiration from non-ARPGs,” Rogers tells me ahead of the ExileCon reveal, “The leagues that we do [in the first Path of Exile], we often tend to say, what’s a cool game mechanic from another type of game entirely – what if we could do that in PoE as a league?” We saw this in the Path of Exile Sanctum league, for example, which occasionally dropped players into a separate dungeon adventure inspired by the best roguelike games.

Sanctum proved so popular that Grinding Gear Games is already preparing to bring it back in a new endgame format as part of the Path of Exile 3.22 update. That next league, meanwhile, is perhaps even more intriguing, with you building a team of AI companions to enter into a tournament of sorts. Rogers tells me the new mode is “inspired by sports games, weirdly enough – it’s more of a football game, in a way.”

For Path of Exile 2, however, there are some clear inspirations to Elden Ring. The first of these is the robust dodge roll mechanic – an ability available to all classes at any time on the space bar, with “no cooldown and no restrictions.” This not only allows you to avoid incoming damage and reposition for your own attacks, it’ll also cancel you out of almost any skill, giving you a reliable safety net to attempt more involved attacks, such as channeled skills or ones with longer cast times.

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Unlike Elden Ring, the dodge roll doesn’t give you true ‘iframes’ – so you can’t stand in the way of a big area attack and simply ‘roll through it’ the way FromSoftware games allow. It will, however, cause incoming melee attacks and projectiles to miss you if timed well, meaning you can take on Path of Exile 2’s “over 100” boss fights in a manner much more akin to that of a Dark Souls encounter than anything ARPGs have seen previously.

Rogers actually points to a different mechanic as the most directly inspired by the likes of Elden Ring, however – the way crowd control works in PoE2. Unlike its predecessor, where effects like freeze and stun are binary states that an enemy can be put into, crowd control mechanics in the sequel use internal meters that you build up to apply the status effect.

“It’s a little bit like Poise from games like Elden Ring,” Rogers tells the audience at ExileCon, “though the meters tend to be a lot smaller. When you freeze an enemy, it increases the amount of freeze you need to do to get another freeze, but the increased difficulty bleeds away slowly.”

Path of Exile 2 - a Durid and a giant, pillar-hoisting monkey fight in a large field.

“More freeze will always let you freeze the boss more often,” he explains, “but this system means it will not get out of control in party play or interact badly with other crowd control mechanics, allowing us to let these kinds of mechanics actually work against bosses.” It’s similar to the way Diablo 4 boss staggering works, although a little more nuanced, as individual types of crowd control are handled separately in Path of Exile 2, meaning you’ll get to actually apply your specific effect rather than just a generic, all-encompassing stagger.

The introduction of stagger meters for the bosses in Elden Ring was probably one of my favorite additions to that game – making it so that most of them could be susceptible to tools like parrying without it completely trivializing the fights in the process. I’m really glad to see it make its way into Path of Exile 2, allowing me to more eagerly pursue a status effect build.

As for the reduced speed of combat in the demo, Rogers tells PoE streamer Octavian ‘Kripparian’ Morosan in an ExileCon sit-down that this was partly a consideration to help show off the game to an audience, though he does admit the final game “will be a little bit slower.” He explains that most players won’t notice this, however, as it’ll only really affect high-level players with the most broken builds.

Path of Exile 2 - a warrior and a demon square off in a stone temple.

“At the top end of players, you get this absolute ridiculousness with 600 projectiles a second… You just can’t see f**king anything, so you don’t have any ability to respond to boss mechanics.” He says this small change should help boss fights feel more interactive, but emphasizes that the team still wants it to get silly. “I still want the player to feel like, ‘Oh I totally broke the game with this bulls**t that I’m doing here – it needs to feel like you still broke it.

The Path of Exile 2 closed beta begins Friday, June 7, 2024. Rogers says the team wants to “make sure we get it right,” so we’ll have to wait a while longer to get our hands on the finished product. In the meantime, you can tease your tastebuds with plenty of gameplay from the ExileCon stage.

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