Path of Exile 3.22 is titled Trial of the Ancestors, and, following the release of Diablo 4, developer Grinding Gear Games is once again showing why it’s the standard-bearer for seasonal content in the ARPG space. The new Path of Exile league brings back the best addition to the RPG game in years, adds a new mode inspired by auto battlers and sports, and packs in a wealth of endgame content to keep us busy while we wait for Path of Exile 2.
Path of Exile Trial of the Ancestors centers around the eponymous tournament, where you’ll visit the Karui afterlife and recruit a team of warriors to join you (and your party, if you’re playing with friends) in battle. You’ll start out with a basic team of three, and you can choose which rival tribe you go up against, with the eventual goal of beating all of them.
PoE lead Chris Wilson compares the format, where battles demand that you and your warriors destroy the opposing team’s totems before they can take yours down, to that of an autobattler such as Dota Underlords and Super Auto Pets, though he notes that you’ll of course be on the field to help swing the course of action. His GGG co-founder Jonathan Rogers, director of PoE2, tells me the mode is also inspired by sports games.
There are of course plenty of rewards to be earned – the biggest of which are new ‘Passive Tree Tattoos.’ These Tattoos replace the basic stat-boosting nodes that serve as the central pathways around Path of Exile’s vast skill tree with more exciting bonuses, allowing you to transform the most boring parts of your build into something a lot cooler.
You’ll also be able to claim exclusive Unique items from each of the ten Karui tribes, with a specific design that matches their respective themes. Four additional Uniques are up for grabs if you’re able to come out victorious in the overall tournament.
Perhaps even more exciting than this new mode is the news that The Forbidden Sanctum is returning in PoE 3.22. The mode, introduced as the main theme of the 3.20 league, is now coming back as a permanent addition to the endgame – it’s been rebalanced so that you find Sanctum items that let you tackle one floor of the randomized, roguelike-style dungeon in much the same way as playing endgame maps works.
The challenge and rewards have been suitably rebalanced for this, and there are some really big prizes on offer – Wilson shows a modifier that offers the ultra-rare Mirror of Kalandra as a possible payout for completing the entire Sanctum run, but with some incredibly tough modifiers to match. If you don’t fancy the gamble, you can actually trade this offer to another player who’s willing to pay for a chance to test their skills.
Elsewhere in Trial of the Ancestors, there are also 16 new Atlas Keystone passives, allowing you to truly customize the way your endgame experience plays out. These range from Speaker of the Dead, which lets you become a tormented spirit that runs around possessing enemy monsters to make them stronger but more rewarding, to Cassia’s Pride, which turns Blight maps into a full-on tower defense game by massively amping the strength of Blight towers and minions at the cost of your player’s damage output.
Wilson also shows off some of the 14 new Support Gems, including Returning Projectiles, which causes supported skills to boomerang back to you after use; Frigid Bond, where you and a linked ally carry a beam between you that deals constant cold damage and chill to anything it touches; and Locus Mine, where you can toss out a wave of mines that, when detonated, will all use the supported skill targeted at your current location.
“It’s kind of getting silly at this point, isn’t it,” Wilson laughs as the live crowd starts chuckling at the demonstrations of some of the Atlas Keystones and Support Gems.
Last but certainly not least are overhauls to two Ascendancy classes, Path of Exile’s endgame subclasses that allow for more unique build specializations. The Templar’s Guardian Ascendancy gets some big buffs to help emphasize its focus on party play but at a higher power level, while Marauder’s Chieftain gets a more robust overhaul. “We have completely redesigned it – you can play it now,” Wilson jokes.
It’s an astonishing amount of content – if you were at all worried that you wouldn’t have enough to keep you busy in the year before closed beta testing on Path of Exile 2 begins, think again. With the slightly lukewarm reception to Diablo 4 Season 1, Trial of the Ancestors certainly makes a bold statement for what an ARPG season has the potential to look like.
Of course, it bears noting that PoE has been out for a full decade, not counting its several years in beta prior. Diablo 4, by comparison, just launched and Blizzard was up-front that its first season would likely be a tad smaller, due to it being developed alongside the main game. Nevertheless, I hope that we’ll get to see this level of experimentation and creativity in future Diablo 4 seasons moving forward. For now, I’ll definitely be taking on the Trial of the Ancestors.
Path of Exile 3.22 release date
Path of Exile 3.22, Trial of the Ancestors, launches on Friday, August 18, 2023. You can read more about the various specific upgrades and new items in detail over at the Path of Exile website.