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Path of Exile Affliction adds over 100 skill gems to Diablo 4 rival

Path of Exile 3.23 introduces transfigured gems, creating variants of over 100 different skills as the new Affliction league begins.

Path of Exile 3.23 Affliction league - A figure wearing a skull mask and hood, with a feathered cape and large antlers, and holding a staff.

Path of Exile 3.23 will see “one of the biggest metagame shifts ever” as it introduces more than 100 new skill gems to the ARPG. The new Path of Exile Affliction league arrives in early December alongside patch 3.23, and promises to be a great way to spend the holiday season if you’re a PoE veteran, have had your fill of Diablo 4 Season 2, or are just looking for a great free PC game to pass the time. PCGamesN had the chance to speak with Mark ‘Neon’ Roberts from Grinding Gear Games about the new league, and how it shifts the balance and encourages players to try something new.

Path of Exile Affliction sees players descend into the Viridian Wildwood, where a “vile affliction” covers the overgrown forest in inky blackness. It offers three new Ascendancy classes to choose from, further expanding build options in one of the best RPG games on PC. That’s just the start, however, as PoE 3.23 also adds over 100 new ‘transfigured skill gems’ that are essentially all-new skills, completely overhauling everything you thought you knew about the best builds.

Let’s start off with the core Affliction mode itself, however. Diving into the areas of the Wildwood via overgrown passageways you’ll find throughout the main game, you’ll have to navigate your way through an almost entirely blacked-out area. To help you navigate these impossibly dark zones, Sacred Wisps will surround your character, burning away the darkness in close proximity as you move through the forest.

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I ask what this means for balance, especially with regards to ranged vs melee. “We’ve pretty much said monsters don’t engage you when they’re in the darkness,” Neon tells me, “what it does is create that claustrophobic feeling. You’re always close within melee range of the monsters. So you’re running forward and you just reveal a pack and it’s right in your face, you have way less time to react.”

So how does this affect ranged characters? “We do want monsters to be there, so you can hear them, but you can’t just start killing everything.” He explains that while the monsters do exist out in the darkness, they’re much harder to kill through the dense affliction and that, even if you do fire into the void and defeat enemies, they won’t actually drop any items or rewards. “You’re very much not incentivized to do it.”

“It’s not the kind of league where you can just play an archer and just shoot in all directions and not ever actually see what you’re fighting,” Neon says. “Which I like, because there’s the eternal battle within every single ARPG of melee versus ranged – this league normalizes that difference.” He adds, “I personally have the philosophy that even if you’re a ranged character your best place to be is right next to the monster,” and given his long-standing reputation as a top player I’d certainly take that advice to heart.

Path of Exile 3.23 Affliction league - The player fights monsters in the Viridian Wildwood, a forest infested with inky black corruption.

Neon also teases that certain monsters out in the darkness – “really tough ones, like bosses” – will cause your wisps to react and change color, or get more erratic, acting as a warning system of sorts that there’s something dangerous in a particular direction. “You might not want to run that way,” he says, “or, if you want, go for it, if you want to face that challenge.”

Once your time in the Wildwood comes to an end, you’ll be returned whence you came, at which point all your collected wisps will infuse nearby monsters and even bosses, handing them stat boosts but also increasing their item quantity, item rarity, or currency drop rates. Alongside this, you’ll also encounter three Azmeri wanderers in the cursed forest, and can side with one of them to gain an additional Ascendancy (in addition to your chosen one from your starting class).

As a Warden of the Maji, you’ll gain access to powerful Tinctures – these are togglable coatings applied to your weapon. Their effects are immensely powerful, but you can only have one active at a time and using one requires it to be placed in one of your five flask slots.

Path of Exile 3.23 Affliction league - New Tinctures, a weapon-buffing tool placed into one of your flask slots.

As a Warlock of the Mists, you’ll specialize in dark arts that allow you to consume a corpse to gain a huge advantage over enemies of a given type. You’ll be able to see under monster health bars what type they are, but can only have an active buff against one type at any given time.

The final option, the Wildwood Primalist, can customize its Ascendancy tree using special charms with mods giving stats from some of the regular game’s Ascendancy classes. This effectively allows you to create a hybrid Ascendancy class. They also get a handy extra backpack, which is great for those of us who can’t help picking up a few more items than we should during endgame mapping.

Path of Exile 3.23 Affliction league - The Ascendancy tree for the Wildwood Primalist, with customizable nodes.

Of course, there’s an even bigger potential shift to class balance out there – transfigured gems. This system is part of the core changes that’ll go beyond the Affliction league, and is pitched by GGG as a combination of three past systems modifying skill behavior: alternate quality gems, labyrinth helmet enchants, and unique threshold jewels. What we have now are transfigured skill gems, with over 100 set for the launch of patch 3.23 and more currently in development.

While these are ostensibly variants of existing skills, in many cases they’re almost completely different from their starting point. As one example, ‘Raise Zombie of Falling’ no longer raises a zombie to fight alongside you, but instead summons one in midair, which then falls to its death and deals damage in an area where it lands – an effect that scales with your minion damage and can also trigger on-death minion effects.

Transfigured gems can be made at the Divine Font found at the end of the Eternal Labyrinth. It’s now a gem crafting device and can turn skill gems into random transfigured gems of the same color, or also perform other tasks such as adding quality or experience to your gems, or performing exchanges for exceptional support gems.

Path of Exile 3.23 Affliction League - The new Divine Font, capable of modifying, upgrading, and exchanging skill gems.

Finally, Ultimatum is back. As the most-requested feature to make a return, it’s now official: the Vaal trialmaster has been given a full rebalance and will be core from the launch of Path of Exile 3.23, with new mods, rewards, and even special uniques to be found. Metamorph has been removed, with its rewards moved to Ultimatum, and the Atlas passive tree has new skills to boost Ultimatum in various ways.

Path of Exile patch 3.23 and the Affliction league launch Friday December 8. Much like the base game, it’ll be available to all players for free, with a selection of cosmetic items and supporter bundles set to be sold alongside the new seasonal content. Additional details can be found via the official Path of Exile website.

Be sure to check out our new interview with PoE 2 director Jonathan Rogers about the introduction of WASD movement in Path of Exile 2. Alternatively, have a look through the best games like Diablo for plenty of loot hunting, or browse the best free PC games for even more memorable experiences that won’t cost you a penny.

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