The Path of Exile Crucible expansion has been revealed in detail, and the next big update for the hardcore, loot-driven RPG game asks you how far you’re prepared to go to build that perfect weapon. Path of Exile patch 3.21 is all about forging the power of “an ancient race of titans who once shaped the primordial surface of Wraeclast” into passive weapon skill trees, which you’re encouraged to push to their limits in search of the ultimate weapon.
The centrepieces of Path of Exile Crucible are the new ‘Crucible passive skill trees’ that can be put onto your weapons using Crucible Forges. These small, branching trees can grant you up to five passive skills, which can include everything from simple damage bonuses to equivalents, to the notable passives from the main skill tree, or even effects akin to support gems – such as a bow that grants Lesser Multiple Projectiles to all socketed gems.
In order to make these, you’ll have to place your chosen weapon (or shield) into the Crucible Forge and charge it up. As you do so, you’ll see molten lines creeping out and forming into shapes that will spawn enemies; the longer you charge, the more experience you’ll earn towards leveling up the skill tree, but you’ll have to be able to defeat the full wave of enemies to actually claim your reward.
Crucible Forges can be used in party play, too, with multiple players able to charge up the Forge for their own benefits – although GGG head Chris Wilson tells us “Crucible encounters get really hard – maxing [the charge] out would be basically instant death.” In classic Path of Exile fashion, then, you’ll have to balance out the risk of the encounter versus your potential reward.
Keep rolling, rolling, rolling
Making just one Crucible passive tree is only the beginning, however; upon finding a rare resource called an Igneous Geode, you can create a new Forge capable of combining the passive trees of two separate weapons of matching type. One of the weapons is destroyed in this process, and the trees are smashed together “in unpredictable ways,” meaning you’re potentially taking a big risk as to what you’ll actually end up with.
Wilson remarks that, while the skill tree can only ever be five deep, you can keep fusing weapons together should you want to risk your current setup for something potentially even better (he goes so far as to reference the classic PoE ethos of encouraging players to gamble a little further than they perhaps should when crafting). He also points out that chosen skill nodes are more likely to be included when fusing, so you do get a little bit of control over the potential RNG.
You can’t just fuse an item easily, however – using the Igneous Geode will require you to fight through enemies with particularly challenging mods equivalent to those seen on endgame maps. If you have a Forge of the Titans encounter you aren’t sure you’ll survive, you can instead trade the Geode’s Primeval Remnant away to someone who’s better equipped to take it on.
Something a little more unique
These rewards can go beyond just traditional passives, too – some can have bonuses that make a weapon more explicitly valuable, such as causing it to sell for an additional Chaos Orb, if you decide you don’t fancy holding onto it. In addition to this, a special Crystalline Geode will allow you to combine trees on unique items, something that can’t be done with the standard Forge.
Speaking of uniques, there’s also more than ten new ones coming with the expansion. These include El’Abin’s Visage, a helm that is the only armour piece capable of having its own Crucible passive skill tree, allowing you to further double down on the concept. Blood Price is a helm that reduces your maximum life, but also cuts enemy life by 8%, helping to make clears faster.
The Tainted Pact amulet causes chaos damage over time to instead heal you while you are leeching life, allowing you to turn one of Path of Exile’s most dangerous damage sources into a welcome boon. Finally for now, we get a look at Widowhail – a bow that looks rather unimpressive at first sight, but instead gets a huge boost that vastly increases the bonuses gained from your equipped quiver.
Revamping the past
There’s more than just the Crucible mechanic coming in PoE 3.21, too. Wilson says the team has been hard at work upgrading some older systems to try and bring them up to modern standards. New Atlas Tree gateways have been added, giving you three connected pairs of points across the tree that allow you to jump from one side across to the other – potentially completely overhauling your builds and cutting out huge amounts of travel.
Breach stones are being raised to a much higher base level – 81 for elemental, 82 for physical, and 83 for chaos. As such, the charged, enriched, and pure breach stones are being retired and will be simply converted to regular ones. You’ll still be able to earn flawless stones, however, and a new skill on the Atlas tree gives you a more consistent manner to get your hands on them.
Abyssal Depths will now always contain an Abyssal Lich, avoiding the temptation to bail out if one isn’t present. You’ll always be guaranteed to get a Four Hole Abyss, ensuring you get the full value from them, and there’s also a chance that a Stygian Spire can spawn in place of the standard reward chest, granting all its usual bonuses.
Mastery and Ascendancy reworks
The team at GGG has also been busy overhauling masteries. “As we reviewed the masteries we realised that a lot of the choices were rather bland and could be a lot more exciting,” Wilson explains. As such, they’ve increased as many as possible up to six options, with approximately half of the masteries on the tree seeing some form of revamp.
As for Ascendancy classes, there have been several improvements to multiple entries. Wilson notes that the Saboteur previously found it difficult to branch away from purely focusing on traps and mines. As such, it’ll now have more options available including a new focus on triggers. This includes a passive that slows enemy cooldowns, making them less able to spam their skills, and a pair of skittering triggerbots that will proc ability triggers at their respective locations.
Meanwhile, the Pathfinder gets several tools to improve chaos damage, with a focus on wither aimed at benefiting more widespread skills than simple chaos-based attacks. It also gets multiple passives aimed at improving your flasks – such as granting the enduring effect to your life flasks, increasing the charge gain and effect of your flasks, and even giving flasks the potential to remove ailments and not consume charges when used.
There’s also several new Vaal skills to look forward to, including Absolution, Arctic Armour, Lightning Arrow, and Reap, with even more to be uncovered. Perhaps the most exciting of these are Vaal Arctic Armour, which instantly encases you in ice and prevents movement but provides huge damage reduction and regenerates your energy shield and mana (a little like Overwatch’s Mei), and Vaal Lightning Arrow, which causes a huge barrage that can be tweaked to concentrate in a tight area for huge damage or clear out a wider swath of foes.
A boon for the Ruthless
For those of you who’ve been enjoying Path of Exile’s ultra-punishing Ruthless mode, Wilson adds that the long-absent Eternal Orbs are back in Ruthless. The item, which creates an ‘imprint’ of an item that can be returned to later, was removed a long while back for being a little too powerful, but given the vastly reduced crafting options in Ruthless the team decided it was fitting for it to return there.
If you fancy a little taste of Path of Exile at its most challenging, there’s a boss kill event taking place at the start of the Crucible challenge league. This requires you to be in Ruthless Hardcore Solo Self-Found, and you’ll have to take down both the Uber Searing Exarch and the Uber Eater of Worlds, which Wilson describes as “by far the hardest event we’ve ever done.”
Manage to finish the challenge first, though, and you’ll net a ticket to ExileCon – where the team will be revealing plenty of details on Path of Exile 2 along with the next expansion, Path of Exile 3.22 – and the chance to design your own unique item with the team to be added to the game in future. Until then, there’s more than enough to keep fans entertained in Path of Exile Crucible.
If you’re desperately waiting on the Diablo 4 release date, PoE Crucible might be the perfect way to spend your time in the interim – it certainly feels like Blizzard has brought things full-circle by drawing some inspiration from the Diablo 2 spiritual successor. Otherwise, check out the best games like Diablo, along with more great free PC games, to keep yourself busy.