Path of Exile 2’s director wants you to care about drops again

Path of Exile 2 makes a lot of dramatic changes from the first game, becoming a standalone release, and it solves a lot of the original’s most annoying parts.

Path of Exile 2 problems - A Templar on his knees atop a rock, arms oustretched to either side, a glowing sigil behind his head.

Path of Exile 2 promises to be a dramatically different game from its predecessor despite the initial similarities. The changes are such that, during the Path of Exile 2 reveal at ExileCon 2023, it was revealed the sequel will now be entirely standalone from the first game, contrary to previous plans. The loot-chasing RPG game also looks set to solve many of the issues of the first as Grinding Gear Games makes smart alterations for Path of Exile 2, and PCGamesN speaks to game director Jonathan Rogers about how those choices came to be.

Among the biggest changes is the introduction of the dodge roll – the new universal space bar ability that’s core to Path of Exile 2’s combat. Obviously this will change the way you approach both avoiding enemy attacks and positioning for your own, but I ask Rogers if there are any other big design differences that have resulted from the addition of the dodge.

“Canceling changes a huge amount of stuff,” he tells me in a 1-to-1 interview ahead of the ExileCon reveal. As the team demonstrates on-stage, you’ll now be able to cancel out of almost every skill at any time using the roll. “In PoE1 we just didn’t have long cast time skills, because they just felt terrible,” Rogers remarks.

“There’s so many subtle parts to making that feel right.” He notes some of the other changes for PoE2, where the ability to move and retarget while channeling and casting skills means you’ll basically never lose control of your character. “You can have a long cast time skill as long as you don’t feel like you’re losing control – in PoE1 we just couldn’t do it, and in PoE2 we can, so it does unlock the ability to do more with regards to what we can design.”

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Another big switch revealed elsewhere at ExileCon is a change to Chaos Orbs. One of the most recognizable items in the first Path of Exile, Chaos Orbs completely reforge a rare item from the ground up with all-new random modifiers. However, this means that all items of one type are equally likely to be randomly transformed into something good, which can make it feel like nothing on an item matters except its base type and item level.

In Path of Exile 2, Chaos Orbs will now reroll just a single mod. PoE2 item designer Hrishikesh Sidhartha explains, “This means that the item you start out with matters a whole lot more. Now, every item could be one or two Chaos Orbs from becoming a really good item, whereas before those items were still not good if they didn’t already have the good mods. Now you will hopefully use these items for your near-miss rares.”

That’s certainly a very welcome change – over the years, the Path of Exile community has come to a point where the common consensus is that the best items are always made through crafting, and anything short of a Unique that drops from enemies is almost certain to be worthless trash. I ask Rogers whether there’s a push to return to the days where your next best-in-slot item could show up anywhere.

Path of Exile 2 - A Monk unleashes a wave of lightning in an arc ahead of him to take out enemy monsters.

“I am definitely wanting it to be the case that people feel like there will be good items on the ground,” he responds, “people don’t really feel that way in PoE1, and I think that’s a bit of a travesty. It’s kind of developed over time; people did used to actually pick s**t up off the ground other than just currency.” He laughs. “Of course, they still do – it’s just not the same as how it used to be, and I think that’s a bit of a shame.”

“The other thing that is a bit more subtle is that people don’t actually use Chaos Orbs very much any more,” Rogers remarks. The team has been contemplating how to encourage players to actually “throw one or two crafting items at something” rather than hoarding all of them up for a big single-item splurge. “I don’t think it’ll take many changes to make that work,” he says, “but those are the kind of changes we couldn’t really make in PoE1.”

Also introduced in Path of Exile 2 are Uncut Gems. These new items are perhaps one of PoE2’s most exciting additions, dramatically resolving the burden of getting your hands on the Skill Gem you want at the level you want. Uncut Gems drop at the level of the area you’re in, but allow you to choose from any skill in the game.

Path of Exile 2 Uncut Gems - the Gemcutting menu, where players can select the skill of their choosing for their newest drop.

I note that some skill choices are hidden in the menu we’re shown, and Rogers confirms that this is just to hide the as-yet unannounced gems. “You can pick any skill that the Uncut Gem is leveled up to,” he explains, with the number of skills available increasing as the Uncut Gem’s level rises up to a maximum of 20. “You can pick any skill in the entire game, so long as you meet the level requirement.”

Of course, there are plenty more such changes, including ones announced prior to this reveal such as the move to gem links being on the Skill Gems themselves, which means you’ll no longer be gathering potentially thousands of Chromatic, Jeweller’s, and Fusing Orbs to get your otherwise-perfect chest piece kitted out for the loadout you want.

All of this makes me extremely excited for Path of Exile 2, which arrives in closed beta on June 7, 2024. It feels very much like a game that is being built by a team who carefully studied their previous outing, figured out what they’d most like to change if they could start fresh, and are now delivering on those ideas with smart alterations. And if you decide you prefer the old way? The original Path of Exile will still be continuing on for you.

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Take a look at that game’s latest expansion with the Path of Exile 3.22 league, Trial of the Ancestors, which also sees the introduction of the popular Sanctum format to its core endgame. We’ve also picked out more of the best games like Diablo to keep you busy until PoE2 finally rolls around.