Tomorrow we're releasing the full patch notes for Path of Exile: Conquerors of the Atlas. As usual, we'd like to talk about some of the major balance changes we've planned for the expansion.
Bows and other Ranged Attacks
The majority of our attention has been focussed on bows, giving them a sweeping review similar to the attention received by Spells, Melee Attacks and Minions earlier this year. Overall, there are significantly fewer changes to Bows compared to the previous reviews. Bows have been consistently viable for quite a few leagues, so most of the attention has gone into raising up unused mechanics, and trimming some power from mechanics that outshined other alternatives.
- All ranged attack skills have been reviewed, with most receiving numerical adjustments, mostly buffs. Specific skills being changed mechanically have been talked about in this article.
- Certain skills have received significant damage increases if they were not seeing much use, especially if they were greatly affected by the following changes.
- A number of bow uniques have been reviewed. We still don't believe that Rare weapons and Unique weapons have a fair balance between them, with multi-mod crafted rares and certain unique bows being far too common. We've made some changes to improve this, but are aiming to make further changes in the future.
- Mirage Archer has been used by almost every popular bow build since its release, providing a sizeable damage bonus, long range auto-targeting and the ability to deal damage while moving. To lower its power relative to other supports, Mirage Archer now has a lower range it can target enemies and the damage of the Mirage has been lowered slightly.
- Similarly, the Point Blank keystone has been seeing use on many Bow and other projectile skills for a long time. We felt the damage bonus was too great at close range, forcing a close range playstyle onto a long range weapon. The keystone now provides 30% more projectile damage at close range (down from 50% more), tapering to 30% less damage at long range (from 50% less).
- We've made adjustments to the damage provided by the Shaper mod that grants cold damage per 10 Dexterity, and the cold damage bonus on Hyrri's Ire. The large amount of added damage from these two items was too great an increase for too little investment. More item modifier changes are noted below.
- Bow base types have been adjusted, giving more of a place to unused base types. The Assassin Bow, Sniper Bow and Recurve bow types now have Global Critical Strike Multiplier. The Spine Bow, Ivory Bow and Bone Bow now have higher critical strike chance and attack speed at the cost of damage, and the Ranger Bow has slightly more base damage. The most powerful uniques using those base types may have been adjusted to compensate for the increase in power.
- Bows and Wands can now roll one Attack Speed tier higher than before, the "of Acclaim" modifier, giving 17-19% Attack Speed. This makes it possible to have a faster rare wand or bow than before, and increases the difference in power between crafted speed modifiers and rolled speed modifiers.
- Ranged Attack Totems have been rebalanced and renamed to Ballistas. Passive tree improvements have been made, including a new passive tree cluster that includes some moved and reworked totem notables. The changes can be seen here.
- Wand base type damage values have been improved, and many of the above changes as well as the new Barrage support will affect wands. We won't be making significant wand-specific changes this league, as we want to do this as part of a more complete archetype package.
Overall, the diversity of Minion builds as a result of the 3.8.0 minion review has been positive, but there are a few mechanics that are sitting above where we'd like them to be. The following changes have been made:
- The weighting of Minion modifiers on Convoking Wands have been lowered, making it harder to roll a great Minion wand.
- Minion Movement Speed increases on the passive tree and Necromancer have been lowered.
- Both the damage and the buff from the Feeding Frenzy support have had their values lowered, as the support was providing too much damage; Even if a player didn't want Aggressive minions, the support was too powerful not to use.
- Raise Zombies had too much damage and life for a small investment. They've been lowered in power slightly in several ways: lower base damage, lower area on their Slam, no life multiplier per gem level and a longer Slam cooldown.
- We felt Raise Spectre was too easy to get a third Spectre at gem level 21, especially with Necromancer’s Unnatural Strength passive. The third Spectre is now granted at gem level 25, giving a more challenging threshold for characters to strive for.
Chill, Shock and Freeze are mechanics intended to give identity to elements, but have been falling short of this goal. To reliably apply a non-damaging ailment to an end-game boss, either a huge damage hit would need to have been applied, or more likely a guaranteed effect like Chilled/Shocked Ground or the Elementalist's Beacon of Ruin would be used. For attack characters, there were almost no options to reliably apply these effects. We plan to change that.
- We've greatly changed the calculation for Chill and Shock. Now, applying a 5% chill only requires you to deal ~0.4% of a target's life, down from 1.67%. A 10% chill requires you to deal ~1.8% of a target's life, while applying a full force 30% chill requires you to deal 28%. This makes any reasonable hit of an element much more capable of applying a Chill or a Shock, without massively weakening tougher enemies. It also means that Chill Effect and Shock Effect are much more useful, as it'll be much easier to turn a 10% chill on a boss into a 20% chill using 100% increased Chill Effect rather than having to deal ~460% more damage.
- Because of these changes, attack skills dealing cold or lightning damage will be able to apply these effects on bosses much more easily, but will also benefit from investment. Near the Ranger starting area on the passive tree, we've added a new Shock and Lightning cluster, a new Ignite cluster, and have made improvements to the Flash Freeze cluster.
- In addition to these changes, we've changed non-damaging ailments to care about an Ailment Threshold when applying an effect, instead of the target's maximum life. For many monsters, the Ailment Threshold and the monster's life will be the same, but very high health targets like map bosses and end-game bosses will now have a significantly lower Ailment Threshold than they do life. This should make shocking or chilling the Shaper much easier, as you'll be applying the effect as if they had approximately half the life they have now.
- Chill and Shock now have a minimum effect of 5%, up from 1%. This is because this value is much easier to apply, so having insignificantly small chills and shocks don't justify the visual signalling.
- We've lowered the base Shock Effect and Chill Effect of some mechanics that have a guaranteed value. Shocked Ground now has a minimum of 15%, which will affect similar mechanics like Skitterbots, Necromancer’s Corpse Pact and Storm’s Gift.
- Freeze hasn't had its duration calculation changed, but will be applied against the lower Ailment Thresholds. Scorch, Brittle and Sap have had their value calculations updated to be similar to Chill and Shock's new value calculation.
Monster Resistances, Armour and Life
As the average character's damage has grown over time, we're going to be incrementally updating monster defences to be more challenging. This league, we're looking at monster life, resistances and armour.
- We have done a pass over the resistances of all monsters in the game. Monster resistances should now be far more consistent. In general monsters have more resistances than before; in particular bosses. A regular map boss now has 40% elemental resistance (up from 30%) and 25% Chaos resistance (up from 15%). A very strong boss like the Shaper now has 50% elemental resistance (up from 40%) and 30% Chaos resistance (up from 25%).
- Monster Armour has been largely irrelevant beyond a very low level for a long time, reducing reasonable physical damage hits by almost nothing. To mirror the resistance changes on monsters, we're updating monster Armour growth to be something that noticeably impacts physical damage characters when fighting highly armoured monsters.
- For builds that are most affected by this change, we'll be adding a new stat you can invest in that lets hits bypass an amount of physical damage reduction on enemies. This stat is "Enemies have -x% to Total Physical Damage Reduction against your Hits". This can't reduce Physical Damage Reduction below 0%, unlike Resistance Penetration stats. This will be found on various weapon notables on the passive tree, as well as a few smaller clusters, and new influence modifiers. This stat would also apply to Physical Damage Reduction from other sources, like Endurance Charges and map modifiers.
- Impale is significantly affected by the higher armour values because of how its damage is dealt in many small hits. Impale isn't directly affected by your modifiers, so it doesn't benefit from the stat mentioned above. Instead, some Impale passives and the Impale Support will cause impales applied to give monsters -x% to Total Physical Damage Reduction against Impale. This effect doesn't stack for each impale applied. These bonuses will usually have higher values than the generic hit reduction found on the tree.
- The life of all unique monsters in the game has been increased by 10%. On top of this, we've re-evaluated the life of all bosses in the campaign, with some of them getting considerable life buffs to bring them in line with the health of other campaign bosses. Some of these bosses, particularly early on, have had existing skills improved or new skills added in order to make these encounters more challenging.
- Map Boss Life has been greatly increased at the highest tier of maps, and now scales much more linearly towards higher tiers, rather than jumping suddenly at Tier 16. Notable bosses like the Elder now have significantly more life, as they're now only fought in late map progression. Special bosses like Atziri have had their life adjusted to match the new boss life progression. Non-boss monsters in maps have also had their life increased, to a lesser degree.
Certain skills and supports were too prevalent when leveling, allowing players leveling new characters to advance too quickly while not rewarding players using skills appropriate to their final build.
- Orb of Storms, Lightning Spire Trap, Onslaught Support, Smoke Mine and Stormblast Mine are being reduced in power at low levels, but will be around as effective late game.
As Elder and Shaper items will now be harder to obtain, and a large number of new mods have been added to the new Influence mod pools, we've taken this opportunity to go back and re-evaluate the power of various mods that have been added over the years through the Elder/Shaper Influence mod pool, the Fossil mod pool as well as the Veiled mod pool. The goal of these changes is to have fewer must-have modifiers that outclass all other mod alternatives, and not have the Shaper/Elder influence mod pools and multi-mod crafted items completely outclass the new influence types on some slots. Here are some of the changes made:
- Power has been lowered on some of the more impactful modifiers like Cold Damage per 10 Dexterity on bows and Elemental Damage as Extra Chaos Damage.
- Some modifiers no longer appear on Shaper or Elder items, like the "increased Physical Damage and Socketed Gems are Supported By" modifiers on Two Handed Weapons.
- The "Can have multiple crafted modifiers" mod has been changed, now granting "Can have up to 3 Crafted Modifiers". Multi-mod crafting an item was proving too powerful for too low a cost compared with rolling an item of relative power. We'll be keeping an eye on the modifier to see if further changes are required.
We've made a number of other balance adjustments.
- Arc, Soulrend, Molten Strike, Shattering Steel, Lancing Steel, Venom Gyre and more have been buffed. This is a buff.
- Icicle Mine's projectiles are now limited range, meaning they won't travel as far by default, and their projectile distance can be modified by projectile speed.
- Skill enchantments that grant Area of Effect now grant higher values for the majority of cases. Most of them will grant 16%/24% increased Area of Effect.
- Fortify and the buff from the Unshattered Will now give less damage taken, rather than reduced damage taken, preventing cases where players were close to or reaching 100% reduced damage taken.