Path of Exile

For the first time I had a build able to do endgame bosses, so I fought most of them. Here are my impressions

I tried PoE years ago but it didn't click to me back then (here is my profile for those interested). I returned around Metamorph, playing a bit of each league afterwards. Last league (Heist) got me hooked for how easily it was to farm currency, so I had fun in upgrading my char buying one piece at time from the market.

When Ritual came around I set a single goal for the league: unlocking the Celestial HO.

Now, you have to understand that I never fought an endgame boss before. I avoided them all and sold my Sirus regularly.

So off I went to my favourite CC (Esoro) and choose

, a build that seemed fun to play and also advertised as an extremely good boss killer.

Fast forward a few weeks, now I'm in endgame, able to take down the Shaper guardians on my own and start to slowly collect Shaper fragments. I decided to use a zen approach, focusing on one Shaper at time, mentally prepared to 70-120 tries in order to get my HO.

I ended up unlocking it at my 7th try.

So…what now? Well, the league has many months ahead, I have a boss-capable build, so I tough what the heck, let's fight every endgame boss in the game.

So it began my real journey of learning the existence of unknown entities (breachstones have bosses? wait…BS can be used for levelling? and what's that 820?) how to fight them, and the best way to improve my character. I've also recorded my fights in order to learn from my (many) mistakes.

I've also had some fun in collecting my last fight with each boss in this playlist, also learning a bit of video editing along the way.

I changed the build quite a bit along the way. I think that this is a good representation of what I had at certain point. Probably at the beginning I had a Bated Breath and two rare (uninfluenced) rings. I made a huge jump in the build only lately, and this is my current one, used only in the fight with Catarina and Sirus AW9.

Some notable absents from that playlist

  • Vaal omnitect: not really an engaging/interesting fight, it doesn't scale well in endgame.
  • shaper/elder guardians, breachlords etc… those are present in the maven invitation videos, so I left them out the playlist.
  • Beyond bosses. Frankly I didn't know those were a thing until very recently. AFAIK there's no real way to spawn them, also I must have accidentally killed one since I got the challange, so it must not be an interesting fight.
  • Simulacrum bosses. Did that for the challenge, thought of making a video of that, but honestly I don't think that seeing me spam mines in place for 20 waves is that interesting.
  • Abyssal bosses. Maybe I'll came around and upload a video of them, but they are fairly hard to spawn.
  • Delve bosses. Oh that's Aul's fault. I couldn't find this elusive bitch anywhere. I'll try to delve a bit more until the end of the league tho. If I'll find him I'll upload the delve video. Maybe it might be useful to have a rare prophecy that make a delve boss spawn next time an appropriate biome is discovered.

My impressions

I've included my detailed impressions in the description of each video. As it is clear from my videos, I'm far from being a skilled player, but here's a tl;dr of them: – Shaper. I liked this fight, the moveset is varied and fair. Going through the mini-maps in the middle of the fight is a slog tho. – Elder. Much more immediate as encounter. There are some phases but they are definitely more engaging than the Shaper mini-maps. I found the Elder moveset generally more lethal tho. – Uber Elder. Clearly a step up in difficulty than both the bosses. Still, I enjoyed the fight. I'd only make more clear when each boss is invulnerable. – Uber Atziri. Now I understand why many boss carries simply refuse to fight her. Dmg reflection, curse reflection, and massive AoE in a narrow arena.. Not to mention the Trio, which can be as troublesome as her. – Cortex. Never tried synth maps before, but I love their design. The fight itself is interesting. The boss(es) is(are) tanky and tend to lay down a bit too many AoE. But all the moves are quite telegraphed, so it's fine. – Spirit Beasts. Didn't know they were a thing, but I love them. They are thematically fit and also useful for their Aspects. – Heist bosses. The fight is decent, but the voice acting and narrative is the clear stand out here. I hope this is the standard for future content. – Oshabi. This fight is simply poorly designed. The arena is mercifully large, but this isn't reflected by her moveset, which is kinda generic and also coupled with generic and repetitive voice lines. It is also clearly designed for a 0-mods map. – Maven Invitations. This is utter chaos. The 10 bosses aren't as difficult as it sound, since they aren't (generally) activated simultaneously. The feared, on the other hand, it's simply the hardest encounter I did. I ran it white and still had to use all the portals. It's also very expensive, so not much room for practice :/ – The Maven. I know that a lot of people hate this encounter, but to me is a well designed boss. It has few RNG components (except the mini-bosses that spawn) there's room of improvement with practice, and the memory game isn't that terrible once you learn a few tricks. Too bad that the reward is generally shit. – Catarina. I found it thematically fit and a general fair fight, albeit a bit on the hard side. It's a good thing I recorded a video of it, since there's no chance in hell I will reset my board again just to fight her. – Sirus. This follows somewhat the theme of the Shaper/Elder, where you have to chase and fight the guardians before facing him. The fact that you can't directly go after them makes everything slower, but it gives some character to the conquerors, so it's fine. On the other hand, the fight with Sirus is terrible without some changes. The storms are simply too big and too erratic. Sirus can offscreen you with just a brief audio cue. The arena is large, in theory, but since you don't have a real idea where the storms are you can't dash too much around (see bloopers at the end of the video). The phase where he spawns the storm below him and you just have to wait a minute makes no sense whatsoever.

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All in all I think that the bosses are in the right spot (except some). I just wish they were more rewarding and more easily accessible.

How Harvest content affected my experience

Now, I wasn't sure to include this because I don't want to turn this post in another harvest complain one. However I think that, among a lot of post theory-crafting about the harvest impact, this is perfect opportunity to give a very concrete example on how harvest affected someone's experience. You now know where I started from and what I did this league.

Thing is, I didn't really use the harvest content until much later in the league. I just sold on TFT what was valuable, and this roughly net me what I achieved in Heist in the same timeframe. I simply invested my currency into my build buying a straight up upgrade of my gear overtime.

This was until I managed to stack together around 25 exalt, at which point I changed my build from this to this.

Most of that ~25ex went into the gems (awakened hextouch was the biggest offender) but I also changed the gloves and the wand. In both cases I looked for something that I could easily modify with harvest. I ended up finding more or less the staff you can see (for 10c lol) but with an useless physical mod and without one of those useful mod. I fixed that buying harvest recipes, Q20 and ench it. For the gloves I bough a nice pair of CS fingerless for ~5ex and worked my way to a nice set of mods in similar fashion.

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This is an important point, because for the first time I wasn't after an item with roughly the stats I wanted, but rather an item with mods I could remove or target augment.

In short, I had to plan in advance, checking the mods and which combination was more easy to target.

I ended up having a lot of fun and with a better build. It is important to note tough, that in every video in that playlist I used my non-harvest build, except for Catarina and Sirus. For reference, I praticed my Sirus fight on AW7 with my non-harvest build, being able to kill it in 1-2 portals.

So yes, I ended up with a better build, far from mirror tier, which resulted in absolutely no real impact in the content that was accessible to me. Still, I had a lot of fun crafting it.

A few words on the harvest changes

I had a lot of fun, engaged more with some aspects of the game etc… but according to GGG, what I did was unethical, immoral or otherwise a wrong way to have fun in the game.

Now, to a lot of people this seems weird or strange, but I think that this point of view stems from essentially two factors.

First, GGG designers have in mind a complete different game. I think you can find some hints of that in many manifestos and actions, but quite frankly the "close your eyes and slam" sentence is the smoking gun for this argument. This is dangerous, because game design tend to be self-validating towards its expectation of the playerbase. In other words, if you think that your playerbase is made by blind slammers, and you listen to no one who tells you otherwise, and you design around blind slammers, empowering the experience of blind slammers, what you'll get in time is a playerbase of blind slammers. After months or maybe a year, when most of other people are gone, the designer can check the playerbase and pat his back for being so smart to be so in touch with them.

Secondly, I think that PoE playerbase can be divided in two categories. People (A) who are attracted by the gaming loop, the depth of the build diversity and that acquire and use the gear as a mean to experience that. On the other end of the spectrum we have players (B) who are here mostly/only for the dopamine rush that gambling the items give them, where PoE content is just a mean to acquire the resources, and rise the stakes, for the next big gamble. Now, (B) craft gamble the items that are bought by (A) which in tun give the items the value that makes the stakes for the gambling so high. This seems a perfectly balanced community, except that GGG values (B) way more than (A).

At its core, Path of Exile is a game about the acquisition of powerful items.

This is the key argument of the infamous manifesto. The operative word here is acquisition. Virtually no end-game item is acquired as a drop, so what they mean in this context is crafting. Now in a lot of other games that have a crafting system there's some RNG, but what we have here is downright gambling. Since I have no reason to promote this gaslightning, I'll keep using the right name for it. So, the way that sentence must be read is as follows:

At its core, Path of Exile is a game about the gambling of powerful items.

Can you see how many design decisions suddenly make sense now?

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The point is that for GGG the players (A) are transient, whilst the core players are represented by (B). A player (A) is lured by the depth and mature themes, buy the mandatory stashes, maybe a supporter pack or two, until he gets tired of starting all over again each time, of not being able to progress in any meaningful way, so he play less and less and eventually makes place for a new player. Players (B) are (or should be) the core base, the ones the game design should be revolved around. This makes also sense from a business prospective. Quite frankly, who wouldn't want a playerbase with very low impulse control in a game with tons of expensive MTX?

Harvest was, in its essence, a way to move some players from the group (A) to the group (B). It backfired, and instead had the effect of having people (A) like me, to bypass the gamblers, creating their own items. People (B) were very upset by this situation. With end-game items lowered in price no more high stakes, no more dopamine rush, so why bother gambling?

This issue was deemed so serious that prompted Chris Wilson to write an early manifesto where he set straight up the priorities of the game and announced heavy nerfs to harvest.

So, what to do about that?

Well, nothing? It's their game, they have agency to choose their playerbase. I can only tell you what I am going to do. Being firmly in the group (A) I don't feel particularly welcome here, nor by GGG nor by (B) people. I have another build in mind, so I'll probably stick around for the next league. Certainly I will play nowhere as much as I did this league and the fact that I can't harvest-progress in the gear is a major factor in it. After that I'll probably play something else, maybe returning when PoE2 will launch.

I had a lot of fun here, but there are many other games out there and maybe a new PoE will emerge, one that is less catered towards gambler addicts and more to people who wants to explore deep content.

If you manage to read all of this you are the MVP. This came off longer than expected, but it's fine 🙂


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