Path of Exile

Path of Exile: Ultimatum – a theory on The Vaal, Doryani and a choice-based crafting league!

Intro

Hello – I like to theory craft upcoming Path of Exile leagues (Expedition League & Fairy Tale League) whenever there are teasers; I'm not expecting to be 100% right with these, it's just a bit of fun and gives me an excuse to delve deep into Path of Exile lore/mechanics! The teaser for 3.14 is VERY cool – and has a wealth of information for those who look close enough to the footage GGG decided to show off. Here's my take on the lore/mechanics on how Path of Exile: Ultimatum will work!

The Premise/Origins

This is definitely a Vaal themed league, that's for certain. The red colours, hieroglyphics, pyramid/temples, spoopy red floaty goop: it's all there. First let's take a look at some of the most prominent figures of Vaal society, who will be pertinent in understanding the premise of this league:

  • Zerphi the Murderer: A Vaalish noble who lived to the impressive age of 168 years; triple the average life expectancy. He was a famous serial killer: over 128 years, he abducted, mutilated, tortured and killed 13 victims (all 20-year-old Gemlings nobles). On autopsies, it was stated that each victim must've experienced the most agonising pain known to man before they were ceremoniously executed. Mysteriously, however, Zerphi was found dead: laid next to his 13th victim, who was unmutilated. His own autopsy revealed that while he was 168 years of age, his body was no older than that of a 20-year old.

  • Queen Atziri: The last Queen of the Vaal, before their mysterious demise. She was obsessed with her own vanity, wanting nothing more than to enhance her own beauty and show it off to all who could see; t's said she would conduct her court in complete nudity for everyone to witness. However, she was well aware of her inevitable enemy: time. That's where Zerphi comes in: once she learned of this impressive feat of extending one's youth, she set forth to attain this power at any cost.

  • Doryani the Queen's Thaumaturge: Doryani was an exceptional being in his own right – demonstrating a great understanding of thaumaturgy and what we would know as Virtue Gems. He was ordered by Queen Atziri "to make any effort within the realms of possibility, and to act without fear of question or consequence", in order to discover how Zerphi extended his life and youth, for her own benefit. Doryani would command untold numbers of sacrifices for this endeavour: trying different methods of torture, sacrifices, and combinations of virtue gem implantations.

At some point during this, Doryani found out about The Beast – the true source of the power of virtue gems. Personally, I believe that at this moment, Doryani started to work on his own goals, rather than that of his queen's, in an effort to gain/attain more power for himself:

  • Doryani's Delusion: "I would rather see the end of the Vaal than help it tread water."

  • Doryani's Catalyst: "The result of the catalytic reaction would be either immortality for all, or death for all. It was a risk Doryani was willing to take."

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It was at this ultimate "communion" where the end of the Vaal civilisation took place: the Great Cataclysm – resulting in millions of Vaal people, Queen Atziri and Doryani disappearing from existence; believed dead.

So who's the guy in the trailer?

I think the figure depicted in the trailer is indeed Doryani – Master Thaumaturge to the eternally beautiful Queen Atziri.

But Doryani is dead – so how can it be him?

This is where some speculation comes in. So we know that the Vaal were all but destroyed during this cataclysm event: most were blinked out of existence, some in close proximity went mad e.g. Vaal Fallen, and those far enough away (3126 of them) went to the Azmeri and assimilated into their culture.

Now those who "blinked" out of existance were thought to be dead for all intents and purposes, but I don't think dead is the right term. I believe they were transported to The Beast's Nightmare Realm:

  • When Siosa translates the golden pages in the quest at the Library, he reads about the cataclysmic communion that ended the Vaal. He mentioned "I can make out the words sleep, night mare and… "the Beast, whatever that may be."

  • This is further supported by the unique "Dream Fragments", whose flavour text reads: "Doryani stumbled into a realm of madness, And awoke its Master."

  • So Doryani awoke The Beast during his communion, and The Beast responded by essentially gobbling up most of the Vaal.

Another key event is the "Sacrifice of the Vaal" Path of Exile expansion. Now remember, this league occurred BEFORE Act 9 existed – and so us killing The Beast hasn't happened canonically yet; The Beast was very much alive during this expansion:

  • The story text for the expansion reads: "Atziri herself still lingers in a nightmare realm that is starting to leak back into the land of Wraeclast." – another mention of Nightmare realm, which is The Beast's realm.

  • So we "killed" Queen Atziri during this expansion, who was sacrificing her subjects that also got taken by The Beast to keep herself "alive". With her dead, Doryani now has unfettered access to these sacrifices, now letting him work on his own goals unrestricted.

  • Whether he still has his own mind, or is another lacky of The Beast (like Malachai) remains uncertain. Either way, once we killed The Beast in Act 9, that surely had an effect on Doryani, either releasing him, or maybe he's determined to ressurect The Beast once again..

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There's so much more information to be gleamed in regards to this theory. If you want to dive in, I implore you to surf the PoE.Wiki, Read lore text in-game, check out the big Lore Document by /u/justathetan and check out Kitten Cat Noodle's Youtube channel for some awesome lore videos!

So how does the Ultimatum League Mechanic work?

OK let's get down to the nitty-gritty! Here's the definition of "Ultimatum":

"The definition of an ultimatum is a demand which, if not met, will end a relationship or otherwise result in some serious consequence. When a woman says to her boyfriend "marry me or I am leaving you," this is an example of an ultimatum."

So in gameplay terms, this could exist as a more rudimentary choice, but the choices can have consquences!

If we take another look at Doryani in the trailer, he displays quite a nice symbolic stance of holding forth two choices (Blue pill / Red pill anyone?). Running with this, let's take a look at what this could look like:

  • You'll find Doryani once per area/map – I don't believe it'll be multiple due to being too similar to Ritual League.

  • He'll present you with a random item. In the trailer we can see evidence of a Currency, Gem and Weapon atop the Alter; you can drop these on the floor and compare the models to confirm.

  • Once you've viewed the item, you'll be presented with a choice on how you'd like to modify it. Here's a mockup of how this may look. With the teaser tweet stating: "Will you risk it all", we can surmise that this choice can involve some risk: either to the item itself, or the encounter being dangerous.

  • After you've made your choice, the encounter will begin; its difficulty being based on the choice you made.

Speaking of the encounters, there's some interesting things to learn from the trailer:

  • The alter pulses out an AoE which summons specific enmies, which I believe is based on the hiroglyphs on the floor. These also match up with more of Alva's Temple UI which shows different sacrifice subjects being tested in different combinations.

  • There's also additional dangers: one alter has bladed roombas which fly across the arena. Another has red circles which react when touched (see the edge now has symbols when the player runs across it)

  • It's unknown if these additonal mechanics are chosen by the player in relation to the choice, at unique per alter regardless of the choice, or maybe challenge the player to fufill challenges such as "don't step in the circles" or " Don't get hit by the roombas" as additonal consequences; fail and the item goes poof?

  • As a last point, it appears as if Doryani channels some power from himself into the item atop the alter, on the Desert map. This could relate to him modifying the item based on choosing the "red" option.

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Some other additional/alternate theories:

  • It would appear from what we can see in the trailer, that the arena circle does not function similar to Ritual, in that it blocks you in. You can clearly see past the arena, and it's not covered in shadow.

  • There's a good chance that we face some ultimate boss, since we didn't during Ritual. Whether this is Doryani himself, or something else, remains to be seen. Clearly Doryani has some sort of endgame, and we're a part of it, unknowingly or not.

  • An interesting twist on this would be that when choosing the red option, the item isn't given to you immeditately, but instead transported to this "red-temple/pyramid" we see briefly atop the alter. This would be located in the Nightmare Realm as a penultimate encounter: similar to how the game "Curse of the Dead Gods" works.

Conclusion

If you've made it this far, I must thank you for listening to another of my rambling theories. I'm not expecting anything to be 100% correct; again, it's just a bit of fun to tide me over until league launch. Either way, I'd love to hear other theories – whether similar or wildly different than my take. Nevertheless, we'll find out on April 8th at the official reveal!

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