Path of Exile: Atlas of Worlds Injects New Challenges Into Hardcore ARPG

Journey to the Center of the Atlas.

Nearing its third anniversary, Path of Exile seems to be at the top of its game. With several million active players along with continuous updates, the developers at Grinding Gear Games have kept busy since its launch. But now, they've got another big update ready next month with the upcoming Atlas of Worlds expansion, which completely overhauls much of the RPG's end-game content, as well as adding a brand new questing and dungeon system into the mix.

The developers are implementing a slew of new content and sweeping changes to the game. In addition to performance upgrades to PoE's engine, allowing for multi-threaded rendering (resulting in a more solid FPS and greater visual fidelity), and the launch of a new three month-long challenge league for seasoned vets, Atlas of Worlds will also include new encounters with brand new bosses, monsters. Moreover, new rare customizations items, map locations, and gear are scattered around the game world for players to uncover.

But it doesn't stop there. With Atlas of Worlds, the developers have introduced their most ambitious gameplay feature known as, well, the Atlas. For the uninitiated, Path of Exile features items known as Map tiles which are a part of a comprehensive map system. These tiles can be taken to a special device that will create portals to procedurally-generated levels that house new challenges and loot. Similar to the Nephalem Rifts in Diablo III, these are micro dungeons that are high risk, high reward. During our demo, we saw the developers use a brand new map tile which transported us to a level known as Vaal City, a mixture of forest and urban areas that are both of course filled with some bloodthirsty foes.

While these new maps seem neat on their own, they are part of the Atlas. As you create new maps, you'll uncover portions of the massive map which show a large game world to uncover. The more maps you uncover, the more of the game space you see. After about a full hour of play, we only uncovered a small fraction of the Atlas map. It's extremely comprehensive, and the variety of areas that you'll travel across shows off the diversity of locations that are being added to the core game.

Eventually, you'll be able to work your way to the center of the map, which houses four elite bosses and a brand new area known as the Crucible, which is the most difficult end-boss Path of Exile has to offer (so far). The central Atlas is peak difficulty for PoE, and it's recommended you come in with a group and some top-class gear. While you can take part in it as early as your mid-thirties in level, it's recommend you hold off till you have at least finished the latest story Act and have your character be in levelled into the 70s before taking on the Atlas in the first place.

Set for launch on September 2, Path of Exile: Atlas of Worlds aims to reinvigorate the player base with its new challenges. Though I have some worries about the Atlas being a bit too difficult for casual play, this sort of content should be very exciting for fans of the game who've maybe become a bit burned out. It's been a while since I played, but seeing the game in its upcoming state has gotten me plenty excited to dive back in.