previews\ Feb 28, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Path of Exile: Sacrifice of the Vaal Preview: Prepare for more demonic madness


Path of Exile from Grinding Gear Games had its official hard launch not too long ago. As part of the studio's post-release plans, a new piece of add-on content will launch every four months. The first expansion coming to Path of Exile, titled Sacrifice of the Vaal, adds several new features, bosses, areas, and items to the game, giving longtime fans a reason to continue playing and newcomers an even bigger adventure to dive right into.

The biggest factor to take into account regarding Sacrifice of the Vaal is that this expansion primarily adds more to the world and lore of Path of Exile. Grinding Gear is looking to impress players with this first expansion, and there are plenty of reasons to be excited about it if you're a fan of the main game.

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Sacrifice of the Vaal adds several new areas to explore. Within these environments you'll encounter a total of 60 formidable bosses. Each boss utilizes unique tactics in order to defeat you, so it's important to recognize their attack patterns, what each attack does, and how much damage the enemies' offense can inflict. Rounding out the new roster of bosses is Atziri, the queen of the Vaal and the new endgame boss. I got to see Atziri in action, and without spoiling anything, I can say that players have quite the daunting task to look forward to.

Another major feature is the inclusion of Vaal skill gems. These can be used to alter and enhance your skills via enemy souls. One such skill grants you the ability to throw a barrage of fireballs in all directions at once to damage hordes of enemies that approach you. You can also pull them toward you magnetically and dish out some instant damage using another skill. There will be over 14 Vaal skills when the expansion launches, but Grinding Gear has stated that more will be released at a later time.

In addition to skills, the new Vaal orbs allow you to further tweak your gameplay experience. These orbs are used in conjunction with your items and can actually cost you valuable inventory — or can greatly upgrade your items. Using Vaal orbs is potentially risky, but the pay-off can be immense, especially when you consider how these orbs could possibly give your items unique properties.

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The strongbox is another major element being incorporated in Sacrifice of the Vaal. Along your adventure, you'll come across these chests, which safely hide any number of useful items. Upon opening a strongbox, enemies will spawn all around you. Once you defeat them, you'll be able to reap the spoils contained within the strongbox. These are specific to different categories, so you could discover items based around armor, weapons, magic, and so on.

New leagues and modes are also coming to Path of Exile as part of the Sacrifice of the Vaal add-on. The Ambush League (deemed the softcore league by Grinding Gear) is all about discovering strongboxes, crafting, and treasure. The Invasion League (or hardcore league) is geared toward challenging players by throwing heinous enemies their way. Naturally, these demonic beasts scale to your level, but they still provide a daunting challenge.

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Cut-Throat Mode is yet another major addition coming to Path of Exile. True to its name, this component tasks you with defeating other players and taking their goods in a competitive fashion. Then there's Free-for-All PvP Arena. Grinding Gear explained to me that players had been clamoring for an arena mode to let loose and just have some harmless fun in. Not surprisingly, the developer went ahead and created the mode, and it'll be playable once Sacrifice of the Vaal lands.

The launch of the first Path of Exile expansion draws near. Sacrifice of the Vaal is set to arrive on March 5 (that's next week), so you won't have to wait too long for it. It's also worth pointing out that this add-on will continue the free-to-play model that Path of Exile thrives on, so you won't have to pay a dime for the loads of new content coming to the game. It's awesome to see Grinding Gear continuously doing great things for its fans. Watch out for Sacrifice of the Vaal within the next few days.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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