Path of Exile: Forsaken Masters First Impressions

There's actually some neat art for some gear. If only wardrobe customisation were a thing...

It’s really fun.

Granted, it’s from the perspective of a slow lowbie or a noob’s eye view, but as a representative of the beginner player subset, I think the latest update for Path of Exile goes a long way towards making the game more interesting when you simply play through the game.

(As opposed to more ‘endgame’ or ‘alternate’ gameplay modes where one speedruns through everything, racing though maps or levels, or sit around repeating instances and farming for loot – though it probably does make life more interesting there as well.)

First off, the UI has changed:

The Old UI

The Old UI

The new UI

The new UI

The most obvious addition is that of an MMO-like ‘quest tracker’ to the right side of the screen, that probably makes things a lot clearer for newbies as to where they’re supposed to go and what’s optional and what’s not.

Even though I’ve played through the Acts enough times by now to have memorized the sequence, it’s still nice to have a quick reminder of what quest stage one is at, without having to bring up the entire quest objectives menu.

(Now, if only I can figure out how to stop the damn square exclamation mark from popping up every time I fulfill a quest objective. Any Path of Exile pros have any tips on this front? It’s driving my OCD nuts to have to press U to clear it every time.)

It would be a little better if it were more customizable, but small steps forward, I guess.

The strange rune-like icons on the left have been replaced with a single pop-up menu button that expands out to show all the options in detail. Again, a more newbie-friendly change. Experts will already have memorized the keyboard shortcut by now.

The cryptic dollar sign has been replaced with a more clearly labeled “SHOP” button for the microtransaction shop.

And the flasks have had a little pretty visual upgrade, complete with recessed shadows that conform to their shapes.

Anyhow, I logged in with barely contained glee onto my level 65 Shadow, full of confidence that Forsaken Masters would make everything better.

analysisparalysis

Then reality struck.

They’d literally reset ALL of my points, since duh, I’m a Shadow, and that part of the tree got completely rearranged.

That’s 81 skill points to reallocate.

uhhhhh

As if that were not intimidating enough, going into the passive tree warns you that the patch gave your character a full one-use skill tree reset, except that if you allocate any passives before using it, it will be lost.

(Not that the Shadow really needs it, they already reset the whole thing for me!)

yeahhhh

Finally, one looks at the whole relevant part of the skill tree, trying to take in all the changes, while still trying to figure out if my previous playstyle can still be built for, without totally gimping myself again…

…crap.

I am perfectly aware that there are skill builders on websites that I can use.

Those rather assume a bit more knowledge and familiarity with the tree than I start out with, nor do I have the interest in staring at and reading each node online, then spending three hours tinkering with it without playing the game.

(Those kinds of things are fun -later- after you’ve mastered the basic game. I spent plenty of time playing with City of Heroes’ offline build creators, slotting IOs to eke out that last percent of optimal, but that was -after- leveling a bunch of alts and being familiar enough with the powersets to pick the arrangement I wanted without thinking about it.)

Granted, the new layout does feel a lot better.

Just going through the Shadow-related nodes, you can see more distinct paths where you can be more an elemental spellcaster, or a melee user – and pick up more survival-focused nodes at the beginning.

There’s a very clear Trap focus, to give the Shadow a more distinct specialization, as well as damage-over-time through poison/chaos damage, and daggers / claws, etc.

It gives some promising ideas for new Shadow characters later, but trying to find the right nodes for my rather quirky design vision was a little more challenging.

All in all, I wussed out.

I decided that the best way to explore the newly rearranged part of the tree was to make a NEW character, checking out each node organically as he leveled, with the express purpose of trying to recreate the same playstyle.

If the new character did well enough through the levels, then I could copy the bulk of that tree over to my 65 Shadow, with any extra improvement tweaks from playing and feeling out the weaknesses on the new character.

It was also a good opportunity to check out the new Rampage league.

Rampage is the standard not-hardcore league, with the twist of having a killstreak mechanic for chaining multiple mob deaths.

The more kills you increment on a counter, the more things happen around you.

Hit 15, and a handy dandy projectile stun spins out in all directions – it’s very nice for my lowbie Shadow, since all the mobs obligingly hold still to be stabbed.

Other stuff that happens include animated weapons showing up, and some kind of corpse explosion, but I tend to lose track of anything happening on screen at that point, besides trying to stab things with red health bars until there aren’t any left.

relic

There’s a nice synergy to this with the Loremaster Elreon minigame.

You see, each master apparently has a miniquest activity associated with it.

I’ve only met three so far, because I r a slowbie.

elreon

This is Elreon, and he seems to be the Templar class representative.

He has little ‘defend the relics’ miniquests, that can be as simple as one relic and one small circle:

relic2

Or something like this:

relic3

Yep, 4 relics.

The 4 circles above crashed my game, by the way. I assume there were just too many mobs generated for it to cope at that point, as the servers were a little jittery at the time with concurrent users – there was a queue of several thousands when I tried logging back in, something I’d never seen before – though granted, it only took a few tens of seconds for hundreds to enter at once.

Couple minutes wait, at most.

All in all, a fun minigame, which rather reminds me of the Mythbusters’ zombie special:

Haku the Armourmaster, on the hand, opens up a separate mini-area when you talk to him.

haku

Here, you’re supposed to retrieve a Karui spirit for him, in what is possibly the most streamlined version of an escort quest yet.

There is no slow-moving NPC to lose your temper with.

The spirit is essentially an object you pick up.

Except that it’s like frickin’ dynamite when you DO pick it up.

Most of the time, you can choose to fight through or run your way to the spirit as you desire. Sometimes, you’ll have to kill a mob to free the spirit.

Once you do grab the spirit, MORE mobs will spawn and chase you, while a ‘self-destruct’ mechanic will trail you like a most persistent hound. Fire falls out of the sky, blood explosions gout out of the ground where you’re standing, and they all HURT.

Moral of the story: Don’t stand still.

I ran around being on fire and trying to kill an endless stream of mobs, draining health flasks like water, for all of the first instance before I figured it out – you’re not supposed to stay there and kill everything until it stops moving. You won’t, you’ll just die instead.

Instead, it’s like a little training tutorial in introducing newbies to the concept that yes, you can run away from trash packs of mobs, and juke around them (and hope you don’t get stuck and die from desync.)

NPCs have never made it back to the quest-giver so quickly, when the player can pick them up and carry them, and then is promptly given a sizeable inducement to GTFO as fast as possible.

There may still be a few tweaks needed. The Path of Exile Reddit is all busy talking about the “Rocks fall, everybody dies” Haku miniquest which seems to be near-certain death. Me, I’m just glad I haven’t seen that variant yet.

Tora, the Mistress of the Hunt will request you to track a series of appearing footprints (or green blood pools, in my one specific case) back to a miniquest entrance, to which you enter and do a short kill quest.

wtfisthisdoinghere

It was a bit of a dead giveaway when I stumbled on the miniquest entrance before even finding the master. It was like, “hmm, this is odd… guess I better run around and check the map to see if there’s a master here…”

There was.

Doing these quests for the masters nets you faction reputation for them, and places them in town, where they become vendors that sell armor for the class they represent.

That’s kind of nice, in a way, since that’s another source of gear where RNG -may- possibly favor you.

Eventually, as you build rep with them, they can offer to create a hideout for you with a specific tileset, and then provide crafting stations in those hideouts if you invite them to it, or some such.

Wouldn’t know yet, I only have enough rep with Haku and am waiting to find all the masters and get them into town first before deciding on a hideout.

(Preferably -after- all the PoE veterans have put the info on a wiki so that I can make a decision I don’t regret. The whole thing is apparently shared by all the characters in the league. The good news is that this is the Rampage league, so it’s sort of a four-month trial run. Faction rep will combine down with the standard league when the Rampage league ends, apparently, so it’s not wasted time either.)

The last interesting change is that some of the early bosses seem to have gotten more of an upgrade in combat skills.

merveil

Merveil, if you let her get away from you, starts calling up a bunch of adds and whirlpool tornado things.

Brutus, in the Prison area, also summons up adds and has a few more interesting attacks.

I rather like it, since it seems to balance out a bit more of the prior slightly weird difficulty spikes, where everything seemed like a cakewalk until BANG, you run into mobs that start using high-damage elemental attacks and here you are, with no clue that resistances are a priority… or BANG, here’s the Piety or Dominus fight where the bosses suddenly have multiple phases and understanding the specific attack mechanics of the fight is suddenly important.

I’d already been learning this through rather painful trial and error on the higher Cruel and Merciless difficulties with my alts, but it’s nice to know that newbies won’t have to go through the same experience.

Now, from the start, you expect that boss mobs will have a whole bunch of weird attacks, and that reading animations and dodging these (hey, just like GW2!) is important to avoid damage, rather than just running up to the mob and killing it… until you suddenly can’t, one day out of the blue and explode into little perplexed gibs.

All in all, a very nice patch.

Knowing there may be different masters in an area encourages an interesting tension between being thorough in exploring versus being speedy and just rushing through to the next zone.

Encountering the different masters also changes things up in that procedural generation manner. Prior concepts from various leagues are also in – so you may encounter Strongboxes of loot, Corrupted Areas for vaal gems, Ambushes from various rogue exiles (aka sort of elites or mini-bosses).

Altogether, it becomes more varied an experience.

Though farming may now be more of a pain. I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s a consistent way to get a corrupted area to try and find a Vaal Summon Skeletons to make my new character more resemble the old one, and it doesn’t look very promising on the RNG front. Since I’m neither willing to manual trade, nor do I even -own- a chaos orb’s worth of currency, it’s a bit of a moot point to get it via other players.

The good news is that for the other kind of playstyle that I normally prefer – ie. not building and matching a character to a specific design spec, but working with what RNG doles out to you and creating a unique playing character from it, this sort of varied roguelike map layout matches pretty well.

For example, I picked up Cold Snap and tried it out, and discovered that it actually synergizes quite well. Freezing enemies in place for a short time gives more room to a) survive damage, and b) stab things.

I still miss my Vaal Summon Skeletons ‘elite’ or ‘ultimate skill’ but well, one makes do with what one has, for the time being.

Playing As Intended, Nothing to See Here

Updating the blog is hard when there’s nothing new to say.

For the last week, I’ve been heavily playing two games as intended – the well-trodden routes that everyone should be familiar with.

I don’t think it’s terribly exciting to anyone else when you increment a level number, is it?

Path of Exile

Hype is super-ramping up for the Forsaken Masters release, and I’ve been playing the crud out of it as a result.

My ridiculously masochistic low-life dual-dagger first-build-ever summoner Shadow made it to level 65, on the back of a whole lot of Swan Song videos.

It’s at this point that I decided I was officially hitting the next ‘gear wall’ – there are a ton of things that I would love to five and six-link, assuming I have the gear, and assuming I even have the gems – which I don’t, since I’m staunchly anti-manual-trade (don’t try to change my mind – I didn’t use the trade channel in the old MUD I played, I didn’t trade for a thing in Spamadan in GW1, I hate text barter trading with people or bots, period. I’m still enjoying Path of Exile fine, and willing to pay more to increase stash size to play with my own self-found ruleset. Everybody wins, except the people who can’t tolerate someone they don’t know and will never meet – since I don’t group – playing less efficiently. Deal.)

This sounded like a good time to wait for the Forsaken Masters to see if they could help out on the less RNG gearing front, so I did.

In the meantime, it was time for a little easymode.

Obviously, not at all current-and-updated easy, because I’m busy noobing it up here, but a Geofri’s Baptism – a two-handed maul unique – dropped and was burning a hole in my stash.

And I was doing pretty well with a super-tanky molten strike / ground slamming Marauder  in hardcore mode previously, albeit -very slow and steady because hardcore mode = don’t die – so for casual fun, I made a new Marauder with a similar build in the standard league and dumped as much nice stuff as had accumulated in my stash onto him.

Guy whizzed past the levels in like 3 days.

Level 55 now and still climbing.

To the tune of Mythbusters videos mostly, since I’ve exhausted all the roleplay ones. (Anyone know any other entertaining roleplays in the vein of ItmeJP’s stuff or Will Wheaton’s Fiasco? They have to be watchable, not unedited – it’s boring as fuck to watch ordinary people um and ahh and hesitate for minutes attempting to tell a story.)

I did suffer a few deaths, the first and stupidest one due to getting chain stunned by a mass of bird-like rhoa (what is it with birds and stuns, GW2’s moas also daze…) and that was eventually fixed by picking up Unwavering Stance. It comes with the drawback of not being able to evade enemy attacks – but I figure I’m not gearing with any evasion to begin with, so whatever. 19% evasion or less seemed fine to trade off for not being stunned ever.

The Marauder side of the skill tree really looks a tide more organized to be newbie friendly than the Shadow side.

Went for all the life, and armor, and resistances and strength and two-handed maul damage stuff and seems to be working out fine.

Picked up the Resolute Technique keystone since Geofri’s Baptism couldn’t crit anyway, and one may as well experiment with consistent sustained damage on what is intended to be a more robust type of character.

It was around the 50s and entering Merciless difficulty that the gear wall started to make itself a little bit more felt – though in this case, it mostly means I have to stop playing braindead run-in hur-durr kill-everything and kite a bit more with groundslam, or use doorways and corners as chokepoints, or even *gasp* put a rejuvenation totem behind me to buff up my life regen and keep the hp reservoir full for long enough to wreck the onslaught.

I’m seriously playing with only 4 skills here. Groundslam AoEs everything in a cone, molten strike for single-target with collateral fire projectile damage, I picked up Warlord’s Mark as a curse since I got tired of the NPCs using it on me to such great effect and a little more leech couldn’t hurt, and rejuvenation totem for the times when a flask won’t cut it.

Groundslam all the things. They stun and pretty much sit in the cone.

Groundslam all the things. They stun and pretty much sit in the cone and die, with only a few managing to close in.

Molten strike spam with a rejuv totem sitting pretty.

Molten strike spam with a rejuv totem sitting pretty.

It… can be a little boring.

(It’s certainly a change from the tension and challenge of the noob Shadow, where it’s a mad juggle of summons in succession for long enough to dart in and out and hit things with daggers. Still, variable difficulty that one can pick at will by changing characters ain’t bad.)

I have Searing Bond slotted, mostly out of a morbid curiosity to see how high the dps goes as the gem levels. I generally don’t use it except when I’m just playing around. It looks like a totem-based Searing Bond Templar might be pretty fun, but apparently it’s also going to suffer a little dps nerf in the Forsaken Masters patch (aka less than 14 hours away) so we’ll see. Filed away for ‘play later, probably when no longer fashionable, because one is slow and late to everything.’

Geofri’s Baptism finally got replaced around level 53-54, with a very ordinary, but four-linked magic Dread Maul, crafted for physical damage increase.

A chance Ledge run for fun dropped a unique Dread Maul, which made me stop and stare, incredulous at how RNG -actually- dropped a weapon that fit the character I was playing at the time.

Naturally, once I id’ed it, it turns out that Murphy’s Law struck again.

voidhome

Decreased experience gain? Reduced item rarity? Is this thing for real?!

Some googling and research later, it turns out that opinions are mixed on this highly interesting unique.

On the plus side, folks were saying that this is a great farming weapon, when you don’t want to outlevel a map too quickly, and are going for currency. Instead of item rarity, put on item quantity and just hit things and watch stuff fall out of their pockets, essentially.

Someone else suggested that this was a good weapon to put on weapon swap – which made a lot of sense to me, since my second slot had been sitting empty for the past 50 levels – and that it was good for boss-killing, wail away until the last sliver of hp, then swap back to normal weapon for normal loot drops, and for bludgeoning one’s way past difficult levels for newbies when you’re only concerned about progressing through the locations and quests, rather than racking up xp or loot.

Which all seemed fairly logical, and what-the-hell, I had it, so let’s try it out.

The dps on this thing is CRAZY.

That 50% increased attack speed essentially doubles your dps, and the mana leech means you pretty much do not run out of mana. Gone was the regular needing-to-quaff-a-mana-flask-every-now-and-then.

I ran around the Ledge farming map like a lawnmower, holding down the ground slam button, giggling like a maniac.

Fun factor-wise, this thing gets a thumbs up from me.

Frankly, after thinking about it, if I’m killing things twice as quickly or faster, 44% reduction in experience gain simply means I’m gaining xp at about the usual pace. Ie. a necessary balance.

It turns out that between some other chance buffs on the items, I’m only at a -5% item rarity, so it’s not -horrible- horrible, I still pop rares now and then, but maybe less than previously. Anyway, the character wasn’t built for item farming as the main purpose – I don’t exactly own a surplus of Increased Item Rarity and Increased Item Quantity gems to begin with, so it’s not a major breaking point.

In a way, it’s kind of interesting that this sort of unique exists – where it isn’t a straight up across the board improvement – that forces you to think about tradeoffs.

I settled for putting it on secondary weapon swap.

If I could get by with normal experience and item rarity with my normal weapon, then everything’s good.

If I can’t, it’s nice to have a cheatmode weapon standing by, just in case.

Guild Wars 2

Over in wood-farming land, I faithfully farmed up Foxfire Clusters for seven days and sold a ton of them and made a lot of gold…

…before deciding today that I could no longer wait -another seven days – for the next stage of the time-limited backpack, and correspondingly spent a lot of gold.

Well, easy come, easy go.

Virtual currency is for spending and all that.

I guess I’ve discovered that my willpower limit is around a week.

I faithfully built the Cultivated Vine from scratch, producing a plant food of each type per day, and using all hoarded materials in the process.

There was a time when I was faithfully charging up Celestial quartz crystals, so there were 10 standing by and ready. I’d accumulated 100+ Sunstone Lumps, so no problems on that front either. I’d jumped into T6 Dry Top on the first day Dragon’s Reach Part 2 launched, and bought all the recipes and clay needed for the clay pot, etc.

Unfortunately, after the first stage was made, and I was left holding the next stage’s Pet Seed, I realized that I hadn’t -quite- planned long term enough, having staunchly tried to avoid reading the Dulfy guide for the backpack.

I did have 48 Foxfire clusters, ready for the Mist-Infused Clay Pot, and the next 7 days of Piquant Plant Food.

I didn’t have enough clay for another clay pot, and organized Dry Tops seemed to have dried up in favor of the Blix farm. Bah.

I didn’t have enough charged quartz crystals, I’d need another 3-4 days, AND I’d seen how much sunstone lumps were going for and converted everything I owned and offloaded it to make $$$ fast. I mean, what better time to make a serious profit on lowbie material hoarding?

I had 12 Pristine Fractal Relics standing by in the bank – turns out I actually do run more fractals than the few complaining that they’re ‘forced’ into the activity and scared of grouping, which is quite incredible considering I’ve only stepped in there twice or thrice in the last few months – and a crafted +5 infusion that had been taking up a bank slot since the Thaumanova Reactor fractal days.

And I really couldn’t deal with the thought of slowly waiting another seven days for freakin’ plant food before I got my hands on Mawdrey II. That’s seven days of bloodstone dust eating. (In return for crap greens, sure, but the prospect of freeing up inventory and bank slots is super appealing.)

So I talked myself into buying 7 of each type of plant food, a clay pot and a grow lamp.

I figure I should be able to sell off 7 plant food in the coming days, albeit at ever-decreasing prices, and only be short a couple gold when all is said and done. That’s seven days of not-obsessing over Mawdrey, and more potential earning power by being able to focus on other things.

The clay pot, one might as well eat as the cost of saving geodes for the next Ambrite weapon skin, assuming I ever find a T6 Dry Top again.

The grow lamp is the only one that kind of hurts a bit, but well, if I run around, mine nodes, and sell off all the watchwork sprockets and sunstone that pop out, it might offset the cost just a little. Anyway, spending 10-20 gold doesn’t sound that bad to speed up the whole process.

mawdrey

All that rationalization of spending later, it sure is a cutie.

I haven’t even decided on a character to put the vine on yet. Maybe I’ll check the sylvari necro later.

But it ate 150 Bloodstone Dust today, and I’m happy.

.

In other news, I haven’t done any of the Challenger Cliff Dry Top achievements, nor the hard mode Living Story achievements yet.

I just seem to be spacing out the content over time, given that it’s still going to be weeks before the feature patch, and months before the Living Story comes around again. Permanent content, ho.

I bit the bullet and did a few more PvP matches yesterday and today and picked up the last 9% on the Balthazar backpiece reward track.

(It was weird, I was on a big PvP kick for a while, and then I just sort of couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm for walking into a match and getting mauled. It’s funny how people give up and stack teams so quickly.

I braved Solo Queue for two matches, and turned up on the mauling side for once. That was nice, in terms of how we simply dominated the other side and stayed on point – though I couldn’t believe I managed to 1 vs 2 on home point and win, they must have been quite new – but I’m sure it was very much less enjoyable for the other team. So much so, one of them quit part way through, when the score was 250 vs 55 or so, and things only got worse for them from there.

Then I got impatient waiting for solo arena to pop, and went for the shameless hotjoin to speed up the daily. I ended up finishing the match and the daily with like 0.1% left on the backpiece track, so I had to sit through another match. Naturally, the randomly hotjoin server was already stacked, and I was desperate enough to join on the losing side for that smidgen of 191 rank points that would knock me over and earn me the backpiece.

That went as horrifically as expected – turned up on home to get ganged up on 3 on 1, went far since everyone appeared to be having fun executing the rest of my team on home and had a fun 1 vs 1 for about 20 seconds before another guy showed up, and then another. All not my team, of course. We started 1 man down, and were 3 vs 5 by the end. Only reason I stuck around was for the last teensy bit of blue bar to finish up the backpiece.

They really need to figure out more fun PvP gamemodes. Control point capture is only fun when both teams are communicating to their teammates and playing for points as intended.)

I pop by for the Triple Trouble wurm every day or two, jump by the odd world boss for a free rare and have ventured back into WvW for an hour or so each time (slow and steady so as not to burn out again.)

I still intend to get around to leveling the engineer and the elementalist and key-farming, though Path of Exile is sucking up my time and attention right now. (ALL ABOARD THE HYPE TRAIN, we’ve missed some of that adrenaline surge.)

I’ve not finished dress-up on the sylvari necro – still some dreamthistle skins worth a ton sitting in the bank, that I guess I’m just going to burn making him look pretty – and I think I’ve finally accumulated enough charged cores and lodestones since launch to make a Foefire weapon, but haven’t got around to checking that yet.

I dunno. I’m generally content and chugging along, with plenty of stuff on the to-do list.

I don’t get all the latest Reddit bruhaha about the Super Adventure Box, after what essentially amounts to a misreading of an amateur interview conducted by fans. “We can’t talk about that now” isn’t the same as “No, you’re not getting that ever” and doesn’t warrant collective hysteria or childish tantrums either.

All it means is that they don’t have the scope or schedule or resources to get around to it yet, or haven’t worked on it to a stage where it can be announced, and/or have to follow and respect Anet’s very draconian PR and community interaction policies (which sadly, make quite a bit of sense when you see the current example of how overblown some fans can get) and somewhat misguided and out-of-touch marketing department (given the prior track record of all their ad campaigns and marketing promotions. It’s sad when third-party Kongzhong does better marketing.)

Just take it for what it is, some clear statements about what’s being worked on, and what’s not yet being worked on and put on the back burner. Sheesh.

There are other games if you’re burning out of GW2. Take a freaking break. Go play Wildstar or Warlords of Draenor if that’s what’s calling you.

Come play Path of Exile if you want to be all excited with expansion hype. (It’s free too!)

Go muck around in Archeage and have fun – up until the point you get repeatedly mauled on multiple traderuns and lose everything and say ‘screw this’ I suppose.

Give the damn devs some time to build stuff, and come back and enjoy it when you’re ready.

And if you’re not willing to leave, this is the BEST time to start hoarding up materials in preparation for the -next- craftable thing they launch that’s going to skyrocket other raw materials in price.

It’s going to happen for sure. It’s just a matter of what.

Path of Exile: Level 60, Forsaken Masters Ahoy!

When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled. Oh, brave Sir Robin!

News of the impending Forsaken Masters expansion has encouraged me to revisit Path of Exile.

Down time in GW2 helps (or rather ‘slow, not really doing much, no immediate goals’ time, since GW2 doesn’t go down for maintenance ever, and only becomes inaccessible when unforeseen technical problems crop up.)

I’m thrilled to share that my Shadow has made it to level 60.

You may or may not recall that he was previously bogged down at lvl 52, with a tendency to explode and lose a bar’s worth of experience every time a spellcaster looked at him funny. Or if he stood in melee range of something with a very big sword or hammer.

I don’t think they changed anything that affected me specifically during the few weeks that I was away from the game, but for some inexplicable reason, I felt like things seemed a little easier.

I suspect it was partly due to a subconscious change of strategy.

Playing XCOM made me realize that using corners and scenery to block attacks can still be valid in games that are not MMOs.

cornersummoning

So now, any time I feel like meleeing up-close-and-personal is not going to work, I find a handy corner.

Then I summon a stream of skeletons, which act as a passably decent wall of somewhat tanky mobs, and pop in a few raging spirits in between. (The raging spirits seem to attack for decent amounts, but are very squishy, so the skeleton distractions help.)

If all goes well, the enemy gets distracted and nickel-and-dimed to death by my mobs.

If it comes around the corner, I run screaming for another corner, quaffing heals like no tomorrow.

Ah, yes, retreat is now in my vocabulary.

I’m content to kite the things through multiple corridors of already-cleared rooms if I have to, throwing disposable skeletons in their wake to slow them down, while I work on raising slightly sturdier ghouls (which unfortunately require corpses and take a bit more prep time to summon.)

Watching DOTA 2 guide videos alerted me to the revelatory fact that getting behind your opponent allows for more time to get hits in.

Path of Exile, unfortunately, has major sync issues with skills that teleport you around the place. They’re just best not used. I used to have Whirling Blades on the bar as a get away quick mechanism, but the amount of jittery framerates and lag it can produce is just not really worth it to me any more.

What I do have, however, is Summon Skeletons, which places skeletons anywhere under your cursor.

I’ve taken to casting at least 2-4 skeletons BEHIND an enemy. This often has the welcome effect of distracting it and encouraging it to turn around to face them, offering up its vulnerable back for my stabbing. Worse case scenario, it doesn’t turn around and the skeletons get free hits in while I run around avoiding blasts and trying to stay alive.

Just watching pros juking others at DOTA 2 seems to have subconsciously affected my ability to dodge through mouse clicking, as if I’m either trying to emulate them, or I’ve suddenly realized that it’s actually possible to try and avoid attacks with a similar click-to-move control scheme.

The other part of it, I suspect,  is that old bugaboo of gear and levels.

As I started outleveling the maps, it got easier and easier. Less attacks hit through my evasive defence, I could use flasks that recovered more hp and mana, that sort of thing.

That mostly took a hefty helping of patience and plodding away.

I got more open to using the commonly-understood ‘standard’ farming maps to get some easier xp in. In Act 1, that’s places like the Ledge.

Ahh, happy ledge farming days. Thank you, Endless Ledge for teaching me this spot.

Ahh, happy ledge farming days. Thank you, Endless Ledge event races for teaching me this spot.

In Act 3, the early part before the City of Sarn, and then the Catacombs, and finally the Docks.

Before I went risky places to progress the story, I’d finish up the level I was halfway on, so that if I died, I wouldn’t be losing excessive amounts of xp.

Also, knowing that I could farm up that bar or two of lost xp quite quickly in these maps made deaths elsewhere feel a little less punishing and frustrating.

At the same time, all that farming gives decent amounts of loot to sift through.

Being voluntarily self-found (buying uniques off other players for a pittance feels like cheating to me and doesn’t really teach an understanding of the game, imo), that meant patiently sorting through junk, pulling out things that looked like they had potential, spending some currency to randomly roll up nice stats and get good linked slots.

It ends up being a fair amount of compromising, because it gets ridiculously expensive to get things optimally right.

This time, I followed the ‘understood wisdom’ again and prioritized resistances. Lots of them. Plus some +Life if at all possible.

Having 70% resistances to fire, lightning and ice went a long way towards mitigating the initial alpha strikes of the later maps’ mobs.

I could actually take 3-5 hits before exploding, which at least gives time to estimate the amount of damage coming in, and to quickly quaff a heal while hastily scrambling away out of range.

Some of my support gems had to be rearranged, or gone without, which was a little sad, but welp, can’t win them all.

In a way, it was interesting to be forced to experiment with new combinations of gems.

I tried putting Increases Minion Life on my skeletons, instead of my ghouls, and that didn’t seem to work very well at all with the way I normally play (with an entourage of 5 ghouls following me.) I swapped that back after a few close encounters.

I’d previously put Faster Attacks on my dagger attacks – having it on Venom Strike was nice, iirc. It wasn’t bad on Reave either. But then my slots changed and I couldn’t  fit it with either of those skills, and I went hunting for any other valid places to combine it.

Turns out, minion melee attacks can be buffed by Faster Attacks too. I only had a free slot for my Raging Spirits, but now they attack 33% more quickly, which seems to be working out fairly well for me too. (Like a permanent GW2 mesmer time warp on them, mwahaha.)

I got a few levels under my belt, then went through the rest of the Cruel Difficulty maps, marveling at the change of feel. Heck, I even managed to down Piety without dying, which is doubtless utterly standard for normal PoE players, but quite a feat for a noob like me.

Even the Dominus fight went well, all his preliminary attendant bosses were patiently kited one by one and dealt with patiently, with plenty of dodging around and kiting… right up to the final phase, anyway. When he went into his final form, and that damnable blood rain started, I looked at my xp bar, which was 3/4 of the way to the next level and sighed.

I knew I could just walk out and go farm up the rest of it before dealing with him again, but I was already -there- and committed. I also knew I didn’t have any chaos resistance worth speaking of, and that it would be even more farming and grinding to put together a semblance of stuff that worked.

But what the hell, right? If I got through to Merciless Difficulty, I suspected that I’d be able to get to the Ledge eventually, where a bountiful harvest of xp would await me.

So I repeated the same ignoble ‘feat’ of dying, reviving, teleporting, stabbing him a few times while letting all my summons get a few hits in, total party wiping, reviving, resummoning, re-entering, getting re-teleported to him and attacking and rinsing and repeating.

Whatever works.

I hear there’s builds that utilizes a skill gem called Cast on Death. Yep, literally you kamikaze bomb something. And some folks have managed to get it all optimally linked to the point of it being able to deal 1.6 million damage, one-shotting bosses.

Your standard easy-mode PvE MMO player fears death and set-backs a ton. Player death feels terrible, even before you throw in old time hardcore stuff like losing equipment and needing corpse retrievals, or losing tons of xp (or worse, levels) that have to be ground back up. That’s one of the reasons why FFA PvP full loot games are so scary to us.

My little experimental forays into games with the threat of loss attached are teaching me one thing that probably all Eve Online players know, or are forced to learn in a hurry.

Never bet or risk anything more than you’re willing and can afford to lose.

It takes a bit of learning on each game to feel out the limits on this.

A permadeath quickie game like Realm of the Mad God can risk a lot, but you can build a farming character up quite quickly in an hour or so, and figure out that it’s best to farm potions on a throwaway for your desired ‘main.’

A game like Path of Exile means figuring out how to quickly get back the xp you’re bound to lose at some point, and to try and keep risky attempts near the start of a level, while doing non-risky farming activities when you’re trying to get to the next level.

I’m still not really willing to risk my stuff on a game where other players can take things away from me, since that always sounds like a grind to build up lots of throwaway items to trundle around with and risk losing through no fault of my own, but for games where my deaths are either my fault or at worse, lag’s fault, I can deal with that.

Anyhow, I essentially ‘paid’ 3/4 of a level to defeat Dominus on Cruel Difficulty because I was too lazy and disinclined to pause and take a break.

And I was totally all right with that. I knew the cost going in, up front.

I got into Merciless Difficulty, celebrated a little, did some killing of random stuff,  died once or twice accidentally, then got into a groove and got back that 3/4 of a level. Ta da! Problem solved!

Now I’m back to being bogged down again in the early beginnings of Act 2, Merciless.

Whee.

At least I know what to do this time.

pisspoorresist

Behold, my glorious resistances on Merciless.

On Cruel, which imposes a global -20% to resistances, I was pulling 70%+ resist with my current gear.

My current gear on Merciless, with a global -60% to resistances, well…  UGH.

I admit to being a bit at my wit’s end on how I’m going to stack more, as I’m already relying on lucky rolls like my boots with 30%+ fire and cold resist mods.

I suspect that I may have to change things around to focusing on -one- resist, as and when each map needs it.

I more or less did that for cold resist when facing Merveil, and that -seemed- to work somewhat well.

I think the other possibility is bringing along a specific resist flask for the specific map, so that I can quaff that just before doing an important fight and dealing with a bad alpha strike. Resist flasks don’t really last for a long time though. UGH.

My gear is, of course, also woefully underleveled by this point, since I’ve hit level 60.

I suspect a patient farming pause is in order.

I’m hoping the Forsaken Masters update might help. Apparently, they will be introducing new NPCs that you can work towards building a sort of faction rep for, and that will unlock new crafting options like being able to add specifically chosen mods to items.

This sounds a hell of a lot more attractive than just randomly relying on RNG, though it will no doubt be quite expensive. We’ll see.

My hope is that they recognize that low-level players kind of need an in-between alternative to keep them occupied, and help them gear up at various level ranges,  if they don’t just buy uniques off various shop bots sitting around. Hopefully upgrading and crafting low level equipment will be possible and affordable, with these new systems, while still keeping the super-awesome high-level stuff as a golden carrot very hard to get to for those crazy enough to desire chasing them.

Naturally, the Forsaken Masters update is also going to come with a complete rework of the part of the skill tree that directly affects my most high-leveled character. Go figure.

Shadow and Witch areas are apparently going to be reworked. I do hope this doesn’t mean that my weird-ass summoner dual-wield dagger-stabby build is going to be invalidated or impossible to achieve, because I’m kind of fond of it.

On the bright side, I don’t think it’s possible for a reworked skill tree to get myself any worse off, being all noob and newb when I chose my options, so a free complete respec is going to be quite the gift horse.

The bad news is that it’s entirely possible for me to screw it up a second time, since I wouldn’t have the advantage of slowly leveling through the skill tree and figuring out how to work with what I chose.

Welp. I guess we’ll see. Worse case scenario is I adapt my strategies to whatever my new build becomes.

There’s also the last resort of throwing out the character, but I believe I’m a little more stubborn than that.