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Path of Exile 2 devs are excited to compete with Diablo and Last Epoch

PCGamesN speaks to Path of Exile 2 directors Jonathan Rogers and Mark Roberts about competition among ARPGs and how it affects development.

Path of Exile 2 devs are excited by the competition - Artwork of a duelist holding a rapier.

While Path of Exile 2 might now be a little further out than before, that’s only as a result of developer Grinding Gear Games’ pursuit to make the best RPG it can. Alongside the announcement of the PoE2 beta delay, PCGamesN speaks to game directors Jonathan Rogers and Mark ‘Neon’ Roberts about the resurgence of ARPGs in recent years and how it’s approaching competition from the likes of Diablo 4 and Last Epoch.

Announcing the Path of Exile 2 beta delay, the pair spoke to me about some of the reasons for that change – fundamentally, Rogers explains, he doesn’t want that level of public feedback until he feels the game is finished, “otherwise people are just going to say a bunch of stuff that we already knew.” But with the other big action RPG games having even more room to grow in the space left behind, where does that leave Path of Exile 2?

The most obvious question to ask is whether the popularity of Last Epoch item factions has changed the way GGG is approaching drops and trade in PoE2. “The stuff that Last Epoch does, we certainly did realize that some changes had to happen to PoE based on that,” Rogers tells me. “But really what that comes down to is that they’ve set a new minimum for what is acceptable as far as trade goes. I don’t think we could get away with the trade system that we have in PoE1 any more at this point, because having to do in-person trades with other people just has too many downsides at this point.”

“So we definitely do need to do something – but we’re not interested in doing exactly what they’re doing.” Part of this is Path of Exile’s distaste for the idea of ‘soulbound’ items that lock to your character. “For an item to feel valuable it has to be tradable,” Rogers says, explaining that even SSF items can be imported into the trade league should you choose. This means we shouldn’t expect any sort of bonus magic find or item find system designed for solo players (like Last Epoch’s Circle of Fortune); the commitment to SSF “is really supposed to be a more challenging mode.”

Path of Exile 2 - gameplay of the ranger firing off a flaming arrow at enemies in a poison cloud.

While there have always been ARPGs coming along here and there, the launch of Diablo 4 in 2023 really feels like it’s sparked a landmark resurgence for the genre. We’ve since seen the 1.0 launch of Last Epoch reaching huge success on Steam, and ahead of us lies the likes of the first Diablo 4 DLC, Titan Quest 2, Grim Dawn Fangs of Asterkarn, and even more besides. So as the studio that has been sitting reasonably comfortably as the established champion of the genre for the past several years, how does the GGG team feel about the level of competition, and has it changed how it’s approaching PoE2?

“It hasn’t changed anything we’re doing, because at the end of the day we just need to make the game we’re making as good as we can,” Rogers says. “I do wish that we had not had to delay the beta – of course, the longer we wait, the more potential competitors we will have. That is what it is, but my belief is that when we do get this game out, the quality of it will stand up well.”

The seasonal model of ARPGs also works in Path of Exile’s favor, Rogers says. “Generally speaking, people can come and go from one to the next – so to some extent having more games in the genre will just bring more players overall to the genre, which leads to overall more players for us as well.”

“I’m a firm believer that competition breeds excellence,” Roberts adds, “and honestly I’m looking forward to it. I think early on, some of the best development of Path of Exile was when Diablo 3 was in its prime, that was amazing.” He’s very proud of the work the team has done on its sequel, drawing particular attention to boss fights such as the one against Phanos, Last Disciple of Auria, seen at the eleven-minute mark in the Ranger demonstration below.

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“PoE2 is a thousand times better [than PoE1] in the boss regard,” he says, explaining that the challenging but fair fights the team has designed are complemented by the decision to have them reset upon death (as opposed to the first game, where you could die mid-fight and then pick up where you left off). “It is probably one of the best things that has happened, honestly, with the boss fights – I am completely stoked that we actually got to do that.”

“I might be just a little bit biased,” Roberts continues, “but I am relatively confident that as much as Path of Exile 1 is currently compared to all of these other competitors and still remains triumphant when placed alongside them, when I put Path of Exile 2 next to Path of Exile 1, it’s not even in the same ballpark. So if PoE1 is currently the reigning king, then PoE2 is going to completely dominate.”

The Path of Exile 2 beta is now set to take place towards the end of 2024, but in the meantime you can read our hands-on Path of Exile 2 preview to see what we thought of the game, along with all the details on the imminent Path of Exile Necropolis league that’s about to kick off in the first game.

If that’s still not enough to fill the PoE2-sized hole in your heart, there’s all manner of other top free Steam games to keep you entertained, along with all the best games like Diablo to play in 2024.

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