Interview: Path of Exile Technical Director Jonathan Rogers on the game's new expansion and Xbox One edition

It was recently announced that the free-to-play, Diablo-esque hack & slash fantasy game Path of Exile would be getting a fifth expansion, and that the previously PC-only game was coming to Xbox One as well.

To find out what this entails, we sat down with the game's Technical Director, Grinding Gear Games' Jonathan Rogers, to talk both while we played and afterwards. 

GameCrate: Let's start with the add-on, "The Fall of Oriath," which you're calling the fifth act. The last time we spoke, it was about the "Atlas of Worlds" expansion, which served as an endgame for Path of Exile. Does that mean "The Fall of Oriath" is set after the fourth act, "The Awakening," and before "Atlas of Worlds"?

Jonathan Rogers: Right. But we're actually changing the structure of the game. Before, you'd play acts one through four, then play them again, then again a third time, and then you'd play "Atlas of Worlds." Now what we're doing is you play acts one through four, but then you'll go on to play acts five through ten, and then the endgame.

GC: So, you're already working on acts six, seven, eight, nine, and ten?

JR: Yes, but acts five through ten are all part of "The Fall of Oriath." And they'll all be out at the same time.

GC: So what is the story in "The Fall of Oriath"?

JR: In act four, you killed an entity called The Beast. The side effect being that The Beast was eating the power of the gods, and with The Beast gone the gods are now rising up again.

The thing about "The Fall of Oriath" is that it's based on places you visited before. Though you're not replaying the same areas; you're weaving in and out of a mix of those areas and new parts of those areas, and a lot of things have changed about those areas such as the bosses and the monsters and what's there. For instance, in act one you went to a place called The Fetid Pool where you fought a guy called Kadavrus who corrupted the area. Hence the name. But now, because Kadavrus is gone, the area is lush and green.

GC: What gameplay mechanics are you adding through "The Fall of Oriath"?

JR: When you kill one of the gods, you get special powers. For instance, in act six you take on The Brine God, and if you defeat him and equip his ability you can't be stunned if you've been stunned recently, and you can't be frozen if you've been frozen recently. There are four major gods and a dozen minor gods, and you can, at any one time, equip one major god power and one minor god power. Though unlike most powers in the game, you can change freely between god powers when you want. Well, when you're in a town, not in the middle of a battle.

GC: Do you unlock any other powers by pairing certain major and minor god powers?

JR: There is some natural synergy between some of them, but there's no explicit effect on each other.

GC: And does a god power change what happens in other god fights? Like if you have a water god's power equipped, and you go up against a fire god, does that make him even madder than if you were using a lightning god's power?

JR: No, we didn't do anything like that.

GC: So will the events in "The Fall of Oriath" have any impact on what happens or the gameplay in "Atlas of Worlds"?

JR: You'll still have your god powers, but you'll be able to upgrade them in the endgame. As for the story, it's mostly unchanged since "Atlas of Worlds" has its own isolated story.

GC: Moving on to the Xbox One version of the game, for someone who hasn't played it on PC, what fantasy RPG on Xbox do you think Path of Exile is most similar to?

JR: Diablo III. Our game has different core strengths, but in terms of running around killing monsters, I'd say Diablo III.

GC: So will the Xbox version have all ten acts and the endgame when it launches?

JR: Yes, all of it. And our intention is to release any future expansions at the same time.

GC: And is it only for Xbox One because the architecture of an Xbox is the same as a PC?

JR: That is a very big reason. For instance, the same art files that we used in the PC version are being used in the Xbox version as well. In fact, our community doesn't know this, but a lot of the optimization that we did lately for the PC version came because we were optimizing things in the Xbox version.

GC: Did you have to make any changes to the gameplay?

JR: Just the skills. Because of the controller some of the skills didn't work well, while others had to be changed a little so they'd work with a controller. But we're talking maybe five skills out of two hundred, everything else is the same.

GC: So will there be any co-op cross-play for PC and Xbox?

JR: No. Again, because of the controller/keyboard thing. The Xbox version does have co-op, and it's up to six players like on PC, though it's just online. We didn't include local co-op because it just didn't work with the way our HUD is laid out.

GC: The PC version is free-to-play with microtransactions. Will the Xbox version be the same?

JR: Yes. And you'll still just be buying cosmetic stuff. And the prices will be the same, too.

GC: Lastly, Microsoft likes to do fun things like putting the Warthog from Halo in Forza Horizon 3....

JR: Yeah, we're not doing that. We did a promotion like that with Razer once a long time ago, and our community told us not to do that again. That's a polite way of phrasing that.

Path of Exile: The Fall of Oriath for PC and Path of Exile for Xbox One will be out this summer.