Path of Exile: Siege of the Atlas Adds New Passive Skill Tree, as a Threat

The expansion launches alongside the Archnemesis Challenge League.

It’s hard to expect a gargantuan experience such as Path of Exile to grow even bigger, but the upcoming expansion has proven me wrong once more. Path of ExileSiege of the Atlas — which will be released on PC on February 4, followed by both Xbox and PlayStation on February 9 — is mainly targeted at revamping the endgame. For those who are interested in taking it slow throughout the main story, the Archnemesis Challenge League adds an interesting spin with boss modifiers that can make for some equally gruesome and rewarding encounters.

During an early reveal of Path of Exile: Siege of the Atlas, producer and developer Chris Wilson talked about the upcoming changes to the free-to-play ARPG. As the name implies, Siege of the Atlas references the Atlas of Worlds, which was first introduced back in 2016. It’s an endgame activity that involves jumping into single maps that contain specific enemies, bosses, and modifiers. Once you take down the final boss and loot everything, you’re free to get out and jump into a different one.

It’s really entertaining and rewarding once you learn the basics (as long as you have a good build, that is). I actually wrote about how the past expansion, Echoes of Atlas, brought a number of substantial changes to this core idea in 2021. But while The Maven — a boss introduced in the expansion — will still be present in the game, Siege of the Atlas introduces a radical change to how passive skill trees work in the endgame.

If you’re not already, you may want to sit down before reading this. So, Path of Exile is known for having a massive character skill tree. This is focused on passive abilities, which can range from more damage with specific weapons to better proficiency with specific stats. It’s gigantic, and unfortunately, it’s very easy to make mistakes unless you’re following an already pre-built build. Of course, you’re able to respec and regain the skill points that you’ve used, but this action requires a specific currency for each skill you want to respec.

The Atlas of Worlds featured passive skill trees as well, but they worked differently, divided into specific regions across the giant map of Atlas itself. You could use items called Watchstones to unlock new maps to run through, as well as raise the level of maps across your Atlas (it’s a whole thing). Well, now both of the aforementioned features have changed.

Let me introduce you to the brand new Atlas of Worlds passive skill tree from Path of Exile: Siege of the Atlas.

Path of Exile Siege of the Atlas 1
Well… fuck.

Yeah. This change means that both Atlas regions and their corresponding Passive Trees are gone entirely. From now on, there are over 600 passives available in a single passive tree. This is composed of skills you will be familiar with from past regional Atlas Trees as well as brand new ones. You can earn 117 Atlas Passive Skill points by completing your Atlas. The way it works is that, as you’re running a map, completing the bonus objective will net you one skill point. If you want a few extra ones, completing the Maven’s multi-boss fights can help you with it.

What’s cool is that whenever you allocate an Atlas Passive Skill, its stats apply to every map you run regardless of where it’s placed in the Atlas. Completing early maps is also an easy task before you’re enrolled into higher-tier versions, so that makes for the perfect opportunity to get as many points as possible.

Wilson explained a couple of examples of the new additions. The Secret Operations passive turns a few of the strongboxes you encounter into a new type of strongbox that drops Scarabs. Ghastly Devotion makes it so that areas that contain Ritual Altars will always have four altars. Corrupted Gaze grants a chance of seeing Abyssal Jewel drops as corrupted with five or six modifiers as opposed to the usual four.

Path of Exile Siege of the Atlas 2

On one end, the shift from regions may be beneficial. If you were tired of being limited to what was available in a specific region (as each one had its own non-interchangeable passives to choose from), the new Passive Tree allows you to focus on specific content. If you’re into Rituals Altars, which were introduced during the Ritual League, you can focus on that. But once you’ve obtained all the corresponding passives for it, it’s up to you where you want to continue heading from there. As such, planning is essential. You may max out the passives for your favorite content, but if you don’t care about what follows next from the tree, it may be hard to get to a different end.

During a Q&A in the early reveal, Wilson clarified that players will need to use Orbs of Unmaking to respec passive skills in the Atlas tree, which takes a “bit of investment.” In addition, the Orb of Unmaking no longer drops from the Maven — instead, it is now part of the core drop pool. According to a PR representative, the drop rate has been increased as well, so it hopefully won’t take too long to get them.

So, what happens with the Watchstones? Well, these are gone as well. As a result, the hidden maps are back to the base Atlas, so you don’t have to unlock them over time. According to Wilson, much of the power that came from craftable Watchstones is now present in Atlas Passives, so you can still access the previous benefits without having to manage Watchstones. Now, you’ll manage Voidstones instead. They will allow you to increase the tier of maps on your Atlas up to tier 16 uniformly, and you can obtain four: one each from the Uber Elder, The Maven, The Searing Exarch, and The Eater of Worlds.

Path of Exile Siege of the Atlas 7
Here’s the new Atlas of Worlds.

While the Uber Elder and The Maven are familiar faces from past content, the latter two misfits are brand new additions in Path of Exile: Siege of the Atlas. They both work similarly to other pinnacle bosses, requiring you to hunt down corresponding sub-bosses — called The Black Star and The Infinite Hunger — first. You’re then free to choose between the bosses on a map-by-map basis.

In mid-tier maps, you’ll randomly encounter the influence of either sub-boss. When this happens, you’re free to pursue any of the Eldritch Horrors you’ve encountered or The Maven herself, in case you’re interested in facing her trial. As you progress through the maps, you will eventually find the main bosses in the highest tiers available.

Beating them isn’t the end, however, as you’ll be able to farm them afterward. If you complete a series of Tier 14 or higher maps with one of their influences applied, you’ll eventually find a key that allows you to fight the corresponding sub-boss again. Repeating this will get you closer to a key for one of the main bosses. This key is tradeable, which means it can be rolled like regular maps with its own mod pool, allowing you to control the difficulty if you’re looking for a challenge or more rewards.

Path of Exile Siege of the Atlas 8

It goes without saying that new currencies are coming with the presence of the new foes. The Eldritch Implicit Modifiers is a new endgame item mechanic that aims to reduce the previous baggage of dealing with the previous Shaper, Elder, and Conqueror Influence systems. The new modifiers allow you to have Eldritch Mods on good items you’re already using, rather than for specific loot you find on the ground. In theory, this mechanic will also be accessed much earlier in your mapping experience.

Eldritch Implicits replace existing Implicit mods, but you can have an item with Eldritch Implicits from both The Searing Exarch and The Eater of Worlds. This is related to two new currency items: Eldritch Ember and Eldritch Ichor, respectively. This opens up a massive ground for exploration, depending on the item and how you combine both currencies and their respecting tiers.

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Path of Exile: Siege of the Atlas is a huge expansion, and that’s without taking into account all the upcoming items and balance updates to come. As usual, the launch of an expansion also kicks off a new seasonal period. The Archnemesis Challenge League presents an intriguing focus on fighting rare monsters that you’ll come across during the main story and maps. This is in addition to around 60 new monster mods, which grant you the chance to customize the encounters with these bosses.

Aesthetics-wise, I really enjoyed the gritty ambiance of the Ritual League. (What can I say, I’m a Doom enjoyer.) But I must say the premise of breaking free frozen enemies that are petrified to the Archnemesis statue is extremely cool. It’s not only the presentation, though — there will be many ways to combine the monster mods with over 35 recipes to use. Interestingly enough, the mods also stack between boss fights with up to four encounters per area.

Path of Exile Siege of the Atlas 3

Here’s a quick example. You’re roaming around an area and find one of the Archnemesis encounters. All the monster mods you collect from them are stored in a separate inventory screen, and you’re free to mix and match them at your own leisure, depending on how challenging you want the fight to be.

If you’re victorious, you’ll get a fixed number of rewards. But if you take on a second, third, or fourth encounter, the mods you have applied will accumulate as you play through the area. This is especially helpful with mods that reward currencies, as you’ll multiply your rewards with each subsequent fight. (The trailer shows 25 slots, but Wilson mentioned they’re increasing the number for the final release.)

While I haven’t gotten to play Path of Exile much recently, I’m excited for the new League and the incoming changes in Siege of the Atlas. Yes — another passive skill tree is overwhelming, to say the least. But at the same time, the new structure is one I’m already familiar with, and I’m up for exploring a different endgame. Path of Exile continues to be an ever-growing experience. Regardless of how many extra hundreds of nodes it puts in my way, the constant evolution continues to be enticing. After all, where else would I find myself fighting petrified creatures while pursuing Eldritch horrors?