It seems like Path of Exile’s Sanctum league is proving successful, winning back fans after several seasons that arrived to mixed reception for one of the best ARPG games on PC. The latest major update sees a number of key changes introduced as part of Path of Exile update 3.20 including a new roguelike dungeon, changes to loot drops and rare enemies, and a special new ultra-hard opt-in setting for hardcore fans – and it seems to have worked.
The Path of Exile player count may not have peaked quite as high for the release of The Forbidden Sanctum as it did for the past entry, Lake of Kalandra, but the player retention stats are very promising and signal a change in general community perception. Almost two months since the release of update 3.20, Path of Exile is still hovering around the 40,000 concurrent player mark – almost twice that of any major patch since the Path of Exile Ritual league in January 2021, with all leagues since hovering around the 20,000 – 25,000 mark by the same point into their life cycles.
Factoring in the lower initial player count paints an even more impressive picture – making Path of Exile’s Forbidden Sanctum league the most successful at keeping players on board since Metamorph in late 2019. This is a slightly skewed statistic, as it’s likely that a lower initial player number translates to a higher percentage of more ‘dedicated’ players who would be likely to stay on anyway, but comments from fans suggest that there’s plenty of reason to believe that update 3.20 is a step up from past offerings.
The top-voted comment in a discussion thread on the Path of Exile Reddit remarks that, while the eponymous Forbidden Sanctum roguelike dungeon is fun, “it’s the core changes that make the league feel good. Loot drops as a casual feel good, and rares are not terminators.” Other players respond in agreement, with even those who have only just scratched the surface of the Sanctum noting that “the core game is just in a great place balance-wise.”
These changes include the removal of the controversial Path of Exile Archnemesis system in favour of a simplified modifier system for rare monsters that makes it easier to recognise what enemies are capable of and exactly how to approach them. The changes also address concerns with the loot system, which was leaving players scouring for so-called ‘loot goblins’ for several hours as the only viable sources of decent drops.
Path of Exile 3.20 also sees the introduction of the new Ruthless mode, an ultra-hard toggle on character creation that offers players extreme item scarcity and punishing experience penalties for dying. It’s aimed at pleasing fans of old-school, grindy games such as Diablo 2 and seems to be keeping them satisfied, with Twitch streamer Kripparrian calling Path of Exile Ruthless “a more enjoyable experience.”
Ruthless isn’t really for me, but I have been drawn back in by the allure of the Forbidden Sanctum and, while I didn’t spend much time with the past couple of leagues, I’ve certainly been having fun with Path of Exile’s latest update. Perhaps it speaks to the community excitement that I chose now to come back, as it seems like I’m not alone in my enjoyment.
We’ve got more of the best co-op games if you’re a fan of playing with friends, as well as more of the best free games on PC to keep you busy. As the Diablo 4 release date grows ever closer, Blizzard will be hoping that the upcoming Diablo 3 season 28 can provide strong competition to Path of Exile’s latest offering. Whatever you prefer, it seems like a great time for lovers of loot.
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