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Video Game: Path of Exile

Path of Exile is a free Dark Fantasy Action RPG by the New Zealand-based studio Grinding Gear Games, where you play as the eponymous Exile: one of many convicts (rightly or wrongly) exiled to the remote continent of Wraeclast by the authorities of the outside world. After your ship crashes near the shores of Wraeclast, you are hard-pressed to merely survive in this Crapsack World, let alone prosper.

The gameplay is obviously inspired by Diablo II: you control a single character from overhead perspective and engage in massive monster slaughter, occasionally dropping by the town to sell loot and pick up/turn in quests. Even the control scheme is very similar to classic Diablo titles. The main difference is the skill system, wherein passive skills form a veritable skill forest based around three core attributes (not unlike the Sphere-Grid system in Final Fantasy X), while the active skills/spells are stored in upgradable magical gems that can be socketed in virtually every piece of equipment (not unlike Materia in Final Fantasy VII).

The game officially launched on October 23, 2013, after extensive closed and later open beta testing. You can download the game client and play for free after registering on the official website (the same account is used to log into the game). Although the initial closed-beta crowd-funding campaign is over (having collected over $2.2 million in pledges), you can still support the game by purchasing cosmetic "upgrades" from the devs' shop. On that note, GGG are very outspoken opponents of Freemium, so they are not going to hand out any gameplay advantages or exclusive content to "paying customers" any time soon.

An expansion titled Forsaken Masters was released on August 22, 2014. As well as various gameplay tweaks, it introduced the titular Forsaken Masters, seven NPCs who offer unique quests as well as in-game housing and crafting options.

Now comes with a character page currently in the works.

Tropes found in the game:

  • Action Bomb: Various enemies across the game - the first being the Unstable Spawn late in Act 1 - will run at you in an attempt to explode guts and fire all over you. The same ability is seen on a variant of Alira's bandit Mooks throughout the western forest of Act 2.
    • The Minion Instability Keystone causes your Minions to explode upon reaching Low Life.
  • Action RPG
  • A God Am I: Dominus
  • All There in the Manual: One of the final pre-full release updates added a "Letters of Exile" notice board to Lioneye' Watch, which details how several of the game's NPCs, unique enemies and bosses wound up on Wraeclast.
  • Always Accurate Attack: The Resolute Strikes passive guarantees you will hit, but you'll no longer deal critical hits. This does not mean enemies with shields and such cannot block your attacks, mind; you simply won't miss them.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The ranger, going by some of her battle-quote.
    • Merveil the Siren creates apparitions in the level before her fight that tempt the player onward. Usually, these apparitions are the opposite gender, but not for the ranger.
  • And Man Grew Proud: A small-scale example, but Wraeclast used to be the heartland of the Empire, with Sarn as the capital. It's implied the thaumaturgical fallout from warring against the Karui and other events is what left Wraeclast with hostile wildlife, rogue elementals, and spontaneously-reanimating corpses.
    • The Empire isn't the first one to suffer this fate; the Vaal under Atziri collapsed in a similarly spectacular manner.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Karui carvings you can find throughout Act 1.
  • Arc Words: "Nightmare", the significance of which is hinted at but never fully explained.
  • Armor Piercing: Chaos damage bypasses your Energy Shield, making it a threat for those who rely on their Shield. Fortunately, there's a passive skill that grants immunity to it. Unfortunately, it reduces your maximum HP to 1.
  • Artificial Brilliance: The AI is savvy enough to aim for your Totems first, should you deploy one. If enemies can't reach you, e.g. if you're on a ledge above them, they'll run away from you so that you can't shoot at them from complete safety.
  • Back from the Brink: At the beginning of the game, most of the coastline is overrun by the monsters, with only a single settlement remaining besieged from both sides. It's Up to You to clear a path to the inner continent.
  • Badass Grandpa with Badass Beard and Bald of Awesome: The Templar is visibly the oldest playable character, yet packs some serious punch.
  • Bag of Sharing: Your personal stash is carried over across Acts, and all characters on the same account can access its contents.
  • Barbarian Hero: The Marauder.
  • Battle in the Rain: The final showdown with Dominus. His second form has a nasty habit of turning the rain to blood, which deals damage as long as you're standing in it.
  • Big Bad: High Templar Dominus
  • Black and Grey Morality: While the people/things you fight are undeniably villainous, the player classes aren't exactly virtuous themselves. The Marauder is a Blood Knight who shows little concern for things unrelated to combat, the Ranger is an openly misandristic poacher, the Shadow is an honorable but cold-blooded Professional Killer, the Duelist is an arrogant, narcissistic Jerk Ass, the Witch is a cannibalistic child murderer, and the Scion murdered her own husband in cold blood on their wedding night. Even the Templar, the most moral of the classes, used to work for The Empire, and may have been a former Blackguard.
    • Almost every single non-Gemling person in Wraeclast is either a criminal in exile or working for the Empire of Oriath. Granted The Empire is a corrupt theocracy so it's definition of "criminal" is somewhat loose, but there aren't a whole lot of nice people on the continent.
  • Black Knight: The Blackguards, mooks of the High Templar.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Enchanted items will occasionally have the attribute "More Gore." There's also a cosmetic microtransaction that will give your player-character bloody footprints, and guarantee messier fights.
  • Blood Knight: The Duelist; his intro quote states he fights in arenas not for companionship or money, but for the fight.
  • Body Horror: Grigor, the misshapen NPC in act 3. The monsters in the Lunaris Temple also count. They are all this way because Piety tried to implant Virtue Gems—the same gems you place in equipment sockets for all of your active skills—in their bodies, likely out of a misguided attempt to construct super-soldiers, and look like they walked off the set of Dead Space. This isn't the first time such a process has been undertaken either—Emperor Chitus of the Eternal Empire and his thaumaturgist Malakai dabbled in the process about 250 years before the game's campaign storyline, which resulted in the creation of the Undying enemies you find all over Act 3. The process apparently has a detrimental effect on the subject's sanity; everyone who has undergone it, aside from Grigor and Lady Dialla, the Gemling Queen, and even she is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander at best blindly attack you on sight. The lore implies this wasn't always the case—The implantation of virtue gems seemed to have been common practice in the Eternal Empire among the upper classes, and we know of at least 2 entire legions composed of Gemlings, at least until the Purity Rebellions, but after the calamity those who were implanted slowly degenerated into the mad monsters that are the Undying.
  • The Brute: Both Hillock, the first boss of the game, and Brutus, the mid-Act I boss. Act III has the optional boss Kole, who uses Brutus' abilities and doubles as That One Boss for many people, particularly in the permanent death hardcore leagues.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The Blood Magic passive skill removes your mana and uses your life as your mana instead. Also comes in Skill Gem flavour, but that just means the skill costs HP instead of mana.
  • Combat Tentacles: Whipping Miscreations and Tentacle Miscreations, the latter of which uses them as Organitek machineguns.
  • Crapsack World: Justified in that you're on a segment of the wider world horrible enough that the legitimate authorities decided it was a good place to put criminals too dangerous to otherwise hold. The rest of the planet is implied to be a bit better, though there are nasty bits-the Nazi alikes, for one.
  • Crippling Overspecialization / Master of None: Because of the huge skill tree, it is very easy to fall in one of those two categories when creating characters before knowing the game well.
    • Some players consider the Duelist as a Master of None, as he is polyvalent but less efficient in mle fighting than Marauder and Templar, less efficient in ranged combat than the Ranger, less efficient in dodging and stealth than the Shadow, and less efficient in magic use than the Witch and the Templar.
  • Cool Down: Some active abilities have cooldowns in addition to consuming mana. The cooldowns of mine-type abilities function slightly differently: preparing a mine (happens without active player participation) takes time and you can only carry a small number of them around, but launching them has no cooldown.
  • Corrupt Church: The primary enemies of the game are an expeditionary force from a theocratic-and very nasty-empire lead by a High Templar.
    • For clarity, Oriath was an island colony of the Eternal Empire. It is traditionally ruled by a High Templar. It gets confusing because the last Emperor of the Eternal Empire was also the High Templar of Oriath before he was crowned.
  • Dark Fantasy
  • Dark Is Not Evil: All the summons are The Undead, making all the summoners Necromancers. Even the relatively good-two-shoes Templar and the honorable Shadow.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: When you are killed on Normal difficulty, you are simply resurrected in the town with all the gear and items you had at the moment of death. The only penalty you incur is that the location may reset before you get back to where you were killed last time. On higher difficulties, however, you lose XP and on Hardcore, dying kicks your character back to the Default league.
  • Defector from Decadence: The Templar is heavily implied to be a former member of Piety's cult. In fact, judging from his comments after defeating General Gravicius, he was relatively high up/well-connected in the religious hierarchy as well.
  • Deflector Shield: Several armors have an Energy Shield stat, which grants you one of these.
    • Invoked with the Mind over Matter Keystone, which causes your Mana to absorb 30% of a hit.
  • Design It Yourself Equipment: Crafting in the game is randomized just like enemy drops, but allows for a great flexibility. Using the orbs, you can upgrade items of any rarity to higher tiers, give magical and rare items additional properties, completely respec an item, change the number of gem slots or the gem slot connectors on it, etc.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Some quests may be done out of sequence (finding the Quest Item before actually getting the quest from the Quest Giver, for instance). In this case, the quest giver and related NPCs will say different things regarding the quest status.
  • Difficulty Spike: Arguably at the Vaal Oversoul or Lunaris Temple, but the Spike really sets in at the Scepter of God, where even normal enemies start gaining powerful effects like range-nullifying bubble shields. Of particular note is the level boss who turns the screen into Lightning Trap Bullet Hell. And, of course, Dominus himself is no pushover.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: While High Templar Dominus is clearly marked as the Big Bad, Piety of Theopolis is the one who does most of the Empire's legwork for the majority of the game.
  • Dual Wielding: All one-handed weapons can be dual wielded, including two different types, though this is not advised due to spreading of passives
  • Easily Forgiven: Captain Fairgraves comes back in Act 3 as a ghost chained to an anchor, and begs your forgiveness for trying to murder you. Then asks you to fetch him a magic decanter and a poisonous fruit.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Defied by Kraityn, one of the Bandit Lords. According to his Letter of Exile, he killed his mother... for money.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Thanks to a letter found lying in his camp base, we learn that Captain Arteri, the Black Knight mini-boss defending the pass between Western Forest and Prisoner Gate, is Piety's lover.
  • Fan Disservice: Lunaris Temple has some topless women inside - but they're either in the form of Dead Space-like monsters, or cadavers on operating tables missing half their head and shoulders.
    • The Whipping Miscrereation concept art is shown during the credits. They're women wearing nothing more than a loincloth and some twine. Their left sides are covered in crystal growths and their right arms are turned into a six-foot long thorny tentacle
  • Fantasy Character Classes
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Proud Warrior Race Karui are a very obvious one for the Maori. Justified as the game originates from New Zealand.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning
  • Five-Man Band: The player characters can be interpreted as such, if put in a single party:
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: It's mentioned at one point that Piety used to be a prostitute to pay for her magical studies. She's since found a better paycheck as one of Dominus' Co-Dragons, and The Dreaded by Wraeclast's inhabitants.
    • The Exile is noted to be this as well by some characters.
  • Gorn: The depths of the Lunaris Temple almost rival the Durance of Hate in bloodiness, with drainage pipes running completely red and pools full of blood, not to mention all the torture equipment, corpses impaled on stakes, and piles on piles of emaciated dead bodies. Even worse, people can be seen writhing inside the pools of blood.
  • Ground Punch: Ground Slam is a Strength-based active ability, sending out a wave of cracks that damages enemies and reduces the damage threshold needed to cause hitstun.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: All three Strength- and thus melee-oriented characters are male, while the two females are a Squishy Wizard and an archer. Still, since the skill tree allows any class to be anything, it just takes more skill points to get to the skills the character was not intended to use.
    • That said, rapiers and bucklers are purely Dexterity-based, so the Ranger can avert this if you decide to have her wield those instead of a bow. It's not entirely recommended due to the nature of Evasion in this game, but it's certainly possible especially since the skill tree path you'll go down offers additional health and evasion.
  • Hand or Object Underwear: Yeena, the magic accessories saleswoman from Act 2.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Nessa warns the player of this at the end of Act 1.
    Nessa: But please, keep one thing in mind for me. What have you become when even nightmares fear you?
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Kinda. The Duelist wears a bright-red shirt under the armor, as if tempting the enemy to try and hit him. Given how his defenses are based on Evasion, this is not as suicidal as it seems...
  • Hollywood Darkness: At a certain point in the game, a magical darkness descends upon the world. Said darkness is represented by a ghastly bluish tint.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: From easier to harder: Normal, Cruel, Merciless.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted in the Witch's backstory. Her house was burnt down, and instead of killing the people who did it, she killed their children.
  • Jerkass: The Duelist, who was exiled because he thought a noble had insulted him, and promptly stabbed said noble in the gut in return. Also the Witch to an even greater degree- her house was burnt down, most likely as part of an attempt to kill her, but instead of killing her attackers she killed their children.
    • Greust in Act 2. Even after you save his tribe from the Bandit Lords and the Vaal Oversoul, the best he gives you is a very grudging thanks and a warning that he's watching you.
  • Leaked Experience: Each member of the party receives a portion of the XP for every enemy killed on the location, even if they don't actively participate in the fighting.
  • Light Is Not Good: Piety, the villain for a large portion of the game. She looks like a paladin from a High Fantasy universe...who is actually an utterly amoral Evil Sorceress who is a leader this world's equivalent to the SS.
  • Mad Doctor: Malichai, Doryani, Piety, Shavronne, and Maligaro all have an enthusiasm for human experimentation and a disdain for such things as medical ethics and informed consent. You actually encounter Piety in the Prison and the Chamber of Sin because she is trying to study the work of the latter two.
  • Magic Knight: All characters share the same skill tree, but different classes start in different areas (A La Final Fantasy XII); so it's completely possible to teach your witch to swing your sword-sword; or your marauder to chuck fireballs and thunderbolts. The latter is even easier, since anybody can use any skill gem.
    • Templars are intended for this sort of play-style.
  • Magikarp Power: Sticking with a basic spell and laying on Support gems and passives can turn that skill gem you find on the beach at level one into a powerhouse able to One-Hit Kill certain enemies, even through energy shields and resistances.
  • More Criminals Than Targets: In Act 2, the Forest Encampment is supposedly being preyed upon and harassed by the three bandit lords. Each of them leads a gang of at least a hundred or so. The Forest Encampment has five named characters (and one of them is only brought to town partway through the Act) and a few extras. And it's not like there are many travelers for the bandits to prey upon, since Piety blocked off the roads and the forest is swarming with homicidal wildlife.
    • However, these groups are also unaffiliated with the others, so it's likely a 3-way battle for control as well.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Brutus, Lord Incarcerator.
    • Honourable mentions to the unique monsters Kadavrus the Defiler and Fleshrend, Grand Inquisitor.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Piety and her master, Dominus. Let's count the ways: Dictatorial rule and suppression of dissent, check. Soldiers in intimidating black uniforms, check. Horrific experiments on human subjects, check. Lots and lots of cold blooded torture, check. Attempts to create a master race and/or super soldiers, check. Implied goal of re-creating an 'eternal empire', check. Piles of emaciated corpses eerily reminiscent of those found in concentration camps, check. Did we forget anything?
  • Necessary Drawback / Power at a Price: Most of the high-end Passive skills (called 'Keystone Passives') have a drawback to balance their advantages. You can get perfect accuracy at the cost of unable to deal Critical Hit, immunity to stun at the cost of not being able to evade attacks, immunity to Chaos damage at the cost of having your maximum HP reduced to 1, etc., etc., etc...
  • The Necromancer: Every summon skill is based in necromancy. Several skills are based around making your zombies, spectres, and skeletons stronger, including a Keystone Passive that transfers your energy shield buffs to them.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Act II, the only way to reach the exit of a plot-critical underground passage is to trigger an altar. It makes darkness fall on the land and releases a monster which is the Act II final boss.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Warden's Quarters are completely devoid of enemies... right up to when you run into Brutus.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: The player, if they decide to take the Chaos Innoculation passive skill, which sets their health to 1 and makes them immune to the only damage type that can bypass energy shields. Meaning that if their energy shield is ever depleted, they die in one hit to anything.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Vaal, an entity that delights in slaughter. Vaal skeletons have a passive Rage ability, and it's possible to enter a deal with Vaal (through the Keystone ability Vaal Pact), which grants extra lifesteal in exchange for a massive health potion debuff. All classes call it's avatar a "Nightmare"; and it's apparently the collective soul of Wraeclast's long-extinct native inhabitants.
  • Penal Colony: The entire continent of Wraeclast. What do you mean, it's not inspired by the Land Down Under?
  • Plague Doctor: One can get the outfit; Waxed Jacket/Garb armor and Plague Mask hat.
  • Player Party: You can complete the game on your own but you can also form parties with up to five other players. Doing so increases difficulty but also rewards you with more XP and better loot.
  • Power Crystal: Skill gems.
  • Practical Currency / Weird Currency: The loot you sell is traded for Scrolls of Wisdom (identification) or Orbs, which actually makes selling regular (non-magical) loot sensible, since you get scrolls to identify your magical loot. Or you can just sell Orbs for scrolls.
  • Prestige Class: The Scion is the first class to be introduced that requires playing through most of the campaign with a basic class to unlock her.
  • Randomly Generated Levels:
    • Not only are they random but each location rearranges itself (respawning all enemies) 8 to 16 minutes after you have left it. Thankfully, the general orientation of the maps (the positions of the exits and waypoints relative to the map center and edges) is always roughly the same, which makes finding one's bearings much easier.
    • The game also has endgame maps which are treated like any other item, complete with random attributes and quality ratings. Using one will take you to a map with special challenges and a chance for better rewards.
  • Randomly Generated Loot: Follows the Diablo model of basic templates with numerous prefixes and suffixes denoting special enchantments, plus multiple tiers of rarity/power.
  • Reconstruction: Of the Hack and Slash. Grinding Gear Games challenged some fundamental notions underlying Diablo-like games to create a new take on the sub-genre that is both familiar and incredibly fresh. Some mainstays like money have been done away with entirely, while other like stats, skill trees, active skills have been smashed into a million pieces and put back together in interesting new forms.
  • Regenerating Shield, Static Health: Unlike mana, health does not regenerate by itself (without regenerating items or specific passives), but the energy shield, added on top of health by various armors, does. This is the preferred option of magic-heavy classes, since the shields are tied to the Intelligence score. Fittingly, the energy shield only regenerates after not taking damage for a time, so if you want it to come back you have to be smart about avoiding combat.
  • Rule of Three: The game system runs on it. There are three character attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence), three core classes (Marauder, Ranger, Witch), three mixed ones (Duelist, Templar, Shadow), three types of defense (armor, evasion, energy shields) three colors of ability gems (red, green, blue), etc.
  • Rummage Sale Reject: What any given Animated Guardian will almost inevitably end up looking like. It's true that you could invest the time into getting your guardian a decent rare set, but they're incredibly fragile even with good armor, so it's usually more sensical to just give them a decent magic weapon you don't need and then whatever's lying around for the remainder of their equipment.
  • Scenery Gorn: The whole third Act is set in the ruined city of Sarn.
  • Sequel Hook: Not all the names present on the map are levels, currently. For instance, the city of Riben Fell at the upper right of Act 1's map.
  • Skill Forest: With 1300 nodes available to all classes, it's not so much a "skill tree" as "skill Pando".
  • Skill Point Reset: It is possible to reset some of the points allocated to passive skills.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few can be found among the unique items.
  • Smoke Out: Possible with the Smoke Mine skill gem, which allows you to place up to five 'remote mines'. Upon detonation/activation, you're teleported to one of the mines you placed - the smoke clouds blind enemies both at your original position and near the mine itself, and you get a short boost to your run speed.
  • Socketed Equipment: Virtually all of the equipment items a player can find can have ability gems socketed into them.
  • The Southpaw: The Templar is a lefty in game, as opposed to every other playable character.
    • It's worth noting that the Templar is considered a "blasphemer" by other Oriathans like Nessa. Since the other Templars aren't exactly upstanding individuals though, this doesn't necessarily imply A Sinister Clue.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The "Weathered Carvings" explain why Wraeclast is abandoned, but not why Everything Is Trying to Kill You.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Just like in Diablo II, there are static waypoints on every other location that have to be found and activated before you can use them to teleport from any one to any other. Also, the Portal Scrolls create single-use portals from anywhere to the town. Finally, there is also a skill gem that allows you to make town portals without using any portal scrolls.
  • Token Religious Teammate: The Templar, who makes a point of praising the Almighty after every few level ups.
  • Tragic Villain: Merveil, the end boss of Act I, was once a beautiful courtier who had a whirlwind romance with a swordsman named Daresso, who gifted her with his greatest treasure, the Star of Wraeclast, a ruby gotten in the jungles of Wraeclast. Unfortunately, the Star turned out to be an Artifact of Doom, which over time corrupted her mind and then her body, transforming her into a monster. When Daresso finally left her, unable to bear what his wife was becoming, this was the last straw that sent Merveil over the Despair Event Horizon and destroyed what was left of her sanity.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver: Captain Fairgraves calls his ghostly flunkies and tries to kill you after you complete his Fetch Quest.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The Witch and the Ranger. Averted with the addition of the Scion.
  • The Unfought: Until the full release, High Templar Dominus.
  • Underground Monkey: With crabs, spiders, apes... including literal underground monkeys.
  • Unidentified Items: Scrolls of Identification double as Practical Currency.
  • Unscaled Merfolk: Sirens are based off the Scylla from Greek mythology; female upper body with a betentacled lower half.
  • Weapon of Choice: Each type of weapon requires different attributes and most have an inherent modifier.
    • Archer Archetype: Bows require dexterity and can be used with quiver accessories, which frequently add elemental damage.
    • An Axe to Grind: Axes require strength and small amounts of dexterity, are one or two-handed, and are one of the few categories without an inherent mod.
    • Cool Sword: Swords other than rapiers require equal amounts of strength and dexterity and have increased accuracy.
    • Drop the Hammer: Maces are one or two-handed, require only strength, and increase the length of time enemies are stunned. Scepters are always one-handed, require strength and intelligence, and increase the amount of elemental damage done by skills and weapon properties.
    • Knife Nut: Daggers are always one-handed, require intelligence and dexterity, and increase the chance of getting a Critical Hit.
    • Magic Wand: Wands are intelligence-based and the only ranged weapons other than bows. They always have an increased spell damage mod.
    • Royal Rapier: Rapiers require only dexterity, are always one-handed, and increase the damage of Critical Hits.
    • Simple Staff: Staves require strength and intelligence, are always two-handed, and are the only two-handed weapons with a chance to block.
    • Wolverine Claws: Claw weapons require dexterity and intelligence, are always one-handed, and have an inherent Life Drain mod.
    • You can also fight unarmed as a Bare-Fisted Monk, though a very few physical skills works without a weapon, but it's viable with the unique glove Facebreaker, which gives you a monstrous damage boost while unarmed.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Frequently in dungeons a player will come across huge piles of gold and jewels, only to discover they're part of the background. Occasionally in the middle of these opulent piles there will be a giant treasure chest full of items. This ties the lore in with the gameplay — gold has been entirely done away with, instead using a form of barter.
  • Vestigial Empire: See that island on the map of Act 1? That's Oriath, the last remnant of the Eternal Empire that once ruled Wraeclast.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The Shadow's intro shows that his employers sold him out after his last kill to save themselves, leading to him becoming an Exile.
    • As mentioned above, Captain Fairgraves betrays you the moment you hand him his magic lantern.
  • You Will Not Evade Me: Brutus uses a hook to reel in players.

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