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Nightmare Fuel / Path of Exile

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Wraeclast is a harsh land afflicted by what characters outright call Nightmare, of course it's going to be filled with this.

  • The game gives you brief flashes of horror over the course of the first two Acts, before turning it up to max and leaving it there in Act 3. Special mention goes to the Lunaris Temple, especially Level 3. The monsters there are the results of Piety's "experiments", the entire area is flooded with blood, which will spawn blood elementals to try and kill you! On top of that, the area is full of increasingly high amounts of bodies in various conditions, and the ambiance and music is very unsettling, complete with faint screams. Did we forget to mention the fact that there are live people floundering in the blood in some areas?
    • And do you know how those people in Lunaris were so mangled/mutilated/mutated? Or how the Undyings that infest Act 3 came to be? Because they had Virtue Gems implanted into them in an attempt of Transhumanism. The very same things you place in your gear sockets, also known as 'Skill Gems'.
    • Act 4 makes Act 3 look like a leisurely stroll through a park. While to begin with it's just the basic desolate outdoor areas, things go rapidly downhill once you get into the mines. Anyone who suffers from Trypophobia (A fear of small holes, you are strongly advised against googling this) should never, ever, EVER zoom in on anything in the mines. All of the humanoid enemies are made up of horrible, pockmarked, spongy flesh, which seems to be growing out of the very walls and floors, with obvious human shapes protruding from the wall. Whether these shapes used to be human or are budding out of the walls is up to your interpretation. It gets worse when you find the Pocked Goliaths, who tear chunks of themselves off to use as projectiles which form into new Pocked Miner enemies, giving credence to the fact they may be budding out of the growths all around... It gets even worse when you reach The Belly of The Beast, which is one of the most revolting Womb Levels ever created. The first section is a hideous path through a huge bloody mass, with eyes and tendrils everywhere. The second area, titled The Bowels of the Beast / The Harvest, is like before, but with a huge layer of rank, fetid sewage on top of that. This eventually culminates when you reach the area with the final boss, which starts off with fighting on a gut-encrusted tendril-y mass that looks suspiciously like a sphincter, which you enter to fall into onto an island in a sea of blood, surrounded by three hearts which you have to destroy in a very gory fashion. It's quite telling when the two area of Act 4 which are implicitly said to be manifest nightmares are far, far less horrifying than these areas.
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    • Skipping ahead, you have to go back into this place during Act 9. To say that time has not been kind to the place is putting it gently. As a huge mass of flesh is wont to do, the whole place is half-decayed, turning to a disgusting brown-tinted grey. The first area is also almost completely dried up as well, really hammering home the damage you've done to it for an extra level of psychological horror as well.
    • Continuing with this, it actually gets even worse. In a mission in the fly-blown corpse of the beast, you have to go into several side areas that... Well, what's worse than a disgusting, fleshy hellscape inside a living creature? A disgusting, fleshy hellscape outside a living creature. These side areas are all normal ruins and caves, that have aspects of the Beast bleeding into them, leading into lots of sinews extruding from the walls, rotting cocoons, fleshy sewage on the floor, and so on. We also get to see a glimpse of this earlier in act 8, in Maligaro's Sanctum, which is basically a huge field filled with the fleshy plants, cocoons and festering remains on the ground. This is arguably downplayed later when one finds a Primordial Pool map, which somewhat recontextualises it as a spawning ground of life hence the bizarre organic growths, but it's still quite unsettling.
  • Act 5 and onward continue the nightmares. Right at the beginning of Act 5 you're dropped into the Slave Pits beneath Oriath, where you get an upfront view of how the Templar have treated the heretics and Karui slaves they've been capturing: endless rooms of torture equipment, prison cells, and execution chambers as well as legions of indoctrinated slaves who fight you just as hard as the Blackguards. Being exiled to Wraeclast was getting off easy.
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    • When you cross the city and fight your way into the Templar's headquarters, you come face to face with the quiet nightmare fuel of the origins of the entire religion: a story told in murals of the gods of Innocence and Sin, and how Sin was a cruel boy while Innocence was pure and just. One day, Sin stole a fish, lied about it, and beat up his brother Innocence to make him keep quiet, and for that, he was burned alive and his ashes infected all of the other people around him, forcing Innocence to stand eternal vigil and judge others who have been taken by Sin. Suddenly it makes total sense why the Templar are so horrifically brutal to even the slightest crimes: All Crimes Are Equal is a fundamental religious doctrine.
    • Then you come face-to-face with High Templar Avarius, a mad, power-drunk lunatic spamming fireballs and lightning everywhere and ranting about his godly status.... and then when Avarius died you fight the actual god possessing him, Innocence, a mad, enraged monstrosity of divine fire and violence screaming about how much of a god he is and how you should bow before him. It says something when, compared with Avarius and Innocence, High Templar Dominus was the sane one.
    • But it doesn't stop there. Upon defeating Innocence, it becomes apparent that this just made things worse, as at this point, without Innocence to hold it back, the Karui god Kitava has broken loose and his followers are overrunning the city. Now you're treated to running battles through the streets of the city where literal mounds of dead bodies are forming terrain-blocking features and psychopathic, demonic cultists are rampaging through the streets.
    • Even the one glimmer of hope in all this is still creepy: Sin, Innocence's brother, is a jet-black Winged Humanoid who eats the souls and power of other gods, and generally acts like a creepy, frighteningly serene voice of rational reason in a world going utterly mad all around you.
  • The Synthesis expansion takes place in a simulation of an immortal sage's mindscape... with Alzheimer's. You get to experience the horror of mental degradation firsthand as the land itself disintegrates into blue sparks, taking the memories of his family with them. Also, you're part of the simulation and if you don't run away from the wall of forgetfulness, no level of health or shields will save you from being deleted.
    • Although to be fair, the in-game nature of those memories (as opposed to the league trailer) is much less dramatic.
  • Synthesis lets you view many memories of various figures of Wraeclast's history as well as random people, and they involve such things as:
    • someone waking up in a spider den, webbed up and their stomach full of eggs about to open;
    • a group of Eternal miners on a strike, realizing they are being sealed in;
    • someone mourning at their lover's grave, just as said lover bursts through the ground as a zombie;
    • someone witnessing a burial while the "deceased" is alive and screaming for help inside the coffin — and everyone hears it and ignores for an unknown reason;
    • To make it worse, Cavas and Zana relive the memory through its owner's eyes, feeling their suffering like their own. Zana puts it best, after one of the rare pleasant memories:
      Zana: At long last, a memory that didn't make me want to curl up into a ball and weep!
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