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Path of Exile is a Free-to-Play 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 and the control scheme is obviously inspired by Diablo II: you control a single character from overhead perspective and engage in massive monster slaughter, occasionally dropping by the newest town to sell loot and pick up/turn in quests. The main difference is the skill system, wherein passive skills form a veritable skill forest based around three core attributes, 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).

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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 and convenience "upgrades" from the in-game shop. That said, GGG strongly oppose Freemium, so they are not going to hand out any exclusive gameplay advantages or content to "paying customers" any time soon.

Following the release of the game, GGG have created frequent updates for cosmetics, performance, and gameplay. Major changes are bundled in Expansion Packs which are a free addition to the game, though you can choose to buy "supporter packs" for exclusive cosmetics.

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    Expansions 
  • Sacrifice of the Vaal (released March 5, 2014) explored the history of the first civilization on Wraeclast, including special Vaal dungeons that pop up randomly throughout the game levels which provides the player specialized loot related to the Vaal, and access to their former Queen as a Bonus Boss. This expansion also introduced PvP modes and seasonal Challenge Leagues, temporary game realms allowing players to start characters within a fresh economy alongside new gameplay content.
  • Forsaken Masters (released August 22, 2014) introduced the titular Forsaken Masters, seven NPCs who were also exiled to Wraeclast but have carved a place for themselves with their unique skills. The Masters offer quests as players travel through the world, and grant access to in-game housing and crafting options.
  • The Awakening (released July 10, 2015) extended the main story with a long-awaited Act 4, where exiles travelled to the heart of Wraeclast to stop an impending cataclysm of Nightmare.
  • Ascendancy (released March 4th, 2016) introduced the Ascendencies for all classes, allowing them to further specialize their abilities. In order to unlock these Ascendencies players must traverse the Lord's Labyrinth, a lengthy dungeon filled with environmental traps that must be cleared without dying.
  • Atlas of Worlds (released September 2, 2016) largely improved on the end-game map experience and introduced the titular Atlas of Worlds, which structured progression though the map content and gave it a backstory involving its mysterious creator, the Shaper.
  • The Fall of Oriath (released August 5, 2017) introduces a massive storyline extension with Act Five situated in the exiles' homeland of Oriath, and Acts 6-10 which revisits the areas of the previous five acts. The Exiles return to Oriath to liberate it from the tyrannical rule of High Templar Avarius, but things take a dark, unexpected turn when the dark god Kitava, freshly reawakened by the death of the Beast, hatches a sinister scheme to consume the souls of all mortal life. Meanwhile, the original gods of Wraeclast are awoken by the death of the Beast and plot to take their vengeance on the mortals who had forgotten them. This streamlines the experience and level progression into a single play-through, incorporating the Cruel and Merciless difficulty levels in the process (Cruel begins after Act 5, Merciless after Act 10). In addition, a new Pantheon system is available that confers swappable passive bonuses for hunting down Wraeclast's enemies and gods.
  • War for the Atlas (released December 8, 2017) adds more content to the Atlas. A new entity called The Elder fights for control over the Shaper's realm, infecting the Atlas with his influence. The player can influence the Shaper's or the Elder's control by clearing a path for them around the Atlas. The expansion adds new maps, bosses, and powerful Shaper and Elder item mods.
  • Betrayal (released December 7, 2018) puts its main focus on the Exiles taking part in Jun Ortoi's investigation of the mysterious organization known as the Immortal Syndicate. The Syndicate investigation tree mechanic is introduced where players have to explore around Wraeclast for Immortal Syndicate encounters that further the investigation up through the Syndicate tree until the identity of the Syndicate boss is revealed. The expansion also adds a new batch of Masters featuring characters from the previous three challenge leagues, a revamp to the Mastercrafting and Hideout mechanics, as well as new Atlas layout, skills, revamped skills, and items.
  • Conquerors of the Atlas (releasing December 13, 2019) continues the story of War for the Atlas. Zana, with the help of a group of exiles, succeed in defeating the Elder, yet the exiles would return to the Atlas again and again, seeking to totally conquer it. In fear of the exiles' growing power and insanity, Zana sealed them within the Atlas and its way shut, but the exiles threaten to reopen the gates. The expansion adds a brand new Atlas with new influenced items, new endgame bosses, and even more powerful versions of support gems.

On November 15, 2019, during their first ExileCon, GGG announced Path of Exile 2, an upcoming sequel to the game. Set 20 years after the fall of Kitava and the old gods, an exile ventures into Wraeclast to fight the corruption which spreads across the continent once more. Path of Exile 2 features a new seven-act campaign, along with vast improvements to the engine and graphics, along with a revamped skill gem system and new features like shapeshifting skills. Despite its status as a sequel, it aims to overhaul the core game and shares the same gameplay features and endgame content with the original. A mobile version of Path of Exile is also in the works, using the map system as part of its core gameplay loop.

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
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Riker Maloney of the Immortal Syndicate often works this into his dialogue.
    A savage slaying, if I say so. I seek to circumvent a similar sentence. Tell me what it is you desire.
  • A God Am I: Dominus, Malachai - Pretty much anyone who works with thaumaturgy and lets it get to their head.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: For all the horrors Piety committed, she does a good job making you feel sorry for her in Act 4.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Pretty much any crime in the Oriathian Empire is punishable by Exile. One Letter of Exile you can read is for a woman exiled solely for running a tavern without a license. It's eventually revealed that the reason for this is because the main purpose of Exiles is to serve as test subjects in Piety and Dominus' thaumaturgy experiments.
  • 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.
  • Alternate Timeline: According to Word of God, each of the different seasonal leagues takes place on a different timeline.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The ranger, going by some of her battle-quotes. 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.
  • An Adventurer Is You: Many, many, MANY variants due to sheer flexibility of the game, but some of the notable ones:
    • The Archer: Bows and Wands are the ranged weapons available in this game.
    • The Black Mage: Uses various Elemental Powers to bring down their enemy. Fire, Ice, Lightning, take your pick.
    • The Minion Master: Summoner builds use Zombies, Spectres, Skeletons, and/or Phantasm to tank and do damage for them. Summon Raging Spirit build is technically a summoner build, but played more like an offensive spellcaster. It is also possible to do this with golems (normally one may only have one golem summoned), but it requires picking a specific Ascendancy class and/or several unique items. Dominating Blow and Herald of Purity are an alternative for players who wants to fight alongside their minions.
    • The Turret Master: Summons totems to do the attacking, healing, tanking, buffing, or other tasks for them.
    • Critical Hit Class: Built to maximize Power charge generation (Power charges increase critical hit chance and extra damage done by them).
    • Gradual Grinder: Some builds utilize damage over time to do most of their damage instead of hits. Various methods include utilizing built-in damage over time spells, Poison builds that stack up as many stacks of Poison as possible, Ignite to deal one big hit followed by large residual damage, and Righteous Fire builds, maximizing their health pool and regeneration and minimizing self-damage.
    • Status Effect Guy: Buffers are auramancers, a character archetype that takes as many passive spells that reserve a percentage of your mana pool as possible so others would focus on damage-dealing (when they have to play solo, they typically summon minions to support). Debuffers are Occultists, who can afflict enemies with more curses than any other class 'and' can cast curses on enemies that are explicitly curse-proof.
  • And Man Grew Proud: A small-scale example, but Wraeclast used to be the heartland of the Eternal 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. In truth, the cataclysm was deliberate, caused by a mad thaumaturgist with delusions of godhood.
    • The Empire isn't the first one to suffer this fate; the Vaal under Atziri collapsed in a similarly spectacular manner.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • When the Ascendancy expansion was first released, each individual character needed to complete the six Trials of Ascendancy to unlock the Labyrinth on that difficulty, which meant lots and lots of repetition for people who play several characters. The Prophecy update later changed it so that unlocking the Labyrinth on one character would open it up for all other characters on the same account and in the same league.
    • When you completed a Master's quest, the Master immediately teleported next to you, so you wouldn't have to backtrack to find them again. In addition, if you found, for example, the lair of a pack of infected animals before you meet Tora, she showed up to give you the quest before you went inside.
    • Delving is essentially an escort quest, yet the cart you're escorting will wait for you if you take a detour or, if you decide to run in front of it, will speed up to catch up, no matter your movement speed (which can get to rather absurd levels in this game)
    • If you're not willing to take your chances with using Orbs of Fusing on your item (and it's not uncommon for players to spend thousands of them on trying to fully link an item), there's a recipe that guarantees forging as many links as you want by paying a bit over the expected value of orbs needed to link X sockets. Same goes for Jeweller's orbs and, to a limited degree, Chromatic.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The Karui carvings you can find throughout Act 1 detail the downfall of the Karui after their initially successful invasion. The etchings found in the crossroads in Act 2 are a more local, and absolutely horrifying, account of the same cataclysm affecting the citizens of the Empire.
  • Arc Symbol: In Fall of Oriath, the title screen and many of the new enemies prominently feature a jagged red X. This is Kitava's symbol, representing the scars on his face left by Tukohama slashing his eyes out.
  • Arc Words: "Nightmare" is mentioned multiple times in the first half of the game, but its significance is not fully explained until later on.
  • Armor Piercing: Chaos damage bypasses your Energy Shield, making it a threat for those who rely on their Shield. There's two ways to prevent this: the Chaos Innoculation keystone ability gives you complete immunity to any and all Chaos damage but reduces your maximum HP to 1. Shavronne's Wrappings and Esh's Visage both prevent Chaos damage from bypassing Energy Shield, but good luck finding or buying one. (Other unique items have similar abilities, but have some limitation. Esh's Visage stops doing so when when you're at low life or mana; the unique ruby potion Coruscating Elixir does so for its duration — all of 8 seconds, and it removes all but 1 life when you use it while regenerating your energy shield rapidly; and the Solaris Lorica is a unique armor that simply prevents it, but is both Strength-based, meaning it doesn't contribute to your energy shield at all, and is a much lower-level item and so not as useful for the endgame).
  • 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.
  • Ascended Meme: Kuduku, the False God, while normally an underwhelming unique totem enemy in Act 1, gathered pagan worship from players as a Random Number God, who sacrifice crappy unique items in front of him in hope of his favor so they may six-link an item. In the Prophecy league, one of the prophecies requires you to kill Kuduku, who is with the prophecy assisted by Kadaka, the Goddess of Luck, which rewards you with Orbs of Fusing that are used for linking items.
  • Asteroids Monster: Shield Crab type monsters spawn a Spitter class monster on death. Apparently, the crab is only the carapace, according to the lore. Still doesn't explain how it has a fully-working face pincer...
    • A Rare monster with the "Fractured" modifier will turn into multiple copies of itself (or rather, the same monster type without any mods) when killed. There used to be a map mod that made every monster Fracture.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Vaal Skill Gems give more powerful skills compared to the normal one, but each of them is a Charged Attack (you gain charges, or souls, by killing enemies), so can't be used most of the time. Not only that, but they take up a gem slot that could be used by non-Vaal gems that are usable at any time. As a result, Vaal Skill Gems were almost entirely abandoned by the player base except for Vaal Haste. Three years later, the devs revamped them; Vaal Skill Gems still need to be charged for the Vaal ability to work, but you may use the normal version of the gem's ability freely at the same time, meaning that both versions can benefit from the same support gems. For example, Vaal Summon Skeleton summons a huge army of skeletons lead by a general, but can also be used as a normal Summon Skeleton gem to create skeleton warriors to aid you in combat. In addition, many of the Vaal Skill Gems were reworked to be more powerful and synergistic.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Battle Royale Game: On April Fools' Day, 2017, the game retooled itself into this genre as a joke, becoming Path of Exile: Royale temporarily. Winners were awarded "Rhoa dinners"note  as trophies to display in their customizable Home Base.
  • Big Bad: High Templar Dominus is the instigator of the plot, being responsible for the player character's exile and the revival of thaumaturgical research. But throughout the game there is talk of a "Nightmare", and its physical representation, The Beast. Talking to Siosa reveals the Vaal knew this being by name. All it needed was someone to control it...
    • In Fall of Oriath, High Templar Avarius seems to be this, only to be replaced by Kitava almost immediately after the former's death.
  • 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 Jerkass, the Witch is a 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; it seems likely what caused his exile was that he stopped being evil.
    • 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.
  • Blamed For Being Railroaded:
    • In the process of exploring the Vaal Ruins, you accidentally break a seal and release the Vaal Oversoul, which in turn ushers in The Night That Never Ends. Several characters in that act's town call you out for it, saying that you've destroyed the world with your thoughtless actions. That seal is blocking the only path through the ruins, which you have to get through in order to stop Piety and continue the plot.
    • One character calls you out for magically poisoning the giant tree whose roots were blocking the ruins' entrance, when simply chopping your way through is not an option (somehow, despite the many and varied bladed weapons you as an exile have access to).
    • In Fall of Oriath, several characters will chastise your character about killing the Beast in order to defeat Malachai before he reshaped the entire world as if it was something you'd just done on a whim for no reason.
  • 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.
  • 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. The result is people who 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 Malachai 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 cataclysm those who were implanted slowly degenerated into the mad monsters that are the Undying. In act 8, it's implied that Gemlings can recover at least some of their identity, which worries Maramoa, who muses that all this time they've been seen as mindless monsters.
    • Act 4 brings us the slave labourers in Highgate mines and the monsters inhabiting The Beast's innards.
  • Bonus Boss: Due to league content being optional, league bosses are this. Examples include Breachlords, Abyssal liches, First Ones' avatars from Bestiary, underground city bosses from Delve, Syndicate Mastermind from Betrayal, and Cortex from Synthesis.
  • Boring, but Practical: Survivability nodes, in particular increased Health and/or Energy Shield may not be as flashy as the Keystone Passives, but they're downright vital in progression, so much they might as well be One Stat to Rule Them All. The game mechanics are set to discourage Glass Cannon build; you being able to drain 100% of your health in one attack is irrelevant when the enemy oneshots you in the first place.
  • Boss Remix:
    • Izaro's theme mixes together both themes of the Labyrinth.
    • "High Templar Avarius" is based on "Chamber of Innocence", theme of the preceding location.
    • Final boss of the Synthesis expansion, Venarius, has a theme based on the Memory Nexus theme.
    • In general, it's common for league bosses to have a theme based on the league's more peaceful theme. In addition to Synthesis above, this applies to Abyss, Bestiary and Delve.
  • Boss Rush:
    • Shaper's Realm makes you go through several randomly chosen Atlas bosses before letting you fight the Shaper.
    • Unique map Hall of the Grandmasters consists of several gauntlets with multiple Wolfpack Bosses each.
    • Each phase of the Cortex boss fight is its own mini-boss you have to take down. These mini-bosses are closely based on lesser Synthesis bosses, potentially making this a Final-Exam Boss as well.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory:
    • The microtransaction shop uses the "pay for convenience" kind. The only practical advantages you can gain from spending money are extra tabs for your stash, improvements to your existing stash tabs, extra character slots, and extra guild member slots, none of which will provide any sort of in-combat advantage. The closest the game gets to straight up selling power is the currency stash tab, which can hold up to five thousand of the most common orb types in the gamenote  and this particular purchase is the player base's usual recommendation to the question "What should I spend my money on first?". The other usual recommendation is the premium stash tab, which basically gives players a license to put things up for sale on third-party trading websites (or the in-game Trade Market in the console version).
    • On the first day of April 2014, Grinding Gear Games decided to "nickel and dime" players into purchasing "wins". Apparently, their definition of "winning" is "a firework show" and the term "nickel and diming" meant "charging 15 cents". To their success, a lot of people paid to win.
    • In-universe example: The biggest contributing factor to Chitus passing the Labyrinth and becoming emperor was because he came from the richest family in the Empire and bought every advantage he could.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: The end of Act 5. After weakening Kitava's vessel with the Sign of Purity and beating on him the old fashioned way for a bit, Kitava finally wises up and destroys the Sign. Sin saves you from being obliterated on the spot, but you're left with a "cruel affliction" that permanently lowers your elemental and chaos resistance. Though you defeat him more definitively in Act 10, your resistance stats are lowered again, so presumably something similar happened.
  • 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.
  • Bullfight Boss: A number of bosses have charge or slam attacks that are broadly telegraphed but will ruin you if you don't avoid them, such as Brutus, Kole, the Vaal Oversoul, and Voll.
  • Call-Back: In the Delirium league, the voice that appears when you enter the mirror sometimes uses lines from other characters, though with a dark twist.
    Izaro: Oh, the weary traveler draws close to the end of the path!
    Voice: Oh, the weary traveler draws close to the end of their life!
  • Cast from Hit Points:
    • The Blood Magic keystone passive removes your mana and uses your life as your mana instead. Also comes in Skill Gem flavor, but in that case just that one skill costs HP instead of mana.
    • The Righteous Fire spell will deal 90% of the caster's max health per second, ending when they reach 1 HP, in exchange for dealing 40% of it in damage to any nearby enemies. The Vaal variant of the spell will instead instantly remove a large chunk of life and energy shield to create an extra-powerful burning aura for a short time.
  • Charged Attack: Vaal Skill Gems require the user to kill a certain number of enemies in their current zone before they can be used in exchange for substantially greater effects (Spark sends out 3 wandering jolts of lightning, Vaal Spark sends out several dozen). Flameblast is a hold-to-charge variety, increasing in damage and area (up to a cap) the longer it is cast before detonating. Additionally, some attacks such as Incinerate or Reave gain additional damage/effects the longer you can use them consecutively.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Enemies and items use the same color scheme. White is normal and has only the basic properties for the type of item or enemy, blue has one or two random properties, yellow has a randomized name and three to six random properties, and dark orange is unique, with a defined name and list of traits.
  • Color-Coded Item Tiers: The game has a color coding similar to the Diablo series: regular items are white, magical ones are blue, rares are yellow, and uniques are orange. Quest items are green (but they aren't equippable). Some players and even the wiki have been known to refer simply to white, blue, gold and orange items.
  • Combat Tentacles: Whipping Miscreations and Tentacle Miscreations, the latter of which uses them as Organitek machineguns. Malachai also uses them.
  • Commonplace Rare: Fishing Rods are weak but extremely rare weapons that can only drop by wearing a specific unique tricorne. Another equally rare item is the bait, an Albino Rhoa Feather you can only acquire from an albino rhoa, which you can find very, very rarely in one specific zone. It is said that these items are required to fish, but very few know how to fish as the developers have relentlessly silenced anyone who would attempt to disclose fishing secrets (supposedly).
  • Cosmetic Award: Completing enough challenges in a challenge league grants your character league-exclusive cosmetics. Also, some race events and lotteries have microtransactions from the shop as rewards.
  • Cosmic Motifs: The Reality Warper known as The Shaper is associated with this motif. His attacks resemble black holes and he summons minions that look like living clusters of stars. Maps on the Atlas of Worlds and items affected by The Shaper's influence also have a starry space background. His lair resembles a patchwork of parchment floating in the void of space.
  • 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 who sent you to Wraeclast, for one.
  • Creator Cameo: Once in a blue moon, a lucky player may encounter the Master Fisherman, Krillson of Winding Pier fame. He's voiced by Chris Wilson of Grinding Gear Games, the lead developer of Path of Exile. How to complete his mission is another story.
  • Creator Provincialism: As one might expect from a New Zealand-based developer, the game's world takes a lot of cues from the history of the Oceania region; the titular practice of Exile evokes the deportation of criminals to Australia, and the Karui are a clear Fantasy Counterpart Culture for the Maori.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The paintings in the Haunted Mansion appear innocent from a distance but become horrifying when approached.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Because of the huge skill tree, it is very easy to fall into this category or its opposite extreme.
  • 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: A recurring theme.
    • Almost every summon is some variation on The Undead, making most Summoners a variation on the Necromancer.
    • The Beast is a monstrous Eldritch Abomination the size of a mountain and responsible for the legions of undead roaming Wraeclast and the reality-warping magical corruption across the continent. It's also completely benevolent and was never made to be hostile; in fact it was made to protect humanity by suppressing the gods. It wasn't until Malachai took it over that the Beast's powers were turned to horrific evil.
    • Sin himself is a jet-black Winged Humanoid who looks like a nightmarish demonic shadow. He's also probably the single most powerful force for good in the entire setting.
  • Death Course: The Labyrinth is one giant series of zones filled with traps, originally made as a way to choose a new emperor.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Being killed will only ever set you back to the town or a "checkpoint" (usually the area entrance) losing none of your items or, until after Part 1, experience. Once Part 2 hits, you suffer a 5% experience penalty every death, but even that will never remove levels. After Part 2 (i.e. once you're in the endgame grind), death instead takes 10% experience, though you still can't lose levels. On most bosses, even your progress in the fight wont reset because your last checkpoint was in the boss arena, or close enough that any number of speed boosting items gets you back to it before they have a chance to heal. The only other consequence of death is on Hardcore mode, where dying once removes that character from Hardcore permanently, though even then nothing stops you from just continuing on in standard mode, with all the bonus items Hardcore gave you up to that point.
  • Defector from Decadence: Several characters are former Blackguards.
    • The Templar, judging from his comments after defeating General Gravicius, was relatively high up and well-connected in the religious hierarchy.
    • Helena defected after Piety sent her group to die against Fidelitas. She was sceptical of their cause even before that.
    • Petarus fell in love with a captured exile Vanja and they escaped together, later joining a Maraketh community.
  • Deflector Shield: Several armors have an Energy Shield stat, which grants you one of these; your Intelligence improves how strong it is.
  • Demonic Possession: In Fall of Oriath, the gods do this in order to manifest themselves on the physical plane. Innocence uses Avarius, the Brine King uses Nessa, Ralakesh uses Greust, and Kitava uses the giant statue seen on the title screen.
  • 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. There are also crafting recipes to add a specific mod to an item or even manipulate what kind of mods it can roll.
    • Skills in this game are highly customizable. Let's say you enjoy using Fireball. Link it to Multiple Projectiles, and you shoot multiple Fireballs in one cast. Link it to Chain, and it turns into Pinball Projectile. Link it to Spell totem, and you instead put down a Totem that shoots Fireballs. Link it to all three, and you put down a Totem that shoots multiple pinballing Fireballs.
  • Developers' Foresight: 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.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The Final Boss of the main storyline is Kitava, though you did receive divine assistance in the fight. After that, there are the Shaper and the Elder.
  • Difficulty Spike:
    • The Vaal Oversoul in Act 2, and then the Lunaris Temple in Act 3, both considerably step up the difficulty from what came before. Then you get to 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.
    • Act 4 pretty much turns the difficulty curve into a difficulty wall, with both Daresso's Dream and Kaom's Dream throwing swarms of particularly nasty enemies at you, and every boss fight - particularly Daresso - is likely to either bring your hardcore run to an early end or simply cause your death count to skyrocket.
    • If you enter the Labyrinth right after you unlock it, then you are guaranteed to be underleveled for it (without twinking). Even if you're thorough in earlier acts, the highest level you're likely to be upon reaching the Sarn encampment, from which you can access the Labyrinth, is 28; the Labyrinth itself is 33. (If you haven't done the act 3 trials yet, you will be a little higher, but still.) The game isn't going to hand over those Ascendency Points and Enchantments that easily. On the bright side, if you do have a good build and/or are well-equipped you can level very quickly inside the Labyrinth.
    • Hitting Act 5 in Fall of Oriath sends the difficulty skyrocketing; rare enemies can kill you in a few seconds if you're not on your toes, unique enemies become extremely deadly cases of Boss in Mook's Clothing, and actual bosses become Bullet Hell titans with massive health pools and incredible damage output that can kill even a well-built end-game character in an instant. It's not uncommon for players to remark upon how easy later acts seem.
  • Disk One Nuke: Unique armor Tabula Rasa doesn't provide any protection or stat bonuses, but always has six linked white sockets and no level requirement. This lets you use your primary skill with five supports (which you normally can't do until late endgame) and mix and match supports as you want, allowing you to breeze through early game; however, in the late game it loses to any six-linked and properly colored armor.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: 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 — depending on your opinion, to a greater or lesser degree. Her house was burnt down, most likely as part of an attempt to kill her, but instead of going after her attackers directly, she murdered their children.
  • Doomed Hometown: In Conquerors of the Atlas, Oriath is destroyed thanks to Sirus, and the rest of Oriathans take refuge in nearby Karui shores. The Oriathans are forced to live with the race they enslaved.
  • 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 Boss:
    • Solaris and Lunaris in Act 8. The boss battle alternates between fighting both of them at once and fighting one while the other assists.
    • Uber Elder encounter puts you against both the Elder and insane Shaper.
    • "Twinned" map modifier and "Deadly Twins" prophecy double the map's unique boss or bosses, making it either a Dual Boss or a Wolf Pack Boss.
  • Dual Wielding: All one-handed weapons can be dual wielded, including two different types (i.e. axe and sword), though this is not advised due to spreading of passives. You also can't dual wield a melee and ranged weapon together.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Mostly played straight by the Labyrinth - the many (many, many) traps you run across are still every bit as deadly now as they were when the labyrinth was first built. Here and there, though, you'll come across wrecked traps, or fallen rubble blocking off tracks.
  • 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 he asks you to aid with his resurrection.
  • Eldritch Location: The Atlas itself, as of Conquerors of the Atlas. A seemingly endless universe filled with unique worlds, simply being within the Atlas for any length of time causes one's sanity to slowly erode and their greatest vices and flaws to become amplified to toxic levels. Most notably, while the Corruption in the main world is mostly limited to Wraeclast, it is all over the Atlas, and no one, not even Zana, understands how that's even possible.
  • Enemy Civil War:
    • In some parts of Sarn in Act 3, you can see blackguards fighting guardian ribbons from Solaris Temple.
    • In Act 8, also set in Sarn, worshipers of Solaris and Lunaris battle each other on the Harbor Bridge, middle of the road connecting their temples.
    • The theme of Legion league. Five armies from Wraeclast's history are duking it out in an eternal war in another realm, and it's the player's job to bring them out to your realm and kill them for delicious loot.
  • Enemy Mine: Piety helps the player in the final encounter in Act 4.
  • 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.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The Vastiri Deserts in Act 9 are full of raptor-like creatures called Rhex. There are Maraketh archers using them as mounted cavalry.
  • Evil Is Visceral: Once the the player enters the interior of The Beast in Act 4, this trope hits in full force. If Wraeclast has a hell, its bowels are quite bloody. For bonus points, the final boss's chamber features giant, bleeding hearts.
  • Evolving Weapon: Invoked with Oni-Goroshi. The normal method of acquiring it involves farming the very first zone for likely hours. Its damage scales with your level, has a powerful double-edged effect that can be optimized in the late game, and comes automatically six-linked. It even has unique dialogue that triggers across all acts, so it was designed to be used from the start to all the way into the endgame.
  • Exact Words:
    • The skill Herald of Thunder, unlike other lightning skills, cannot shock enemies. The unique mask Three Dragons causes lightning damage to freeze enemies instead of shocking them. This includes Herald of Thunder, since the skill doesn't say it can't freeze.
    • The bonuses and stats from gears and the skill tree use tons of these. Make sure you pay attention to, and know what Increased, More, Reduced, Less, Global, Elemental Damage, etc means, and the differences.
  • Exploited Immunity: Possible in character building. There are ways to mitigate certain negative conditions (such as bleeding, poison, or curses), ways to reliably inflict them to yourself, and ways to benefit from them. A common example is the generic Spell Totem build, which includes unique robe Soul Mantle (empowers your totems, but applies a random curse when your totem dies), two Kikazaru rings (greatly reduced effect of curses), and Self-Flagellation jewel (increases your damage per curse on you).
  • Expospeak Gag: A meta one. One of the enemies you can encounter in Act 2 is the "Plummeting Ursa," a fanged koala-like monster that will look oddly familiar to people who know Australian folklore.
  • 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 Miscreation 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
    • Doedre Darktongue is, if you look at the art on her divination card or Steam trading card, a well-armored thin blonde witch, probably pretty good-looking. When you fight her, she's naked... and in most of her fights is a bloated, legless purple meatball with tentacle hair who vomits blood at you.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Proud Warrior Race Karui are a very obvious one for the Maori; as the game originates from New Zealand, it was likely an obvious inspiration.
    • The Awakening expansion adds the an in-game appearance of the Maraketh, a Japanese-flavored culture, only with a strong matriarchal bent.
  • Field of Blades: The site of Marceus Lioneye's last stand against the Karui hordes features his tattered standard blowing in the wind amidst a textbook example of this trope.
  • Fighting Spirit:
    • Ancestral Call support summons spirits that lash out at nearby enemies when you attack in melee.
    • Ancestral Protector and Ancestral Warchief totems manifest a similar spirit that attacks independently.
    • Mirage Archer support creates a spectre that attacks random enemies with your bow skills.
    • Conquerors of the Atlas each have a second spiritual body that floats above them and does all the attacking in their boss fights.
  • Fire, Ice, Lightning: The three types of elemental damage, which do not count as physical damage. There's also a fourth "element", chaos, but it's not considered "elemental damage" for game purposes.
  • Flash Step:
    • Flame Dash is a short-range teleport that hits enemies you move through with fire damage and leaves burning ground in its path.
    • Frostblink is similar, but instead freezes enemies on your path.
    • Flicker Strike and Consecrated Path teleport you right in front of an enemy to hit with your melee weapon.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Someone, possibly Malachai, left a note on the map device in the Eternal Laboratory, overjoyed over its completion. At the time they wrote it, they were about to explore the "Dreamlands" inside. They have, quite obviously, not returned. This is the same map device players run end game content, including the revived Queen Atziri, on. With the release of Act 4, this is confirmed: The Nightmare ends up being the force responsible for pretty much everything going wrong in Wraeclast. Towards the end, its revealed that the Nightmare is in fact Malachai of the Eternal Empire, who transformed himself into a monster in order to bring his own twisted version of "purity" to the world.
    • If you look carefully right after defeating Piety in the Lunaris Temple, you'll see a strange portal form, which sucks her body into it. Act 4 reveals that this was Malachai pulling her into the Beast so he could mutate and brainwash her for his own ends.
  • Friendly Ghost: In the Library of Sarn in Act 3, the player comes across a Karui ghost named Siosa Foaga, the only member of Sarn's intelligentsia not to lose their marbles. He can provide a sidequest and and Info Dump regarding the Vaal, the fall of the Eternal Empire, and to an extent, Nightmare itself.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:
    • It's mentioned at one point that Piety used to be a prostitute to pay for her magical studies. After she graduated, so to speak, she found a better paycheck as one of Dominus' Co-Dragons, and become The Dreaded of Wraeclast's inhabitants.
    • The Exile is noted to be this as well by some characters; the implications are that even the Templar and Scion are just a midrank officer and a minor noblewoman noted only for her strange abilities.
  • Fusion Dance: The boss of Act 9, Unholy Trinity, is a monstrous fusion of Maligaro, Shavronne and Doedre.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Zig-zagged. On the one hand, the game's whole skill system is based on socketing "skill gems" into gear, the gems giving characters all the superhuman abilities (shooting fireballs, explosive arrows, ability to teleport-and-stab etc.), and the origin of those gems and their side-effects are pretty much the main plot. Even Ascendancy classes are explained by the story of the Lord's Labyrinth, and the story of that links into the main story of the fall of the Eternal Empire, Malachai's ascension, and so on. But occasionally you get things like Nessa, in Act 1, saying she has no medicines for the ill and wounded, all the while selling a number of health restoring flasks.
    • According to in-game lore, in previous eras Tukohama could push (and smack) Kitava around more or less with impunity. In the game itself, Tukohama is the Warm-Up Boss for part II and Kitava is the big bad who could mop the floor with him.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: The final boss of Act Six, The Brine King.
  • Glamour Failure: The unique boss Mirage of Bones will spam Blink Arrow and Mirror Arrow to teleport around and fill the screen with copies of itself and keep the player guessing. The fake ones, however, are rooted in place, while the real boss will move around.
  • Glass Cannon: Defied. The way damage is calculated in this game makes sure all offense and no defense simply won't work in higher levels. The closest may be the Necromancer, with more points dedicated to improve their minions, but even they are expected to have plenty of Hit Points to tank a blow or two.
  • Going Native:
    • In Azmeri settlement in act 2 you can meet Eramir, an exiled scholar who now acts as the village's wise man. Helena, a defected Blackguard, joins them midway through the act, and remains there when you revisit in act 7.
    • Petarus and Vanja were welcomed into a Maraketh town and adopted local traditions.
  • Gorn: The depths of the Lunaris Temple actually outdo the Durance of Hate in bloodiness, with drainage pipes running completely red and entire reservoirs full of blood, not to mention all the torture equipment, corpses impaled on stakes, and piles upon piles of emaciated dead bodies. Even worse, people can be seen trying desperately to stay afloat in some of the larger bodies of blood.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: The third act of the game is set in Sarn, the capital of an empire that was overthrown shortly before the cataclysm that ruined Wraeclast. A lot of areas (especially places like the slums, the docks, and the warehouse district) have graffiti urging the workers to rise up against the emperor. It is implied that this was the work of Victario, a popular poet and member of the Purity Rebellion.
  • 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.
    • Using the skill Ice Crash or Tectonic Slam while unarmed also qualifies, as your character literally punches the ground to make a bunch of ice explosions or fissures appear.
    • With the Doryani's Fist unique gloves, you get your own Dominus' "Touch of God" ground-punching lightning attack for personal use.
  • 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.
    • Subverted with the Sixth Ranger class Scion, whoe starts in the exact center of the skill tree with perfectly balanced stats, allowing her to do any build with care; her first skill gem even combines smashing and shooting — it allows her to throw a spectral copy of a melee weapon at enemies.
    • The Karui culture forbids its men to use any kind of missile weapon. King Kaom's victory over Marceus Lioneye came by realizing that this prohibition didn't apply to women, surprising Lioneye by instituting the second half of this trope.
  • Hailfire Peaks: mostly averted in the main game, with logical environmental transitions, discrete environments in different areas, and neither snowy mountains nor volcanic areas particularly common (two areas of each). An interesting variant occurs in the Delve expansion content, where the Azurite Mine's randomly generated biomes can, and in fact often will, sandwich an icy Frozen Hollow biome in between a Magma Fissure biome and a Sulphur Vents biome, with passages connecting them. An ice cave separated from molten magma or boiling water by a few feet of rock, long term - I see your Convection Shmonvection and raise you "Conduction, Shmonduction." The Azurite Mine is pretty heavily implied to be an Eldritch Location, though.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Yeena, the magic accessories saleswoman from Act 2.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Several areas and enemies make plenty of creepy sounds, but special mention goes to a certain cave ambiance, which features incomprehensible whispering and a realistic cat's cry.
  • 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?
    • The Conquerors were once exiles who defeated the Elder, but continued to run through the Atlas countless more times and became too powerful and too insane for their own good. In essence, they are the player characters who spent thousands of hours grinding the endgame.
  • 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 and swirling eldritch shadows in the sky.
  • Horrifying the Horror: The Vaal Empire was one of the most powerful empires ever to exist, exploiting virtue gems and holding massive blood sacrifices. Through Incursions into the past, your single exile manages to intimidate them enough for them to raise entire armies and stockpile armors and weapons, just to defend themselves against you.
  • Identity Amnesia: In the Synthesis league, you're assisted by an old, almost senile spirit called Cavas and you dive into fragments of memories scattered about the world to find them. Most of them aren't his. His real identity is High Templar Venarius, the same guy who tried to hold Zana for ransom years ago and directly responsible for freeing the Elder. Once he remembers who he was, he also remembers he was going to rewrite everyone's memory to unite everyone under his order in a fight against the Elder.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: From easier to harder: Normal, Cruel, Merciless. These have since been down away with with the addition of part 2 of the story, but are still used to describe the different difficulties of the Lord's Labyrinth, in addition with a fourth difficulty, Eternal.
  • Impossible Item Drop: In addition to the usual trope of non-humanoid enemies dropping various equipment, in Metamorph league the player has to collect organs of random monsters, even when the monster couldn't logically have any organs.
  • Improbable Use of a Weapon: Ranger's Tactician ascendancy from PoE 2 lets you use sword and axe melee skills with your bow.
  • 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.
  • Injured Vulnerability: Weapons or skills with the "Culling Strikes" property will instantly kill any enemy that is below 10% of their max health. This comes in handy against Rare or Unique monsters, for whom 10% of their health is still a lot of damage.
  • Jerkass: A number of characters, but the standout is probably 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. Kira in act 4 is similar, but more passive-aggressive — complaining that she could have done it if her leader hadn't forbidden her from making the attempt.
    • Played with in the 2nd half of the campaign. Greust falls in love with Helena and sacrifices himself inspecting a cursed artifact that washed up near the village, becoming the host for one of the gods while Kira kidnaps her leader and sacrifices her to the gods for power.
  • King Mook: Each area has a unique Mini-Boss monster. When they are not involved in any quests, they are just stronger and fancier versions of regular monsters.
  • Kingmaker Scenario: A sidequest in Act 9 turns into one of these: you're sent to rescue the Maraketh's leader, Oyun, from rebels led by her former lieutenant. You fail to save her, but recover her proof of leadership, and are left deciding whether Oyun should be succeeded by the traditionalist Irasha or the progressive-but-eccentric Tasuni. Your choice doesn't affect anything but some dialogue, though.
  • 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 and is a leader in this world's equivalent to the SS.
  • Limited-Use Magical Device: Path of Exile follows the Diablo II model and has only two types of scrolls, Scroll of Wisdom (Identify) and Portal Scroll, but with a few twists. First, both types serve as Practical Currency, since in-game vendors don't accept gold as payment. Secondly, early game enemies rarely drop whole Scrolls of Wisdom, so you'll have to put them together from five Scroll Fragments (which are most commonly acquired by selling common items). Lastly, you can skip Portal Scrolls entirely if you find the colorless Portal gem, which takes up one active skill slot but frees up some inventory space.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Killing a frozen enemy may cause them to shatter.
  • Loot Boxes: Downplayed. "Mystery boxes" are available in the MTX shop for a relatively small price and contain cosmetics from a box-specific list.
  • Loot-Making Attack: In a general sense, stacking the "Increased Item Quantity" modifier on equipment essentially turns every attack into a Loot Making Attack to a degree. The (long-discontinued) aptly named "Item Quantity Support" passive skill gem turns any skill gems linked to it into a more powerful version of this trope at its maximum gem level.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Anyone "blessed" by Nightmare, via human experimentation or otherwise, gains incredible abilities and particularly nasty Body Horror. Double subverted with Shavronne, who was obsessed with beauty — she got all the superpowers and none of the Body Horror, but then inflicted it on herself mechanically to make herself "perfect". (That said, of all of such characters, she is probably the least horrifying...)
  • Ludicrous Gibs: There are some skill which, if you kill enemies with them, result into the enemies exploding into bloody chunks.
  • Mad Doctor: Malachai, 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 Sins 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; 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 if they meet the stat requirements. Templars, particularly the Inquisitor Ascendancy, are intended for this sort of play-style - in theory, anyways.
  • 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.
    • Unique items with bonuses that scale based on attributes, such as The Whispering Ice, start out fairly weak but can be some of the strongest items in the game with the proper build.
    • Some unique items scale with the player's level. The most notable example is Oni-Goroshi. You can find it at early as the first zone (if you intentionally grind for it for several hours). It comes with 6 linked sockets and its abilities scale with your level, making it able to be used all the way from the beginning to the end of the game.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Path of Exile 2's character screen features all the classes lined up in the gallows. Your character of choice survives the hanging from a lucky rope break.
  • Marathon Level: The Lord's Labyrinth must be fully completed in one run - there are no waypoints, and dying or portaling out forces you to start from the beginning.
  • Master of None: Another easy trap to fall into when designing your character.
    • In earlier versions, some players considered the Duelist as a Master of None, as he is well-rounded in physical combat but not as hard-hitting or tanky as the Marauder, less efficient in ranged combat than the Ranger, not nearly as effective with crits as the Shadow, and ultimately not as versatile as the Scion. Some skill tree rebalancing has fixed his inefficiencies and Duelists now have good survivability on top of damage across all three Ascendancy classes.
    • After Ascendency, the Scion became one of these. Ascendancy classes allowed every other class to focus on their specialty and access to powerful passives. The Scion has only one Ascendancy class (other classes get three options), the Ascendant, whose notable passives give a little bit of everything from another Ascendancy class, but not the best parts of them. They also got the short end of the stick when the final Labyrinth was introduced. Every other class got to pick up another major passive, and while Ascendants don't have to sacrifice an Ascendancy class passive for a second skill tree starting point, they are still limited to two of them. This issue was addressed by just making the Ascendant's passives a lot stronger.
  • Metal Slime: As of The Awakening, sometimes you may run into ghosts named "Tormented (something)". These ghosts tend to flee on sight while buffing other enemies they pass by, and if not defeated quickly they will escape the map, depriving you of their drops. As they are considered Unique enemies based on their names' color (gold), they tend to drop good stuff. However, if their path takes them across a rare monster, they will possess it, buffing it, making their presence permanent until the map resets or the rare is killed, and increasing the rewards they give further still.
    • Essence league's essence-bearing rare monsters are tough to kill even by rare monster standards and have to be found and specifically released to fight them.
  • Me's a Crowd: The Blink Arrow and Mirror Arrow skills create a duplicate of the character with their bow and quiver. Normally the cooldown time for the skill is the same as the duration, meaning that you can only have one of each. Since there is no actual cap on the duplicates (unlike other minion skills), with the proper build it's possible to deploy a lot of clones.
  • The Minion Master: Anyone using Zombies, Skeletons and Spectres, but especially the Necromancer Ascendancy Class. Multiple gears and passives can turn these into Elite Mooks and beyond.
  • 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.
  • Mortality Phobia: Brutus the Warden let a bunch of necromancers subject himself to various experiments in an attempt to become immortal. Far from achieving it, said experiments merely turned him into a mindless monster (albeit one that's still alive and kicking 250-odd years later). Many of the most notorious thaumaturgists' ultimate goal was to achieve immortality, including Malachai. Inverted with the Witch, whom several characters note seems to have something of a fondness for death.
  • Mythology Gag: Given the game's status as a spiritual successor to Diablo II, several areas and enemies will look familiar.
    • The Cannibal enemies of Act I release their spirit when they die; similar to the Corrupt Rogue enemies of Diablo II. A special unique cannibal in one early location has an extended spirit-releasing animation, just like Blood Raven, a unique Corrupt Rogue.
    • Path of Exile has its own Den of Evil (an early dungeon in Diablo II's first area) in the form of the Fetid Pool, with an NPC's quest requiring that you completely cleanse it of enemies. Both areas even have a type of enemy that will resurrect fallen allies of a certain type.
    • Touching the Ancient Seal in the Vaal Ruins of Act II causes a magical darkness to fall on the entire area, reminiscent of the Tainted Sun quest.
    • The Durance of Hate, Mephisto's dungeon in Act III, features copious blood and gorn. The Lunaris Temple, also in Act III, has more than its share of the same.
    • The fiery lakes, houses and skull mounds in Kaom's Fortress resemble the River of Flame and Chaos Sanctuary areas.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Brutus, Lord Incarcerator; The Vaal Oversoul; The Chamber of Sins. Honorable mentions to many unique monsters, such 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. And the design and uniforms of the Oriath Templars don't even attempt to be subtle.
    • The Fall of Oriath expansion features red banners with the black imperial emblem in a white circle in the middle, as well as that same emblem inside a wreath clutched by an eagle with outstretched wings, drawn in an angular style clearly inspired by the iconography of the Third Reich. As in, it takes side-by-side comparison to find the differences.
  • Necessary Drawback:
    • A central concept of the game. 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 a 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. In fact, there's only 4 Keystonesnote  without any actual drawbacks; one of them requires you to have first taken another Keystone that reduces your Armor and Evasion by 50%, another does absolutely nothing unless you are at <35% health, and a third has no effect at all if you aren't playing multiplayer.
    • This extends even to Unique items, where many Uniques tend to have drawbacks in exchange for their unique attributes. Entire builds have been built around these items to provide truly unique playing experience.
  • 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.
  • Nerf: The Awakening patch brought a few very significant nerfs: Life/Mana Leech was significantly reduced and requires passives to increase its normally poor leech rate (with only instances of leech stacking when hitting multiple enemies to compensate). The Reduced Mana support gem was changed to not lower Mana Reservation, reducing the number of auras a player can have overall (Enlighten was changed to lower Mana Costs including Reservation, but at a much lower percentage regardless), and Multiple Projectile gems no longer stack on the same attack ("shotgunning"), making those gems less essential for projectile skills. Blood Rage was also changed to not guarantee generating a Frenzy Charge on kill, which was a major setback to Flicker Strike builds.
    • For Fall of Oriath, damage-over-time effects that scaled with damage (Ignite, Poison, Bleed) had to be reworked from the ground up to remove double dipping abuse. Previously, these effects scaled off of the final damage of the hit that applied it, so it caused them to not only scale off of modifiers that normally wouldn't affect it (for example, if you increase the area damage of an AoE skill, the DoT also indirectly increases off of it), if a modifier applies to both the hit and the DoT, the DoT would gain increased damage on top of the increased damage of the hit, which meant its damage increased twofold. Now these effects are classified as "Ailments", which scale off only from the base damage of the hit (before any damage modifiers are applied) and have its own category for Ailment damage modifiers and critical strike multiplier.
    • The most recent GGG Forums Manifesto commentary on Patch 3.1 is titled "Path of Nerfs", written by GGG's lead developer. It's almost as though the company's own vision of the game meta has intentionally become about boom or bust gameplay patching...
  • 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.
    • "The Fall of Oriath" expansion has this two fold, stinging even more since the actions that cause them were entirely heroic. First, killing Dominus is revealed to have engulfed Oriath in chaos as a brutal war wages between the revolting Karui slaves and the legions of the new High Templar, with the city's innocent civilians caught in the middle. Second, the deaths of Malachai and the Beast end up causing the original gods of Wraeclast to return, and it quickly becomes clear that they are not friendly.
    • Act 9 reveals that when the Exile killed Malachai and subsequently the Beast, its blood began to flow into the Aqueduct, severely damaging Highgate's ecosystem.
    • Fall of Oriath also turns this trope on Sin, for creating the Beast. He intended the Beast to simply suppress the gods, but he also designed the Beast to be gentle and to not have any ambition or aggression. As a result, it was entirely powerless to stop an ambitious human from breaching inside it and taking over it's body, and using its Reality Warper powers to corrupt Wraeclast.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: Your mooks, if you want. There are also Necromancer enemies who send undead at you.
  • No-Harm Requirement: Back when Vorici was a Forsaken Master, he would sometimes give out missions that imposed these sorts of restrictions on you - such as killing a boss enemy while keeping at least one of their guards alive or wiping out the boss's guards without killing the boss themselves. Just as long as they don't die. One of the missions was even keeping them at low health for a couple of seconds. The faster clear speeds became, the more Vorici's missions became the Scrappy Mechanic.
    • Removed as of the Betrayal patch. There's no more Master Assassin missions and even catching beasts has been changed so you catch them by "killing" them.
  • Nostalgia Level: Starting location of PoE 2 looks and plays very similar to the beginning of the original campaign. You Wake Up on a Beach, pick up your first weapon and skill gem, fight your way through zombies and crabs, and take down a giant zombie before entering the first town.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The Warden's Quarters are completely devoid of enemies... right up to when you run into Brutus.
  • Not the Intended Use:
    • The "Offering" skills (Flesh Offering, Bone Offering, and Spirit Offering) destroy enemy corpses to temporarily buff any minions you might have. However, even if your chosen build doesn't make use of minions, they're quite handy on Necromancer heavy maps, to ensure that what you kill stays that way.
    • Temporal Chains curse slows the target, and makes temporary effects on it to expire slower too. For that secondary effect, some esoteric builds apply the curse to themselves to achieve permanent uptime of certain buffs that otherwise have very limited duration.
  • One-Hit Point Wonder: Chaos Inoculation passive skill sets the player's health to 1 and makes them immune to the only damage type that can bypass energy shields, meaning that if their energy shield ever runs out, they will die in one hit to anything. They can combine this with Eldritch Battery, which causes energy shield to protect mana instead of life, fully becoming this trope (they shouldn't, but they can).
  • Organ Drops: In the Metamorph league, you collect the organs of your fallen enemies to give to Tane Octavius for him stick into his machine to build a Metamorph enemy.
  • 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 that look going with a 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 so that multiple players don't buzzsaw through content balanced for one player, but also rewards them with more XP and better loot.
  • Power Crystal: Skill gems.
  • Practical Currency: The loot you sell is traded for Scrolls of Wisdom (identification) or various Orbs that are used to improve your equipment. This actually makes the currency both not worthless at higher levels, and also makes selling regular (non-magical) loot not a waste, since you get scrolls to identify your magical loot (but you don't from selling magical items). That said you can also trade orbs (which you get from selling magical items) 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.
    • The Ascendancy expansion adds Ascendancy Classes, giving each class a choice of three sets (or just one big set for the Scion) of powerful passive skills to suit their specialties, and even within its own small tree there are multiple options to choose from. For example, the Occultist class for Witches have options for curse enhancements, energy shield bonuses, chaos resistance and life regen reduction, and power charge generation.
  • Power Creep: The average clearspeed in Path of Exile in its early days is at a snail's pace compared to today's. The game's gradual increase in damage can be attributed to not just buffs to numbers and passive skill tree changes, including large additions like jewel sockets and Ascendancy classes, but also crafting. New leagues and expansions added ways to modify items to give them more powerful modifiers and easier ways to acquire them. While the devs do acknowledge the jump in power in the highest end of item crafting over time, it's also compensated by the fact the method of acquiring the best crafting options have increased with it.
  • Pun: The Arcmage is not The Archmage, but an enemy who casts Arc.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The wood etchings in Act 2 tell the story of a village woman losing her family to The Cataclysm. As her husband and daughters are turned to zombies and actively hunt her, she first seeks solace in the Moon, thought to be a manifestation of God, then she seeks shelter in a temple, and then declares that God has forsaken them and she shall "rejoin her family..."
  • Rain of Arrows: The Rain of Arrows skills does exactly what you would expect it to do. Blast Rain and Toxic Rain also do this, but fire a barrage of explosive arrows or poisonous pods instead.
  • Random Effect Spell:
    • Elemental Hit is a skill that strikes the target with a blast of a random element.
    • Wild Strike skill works the same way, but also delivers a completely different effect based on the element: Fire creates an explosion, Cold releases a wave, and Lightning releases an arcing bolt.
    • Vaal Orb impredictably modifies an item, including adding a special extra mod, completely rerolling all its mods, or doing nothing. No matter the result, the items becomes impossible to modify, meaning It Only Works Once (per item). Altar of Corruption takes it even further, with the worst result being complete destruction of the item.
  • 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 all the way up to Unique. 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.
  • Recollection Sidequest:
    • The old endgame quest (between Atlas of Worlds and Conquerors of the Atlas) involved collecting memory fragments of The Shaper, which tell the story of how he progressed from an ordinary man into a Reality Warper and his battle with The Elder for control of the Atlas of Worlds.
    • Cavas is a spirit who has forgotten almost everything, including his identity as High Templar Venarius. He asks the Exile to enter his memories, which manifest as small additions to the current map, and stabilize them.
  • 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.
  • Religion Is Magic: Chitus' uncle Cadiro, despite being centuries old, still remains after "striking a deal" with the ancient Azmerian god of souls and treasure, Prospero. It's also implied this is the secret to Zerphi's youth, who Atziri tried to copy through another means disastrously, was worshiping a god of death. Might also apply to Izaro as well, his devotion to the goddess of justice seeming to keep him alive for centuries.
    • New story from The Fall of Oriath confirms this: turns out in humans ancient times could ascend to godhood through reverence and the Beast, the source of all thaumaturgy, was created to suppress the old gods. The Pantheon system lets you slay these gods and take some of their power for yourself in the form of passive bonuses.
  • Remixed Level:
    • After a certain point in Act 5, Oriath Square and Templar Courts become Ruined Square and Torched Courts, covered in flames, rubble and corpses.
    • Acts 6-10 take you to the same general areas as Acts 1-5, resulting in this on a wider scale.
    • Some areas get a complete makeover. For example, the early side area Fetid Pool is completely cleaned up and becomes Karui Fortress; Lunaris Temple recovers from Scenery Gorn of Piety's experiments and is pure blue again; and Belly of the Beast turns green and rotten.
    • Some look more or less the same, but have completely new inhabitants. For example, Blood Aqueduct (formerly just Aqueduct) now hosts fleshy nightmares who escaped from the Beast's dead body; and most of Act 7 is home to cultists instead of bandits.
    • Some area connections are gone, meaning that some areas can't be visited at all and you have to find new paths.
  • Retcon:
    • Zana plays a major role in the post-game since the Atlas of Worlds expansion, and her backstory was changed with it. Pre-Atlas, Zana's backstory was that her father, a sea captain, discovered her talents for cartography at a young age and raised her to hone her talents, and Zana discovered the nature of Maps after her exile. Her new backstory is that she lost both her parents at a young age and studied her father's research on the Map Device and reconstructed it to find its secrets and to find out what happened to her father after she saw him fall into the Atlas many years ago. She also lost her thick Russian accent.
    • When the Betrayal expansion introduced the Immortal Syndicate, Forsaken Masters (except for Zana) were repurposed as its members while new Masters took their place.
    • The details of Emperor Chitus' assassination had some of its details silently changed. What was originally written was that Ondar lethally stabbed Chitus and managed to escape through the sewers, but was assassinated by the Silent Brotherhood two weeks later. The rewritten text says Ondar did stab Chitus, except Chitus was a hulking brute of a man and chopped Ondar in half with his axe before succumbing to the poison in the blade.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Izaro comes from a long line of Royal Inbreeding, which might explain why he thought the Labyrinth was a good idea (not to mention his sterility). One of the members of his lineage was a cannibal. To celebrate the opening of the Labyrinth he also had the spine of its first victim gilded and made into a sceptre. Played with in that he doesn't seem to have been a bad emperor - his intentions were noble, crazy as he may have been.
  • 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. Players playing solo self-found characters will also inevitably look like this.
  • Scenery Gorn:
    • The whole third Act is set in the ruined city of Sarn. Of particular and gruesome note is the Lunaris Temple, home to Piety's horrific experiments, which is practically covered in corpses on spikes and on the floor, and which is filled with her hideous Miscreations.
    • The Ruined Square in Act 5 and The Ravaged Square in Act 10 are filled with rubble, flames and piles of corpses.
    • Inside The Beast and The Slave Pens are literally this in two different ways.
  • Scenery Porn: At the same time the Solaris Temple is actually rather pretty with its marble flooring, red carpets, and rich furnishings. It helps that none of the enemies there can bleed.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: You can get Prophecies by paying a Silver Coin to Navali, and sometimes you need to run a certain map a few times until a certain monster type spawns as Rare, and kill that. Thus, the prophecy actually makes you try to spawn a certain monster, and kill that.
  • Sense Loss Sadness: This turns out to be the primary motivation for Sirus, the Big Bad of Conquerers of the Atlas. After years of fighting and dying within the Atlas, Sirus has become utterly desensitized to pretty much everything, and all his evil is done out of a desire to finally feel some semblance of emotion again. In his final moments, he dies content that his final battle with the Exile finally made him feel something again.
  • Skill Forest: With over 1300 nodes available to all classes, it's not so much a "skill tree" as "skill Pando".
  • Shoot the Builder: Implied - in the Labyrinth, you can encounter packs of generic skeletons called "Undead Engineers", suggesting that a good number of people involved in building the Labyrinth were killed and left there to protect Izaro's secrets. There's also the unique item Xirgil's Crank, which has a flavor text which Xirgil the trapmaker says he knew how the Labyrinth's traps worked.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a few can be found among the unique items.
    • Bronn's Lithe, named in honor of Tyrion's mercenary companion in A Song of Ice and Fire.
      • There's also a Duelist passive with one-handed swords called "Water Dancing".
    • Terminus Est, named after the protagonist's BFS from Book of the New Sun — which, coincidentally, is also the name of an infamous Chaos spaceship in Warhammer 40,000.
    • Pillar of the Caged God, a staff inspired by Sun Wukong's magic weapon from Journey to the West.
    • Chernobog's Pillar, named after a deity mentioned in Blood.
    • Moonsorrow, whose flavor text haiku references Nightmare Moon's thousand-year banishment in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
    • Infractem, whose name is an anagram of Minecraft, was designed by none other than Notch himself, who even managed to work his first and last names, as well as his nickname, into the flavor text couplet:
      Mark us with mercy, then press on with care,
      Execute us steadily, notch away at our despair
    • Infernal Mantle, inspired by Utsuho Reiuji from Touhou, and containing multiple references of her in the Flavor Text.
    • Mokou's Embrace is likewise inspired by Touhou, with the inspiring character's name right on the item name itself. The Flavor Text also makes reference to Mokou's debut game and the one before it.
    • Upon activating a Static Shrine, you get the message "Reach out and touch hate".
    • The monster Hammerstorm attacks with spiraling glowy hammers, just like Diablo II's Paladin skill "Blessed Hammer".
    • The unique map "Olmec's Sanctum" is an extended Shout-Out to Legends of the Hidden Temple, starting with its flavor text.
      They flew, and leapt, and clambered over,
      They crawled, and swam, and slithered under.
      Still its ancient secrets await unclaimed
      And of this hidden temple, only legends remain.
    • Hiltless shares its name and properties with the same-named weapon in Demon's Souls.
    • Aukuna, the Black Sekhema, the Maraketh general in the Legion league, has a raptor mount named Shiyo.
    • Unique map Hallowed Ground has bosses named after various horror movie characters: Balah Duke (The Babadook), Jaesyn (Jason), Jik'shah (Jigsaw), Krugg the Frayed (Freddy Krueger), and Maker of Mires (Michael Myers).
    • The Conquerors in Conquerors of the Atlas has their arena in the shape of PlayStation buttons. Furthermore, the watchstone's color scheme when socketed in the citadels are Xbox colors rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: Simple mobility skills such as Leap Slam and Shield Charge can be gained as early as lvl 1, yet their effect can either be very convenient or downright vital. A ledge or chasm blocks your path? Leap Slam. Boss using That One Attack and you're surrounded by enemies? Shield Charge. They can even be kept at lvl 1 forever, adding to their simplicity. Theres a reason Leap Slam and Shield Charge is among the most used Skill Gems in the game. This wasn't left unnoticed by the devs, and for version 3.7, they added a whole slew of early game mobility skills like Dash and Frostblink.
  • Skill Point Reset: It is possible to reset some of the points allocated to passive skills, either by completing quests or using an Orb of Regret, which is a currency item. Plus the occasional full resets that come with major patches.
  • 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. Even the skill tree can be socketed.
  • Sound-Coded for Your Convenience: Different item types have different drop sounds, so you will easily notice something like currency or a map (usually worth picking up). Custom loot filters often take this further, adding loud notifications to especially valuable items.
  • 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.
  • Speed, Smarts and Strength: the three core attributes are Dexterity, Intelligence, and Strength, so a Player Party consisting of a Ranger, a Witch, and a Marauder (classes associated primarily with those respective attributes) fills in all three roles nicely.
  • Spy Speak: Of a sort. Witches seem to know most other witches, but as being a witch is generally illegal in Oriath they call each other 'sister.' This habit stays true on Wraeclast even though it's not needed.
  • Stance System: Version 3.7 introduced Blood and Sand stances for melee fighters. Certain attack and buff skills change their effects depending on your stance, making you stronger against bosses (Blood) or crowds of enemies (Sand).
  • Story Breadcrumbs: The "Weathered Carvings" in early zones explain why Wraeclast is abandoned, but don't immediately explain why Everything Is Trying to Kill You. You'll figure that part out slowly as you approach the end of the main story campaign.
  • String Theory: Jun's investigation chart for the Immortal Syndicate has this style, although in practice it's more of a relationship graph.
  • Take That!: During an Einhar mission, Einhar has a rare line where he asks "Do you not have nets, exile?" Considering this line was added a month after the Diablo Immortal announcement...
  • Take That, Audience!: Conquerors of the Atlas is all about hunting down Rogue Exiles who after defeating the Elder have kept running maps over and over again for the sole purpose of acquiring loot and power. Sound familiar?
  • Talking Weapon: Unique swords Oni-Goroshi and its predecessor The Goddess Unleashed play voiced lines when you kill enemies or reach certain points of the story. Jack the Axe is limited to "kill enemies" part.
  • 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. Alternatively, there is a skill gem that allows you to make town portals without using any portal scrolls. Fall of Oriath added a special portal from the Ascent over Highgate to the Slave Pens of Oriath, with a Terminator-esque spherical burn-mark on arrival.
  • Temporary Online Content: Averted with unique Leagues. Most unique League content, such as Rogue Exiles and the Prophecy system, are added to the core game after their League ends, and even content that doesn't can usually still be found in Maps with the right modifiers or as special mods from Zana's map device.
    • Though this is sadly(?) played straight for the mechanics introduced in the Synthesis League. Player feedback was so negative due to the lackluster rewards and repetitive gameplay that the entire League was scrapped with the sole exception of the endgame boss fight against Venarius.
  • Time Travel for Fun and Profit: One of the Masters is an explorer named Alva Valai, who offers you a business proposal: she opens a Portal to the Past 2000 years ago to an ancient Vaal temple that's been lost in today's history during its construction, you kill some architects to determine what kind of treasure room gets made in there and unlock pathways between rooms, repeat 11 more times until she can pinpoint the temple's location in the present, loot it, then reset the timeline of the temple and repeat.
    • Lampshaded in-game. Helena mentions that Alva's obsession with looting a lost temple, rather than trying to change Wraeclast's history, keeps her from wrecking havoc on the timeline.
  • Timed Mission:
    • Zana's missions usually have a timer, either fixed or extendable by various means.
    • The Breachlord's domain is one giant Breach that you have to expand all the way to the boss arena. If you can't kill enemies fast enough, you lose the Breachstone even if you still had portals remaining.
    • Temporal incursions put you on a strict time limit, which you can extend by slaying enemies within it.
    • Abysses will close if you spend too long clearing them, although there's no visible timer.
    • In Syndicade laboratories, you have to reach and defeat the officers before Mooks destroy the evidence in the lab. You can also take your time to kill the mooks, effectively removing the timer.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Sister Cassia from Blight league will occasionally hum the league's theme when you approach her.
  • Three-Stat System: The game system is based around Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, and the six core classes are mapped either to one or to two of these. The secret Scion class, being located in the very center of the skill board, has access to all three.
  • Tower Defence: Blight league has this as the league mechanic, mixed with traditional combat. You have to protect the purifying device while Blight-afflicted monsters are approaching it, and you construct towers to assist you.
  • Treacherous Quest Giver:
    • Captain Fairgraves calls his ghostly flunkies and tries to kill you after you complete his Fetch Quest.
    • In Fall of Oriath, Utula, one of your main allies in Act 5, turns out to be a Kitava zealot, and only wanted you to kill Avarius so he could summon his dark god and unleash his minions onto the weakened Theopolis.
  • True Final Boss: The main story ends with the death of Kitava in Act 10, but there is still a story to be followed in post-game maps. Previously, the strongest boss of the Atlas was the Shaper, located in the heart of the Atlas behind four of his guardians that occupied the highest-tier maps, although the real challenge was the Shaper and the Elder Dual Boss. While they're still accessible, the current final endgame boss is the Awakener, leader of the Conquerors. Summoning him requires hunting down all the Watchstones out of the Conquerors across the Atlas.
  • Trap Master: Most spells and ranged attacks can be linked to a Remote Mine or Trap support them. Traps are thrown and activate the skill when an enemy gets close enough to trigger it, while remote mines are manually detonated and often reward stacking or chain detonating as many of them as possible. They excel at dealing burst damage by stacking several of them and avoiding damage reflection, but have a downside of being unable to leech for you. Shadows are the most effective trap and mine users, and their Ascendancy Class Saboteur gives utility bonuses to them.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The Witch and the Ranger. Ultimately subverted by the later addition of the Scion.
  • Underground Monkey: With crabs, spiders, apes... including literal underground monkeys.
  • The Unfought: Until the full release, High Templar Dominus and Malachai.
  • Unholy Ground:
    • The entire continent of Wraeclast is, according to the lore, an unhallowed ground where the dead refuse to stay down, handily explaining the hordes of undead roaming the levels.
    • You can create a more concentrated version with the Desecrate skill, which spawns desecrated ground that deals chaos damage over time to any enemy above it, and also dredges up a few corpses to animate or explode or whatever, y'know, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • 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.
  • Vain Sorceress:
    • After discovering a serial killer was rumored to be 168 years old but looking young, Queen Atziri had her thaumaturgist Doryani do whatever it takes to find his secret. Not only were countless numbers of her people slaughtered, it's heavily implied it led to the destruction of her civilization.
    • Shavronne of Umbra was known for her vanity as much as much as she is known for her skill in thaumaturgy. If you take a look at her closer, you can see that the crown she's wearing is keeping her entire face stretched.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Path of Exile 2 will add skills that transform your character into beasts of various kinds, granting some passive bonuses and switching your fighting style.
  • Warrior Poet: There are poems scattered around the Labyrinth, written by one of its contenders. You'll find his body and his final poem just before the final fight.
  • Was Once a Man: With the exception of the Beast itself, all of the various gods in Wraeclast were, at one point, human beings. According to Sin, they became that way by accumulating power and followers, but their ambitions to become gods caused them to slowly lose their humanity. Some, like Sin and Innocence, remained humanlike, but others, like the Brine King, were mutated into horrific, inhuman monsters.
  • 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 add different effects depending on the type of arrow (which you never run out of but may only use one of).
    • 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 (inherent mods being things like swords providing an accuracy bonus).
    • 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.
    • Stat Sticks: Wands, knives, scepters, and staves can generate with properties that increase spell damage, spell critical chance, or add elemental damage to spells.
    • Bare-Fisted Monk: Unarmed combat is an option with certain unique gloves that give you a huge damage boost while unarmed, although very few attack skills work without a weapon. For a truly unarmed experience, Hollow Palm Technique forbids wearing gloves as well, and you're rewarded with a massive attack speed boost and Dexterity-based scaling for damage.
  • Weird Currency: Wraeclast runs on a barter system, where consumables like town portals scrolls and orbs that alter an item's properties are used to buy items and are received for selling them. The currencies themselves are fairly varied — the core series of orbs alone range from mundane tools like whetstones and metal scrap, colorful stones like the Chromatic Orb, to bizarre-looking face-themed sculptures on the rare side of the scale, like the Chaos Orb and Exalted Orb.
  • We Used to Be Friends: After you complete the sidequest "Map to Tsoatha", Lilly Roth mentions that she and three of her accomplices attempted to steal the map from the templars but only Lilly managed to escape when they encountered the guards. Apparently her accomplices were Kraityn, Alira, and Oak, who were presumably exiled for their crime.
  • Wolfpack Boss: A few boss encounters are this, though The Pale Council is the most notable. You need 4 pieces of a key, each dropped by a member of the Council at the end of their respective Prophecy Chain. You'll have to defeat each of them to get the key, and they're not terribly difficult. But the actual Pale Council encounter can be quite hectic.
  • Womb Level: The inside of the Beast, in both bloody and sickly green variations.
  • 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 being a currency has been entirely done away with on Wraeclast, which instead uses a form of barter. The concept of money is not of much use in a Death World where everything's trying to kill you. Somewhat played with due to the fact that orbs relating to modifying rare equipment are gold or gold-plated, fitting the "yellow rocks" part, and the most "worthless" of them, the Alchemy Orb, still holds decent value in some parts of the player market. There's also two forms of coins that players can loot, namely the prophecy-related Silver Coins and Perandus Coins, used by the thousands to buy things from the endgame Intrepid Merchant.
  • Vestigial Empire: See that little island on the map of Act 1? That's Oriath, the last remnant of the Eternal Empire that once ruled Wraeclast.
  • Villainous BSoD: In "Conquerors of the Atlas", the remnants of Kitava's army have fallen into a near-catatonic stupor following his death, wandering aimlessly and standing in place, only turning aggressive if you get too close or attack first.
  • 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. The Chain Hook skill also does this, but in the opposite way.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The wood etchings found in the Act 2 Crossroads are a description of this, following shortly after the Cataclysm.

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