When Grinding Gear Games first revealed the scope of Path of Exile: Ultimatum, back on April 8, lots of fans were left positively impressed by the new League and how it was trying to change and improve past content. Path of Exile has gradually become one of the most successful and most played action RPGs of all time, especially thanks to how often new content is added to the game, as well as the frequency of balance patches that constantly shift the meta. This was the case with Ultimatum as well, and its announcement was welcomed with enthusiasm by Path of Exile's player base.
Grinding Gear Games has made continual efforts to turn every Path of Exile expansion into something big, and it shows just by looking at the trailers for all the most recent additions. Heist was an extremely ambitious League, with tons of content and things for players to do, new loot, new gems, new game modes, revamped old content, and 13 new NPCs in one patch. The idea was amazing, but the execution was quite lacking in terms of quality of life, issues, glitches, and more. The League felt a lot like some sort of open beta content, rather than a true expansion.
Ritual, which came after Heist, was not deprived of issues at launch either. Several patches were required, and overall the idea behind the expansion was not bad at all, yet its implementation and actual gameplay left players dissatisfied. Many found the mechanic behind Ritual bland at best, or even trivial at worst. Path of Exile: Ultimatum was very promising, both in its trailer and with its full reveal, but it does have issues that don't put it in good light.
The premise of Path of Exile: Ultimatum is that players encounter a mysterious Vaal figure by the name of "the Trialmaster," who offers them a reward for completing a challenge. If players successfully survive the encounter, then the Trialmaster will offer them an ultimatum: either pick the already acquired reward or survive another challenge to obtain progressively better rewards. This is is very much in line with the overall Vaal theme the League bears, with blood sacrifice, blood spells, and more.
In terms of gameplay, this premise translates into having players select modifiers that increase the difficulty of each encounter when facing more than one in a row for better rewards. Modifiers increase in tier when selected multiple times, so they can get even more dangerous than before, and new monsters spawning in the area also make things harder.
The issue with Ultimatum is that, while this concept is great and fits perfectly the world of Path of Exile, the way it actually plays out for players is arguably not balanced enough to be a fun experience.
Most of the time, because of how impactful auras are on rare monsters and enemies of lower tiers, players end up running in circles trying to survive long enough for the challenge to end, or doing so while trying to launch a few spells at the enemies or attacking them during their movement. Ultimatum was conceived as a very fun League, but one of the creeping issues that players have endlessly asked Grinding Gear Games to remove (namely, auras stacking on enemies, making them immortal or incredibly powerful, to the point of one-shotting players) is having a huge impact on how enjoyable the League is.
Fixes to this issue could be deployed in the form of monster waves never spawning multiple aura-stacking rare monsters together, or limiting the maximum number of rare monsters with aura affixes to one or two per wave. This would make the League much more bearable to play, as the experience would be far less unbalanced against players. However, this wouldn't solve the number of particles, effects, monsters, loot, and more that clutters the screen for players to see anything. This was an issue in the past, and it still is very present nowadays.
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