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If the Elders taint spreads far enough
It's a system that, at its most basic, is similar to Diablo 3's Rifts—you're running randomly generated maps at progressively higher difficulties in search of Path of Exile Currency powerful loot. Where it gets interesting is that more difficult maps can drop while you're clearing out a map level, leading to greater challenges and, yes, the chance to drop even more difficult maps. Eventually, players can work their way through the Atlas to the final four maps, each protected by a powerful Guardian. Killing one of them lets you then take on The Shaper, the Cthulhu-looking big bad of Path of Exile's universe. Well, until December 8, when War for the Atlas launches.
War for the Atlas revamps this entire system by introducing 32 new maps, a new layout, and a new threat to the Atlas: The Elder. Though they share a similarly vague name, The Elder and The Shaper are at war and its up to you to decide which one wins. Wilson isn't willing to divulge much information on the why of it all, as that's a mystery that the community will have to work together to solve.
But as you begin exploring the Atlas of Worlds, you'll see map locations that have become tainted by either The Shaper or The Elder. These taints manifest physically in the level, adding greater challenges to contend with. For example, The Elder's minions are tentacled beasts that suck the very color out of the game, weakening your character if they're caught in this monotone aura. Shaper-tainted maps, on the other hand, might have glowing orbs that detonate, ripping the fabric of space-time and dealing fatal damage to characters that get too close to the rip.
Each time you complete a map, the Elder or Shaper taint spreads like mould to new maps, and it's up to you to try and control it. By completing maps with an Elder or Shaper taint you'll cleanse it, allowing the other to move in and take it over. Players can choose to POE Currency either destroy the Shaper, the Elder, or try and stop both from spreading and taking over the entire Atlas of Worlds.
There's a variety of reasons players will want one or the other to win, Wilson says, and a lot of strategy too. As the taint spreads, players will want to encourage it to grow in the direction of harder maps by cleansing it on easier maps, increasing the challenge but also the rewards. If the Elder's taint spreads far enough, he'll manifest in certain maps, killing its boss and stealing its powers to create a guardian similar to the four you'd fight trying to kill the Shaper.
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