Path of Exile: Delve League Patch 3.4 Quick Review

So I hit the new Delve league for the past few days and managed to get to mapping last night. I haven’t been hitting the actual Delve content as hard as others because I’m still getting used to the basic idea of mechanics. Overall, I wanted to run down my experience so far.

I feel that this league has the accumulated experience of both Incursion and Abyss Leagues in the way the basic mechanics play out. On the one hand, you encounter resources (roughly two per zone) which you use to dive deeper into an infinite mine. Using these resources, you select a section that you’re capable of reaching then perform a little trek with a vehicle while staying in the confines of the light it provides. While there are various resources in each of these sections, the primary thing you’re looking for is Azurite, which permits you upgrades to your mining vehicle as well as flares and dynamite.

Part of the mine is “pre-drilled” which tries to match up your level with the zone that you’re roughly on. While you can return to older, easier sections, it’s generally bad practice as you want your content to be relevant. To do this, you pretty much need to continue grinding for Azurite to ensure that you can keep your light floating as well as having some resistance to darkness and lastly increasing your capacity for Sulphite.

Now, it feels as though the mining aspect uses an algorithm similar to Abysses that you follow. Along the way, you find various random monsters, usually with a theme associated in the level as well as new Delve specific type of monsters with their own abilities. There are a few dangers added such as the EMP blast and darkness, which is different from straight Abysses. The mines themselves are very atmospheric and easily can get you lost or killed if you’re not paying attention.

The Incursion aspect is mostly how you can construct/shape your mine, similar to how killing architects and opening doors in the Incursions themselves would generate different map layouts. Here though, the mine is less random and more controlled by how you want to shape it. You pretty much can control the direction of where you delve and are given some choice (for instance, choosing an item area over pure Azurite). Some of this might be resource driven in your decision making process while others might be due to the potential threat.

There are some other side quest-like parts where you can venture slightly away from your vehicle to check secret corners. You can use flares and dynamite to extend your search. However, the mechanics for this stuff is a bit clumsy so I recommend staying away until they fix some of the major bugs and UI/UX issues.

Beyond that there’s a few new skills and revamps to the passive tree along with your standard nerfs/buffs. A lot of focus I’ve seen has been to summoner, poison and Caustic Arrow type of builds. Because the general theme has been to go slow and tanky due to the Delve darkness mechanics, minion and other auto attack type of skills feel more favorable. I’m not saying it’s the only way to go but they clearly have a spot in this league.

So my main choice was to use a Hierophant Arc Totem build. A friend of mine used it and I figured it would be quite viable due to the lack of changes to the powerful Arc skill that had been buffed last league. I will say it works decently well here because you’ll be pathing in a Delve in a manner that disallows backtracking. At the same time, you’ll have monsters assaulting you from all directions. Thus by having 4 totems up all the time, you’ll feel secure.

Once you complete your way to your destination in a delve, you’ll find that the majority of events are similar to Elreon’s defense quests. This makes totems really great as you can stand next to your vehicle and simply re-cast your totems periodically. While this may not be exciting for some people, it is a very effective strategy.

That said, the Delve system can be a bit confusing at first. There’s really no explanation on what to do once you start expanding. Eventually, I had to figure out some of the better ways of managing my resources while trying to feel like I would make progress. But early on I made a huge mistake in just expanding early levels. My XP progress would not move and the items I would receive were garbage. What I missed was seeing the mine drive deeper on its own as I kept leveling.

Also, you have to figure out for yourself what’s more important for each delve. Do you need items? Weapons? Currency? Honestly, most of the items have been mediocre, although I have found the occasional unique that wasn’t bad. But the real useful stuff mostly is in Azurite and currency. Azurite allows you to go deeper through upgrading your light and darkness defense while currency is pretty self-explanatory.

You still get items from a delve event so you should do them as much as you can. However, I found that the weapon and armor caches are quite disappointing. I only would go to those zones if they blocked my path towards Azurite.

For the off beaten path stuff, it’s just too buggy and the dynamite/flare mechanics suck. I think they should’ve used the dynamite/wall mechanic from the temple while flares should’ve been an auto-cast thing. I don’t even know how you keybind either, which makes it worse. I’ve seen some streamers use tons of dynamite and flares for no rewards. That just leaves me to believe that the risk to reward factor is non-existent and is better off left alone.

As for the rest of the content, it’s the same thing only a bit better. I know a lot of people are praising the revision to Zana. I must admit being able to choose the mission is very satisfying as opposed to being dumped into one. I hope the rest of the rumored revision to the masters follow a similar trend as the master leveling process is just a nightmare.

I think the main thing for me is adding another way to get gear early on in a league and a few extra levels without having to step through the storyline in the usual manner. It’s effectively an optional distraction that I feel has weird moments in terms of where they appear. The problem I’ve had is that I’ll be going through an area on the storymode chain and this area appears. On the one hand, I simply want to get through the basic storymode chain but at the same time, want to enter a Delve.

What makes the situation awkward is balancing your resources vs when and where to enter. In my case, I feel like it’s a different mindset to suddenly go into this environment; you have some control but not to the level that you really need. It was similar with Incursions where depending on the build and storymode point, I would either head in or skip it entirely.

I’ve read how some people preferred just having it as an alternative to leveling entirely. I think it would have been far better just because the basic storyline as I have mentioned is monotonous. Delves are monotonous too but they don’t necessarily have the awkward pauses (outside of getting more resources) once you’re off and running. Compare that to leveling where you’re slaying large packs of monsters then suddenly are faced with Ascendancy trials, lab, bosses and side quests. With storyline mode, there is no change and it’s all predictable. Worse yet, you know the pain points and you know you can’t avoid them.

I might’ve mentioned this before but I feel that Delves are what Greater Rifts should have been for Diablo 3. I like the idea of a dungeon that you progress against, facing higher powered monsters until you hit a peak. I still don’t feel that this idea has been fully materialized with Delves but there is a bit more depth (pun partly intended) to this.

From a loot point of view with the new socketing system and crafting, I have yet to encounter any of it. I was hoping to see this system become the new meta to overtake some of the legacy crafting ideas (like mandatory 6L builds, etc.) But in order for this to happen, it has to come more frequently. Or at least be at a point where it’s somewhat accessible. Perhaps, I simply need to dig deeper but the imbalance of Azurite and Sulfite gains make pushing not feel as straight forward to really get this system working.

One thing that I miss from Incursion league is the leveling gear. In particular, I wish they kept the String of Servitude around. The resistance belt in particular was great since you could exchange that and a Goldrim to balance your gear a bit easier. I feel that in a new league where the end goal of the developers should be to get people into your new content at higher levels, there should be similar speed mechanisms like that belt in place. I’m not sure if anything replaced it.

Outside of these things, I’m thinking I might just stick with Arc Totems and see what progressing a single character will be like as opposed to a bunch. There are other classes/skills I would like to try but until the new changes come through for the Delve system, I’ll probably stick with this guy for a while.

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