Mercenary class unveiled for Path of Exile 2, and it plays like shooter

The Mercenary class has been unveiled for Path of Exile 2, and notably, it brings a whole new style of play to the game: shooter gameplay. It doesn’t mean the game has suddenly gone first-person, but it does mean optional – and fluidly interchangeable – WASD movement is coming to the series for the first time. And that you can now move slightly while attacking.

The Mercenary revolves around the crossbow weapon they carry, which behaves – depending on the type of crossbow – like either a shotgun, an assault rifle, or a sniper rifle. You can carry two kinds of crossbow at the same time.

What your crossbow does also depends heavily on the kind of ammo you’re using. If you’re using incendiary ammo, for instance, your assault rifle crossbow will spin-up like a mini-gun and be devastating – and fiery – once revved up. Meanwhile, your sniper crossbow with incendiary ammo will behave more like a rocket launcher, exploding on impact. Frost ammo, meanwhile, freezes enemies and also creates varying kinds of frost effects – or ice walls – on the floor depending on which crossbow you use. Oh, and there’s a grenade-launcher attachment too, because why not? And again, there are varying types of grenade you can fire.

The Mercenary in action in Path of Exile 2. Note all the environmental detail, but also, how aggressive the packs of enemies are. They really come for you. Oh, and make sure you see the boss encounter at the end.Watch on YouTube

Grinding Gear Games showed the Mercenary class to press ahead of a Path of Exile stream today, where you can now see the same footage we saw. It shows the coarse-voiced – and coarse-mannered, I have to say (I love the audio barks he has) – Mercenary carving a path through a ruined, cobbled town bathed in darkness, before he faces off against a wonderfully grotesque matron-styled boss at the end.

Take a look at her in action if you can, because she’s impressively brought to life, and she highlights the kind of added detail Grinding Gear Games is going for with Path of Exile 2. She spawns children as you fight while shouting things like, “Chillldren!” – she’s full of character. She’s also super-aggressive, wielding dual shears with real murderous intent. It’s a confined area and she does not look easy to beat, which coincidentally, highlights another thing about Path of Exile 2: it’s going to be hard.

The Mercenary is the sixth of 12 classes that will be in the game at launch. The ones we know so far are the Druid, Monk, Sorceress, Warrior and Huntress. There’s no launch date for the game yet but there is a date for the closed beta: 7th June 2024. And Grinding Gear Games recommitted to this date when I asked them about it during the press demo.

A diagonal-down screenshot showing the Mercenary character fighting in Path of Exile 2. They use a crossbow that functions a bit like guns in shooter games. Here, they fight amidst a dark, cobbled, crumbling town.

A diagonal-down screenshot showing the Mercenary character fighting in Path of Exile 2. They use a crossbow that functions a bit like guns in shooter games. Here, they fight amidst a dark, cobbled, crumbling town.

The Murk-enary – am I right? I’m being mean: it’s a hard game to catch in still images, because so much of it is about movement. It actually looks really lovely in motion. | Image credit: Grinding Gear Games

It’s another really exciting showing for Path of Exile 2, following a showing I had earlier in the year – around ExileCon – when I saw the Monk class in action. And I’m a sucker for a Monk. The plan is apparently to showcase each of the game’s dozen characters in a similar way.

Grinding Gear Games also detailed the upcoming Path of Exile 1 expansion Affliction, which is due to arrive 8th December on PC and Mac, and 13th December on consoles. Along with the new content and additional skill trees it offers comes one of the biggest meta changes the existing game has yet seen, in the shape of a new transfigured gem system. I’m not going to pretend to understand it, but it revamps an enormous amount of abilities and makes countless new combinations possible, apparently. The ability that made zombies fall from the sky like meteors was my favourite.

A text box from Path of Exile 1 showing the ability
It’s raining… zombies! | Image credit: Grinding Gear Games

If you didn’t know, the plan is for Path of Exile 1 and 2 to co-exist, rather than one supersede the other, and they will also share an in-game shop. That means all of your cosmetics (within reason) will be usable in either game, which seems like a really nice touch to me.

I have some interview content about this that I didn’t end up using the last time I spoke to Grinding Gear Games and Path of Exile 2 game director Jonathan Rogers, so I’m going to pull it in here. I hope you don’t mind!

Jonathan Rogers: So all of your purchases carry over. It’s technically the same platform in the sense that you’ll be able to whisper people from one game to the other and that sort of thing. And there will be some shared data in the game client because we don’t want people who have both games to have to patch the same data twice. But ultimately, the games are separate. You can install one and not have the other installed and that is okay, so they are separate in that sense.

But it’s very important to us that the microtransactions carry over, and all the purchases, forever, are always shared between both games. If we were to break that, it would mean that you can’t really have people who want to still play both games very easily. We want people to feel like both games are active and alive, and that I can go to one and buy something, and then I go to the other one and I’m still- you never feel unsupported, if you know what I mean? That’s why it’s very important to us to maintain that across both games.

And also, the whole thing with the shared engine: that’s really important so that our developers feel like all the tools [they’ve] got can work on both games – we can make content just as effectively for both games at the same time.

One shop, then, will serve both games.

Rogers: Yes exactly. Exactly. So there’ll be one shop. Look, there’ll be a couple of things where it’s like, obviously since POE1 one doesn’t have a druid in it, and you can’t transform into a bear, a microtransaction for your bear form isn’t going to work in POE1, just because you don’t have that skill. But basically anything you would expect to work will work. There’s not going to be any arbitrary restrictions of content, as far as microtransactions go, between the two.

There was a whole splurge of deep-dive POE2 info at ExileCon earlier this year. This video gives a great look at some of the wonderful bosses in the game. Follow the video through to YouTube to find other videos from the event.

Oh and incidentally, if you’re wondering about console versions of Path of Exile 2, Jonathan had this to say.

Rogers: We’re absolutely looking at that, and I don’t think it would be reasonable to have a game of this size without taking them into account in some way. But at the same time, for me personally, PC is where I’m playing, so that’s always going to be the most important focus for me. But it absolutely is something that we want to make sure we’re taking seriously and doing well.

How will that work with a shared shop across console platforms, I ask.

Rogers: Um that is a complicated question! [laughs] What we’re trying to achieve is to make it as seamless as possible. The microtransactions will still absolutely come across between POE1 and POE2 on console as well. But obviously platform holders have their various random restrictions and working on those can be quite annoying. We are trying as much as we can to make that not a problem. [chuckles again]

And finally, I quiz him on the possibility of local co-op on consoles, because I love it.

Rogers: I absolutely would love to do that. It’s something that would be very cool to do. We don’t have it yet. That’s more of a question of like, give me infinite resources we would absolutely have that [laughs], so it’s certainly something I’d love to do, it’s just will we get time? We’ll see.

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