Game of the Week: Path of Exile – The Forbidden Sanctum

It’s Monday, which means we’ve got a new game recommendation for you! This week we’ve put up Path of Exile’s brand new league, ‘The Forbidden Sanctum’, which launched Friday and has you traversing a roguelike labyrinth in the never-ending quest for loot and time-limited challenge reward microtransactions.

Why have we chosen this week and not the last, given that’s when the league launched? Well, Path of Exile has a trend of releasing a league, taking the weekend off, then buffing it to a fun, workable state the following two weeks until it becomes an enjoyable experience. This is week one.

That means it’s prime-time to start working your way to the endgame, as by the time you’ll reach it, the Sanctums should be in a much better state than they are right now! But we’ll get into that in the next part of the article.

Additionally, if you want a deep-dive into Sanctum as well as everything else that came with the update, check out our recap of the league’s announcement livestream, as well as the Q&A, which contains a link to the full patch notes.

the forbidden sanctum fire trap beam
You know it’s good when there’s fire lasers.

The Forbidden Sanctum – Basics

First of all, if you’re new to Path of Exile, here’s a quick primer on what ‘The Forbidden Sanctum’ is in the context of the whole game:

  • Every three-four months, Path of Exile releases a new league – these are more commonly referred to as ‘seasons’ in most games.
  • Each league has you creating a new character, completing new challenge rewards (that award skins and other MTX), and most importantly, they introduce a new system, complete with its own mechanics, to the game.
  • The system this league is the Sanctum, which we’ll discuss after this bullet point list finally ends.
  • At the end of each league, a decision is made and there are three options: The league is absorbed into the main game and is here to stay for the foreseeable future; the league is taken out of the game for an indeterminate amount of time and reworked, then added back in or; the league is not ‘going core’, as it is most often described, and is never added back in, or only minor aspects of it remain in the core game.
the forbidden sanctum layout
Afflicted fountains replenish your Resolve in exchange for an Affliction, which sort of sucks but hey.

The Sanctum Itself

The Sanctum runs tries to emulate a roguelike labyrinth experience. The layout is as follows: Four floors, each with a boss at the end, and each floor has eight rooms.

You get to do one room per zone/map. You may save up to eight rooms and run them all at once later. Your objective is to reach the end of the Sanctum (that’s 32 rooms) to get all the sweet loot, without getting hit too much.

Sanctum has its own player resource, which is Resolve. Resolve acts as a sort of health bar that is independent of your actual heal and defenses, and you lose Resolve when you get hit by monsters or traps. When you run out of Resolve, you’re booted out of the Sanctum and you run is effectively over.

the forbidden sanctum pact
Accursed Pact, which gives you both a Boon and an Affliction (explanation below).

The Current Issue

Sanctum’s current issue is that is seems to do the opposite of what roguelikes are known for – the power boosts are mostly uninteresting, and the detrimental effects are absolutely punishing.

Boons (the good stuff) are certainly rarer than Afflictions (the bad stuff), but really their main issue is that even if you find one, your chances of getting something that enhances your build are very low. The vast majority of boons directly affect Sanctum mechanics (afflictions, aureus – the league currency – and resolve) instead of your actual power. Roguelikes succeed when you find the perfect combination of Boons that skyrocket your build to god-like, even if they come with major trade-offs, but the Boons here barely affect your actual performance in terms of, say, damage.

Afflictions are much more common than Boons, at least early on, and they’re certainly quite punishing. Here’s an example of an Affliction: “Lose 20 Aureus coins when hit”. This basically guarantees you’ll end each room with barely any coins (that can be traded to regain Resolve or buy Boons) and can brick your run from the second room you enter.

This is something we’re expecting will receive a solid amount of tuning in these coming weeks. It’s happened before, with Heist league for example, and it made a night-and-day difference in terms of the success of the league. Sanctum is looking to be quite promising, so we’d bet Path of Exile will be worth investing time in for the next few months.

the forbidden sanctum offer
In a bit of a gamble, the Sanctum offers you one of three rewards. What you pick will depend on how well you expect to perform.

Have you already dabbled in the Sanctum? How did it feel for you so far? Let us know in the comments below!