Path of Exile has three difficulties: Normal, Cruel, and Merciless.
Each difficulty level contains the same zones, monsters and quests. The difference in difficulty comes from the zones being generated at a different level and hence monsters and items within them also being that level. The only structural differences are that The Twilight Strand does not have a waypoint in Normal difficulty, and The Eternal Laboratory is only a separate area with a map device on Merciless difficulty.
|Difficulty||Level Requirement||Resistance Penalty||Experience Loss on Death|
|Cruel||Level 20||−20% Elemental and Chaos resistance||5% of level progress|
|Merciless||Level 35||−60% Elemental and Chaos resistance||10% of level progress|
In addition to the experience loss, death in the Hardcore league moves the character from that league and into the Standard league. It's important to note that characters that die in a hardcore challenge league are also moved to Standard, NOT to the respective softcore challenge league.
Upon going to the next difficulty characters do not lose access to the zones of previous difficulties, and can travel back to them from any waypoint.
There are 6 achievements available for completing each of the three difficulties in each of a softcore league and a hardcore league:
- Before version 0.10.0 was released, there were four difficulty levels (Normal, Cruel, Ruthless and Merciless).