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.
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).