Path of Exile had three difficulties prior to The Fall of Oriath expansion: Normal, Cruel, and Merciless. Currently there's a a single storyline playthrough, without players having to replay the same acts multiple times.
After completing Act 4 for the first time, players restarted the game in Act 1 at the Cruel difficulty, as long as they meet the level requirement. After completing Act 4 on Cruel, the same process repeats for Merciless.
Each difficulty level contained the same zones, monsters and quests. The difference in difficulty came from the zones being generated at a different level and hence monsters and items within them also being that level. The only structural differences was 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.
Elemental and chaos resistance penalties and experience loss on death were solely tied on the difficulty the player was on. Switching difficulties modified these penalties.
|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.
Content modified with the removal of difficulty levels
The Deal with the Bandits quest gave different rewards for each difficulty.
|Difficulty||Side with||Kill all|
|The Bandit Lord Oak||The Bandit Lord Kraityn||The Bandit Lord Alira|
|Normal||+40 to maximum Life||+10% to all Elemental Resistances||+60 to maximum Mana||+1 Passive Skill Point|
|Cruel||16% increased Physical Damage||8% increased Attack Speed||5% increased Cast Speed||+1 Passive Skill Point|
|Merciless||+1 to Maximum Endurance Charges||+1 to Maximum Frenzy Charges||+1 to Maximum Power Charges||+1 Passive Skill Point|
6 achievements were modified with the removal of difficulty levels.
- Before version 0.10.0 was released, there were four difficulty levels (Normal, Cruel, Ruthless and Merciless).