With the release of Atlas of Worlds, Path of Exile saw a vast increase in content. Players are faced with a collection of new map tiers, several new bosses and other characters, and new Path of Exile items to keep them coming back to the game. Although these additions keep the game fresh and exciting, they aren’t without unforeseen side effects. With a vast abundance of available pools, Energy Shield has grown into such a powerful force as to eclipse basic Life, which by comparison is much more difficult to expand upon. Powering up Life at all requires far more traveling between nodes to get a significant buff, and this comes at the expense of making tangible progress. Factor in the power creep that has rewarded Damage Per Second (DPS) and neglecting Sustain, and the game mechanics have undergone a subtle yet noticeable paradigm shift.
This disparity between how a character’s ES and Life are affected by physical damage is particularly more troublesome for players whose characters have a Life-based profile than other types. These character builds are more susceptible to instant one-shot-kill types of attacks than those whose ES levels are developed. One-shot-kills are among the most common causes of death in the endgame, which may make PoE players very keen on having Grinding Gear Games buff this particular parameter. Additionally, life-based characters that fight at close range risk being easily taken out of play.
Energy Shield is not inherently resistant to Elemental Damage, but it does prevent one-shot-kills by absorbing the brunt of Elemental Damage. If ES is equivalent to Life against physical damage, but rated higher than Life against Elemental Damage, ES wins out with an overall advantage. All elemental resistance values being equal, maximum ED will hit both ES and Life for the same amount.
Another way of looking at the problem is by measuring ES against Armor and possibly even Evasion, or comparing the balance between physical versus Elemental Damage. From this perspective, life and ES employ different defenses against enemy attacks. Armor and evasion do not protect against striking attacks, whereas ES can function as a primary defense. Additionally, the game offers players the advantage of affording the character a greater potential to build up ES, since these PoE items are in vast abundance.
Elemental damage in the endgame scenario is based on the premise that a player has more than 60% resistance for any given form of damage. This means that once an attack has penetrated shields or other outer defenses, a larger life pool is virtually the only thing keeping the character alive.
One possible solution is for Grinding Gear Games to make more sources of reduced elemental damage available. Buffing mitigation mechanics exclusive to Life-pertinent purposes, such as enabling characters to have better evasive maneuvers are only the beginning. Perhaps buffing Life on a per-level basis would increase the survival potential for Life-based builds, but doing so runs the risk of creating imbalance, which is the very problem that needs to be addressed to begin with.