The action RPG by Grinding Gear Games!

The action RPG by Grinding Gear Games!

Path of Exile is a free-to-play action RPG that plays much in the same manner as its Diablo and Torchlight cousins. Immediately one may be thrown off by the free-to-play tag, as that often comes with a pay-to-win downside. However, this is not the case with PoE; cash shop items are limited to cosmetics and a few utility purchases such as increased stash space. Boasting a number of different game modes, such as ladder and hardcore, PoE immediately looks like a great deal at a grand price of $0.00.

Anyone who is familiar with the Diablo style action RPGs will automatically be familiar with the basic controls of PoE. Movement and basic attacks are controlled by the left mouse button, special abilities are controlled by the right mouse button. PoE takes it a step further than it’s older cousins and allows for 6 more abilities bound to the middle mouse button, and the keys Q through T. Combat consists of taking down hordes of enemies, special variations of enemies, and bosses, all the while quaffing potions like an alcoholic at Margaritaville.

Even early on, you can expect to see a decent amount of enemies.

Even early on, you can expect to see a decent amount of enemies.

PoE fashions itself mostly after the likes of Diablo 2, and that’s not a bad thing. The graphics and environment have a much darker and malevolent undertone than its main competitor, Diablo 3. While a bit dated, the graphics lend to a smooth gameplay experience across many systems. If one takes the time to dig into the lore, Path of Exile is also much darker than the latest iteration of its cousin Diablo; your character has been exiled to what amounts to a hellish penal colony, Wraeclast, which is a small island that is rife with dark secrets. Despite what seems to be an excellent story, PoE falls flat on its face when it comes to storytelling; those accustomed to the Diablo series will notice this quite quickly.

Path of Exile uses the tried and true grid inventory system that is a staple of this game. It also has boiled stats down to 3 basic stats; strength, dexterity and intelligence. This is about where the simplified character building ends though; characters literally have the option to obtain every passive and active skill in the game. This is both good and bad, as a new player can be completely dumbfounded by the sheer amount of choices, while a veteran can tweak and min/max his desired build as he likes. Passive skills are tied to an absolutely gargantuan skill tree, where one’s starting position in the tree is the main characteristic of a class, and active skills are acquired as gems that can be equipped and leveled inside of pieces of gear.

Is this clusterfuck of a skill tree really necessary?

Is this clusterfuck of a skill tree really necessary?

The skill tree isn’t the only thing that Path of Exile has that is unnecessarily convoluted; the game’s currency system is just plain silly. NPCs typically buy and trade using Scrolls of Wisdom, which equate to Identification Scrolls in the Diablo series. There is no gold to buy and sell with; rather you’ll be sorting scrolls, scroll fragments, orbs, orb fragments, scraps, shards, and even more orbs. I’m sure there are some who would like this, but to yours truly I much prefer to wheel in deal in raw gold and equipment. For all the improvements that the Diablo 2 expansion Lord of Destruction brought to it, one fault I always felt was the needless sorting, crafting and grinding of runes; and PoE’s various currencies combined with skill gems absolutely dwarf that.

WHHYYYY?

WHHYYYY?

Though I bitched quite a bit about the needless complexity in some parts of the game, at its core PoE remains the same simple to play hectic loot filled action RPG that we all look for in this genre. What an older, curmudgeonly bastard such as myself sees as a convoluted mess, might be some younger whipper-snappers theory-crafting wet dream. Ultimately, it’s a solid addition to the genre at an amazing price tag, and it is going to suck away quite a number of hours from my future.

Good Ole Score: 7 out of 10.

Good Ole Score: 7 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Great old school action RPG gameplay.
  • Dark, foreboding and efficient graphics.
  • An open ended skill system that allows for massive customization. (At the cost of a con, however.)
  • Simplified stats over other games in the genre.
  • Fair item drop rate and an active trading community.

Meh:

  • The story of the game is poorly conveyed, but it’s there for those who wish to dig into it.
  • The cash shop does offer some pay-for-utility items such as increased stash space – but is by no means pay-to-win.

Cons:

  • Newb unfriendly. If you’re unwilling to do some out of game research, you are likely to end up with a sub-par character.
  • Convoluted skill system. While it also is a pro, there is a seemingly needless amount of options that aren’t easily reversed.
  • Currency system is a complete mess, to the point that I hesitate to call it currency.