After being 7 years in development and over a year in open alpha/beta, Path of Exile finally released last week on Steam with a big update and even bigger hopes. If you’re unfamiliar with the game, it’s an online ARPG (Action-RolePlaying Game) that has been thrown together by a team of around 20 people from New Zealand, some of which include some notable Diablo 2 helping hands. In Path of Exile you choose between the 7 characters available (One of them requires an unlock) all who have been exiled from their respective upbringings and are thrown on a ship to take them to the land of Wraeclast. A terrible island full of the undead, jungles and disgusting marshes.
Path of Exile is very unique in the sense that it actually gives a little more focus on the backstory of your character at the beginning than other ARPG’s I’ve been involved in. There is usually a small description of your character in most games, but in Path of Exile when you switch between different characters at the select screen, it tells their respective stories, very interesting feeling.
I’m often very put off by free to play games offering in game upgrades to make your progression through the game as easy as possible at the expense of your wallet, but Path of Exile's is done well. The game survives off of microtransactions that offer vanity effects only applicable to your character. The most recent one is a Halloween deal that changes your footprints on the ground, gives you a head and changes what your armor looks like. You can buy “stash tabs” to increase your storage capacity in your storage chest, but it isn’t necessarily a game breaking mechanic as nobody ever heard of a loot hoarder being dangerous. The microtransaction system is done right, and many other games should take this as an example of how to.
Path of Exile also has some other incredibly rare features to the game that is almost unheard of in this kind of game, one of them being the economy. In Path of Exile you have no monetary currency system in place, there are no gold pieces, silver, copper, nothing at all. Instead there are different Scrolls and orbs that you can trade among other players in order to get items or gems from them, as well as from the NPC’s. There is a catch however, each of these orbs or Scrolls have uses for your player and affect your gameplay. None of them can be equipped or used to kill bosses, but some scrolls teleport you to town or identify items for you, some orbs can change the magic properties of your items or even upgrade a common white item to a rare.
The intriguing economy system in place allows for players to always have a set price for something (When selling an item to a vendor it will give you a rough estimate of what the item is worth) and makes it a very barter centric system. This system also prevents an inflation of currency as they will generally always be worth the same to players, barring any changes in drop rates.
Another extremely unique system in place in Path of Exile is the SKILL system in the form of gems in your gear and weapons, these gems come in Red, Blue & Green (Strength, Dexterity & Intelligence). Instead of taking the typical SKILL system and offering certain skills or feats to each class and player, there is instead a gem system put in place that determines what skills you can use. If say, a green Detonate Dead gem is put in the green socket on your chest piece, you now have the Detonate Dead spell available to use until you unequip the gem. You may also “buff” a certain skill if the attached socket is linked to another one with support gems. This offers some of the most interesting gameplay I’ve seen in a game in a very long time as the customization options are incredibly vast when you combine this feature and the different ways to roll your gear or change it. Path of Exile gives you the options to get the best rolls on your gear, with a little bit of work, you just have to figure out what the best way to do it is.
Adding to the bizarre and crazy changes that Path of Exile already brings, their Passive tree is incredibly terrifying and is definitely one of the most exciting parts of the game so far for me. The passive tree combines 1350 different abilities called “nodes” and calling it intricate would be an insult. The skill tree starts in different spots depending on what class you start as, but you can earn up to 120 points total to spend across it. Each node will provide a passive buff to your character and some will provide just more than +10 dexterity like the Avatar of Fire skill. The most interesting thing about the Path of Exile skill tree is that it allows the player a vast amount of options to customize their character in any form. The allocation of your points can let you make a Two handed ranger build, or a wand shooting physical damage marauder, the options are endless. The fact that this is what is offered for leveling up instead of learning skills as you go, and combining the gem system, it changes the way ARPG’s are played.
Path of Exile is a game that isn’t afraid to be different and it definitely shows. The developers know what they are doing and are very in touch with their community and what they want. There are different leagues and ladders in the game, different “races” hosted every couple of weeks and plenty of new content being added. The most recent content being the new Scion class that was brought out with the steam release, a class focused on dextery, intelligence and strength at the same time. The front page of the website for Path of Exile even includes a daily “Build of the Week” and even a featured livestreams tab to support people broadcasting their game. This is definitely a game for ARPG lovers that enjoyed the diablo 2 and want the real Diablo 3.