The amount of Diablo clones -for lack of a better term- that has spurred out in the past few years is staggering, there’s Torchlight, Torchlight II, Titan Quest, and a lot more of other games that not just attempted to recreate the Diablo formula that has captivated so many gamers over the years, but have also added their myriad of unique bells and whistles that kept their games fresh. A shining example of such a game would be the recently released into open beta, Path of Exile.
Path of Exile is Grinding Gear Games’ first entry into their game development catalogue that has seen its open beta release on the 23rd of January in 2013, it is also always online, and free to play with options of micro transactions that are purely cosmetic.
Path of Exile starts you off as an exile washed ashore a strange land with a man dying nearby, afterwards he dies and you are introduced to your first challenge, killing a zombie, you progress further and are greeted with your first elite enemy that you have to kill in order to proceed to the first town. a few quests later and you’re introduced to Piety, your main enemy in the game. Piety conducts experiments on the creatures of this world and turns them into horrid abominations. And that’s as far as the story is concerned.
While it is a traditional point and click ARPG a la Diablo, one shining point of difference is the absolute absence of any form of virtual in-game currency, and this alone adds an entire new depth to the style of the genre, the only form of acquiring new items other from loot, is trading, most players use various orbs that augment the game items in order to purchase other items. Basically you’d have to play the game through in order to get items instead of just using an in-game auction house like Diablo. Another way to acquire legendary items is to participate in the in-game competitions held daily, a schedule of which can be found here, these competitions require the creation of a new character, and you’ll have to abide to a certain time limit, this time limit may vary from 12 minutes to a full months, at the end of which, the highest character of each class is rewarded with points that serve as currency in order to redeem special legendary items.
Another aspect of the game that will definitely seem off to veteran Diablo players, is that virtually every single item is socketed, in some cases you can find a chest armor with six sockets to put gems in. Which brings me to my next point, while the skill tree for Path of Exile is humongous to say the least (will revisit that remark in a bit), it is primarily a passive skill tree, all your active skills are acquired through gems found in the wilderness, or gained as quest rewards. Three primary attributes control the gems, Strength, Intelligence and Dexterity, and gems corresponding to each attribute are colored red, blue, or green respectively, some gems have a white color, those can be placed in any socket, like the town portal gem for instance. Gems, or your active skills, level up with you, you don’t have to assign points as you level up to active skills, as long as the gems are equipped they level up with you, so one player may equip as many gems as he/she wishes just to level them up and sell them later.
Onto one of the most intriguing aspects of Path of Exile, the skill tree.
The skill tree is by all standards, massive, and for good reason, it is shared by all six character classes, technically speaking, you can go from on class to another very easily, or in other words, you can build a tanky witch that uses axes, but that would defy the concept of the witch, though the point here is, that you can. Path of Exile features 1350 passive skills to choose from, every level you gain gives you an extra passive skill point, and some quests grant you extra points to assign, or grant you points to undo certain choices you may have done.
Like Diablo, Torchlight, and all the other nice ARPGs out there, Path of Exile features randomized dungeons, which means you’ll basically never go the same path twice and that offers nice replayability value, also, for those who don’t know, the instances reset every 8-15 minutes of inactivity, so you better bring along a good bulk of portal scrolls, you don’t want to die at a boss then have to fight your way through every single area all over again.
Matchmaking in the game is pretty easy, since the game is technically an MMO, you see a lot of people your level in the town you’re currently in, and every town has a billboard on which you can join parties and go tackling an area together, that’s always good once you finish the normal difficulty as there is a penalty involved with death later on.
In normal difficulty, death has absolutely no penalty, though once you beat the game and go to Cruel difficulty and onwards, penalties begin to appear, primarily a penalty in the experience gained and your elemental/chaos resistance, which can be very frustrating if you’re trying to level up a glass cannon witch.
After beating the Merciless difficulty, you’re presented with the end-game content which -from what I understood- is almost exactly like Torchlight II’s, maps, you find maps, you go to their location and you fight enemies with varying challenges.
Visually, Path of Exile is not stunning, but it is not awful either, it may not look as pretty as Diablo III, but that is entirely compensated in the new and refreshing changes it’s made to the genre. The witch’s skills look really cool though. The game at times stutters on my machine, dipping the frame rate to 40 and 30, though doesn’t go lower than that (I’ll post my laptop’s specs at the end of this review).
The game’s soundtrack is not one of its strongest suits, although it is mostly okay, almost nothing made me stop and just listen to the music, unlike when I first heard the Tristram theme in the first Diablo, and I said almost because there is one theme in particular that not just made me stop and listen, but gave me goosebumps, it’s the Solaris and Lunaris temple theme. Not only because I love ancient Roman and Greek history to no end, and these two areas played on that weakness pretty good, but also because it is one of the most sinister and beautiful music pieces I have had the pleasure of listening to in a video game.
Path of Exile like all other ARPGs naturally has a lot of replayabilty value due alone to the quest of finding better gear and maximizing your class’s DPS as much as possible, the maps end-game also offer nice replayability.
And with the community growing as much as it is, PVP will definitely play a big role in the game, even though this is only an open beta, I won’t be surprised to see Grinding Gear Games adding even more content to cater to an ever widening audience.
Recap and Final Comments:
Path of Exile is a breath of fresh air in the action role playing genre, it dared to do what Blizzard were too afraid of doing and as far as I’m concerned, succeeded with flying colors, I personally can’t wait till the final official release of the game.
Lenovo ideapad Y580
Intel i7 3630QM running at 2.3GHz
8GBs of 1600MHz DDR3 rams
Nvidia Geforce GTX660M with 2GBs of GDDR5 memory
1 TB 5400 RPM HDD
The game was running at native resolution of 1366×768 at a frame rate ranging from 40~60 FPS.