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Path of Exile Beta Review:
Path of Exile is a F2P game from New Zealand’s Grinding Gear Games, founded in 2006 and lead by lead game designer Chris Wilson. So here we are in 2013 and Path of Exile is open to the public in an open beta form. There will be no more character wipes when the game is officially completed, so this feels very much like a standard release. Outside of a couple of disconnects, this open beta release was very smooth, especially when you consider the game is being developed by a small indie staff.
The goliath counterpart to Path of Exile is of course, Diablo. I have not played much of diablo 3, and I don’t wish to compare the two in this review but, it needs to be mention that this game is very much like Diablo 2 (not 3), in terms of look and feel. This game is the third release of the big Arpg over the last few months, the other being Torchlight. While I leave it up to you to decide the crowning king of modern Arpg, in this review I want to look at Path of Exile and what it offers so let’s get started.
There are three standout components when discussing Path of Exile, the 1st is the unique passive skill tree
(Skill forest? Skill jungle...).
With over 1300 different unique passives, this skill tree is truly massive. All character stats, offensive, and defensive passives come from this tree. With 100 levels, and additional 11 points from quests, you will have 111 points to build your character. The stats range from strength, dexterity, and intelligence. The tree is a must see to believe, but by now you might be wondering, what about classes? There are six classes in path of exile, but they aren’t classes in a typical sense. Again it comes back to this passive skill tree. Your class just determines your starting point on this massive tree (and your look). From there you get two paths which break into hundreds of choice to build that class. Classes are matched with the three stats mentioned earlier. You have 3 standard classes; marauder (strength), ranger (dexterity), and witch (intelligence). Then you got 3 hybrid classes; Templar (strength, intelligence), shadow (dexterity, intelligence), and duelist (strength, dexterity). So while it might be difficult to make a tanking witch, or a spell spewing marauder, it doesn’t mean it cannot be done.
Before I go a little further into the skill tree, let’s examine that second standout component of Path of Exile. If anyone has played Final Fantasy VII, this might seem familiar. Skills are not obtain by just leveling up and seeing a trainer. Skills in Path of Exile comes in the form of gems. Gems have 3 colors; red, green, and blue. These skill gems can be obtain through quests or mob drops. New skills come often enough that you can swap out gems and change up your build multiple times. The skill
gems are then equipped into gem slots which can be found on your gear.
Gear has between 1-6 slots which can also be linked. This adds yet another layer of depth because, you can equipped support gems to skills that can change them drastically. For example you can add a support gem that leeches life, gives chance to blind, reduce mana cost, convert a single-target spell into a multi-target spell, and much more. I know this is a lot to take in and can be hard to understand at first glance but, the game executes this system well and it becomes second nature within a few hours of gameplay (though the skill tree might take weeks to learn all the options, the basic idea is not hard to grasp).
While Path of Exile has its shares of flaws, certainly its options for character building is not one of them. Your character is truly yours. The passive skill tree combined with skill/support gems and armor choice gives you an abundance of options.
The final component is very interesting. Unlike all other Arpgs where you find copious amounts of gold which you can use to buy items, identity scrolls, or potions in Path of Exile you will find zero gold. Your character is in fact broker than you are. So how do you buy items? How does the auction house work? Well in this gritty game you’re not going to find a cozy auction house to buy and sell your items, npcs, they don’t got money either. Instead Path of Exile uses a barter style system. In addition to armor and skills that drop from monsters you will also find orbs. There are many re many different kinds of orbs that do various things. Some change the color of gem slots while other take normal items and makes them rare. For the purpose of this review, I can’t go deeper into the different kinds of orbs but, when you trade to npc or real players expect these orbs to be the gold standard.
So there you have the three things that separate Path of Exiles from every other Arpg on the market. The passive skill tree offers crazy amounts of depth, the skill gems offers a unique approach to skill placement, and the no money no problem idea behind the zero currency system creates a lively community that must haggle its way into acquiring that unique sword that witch is trying to sell. Everything else in Path of Exile can be found in your standard hack n’ slash like diablo or torchlight. You kill, you get loot, you level, you repeat. The name Path of Exile comes from the path you take on your skill tree and you are exiled to this dark and gritty place known as Wraeclast. While I found the story to be no better than average with some limited voice overs, I was in love with the atmosphere. This game is dark, hard, and not ashamed of it. You will die and you will fail. Some people might complain certain dungeons to be too dark (don’t play with the lights off!).
Currently there are two different leagues or rule sets, default and hardcore. Default is the standard game mode and hardcore, which usually means permadeath in most Arpgs, which means if your character dies you will be kicked out of the hardcore league with that character forever and be put into the default league. There are plans to release other leagues such as cut-throat PvP but, since they aren’t in game I can’t comment on them. I am also skipping over PvP for now, it’s very limited to arena type matches and from what I Hear has severe balancing issues.
The game consist of 3 acts with 3 different difficulties. The 1st act is my favorite with the second act bing my least favorite. You can beat the game three acts fairly quickly and by level 30 you have beaten the games 1st difficulty then you do it all again on cruel and then again on merciless. After you beat all three difficulties there is a random map generator that you can play with friends to reach max level and maximize your character. Getting into a public group and creating a group is both easy and painless. One thing I dislike about grouping is the loot system, while it makes the game more cutthroat, it really needs some tweaking. When an item drop while in group with your name on it, you have about 5seconds to pick it up before it becomes fair game. Ninja looting is common place in Path of Exiles and when a valuable item drops my attention goes from enemies to the shiny loot as I try to get it before someone else does. Just increasing the timer on unique and rare items to give people a chance to see what it is that drop would be enough to make me happy. Your item inventory is very small and is based on item size so a lot of times you will need to drop something to pick up the better loot but, the current loot system does not give time to do this.
Path of Exiles is one of those games that grows on you and gets better with more play time. This game was develop to give the hardcore gamers enough stuff to do even months after release. The game has very little flaws like mediocre and short story, gender locking classes, your character looks ugly unless you’re a shadow, and so on. This should be an applauded attempt for grinding gear games as they really captured that gritty hardcore style of past Arpg as well as kept a very deep character building system. This is truly a nostalgic experience for people seeking something like diablo 2. All this and, like its currency system, cost no gold. That right this is completely free to play game. The cash shop offers some weapon skins and armor skins but, no increase chance on rare, xp boosts, or content. So there really is no excuse not to try it if you like Arpgs.
FINAL VERDICT 8.5/10