Game Review: Path of Exile

I’ve been meaning to review this game for ages, and I kept putting it off because I said “I should beat it first,” but then that thing happened where other games kept piling up and I never got around to beating it.

Still, I think I’ve played enough to give a good review.

I’ll just cut to the chase. Do you like free to play games but hate that they’re all pay to win? Do you like action RPGs like Diablo? Are you one of the many gamers who was disappointed by Diablo 3? Did you like Diablo 3 but you need another game to scratch that itch?

My friend, Path of Exile is for you.

Path of Exile is a dark fantasy action EPG that looks and plays like a true Diablo clone. You play as an Exile, a person who has been exiled to the unforgiving continent of Wraeclast. You may have pissed off the wrong person, had the dumb luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or you might just be an asshole, whatever the reason, life as you know it is over, and you need to survive in a place where everything wants you dead.

Your first order of business is to create a character by choosing a name and a class for them. There are six main classes, and the classes all depend on three main stats: strength, dexterity, and/or intelligence. Since I love magic users,  I chose to play as the Witch class, which is the pure intelligence class. When you beat the game once, you can unlock the Scion, who is strong in all three areas.

From there, you’re dropped on a beach and need to fight your way to the nearest settlement. Combat is simply a matter of clicking things until they die. You know how this works, right? Click to move, click to destroy your enemies, click your way to victory.

Unlike in many other games of this type, Path of Exile uses a socket system for skills. As you complete quests and acquire tons of loot, you’ll come across skill gems: red gems give strength based skills, blue gems give intelligence based skills, and green gems for dexterity based skills. Each skill gem must be inserted into a socket of the corresponding colour in the armor or weapons you have equipped in order to use them. There is a skill tree (actually. more like a skill forest, seriously, it’s one of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen) but you’ll only find passive buffs and stat boosts there. It’s a bit weird storywise (ie. if I’m a Witch, shouldn’t I just be able to use magic naturally?) but it does require the player to make some tough decisions: Do you take that great piece of armor with fewer sockets, or do you keep what you have? While you can get an item that changes the colour of the sockets, the reforging is random so it’s not the most reliable method unless you have the orbs to burn.

Health and mana regeneration is also handled a bit differently in Path of Exile. Remember how you used to stockpile so many health and mana potions in your inventory and they took up a whole ton of space? Path of Exile says “Fuck that!” and has you collect flasks which regenerate whenever you kill an enemy, so you no longer have to worry about dragging potions around.

Speaking of potions, Path of Exile has a barter system, so instead of exchanging loot for gold, you exchange items for other items. One of my favourite items is the Orb of Transmutation, an item that turns any normal item into a magical item, with random effects. I love playing around with these things, making my equipment badass through the power of randomness. (You can also craft items in a more controlled way by using a recipe or a different kind of orb, but I’m content with randomness.)

Since I mentioned bartering, I should mention the cash shop. Now I know what you’re thinking “Gef this is where you say that PoE is pay to win, right?”

WRONG.

Everything in the cash shop, everything that you can buy with real money, is purely cosmetic. So if you want, say, wings made out of tentacles, you can buy them in the cash shop. All these things do is replace the appearance of your regular armor, so you don’t get any kind of bonus, you just look really cool. You can also pay for different skill effects, pets that follow you around, and animations, but these are all completely optional. The ONLY thing you purchase that even remotely affects gameplay is more space for your stash (not your inventory, the place where you dump items you don’t want to sell and don’t want to carry around with you) but since I’m the type of person who likes to sell stuff I don’t need, I don’t really use my stash. Also I should mention that the game is solo-friendly. You can take on all the horrors of Wraeclast alone with no issues (that I’ve seen).

Let’s talk a bit about the environments. The levels are huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge and sprawling and full of things that want to kill you. The fire and water effects are really pretty. and combat is bloody. Did I mention the levels are huge? The one feature I really like is that the in-game map lets you know whether a level has a Waypoint (which lets you quickly travel to a level from a town) this cuts down on the time you spend wandering around looking for one when there’s none to be found. There are also a variety of monsters from zombies and cannibals and giant spiders to…….sentient ribbons? Okay, sire, let’s go with that. Although, truth be told, there are only so many ape-like creatures you can kill before it gets boring after awhile.

Just a random screenshot of one of the environments.

If I had one complaint, I would say that the game doesn’t force me to vary my strategy a lot, and I’ve been doing okay just spamming a strong area of effect spell like firestorm, even with enemies who are strong against fire attacks. One particular pain in the ass is that each level is randomly generated–including the exits out of the level–levels will “reset” every fifteen minutes, so if you die on one floor of a dungeon and it takes you more than fifteen minutes to return to that point, have fun looking for that exit again! (Although, exits are generally in the same area.)

In short, if you like games like Diablo and you want a free to play experience that is really free to play, go and download Path of Exile right now. Not only is it a great game, it won’t break your wallet. Isn’t it nice when game developers give us nice things and don’t charge through the nose for them?

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