Path of Exile, the free-to-play action role-playing game (ARPG) from Grinding Gears Games, recently transitioned into open beta. The game has been capturing the attention of ARPG fans everywhere.
Path of Exile is an ARPG set in Wraeclast, a fantasy world filled with monsters, demons and undead. The game is divided up into three acts set in places ranging from a dark cove to a thick jungle and a desert city. A fourth act is currently still in production.
The game is also split up into three difficulties: Normal, Cruel and Merciless. Much like Diablo 3, the player unlocks a higher difficulty by completing the game on the previous difficulty. What sets it apart from other similar titles is that the game gets exponentially hard with each difficulty change. In Diablo 3, the difficulty curve is very gradual. If the player can beat Diablo on one difficulty, they can handle Act 1 on the next difficulty.
Boasting a unique skill gem system, which has players equipping the skills into their gear, Path of Exile has a huge level of customization. Paired with an extensive passive tree and unique currency system, Path of Exile is shaping up to be the most unique ARPGs since Diablo 2.
The currency system in Path of Exile also works well. With no gold or standardized values of equipment, the game opens up the world of trading and bartering for gear. A certain skill gem may be worth a Chaos Orb to one player but only worth a lowly Orb of Alchemy to another. This forces players to negotiate for the items they most desire. It also helps reduce the lottery feeling found in most ARPGs. Path of Exile actually lets the player convert their poorly rolled items into currency they can actually use.
Difficulty settings in Path of Exile is a breath of fresh air. After the snooze-fest that is Diablo 3, forcing the player to actually think before charging into rare packs is a welcome feature. However the difficulty does seem to spike a lot. Act 1 is understandably very easy. Act 2 ramps up the challenge without making things too insane. However, Act 3 is an entirely new game. Players are likely to struggle when they start the act. Once gamers make the jump to the Cruel difficulty setting, there is another huge spike in difficulty. This happens again when moving to Merciless. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it could catch newer players off guard. On the bright side, the insane difficulty spikes do prepare players for what they are about to face with each higher difficulty.
Grinding Gears uses MMO elements in Path of Exile that are well implemented. Allowing players to farm in instanced zones, then seamlessly join a group for the next zone is perfect. However, the interface for joining groups and changing instances does not work with the same fluidity. The developers should be able to improve this in a future patch.
As every game, Path of Exile is not without fault. Without any sort of built in tutorial or training, new players can feel incredibly overwhelmed. The math required for the passive tree coupled with the lack of full respecs can cause beginners to regret their entire character. This will no doubt have an affect on the potential casual market. Newer players should expect to spend plenty of their early game simply researching builds and skills, which will really turn off many gamers.
Just hearing the word microtransaction can scare away many potential players. While Grinding Gears Games is not offering any sort of advantage from their marketplace, the word carries a negative connotation that is always coupled with the pay-to-win strategy.
Based on the early build, Path of Exile is shaping up to be a huge hit. With incredible amounts of customization and difficulty, the game is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise stale genre. Some patience is required as players must realize customization comes with complexity. It may be enough to scare away potential new players but gamers will find this ARPG harkens back to the days of Diablo 2 once the beginning stage wears off.