Path of Exile has saved me from a relative rut in gaming. I’m going to try to be brief in this preview as we have a few surprises coming up concerning the game. I will also post updated previews as the game moves towards open beta and then full release. In the meantime, read on for a bit of a high level preview about Path of Exile.
When I started getting into PC gaming I was looking for something unique. I didn’t know what that was and Zork and the Ultima seemed to be the two styles that were the closest to what I was looking for. Then, the Diablo demo was released. This was the “black out” period of ’96. I do not remember anything about high school, the real world, or any other major events that happened that year. I remember playing through the Diablo demo about 150 times. The thought of “hawt lewtz” invaded my dreams, both while sleeping and awake. Once the release happened, all hell broke loose (excuse the pun). My friends and I spent countless hours playing, then countless hours talking about the new items we found. Since then, I have been a die-hard ARPG (action RPG) fan. Diablo 2 launched with a warm reception from my friends and me, but it did not capture us in the same way. I have been searching this past 15 some odd years for a successor to Diablo. I think I may have found it in Path of Exile. I understand that this is a bold claim, but let me explain more of what makes this game so promising.
Path of Exile is an online-only ARPG set in a dark and gritty fantasy world. Currently in a closed beta, PoE features five playable classes with a six being announced in the future. Each class starts with higher stats. Three classes start with a single higher stat while the other three will start with two stats higher. Strength, Intellect and Dexterity are the primary stats which are accompanied by, and affect other traditional stats, such as critical chance and health. Because of this system, and the skill system I will discuss next, any class can play any type of role. The witch, a traditional wizard class, could instead run around in heavy armor swinging two handed swords like a warrior or barbarian from other similar games.
Skills are not inherent to a particular class. Instead gems grant skills that are then socketed into items. Gems are given as quest rewards or dropped as random loot and level with your character when they are equipped. Each weapon and armor drop will include random colored slots for these skills in addition to their other properties. This creates a unique meta-game that other ARPGs are missing in my opinion. As you find loot that has statistical upgrades to your currently equipped gear, you also need to ensure that it has the correct slots for the gems you are using. You may find a significantly better sword that only has blue (the color of int gems) slots. If you are playing a warrior and focusing on red, or strength skills, the item will not allow you to use those skills. Grinding Gear Games did include items to allow you to customize your gear though their orb system. Orbs are dropped as loot and allow you to re-roll the socket color, number of sockets and other properties of the gear you use them on. The orbs are also considered currency drop because Path of Exile has no gold. Read that again, an online ARPG without gold! PoE is built to run on a barter system. Players trade different orbs or scrolls or items for what they want and vendors will give whole or pieces of orbs and scrolls as you vendor trash loot. There are even surprises depending on what items you sell together.
Now, for the largest and craziest part of PoE: the enormous skill tree. Before you read on, how big would a skill tree have to be to be called enormous? If you guessed anything less than 1,500+ you missed. Look at the image of the skill tree here. It is only a piece of the full tree. I can’t get a full image of the entire skill tree, but searching the internet may let you find a bit more of it. Currently, in the closed beta, skills are all passive enhancements. Some are stat increases, others increase attack or casting speed, damage, or resistance. A few keystones (the yellow stars) give you unique abilities, which I will leave spoiler free here. Just note that they will change, for balance, and make drastic changes to how your character plays. This skill tree is overwhelming, but Chris Wilson, lead developer for Grinding Gear Games, has stated that they are working on ways to make it more clear for new players to understand. He has also mentioned some growth should be expected. I’ll ask him about that soon.
That’s correct, we have an interview in the works with Chris Wilson at Grinding Gear Games, as well as a little surprise. We currently have a small handful of close beta keys to give away! These are a hot commodity, but all we ask for this little contest is to post questions for Mr. Wilson and we will choose the appropriate number of winners Saturday morning around 10 am CST. This way, you get the weekend to get into the game and join me to experience more of the multiplayer aspect of PoE. I haven’t been in a 6 player group yet and would love to get one started. Leave some comments about your questions for Chris Wilson and once the interview is set up we will update you with more information! If you are already in the game, look me up on Ostgara, Ost, or Ostrauder. I will continue to expand the previews as the game move along, this is a huge game and I can’t do it justice in such a short article.