Despite breaking the single-day record for sales of a PC game, at 3.5 million, I feel as if Diablo III has turned out to be a bit of a flop. The game had a rocky start with a release that was riddled with crashes, and a huge base of players have severe gripes about the game’s difficulty and gameplay in general. We waited more than 10 years for a sequel to arguably the best hack-and-slash ARPG ever (that’d be Diablo II), and it has disappointed many.
I was able to pull myself away from Diablo III in less than a month and it has left me with a real quench for a new loot game. Luckily for me, Path of Exile has just come out of closed beta and is available for anyone to play. If you’ll take my word for it, it’s more Diablo than Diablo III. Let’s not cut Path of Exile short though. It wasn’t designed just to be a Diablo II clone. It’s definitely a game of its own kind.
Here is the official open beta launch video, directly from Grinding Gear Games:
This trailer is actually one of the best I’ve seen, as it doesn’t just tease you with cinematics and drama. It actually shows the game’s most important and interesting elements of gameplay.
Path of Exile is a point-and-click ARPG with a huge emphasis on tinkering with the attributes of your character’s build and itemization. Back to the Diablo II comparisons: I find myself completely addicted, even when questing or grinding.
Looting gear is something that will never get old. You’ll never be satisfied with your build. You’re constantly theory-crafting and changing the most specific passive and active traits of your character, and it gets to a point where you want to do nothing but improve. You want to reach that endgame state of your build. But is that even possible?
The genre that Path of Exile belongs to is set apart from the rest of gaming because of its unforgiving nature. When you die in a Call of Duty game, you respawn a few seconds later. When you die in Path of Exile, things can be a little more stressful. In some difficulties and gameplay modes, you can lose a chunk of experience for dying, drop all of your gear, or even be completely removed from part of a game with no chance of ever returning.
One of the first steps in creating your character is to select a league. Default is the standard league while Hardcore is a league for more serious players. Each league has their own ladder. When you die in the Hardcore league, you don’t lose your character forever. You are put into the Default league, removing yourself from the ladder and gameplay community of the Hardcore world.
Both worlds consist of three difficulty levels. Normal, which is the default and comes with no death penalty, Cruel, which penalizes you 7.5% of level progress on death, and Merciless, which penalizes you 15% of level progress on death. You essentially have to beat the game three times, once for each difficulty, to reach an endgame state. It is incredibly challenging and difficult.
One of the most commendable things about this game is the extent to which you can customize your experience. Through around 50 hours of gameplay, I can honestly say that Path of Exile is one of the best games I’ve ever played in this regard.
In Path of Exile, you can choose the Templar, Marauder, Shadow, Witch, Duelist, or Ranger as your class. Your character is not completely defined by that decision though. You are given base stats and then a ridiculously large passive skill tree that allows you to shape and customize your character as you progress in the game.
As you level, you fill in nodes to this tree that give your character passive bonuses. As you can see, it is huge. It leaves endless possibilities available. It means that you can play a Marauder, the barbarian class in Path of Exile, as a caster. You could play the Duelist as an archer. You could build your Witch as a tank. It’s all possible and viable.
The weapons, armor, accessories, and gems of Path of Exile make possibilities even more exponentially broad.
Rolling new stats and mods on your items will take over your soul. Path of Exile incorporates a system that is shockingly similar to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII. In Path of Exile, you earn, loot, or buy skill gems that allow you to perform certain skills. There are also support gems, which modify and improve these skills. You place these gems in the appropriate slot on your weapon and armor pieces and you reap the effects. It is a very interesting and fun gameplay element.
Path of Exile is multiplayer, but not so massively. MMOs control online gaming and I think it’s incredibly important to make a game of instances, like this one, feel as full and busy as possible.
This is a game you’re best to play with your friends. Running through maps in a party is always going to be more fun than flying solo. Trust me. If you have a tough time convincing your friends to play, there are plenty of public chat channels where you can find a willing party. It’s also very easy to find people to trade with. That’s another important aspect of the game.
But now to what you’re probably interested in: the PvP!
Though the video above shows a real beatdown, it demonstrates just how fun PvP can be (if you’re on that winning side, I suppose). You didn’t work for hours on end to get that amazing gear just to play in a world against the environment, after all. PvP feels very free and fun because there is no reward for a win and no punishment for a loss. You go in purely for the enjoyment. I’m sure a competitive PvP circuit will soon come along that puts more of a purpose to it all, but it’s one of the best parts of the game as it is.
If you loved Diablo II, play Path of Exile. If you’re into games where you are constantly challenged to progress, play Path of Exile. If you are a hardcore gamer who feels surrounded by a softcore world, play Path of Exile. As the open beta continues, I can only see the game growing more popular and successful. Get started while the game is relatively new. That’s how you end up being one of the best!
If you’ve gave the game a try or if you’re interested in what you see, let me know in the comments below!