Penniless Arcade #1: Path of Exile
2012 seemed like a good year for Diablo-style action RPG’s. After years without a major title, players were spoilt for choice with both Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2. Both games were good, but they left many fans of the genre disappointed. Enter Path of Exile; a dark and complex, but best of all free, action RPG which aims to bring depth to the genre.
//Why Path of Exile is Unique
Graphically, Path of Exile is noticeably darker and more realistic than either Diablo 3 or Torchlight 2. Early on the game is very dark, not in tone but visually – to the extent that it can be difficult to see some loot. Later on things brighten up and the areas are varied and interesting. Whether or not Path of Exile‘s world is immersive depends on how much you allow yourself to get involved. The beauty of action RPG’s is that they aren’t all about lore and it’s easy enough to skip most of the story in Path of Exile.
By far the most complicated part of the game is the character customisation. You get no points to spend on your core attributes. Instead, you control your character’s development through an imposing tree of passive abilities. Examples of these abilities include +10 to strength, or +40% mana regeneration speed, or even such unusual abilities as ‘Chaos Inoculation’ which sets the players maximum life to one, but makes them immune to chaos damage.
There are three main statistics for characters in Path of Exile; Strength, Intelligence, and Dexterity. Each statistic has its own area on the skill tree. Where you start on the tree depends on the class you choose. A Witch, for instance, starts in the intelligence part of the tree. This makes it easy to give a witch magic-focused abilities. But if you wanted to make a witch who could cope with melee combat, you’d have to travel a long way across the skill tree, wasting valuable skill points in the progress. It’s all very confusing, but you can see a working example to get a better idea.
This element of customisation leads to thousands of ways to build characters, and just as many ways to break them. This will appeal to strategic gamers, but not everyone wants to sit for hours analysing statistics. Hopefully the volume of optimised builds available online, as well as the ability to respec a character, should mean most players are able to create characters that work.
Optimised character builds will likely become essential once PvP play takes off. Path of Exile’s developers have spoken of their plans to create a variety of games modes, including such classics as capture the flag and king of the hill. This is unusual for the genre, but it will be interesting to see how the PvP for Path of Exile develops.
Path of Exile‘s combat system sticks to the action RPG formula, and that isn’t a bad thing. It’s fun, but can be very repetitive. To alleviate some of the repetition, developers Grinding Gears have added yet more elements of strategy. Active skills aren’t acquired by levelling; instead, they’re found as gems, which you attach to weapons and armour. These skill gems can be combined to create new abilities, adding even more opportunity for character customisation.
//Free-to-Play, not Pay-to-Win
Developers Grinding Gears are clear that they want to make Path of Exile a game that rewards the best players, rather than those with the most cash. The game is supported by ‘ethical micro-transactions’; players can only buy cosmetic upgrades, and aren’t able to improve the abilities of their character by simply throwing cash at them. This sets Path of Exile apart from many free-to-play games. It’s rare to find a free-to-play game that is as well made as Path of Exile, which isn’t pay-to-win.
If you like the sound of Path of Exile, click here to visit the account creation page. The game is in its open-beta stage, but it is already one of the best action RPG’s I’ve played.
Penniless Arcade is a regular feature you’ll find only on Hard Reset.
It will chronicle the very best of games that wont cost you a penny.