Over the Thanksgiving Holiday my best gaming buddy Trev mentioned that he thought we should check out a free-to-play ARPG called Path of Exile.
“All the reviews that I’m reading of this game keep calling it the spiritual successor to Diablo 2,” he said.
I told him I had to leave to go to Thanksgiving dinner, but I would think about it.
When I returned home a few hours later I jumped online and found Trev playing Path of Exile. And soon I was right there with him.
Created by Grinding Gear Games, Path of Exile truly is a spiritual successor to Diablo 2, but with some great twists. Like most ARPGs it is an isometric, hack and slash, loot grind. Where it shines though, is its skill system and its “skill tree”. The skills aren’t earned at every level up like a lot of RPG games out there. They are found or given as quest rewards in the form of gems. The gems are one of three colors: red, blue, or green. They have to be slotted into a socket of the same color on a piece of gear to gain that skill. This makes the skill system seem more in line with a collectible card game, or table top war game as it limits the amount of skills you can use at a given time and forces you to make some hard, yet fun decisions. The “skill tree” is awe inspiring. It’s not so much a tree but more like a giant puzzle or web.
If you ever played a game and thought, “If I just had this ability on that other class tree…” you’re in for a treat. Basically a passive ability on the “tree” can be accessed by any of the seven classes in the game. It’s just easier for some classes to get to other skills based on where that class starts on the “tree”.
Another dynamic game play change is that there isn’t a regular monetary system in the game. Payment to the vendors and the in game economy are both based around barter. This is a nice touch as you are playing on the continent of Wraeclast where you, and presumably everyone else, has been banished with just the clothes on your backs and a single weapon. The items you receive (orbs) from the vendors, player characters, and occasional drops can be used to modify your gear. Either by changing its rarity, number and color of sockets, stats, or even removing them all together.
The graphics of the game are on par with the genre, and there are some really beautiful spots and effects in the game. For instance, when walking through a forested area, you actually have to weave through the trees and look through the foliage for your avatar. In dark areas the lighting and shadow effects are gorgeous.
All of this and it is free to play. The amount of content you get for free is very robust. You get a good amount of stash space and can make at least one of each character class. The only transactions that I can see someone needing to make is to purchase the extra stash space. Otherwise, if you want to support the game they sell different visual effects for gear and characters as well as pets.
The only complaints I have about the game are small ones.
My first issue is in a game where loot is one of your biggest drivers, it seems like the loot quality is mostly underwhelming. Normal and magical items are often times as good, if not better, than the rare items that drop. This doesn’t bother me too much as I’m not much of a loot hound when it comes to games. Also, using the previously mentioned orbs can fix a mediocre piece of gear and make it great.
My second problem is the final boss fight. I don’t want to say too much here and spoil it for a new player, but let’s just say the difficulty and learning curve are pretty ridiculous.
All in all, if you loved Diablo 2 and have wanted a good sequel to it, Path of Exile is a far better game than Diablo 3. The innovative way that you gain skills and the immense skill tree alone make it worth the avid ARPG player’s time.