Path of Exile (Open Beta) PC Review

poe-beta-review

I only caught wind of Path of Exile on Tuesday, when I watched this trailer:

 

I was very skeptical of Path of Exile after watching the trailer.  All I thought was “Meh, it’s  free-2-play which probably means pay-2-win.  But what’s the worst that could happen?  It ends up being like Tribes:Ascend,  Blacklight Retribution, or PlanetSide 2 in terms of money=satisfaction?.”

So, I gave it a shot.  Turns out, my preconceptions were wrong.  The kiwis over at Grinding Gear Games (GGG) have vehemently said that this game will always be free and that they will never shoehorn a pay-2-win system into the game.  Except for buying a bank tab, everything in their store is cosmetic enhancements only.

I started up the game 25 minutes before open beta is released and I am 1816th in line.  I expected this launch to have the normal server issues every game does…

Path of Exile connected and my sessions started seamlessly.  Has this ever happened, especially in Beta?  Now I have to make a choice between six character classes (Duelist, Marauder, Ranger, Shadow, Templar, and Witch).  Right away Path of Exile is different.  Your classes only give you a small advantage in some areas.  The meat and potatoes is in the talent tree. poe_talenttree
This talent tree, I can safely say, is the best I have ever seen.  I have played many games that utilize a talent tree, including WoW, Diablo3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and numerous other titles that have released in the past ten years that had this function.  It’s formally called the Passive Skill Tree.  I find myself staring at it for minutes at a time just getting lost in the different possibilities of what I could create.  It’s like a modern Mona Lisa that Grinding Gear Games magnificently crafted.

I snapped out of my Passive Skill Tree daydream and realized I should actually play the game.  I chose to start as the hulking Marauder.  I perfer big weapons and big characters (Tanks).  The Marauder is basically the Barbarian from Diablo2/3 (mostly because I made him that way) which means he leaps and cleaves.

I started on the beach and killed a few things. Some gems dropped.  They looked like spells.  This is when I found out that spells are items that you use to augment your weapons and armor.  Those individual spells level up separately from your character.  The maximum character level is 100 and the maximum spell level is 20.

I kept killing things and kept meticulously placing passive skill points because a complete respec of your character is not possible.  You only get single passive point respecs from six quests in the game, otherwise there are Orbs of Regret which can reset one passive skill point.  To some, this seems very annoying.  To me, it brought me back to my Diablo2 lanning days.  Every point was a thrill.

Eventually I rolled into town and decided to empty my bag.  I was expecting the same old “vendor trashing” routine that seemingly every ARPG or MMO has implemented in the last 7 years.  Not in Path of Exile.  Those crazy New Zealanders at Grinding Gear Games even switched that up.  It’s basically a bartering system: different items you sell give you different currency.

At first I was frustrated.  This seemed so unnatural.  The Scrolls of Wisdom I was getting, that would identify magic items, could be used as currency?  Even Portal scrolls I was chucking at vendors.  This was pretty innovative and refreshing and feels less like balancing a checkbook and more like prancing around with a unique Easter basket of goodies.

And like everything else in the game it started to make perfect sense.  I finally acquired just one currency I needed for a nice skull-smashing two-handed mace. It cost me 1x Blacksmith Whetstone.  Now it was time for me to partner up with groups.

Group finding is fairly easy.  There are bulletin boards in all the major towns that post the public groups or you can just press the “S”(social) key.  I quickly found that you gain more experience in a group and you can hoard more items.

Another good thing about Path of Exile is the community.  Sure, there was the passing comment on Global Chat (Highly recommend disabling this immediately) that had a pretentious “I was in the closed beta, na na nu boo boo” feel to it.  But still, everyone I grouped with was supportive and fun.

Item drops in groups is also very well done.  Everyone sees everything that is dropped. There is a really cool caveat to this.  There is a timer on the item with your name next to it. The rarer the item, the longer the timer.  I believe the intervals are 2,3,5 and 10 seconds.  A lot of currency I was seeing had the two-second timer.  So, even snatching up currency became fun.

To get those drops you have to fight.  And I think GGG did a great job on combat.  It’s not as tight of controls as Torchlight II or Diablo3, but it’s definitely more rewarding.  Jumping off of a cliff onto a bunch of exploding foxes just felt like it was right.  Ground smashing golems and tons of spiders was equally as rewarding.

My Marauder could leap into an entire mob of guys and destroy them in seconds.  While I did this, I had to monitor my potion situation which, again, is unique.  Potions aren’t expendable.  Your flasks that fill up gradually with either damage or kills (not sure) also have abilities on them.  You get 5 slots to mix and match mana and health.

I am only about 13 hours into the game and roughly level 24 and I can safely say that I will stick around with this game for quite a long time.  I would recommend this game to really anyone.  It’s free, it’s a ton of fun, and it has that addiction component to it that is fresh and not extremely played out like the rest of the competitors in the genre.

So far, Path of Exile has delivered on a higher level than any of it’s predecessors last year.  That, coupled with the price allows me to give this game a 9/10.

+Expansive Passive Skill Tree

+Great community

+New take on a genre that is tried and true but has felt worn out as of late

+PvP (limited, but still present. Quite a nice surprise.)

+Easy to learn while being extremely intricate

+It’s free. I mean, c’mon. FREE.

-Turn of Global Chat when playing

-Combat could be slightly tighter

Review score: 9/10

Author: Samg