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Path of Exile: A Game Review

A screenshot of the Path of Exile website
A screenshot of the Path of Exile website
Screenshot - Bruce Emmerling

The PC gaming market has been flooded with many “free” games often requiring in-game purchases to finish them. Path of Exile is different. Built from the ground up to be free, players can download the game and play without ever paying a cent. Created by Grinding Gear Games, the game makes a profit through players buying cosmetic upgrades that enhance the visual effects of a character. Players can purchase new uniforms, effects, and other items that bare no bearing on the playability of the game. Amazingly the company has made millions of dollars using this approach. The free game is also a very well designed experience with great graphics. Fans of action RPGs will want to take a good look at the game.

An action RPG for the rest of us

Path of Exile is very similar to Diablo II and other action RPGs. For the most part, each player concludes a multitude of quests, battling monsters, and maneuvering through the areas of the game using transportation portals. The game runs constantly online and works well over basic DSL and cable connections. The graphics are highly detailed with plush scenery rendered throughout the game. Monsters are aggressive and constantly attack. Like other action RPGs, players basically spend their time battling countless monsters in real time while seeking out objects or performing quests. As players progress through the game they can gain upgrades to their abilities using an extensive skill tree.

Playing the game

In the beginning, each player can choose a character type from six classes. These classes include duelist, marauder, ranger, shadow, templar, and witch. Players then name their character and begin gameplay. Anyone that has played Diablo will feel right at home. Gameplay involves roaming through areas, battling monsters, and solving quests given in towns. Towns are where players can sell or buy items, save items in a chest, obtain quests, and interact with other players. There are two types of movement in the game: on foot and with transportation portals. Portals can be found throughout the game but first must be “discovered”. There are also portal spells to easily transport a character to a desired location. Essentially characters work to continuously solve quests, obtain ever more powerful items and develop higher skill levels. During this process each player will meet ever increasingly more difficult monsters and quests. Luckily players can die repeatedly in standard play mode and then be resurrected without any penalties.

Items and Gems

In Path of Exile, there is no currency to purchase weapons. Instead shop owners or traders in portions or parts of gems. Gems form a bartering system used when buying and selling items. They are also a major factor in building more powerful items that have magical properties. Players can obtain special upgraded items including weapons, armor, wands, rings, and potions embedded with special gems. Many items such as weapons and armor can hold gems that provide special upgrades include elemental attacks such as lightening and higher life-force statistics. Some gems give increased dexterity or strength ratings. Finding ever more powerful gems is a major goal through Path of Exile.

Multiplayer Interactions

The game offers opportunities to interact with other real players including tournaments, exchanges, and parties. Throughout the maps of the game there are towns where players can meet other players. Exchange or community boards are available in each town where each player can sign up to exchange items or join a party. A party is a group of players that band together to battle monsters and creatures in a combined player setting. The group shares any experience gained from defeating opponents and gain new items. Players can trade items with other players, making it easy to gain more powerful items without exploring dangerous dungeons. Solo players need not fear. The entire game can be played from beginning to end without interacting with other players. The game essentially runs well with each solo players or groups.

Levels of play

Path of Exile offers several levels of play. The levels are called leagues during gameplay and include standard, hardcore, invasion, and ambush. Standard is the basic game play level where free resurrections are available. In hardcore mode, players will resurrect back to the standard mode. Each league has differences include new monsters, tactics, treasures, and multiplayer interactions. Some leagues can change and are temporary while standard or hardcore leagues are permanent.

In conclusion

Action RPG fans will find a great game in Path of Exile. The price is just right and the graphics are quite beautiful for the game type. Grinding Gear Games continues to work on upgrades and new expansions, making it clear that the game will grow well into the near future. With players increasingly paying money to buy cosmetic character upgrades, there is enough funding to support continued development efforts. Hopefully Path of Exile will be used a model for more truly free to play games in the future.

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