RPGs are a practically a dime a dozen. Free-to-Play massive role playing titles can be found all over the net, but where most of them, including mainstream iterations, focus on one aspect over another, Path of Exile presents a balanced array of options with an incredibly deep, open, customizable system in a style reminiscent of the Diablo series.
On the surface, Path of Exile looks like most other action RPGS, but this game really separates itself through two forms of skill customization. The first method involves the gem system. Augmenting your class with fireballs or ice is as easy as plopping the associated gem into available slots on your gear. However, the real treat becomes evident as you combine gems, yielding versatile effects. As you rank up and find better loot your gear slots will increase. The more slots you have, the more combination potential you harness. During one example, an ice wall gem was placed in the same vein as the lightning strike. The results caused a simultaneous offensive/defensive maneuver where lightning struck one enemy, while erecting an ice wall on the flank towards another. And that’s just the beginning of how gems work congruently.
Passive skills make up the second form of custom abilities. These are viewable on a vast, intricate, skill-web where not only will you find your class’s starting point, but an interconnected network - branching all classes together. Yes, this means you can potentially build a skill tree of any class’s attributes. So, one may select the Marauder class, but you can branch into skills more akin to a Ranger, for example. This potentiality is better realized when you consider there’s 1350 nodes on the skill-web. I know, right?
For some, 1k+ skills might sound obnoxious, but for others it’s a garden of opportunity. Coupled with gems, the skills system proves to be of great allure in terms of character creation. Uers can even explore risk free mock builds via the website; which can then be shared with the community for tips and feedback.
Naturally, you can also respec your skills, but the retrograde is limited. Thus mapping out your tree is highly encouraged, and as Grinding Gear Games explains, there is value attached to “character permanence.”
The idea behind this is to maintain the narrative of the character you create, versus altering that identity at will; potentially losing any pre-established connection with the previously invested build. It’s a perfectly fair compromise and you can always create a new character if you want to try a new skill path.
The seventh sign:
In addition to six playable classes, upon the game’s official release, Path of Exile will release with a seventh exile. Enter: The Scion. Being the daughter of corrupt nobles, this particular character falls under the prestige class.
This means The Scion will not be immediately available to new players. She can however be unlocked (literally from a cage) later in the game. Furthermore, contrary to the six other classes, The Scion’s skill tree comes as a double edged sword. On one hand, she cannot specialize in a set of skills like her brethren classmates. This is because her starting node sits in the center of the skill-web. The advantage allows her to access specific skills easier than other classes and for less skill points too. Heavy is her crown, but rewarding is her mastery.
Path of Exile may play like a traditional point and click action RPG, but it certainly validates its appeal through a deep-seated, skill arrangement. The gem combinations are fantastically satisfying, especially in the upper levels where available gear slots were observed to be as high as six.
A one hour demo session barely tips the tip of iceberg for this game, but it was enough to salivate the mouth. Additionally, POE’s Free-to-Play approach is as attractive as it is galvanizing considering microtransactions are focused on cosmetic items and pets; meaning, no one player can truly gain an advantage through in-game purchases.
And if the size of POE wasn’t massive enough, GGG plans to launch with new world areas, monsters and - wait for it - more skills; including the “ultimate grand finale boss encounter.” There’s also a crafting component, guild system and PvP modes. And before you ask, yes there’s more. POE even offers two challenge leagues, Domination and Nemesis, for players wanting a fresh start with an alternate economy and augmented rules.
As we see it thus far, POE is shaping up to be the best bang-for-buck RPG this year.
Path of Exile launches for free on October 23 of this year for PC and Steam.