Review - Path of Exile: Simplicity vs. Overcomplication
Recently Grinding Gear Games brought their new Action RPG Path of Exile out of the depths of open beta, where it had lived amongst its peers for nigh on a year. I played Path of Exile in the early open beta, and after the long break I am playing it now, curious to see where this game sits now.
The Action-RPG genre is wrought with dull, repetitive titles.
There are, quite frankly, more than I can count and too many were too dull for me to even remember. We've seen the genre brought onto Mobile platforms, we've seen it attempted, usually quite awkwardly, into consoles. What, then, can a gaming company do to make itself noticed? Blizzard already had their in, they near to created the genre with Diablo back in the day, and when Diablo III was released it exploded into popularity much like all the other games Blizzard has released. Torchlight is an example of a game that handled it well, and they did it in a fairly solid manner; no gimmicks, no silly game mechanics, just really good and solid play that is rewarding and consistent.
So where, then, does Path of Exile sit?
I'd say it sits behind a wall of undead, raining hellfire...
PoE did something that Diablo II prodded and Diablo III and Torchlight never even went near: complete control.
the most intimidating, confusing, and jaw droppingly awesome "talent tree" systems that has ever been made in a game
Path of Exile is fairly normal in most of its aspects, but what they have given you appears in the form of the most intimidating, confusing, and jaw droppingly awesome "talent tree" systems I think has ever been made in a game. This is a single, persistent tree made of of various passive, but noticeable, changes to your character and running to the tune of 1,350 separate points on the tree.
It isn't even exactly a tree, but a web, and your class determines absolutely nothing except where on that tree you get to begin. A Witch starts in the center of the Magic, or Intelligence, based section, while a Ranger sits in the center of the Dexterity area; a Shadow, however, sits between Dexterity and Intelligence, able to specialize in either or take them both equally. There is a class for Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, and a class for each combination of two, and once you've completed the game you unlock a class which starts dead center to them all.
What does this mean?
Barely a quarter of the biggest skill tree you'll ever play with
This means that effectively any character archetype you can think up can be built.
I experimented; a Ranger is generally a bow wielder, but what if I used a Shadow instead? I made a character who was a monster with a bow, but by sacrificing a little of that power he gained magic to let him blink from location to location on a battlefield, or slow enemies with ice before escaping to safety to keep firing at a distance. My primary character, a Witch, is intended to have as many zombies, skeletons, and spectres summoned as possible at any given moment, creating a wall of meat, bone, and ectoplasm so extreme that she can sit in safety and rain fire from afar. This isn't what this class is meant to do, its what I decided it would to, and its quite satisfying.
Path of Exile is a gorgeous game; not perfect, but immersive, interesting, and quite creative.
There is much to be said for the appearance of Path of Exile, the voice acting and ambience is enough to play the game as it is. Playing areas like the Caverns of Wrath and the Weaver's Chambers in a dark room with headphones is enough to scare you to death with the slight noises, and things seen out of the corner of your eye. Path of Exile is a gorgeous game; not perfect, but immersive, interesting, and quite creative.
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