Path of Exile Review
The creators of Path of Exile could not have picked a better name for their development studio: Grinding Gear Games. That's because you have to grind the same monsters for the same quests of three different story arcs three separate times. In order to reach end-game content, you have to complete the acts on three different difficulties: Normal, Cruel, and Merciless. The latter two difficulties reduce your resistances and impose an experience loss on death. Despite the exhausting grind, Path of Exile has its perks, the most important one being its truly free-to-play status.
You start out as an exile in the land of Wraeclast and your progression takes you on a quest to get vengeance on those who stuck you there in the first place. You are quickly exposed to Path's unique skill system, which involves acquiring skill gems and socketing them into the correct color slot in your armor. While it is true that this system allows you to easily experiment with different skill sets and switch skills on a whim, it has a couple of downsides. For one, your skill gems must also be leveled up, so if you decide to switch to a level 1 skill gem at character level 30, you'll find that that particular skill does little to no damage, or hardly has any effect for quite some time. The other downside is the color limitation. The colors (green, blue, and red) correspond to the three statistics (dexterity, intelligence, and strength, respectively). If you have a green skill gem, but no more green sockets, you're out of luck. This may force you to keep old or under leveled armor for the number or color of sockets on it. There are items to change both of these factors randomly, but don't expect to be rolling in them in the beginning.
The other feature you'll notice right away is the enormous passive skill tree. Every level, you gain a point to put toward a passive skill. Don't let the size scare you; you start out in a sector with passive's related to your class's strengths. Nevertheless, you can move anywhere on the tree if you have enough points. Again, the upside is versatility. The downside is that you cannot refund points whenever you want. You have to amass these refund points via quest rewards, and they are not numerous. By level 40, I had spent about 50 points and only had 8 refund points. Therefore I recommend researching builds before you sink your points into a path you don't want to go down.
The storyline starts off rather slow and you probably won't care about any of the characters or tasks you're performing for a while. It picks up with sirens stalking the depths and a prostitute turned necromancer, and you might even feel like you were killing bosses for a purpose aside from reaching the next area by the end of Act III. The developers came up with about 20 different monster skins and used them exhaustively, altering the color for effect. It is an action-RPG though, so if you want immersive and entertaining lore and brilliant art design, look elsewhere.
For being truly free-to-play (meaning there are only cosmetic items or unnecessary upgrades in the in-game shop), you certainly get your money's worth. Completing the first difficulty took me about 25 hours and it was full of hacking and slashing and dying (on my glass cannon character). I will say that the game is definitely more fun with friends. Path of Exile will provide you with endless hours full of killing stuff and leave you wondering, "Who uses click-to-move anymore?" and more importantly, "Why can't I wear pants in this game?" Seriously, why?