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Path of Exile - A Review
Path of Exile is an online-only action role-playing game (ARPG) being developed and published by Grinding Gear Games, a small independent video game company situated in New Zealand. Now, why would I, who dislike most online games, review this particular gem? Well, for starters, it's free. Secondly, I'm a die-hard Diablo and Titan Quest, as they represent the best ARPGs of the last decade or so. Path of Exile takes a good deal of elements from Diablo and adds a lot of uniqueness to the mix, to create its very own game.
So, read on and see why you should play Path of Exile!
Path of Exile is now currently in open beta, and the third act has just been released for players to play in. As the story goes, you have been exiled from your homeland to the land of Wraeclast and must work to better the situation of those people you find. Some of them are exiles such as yourself and others have ended up there by chance. While this is an online game, it is not one modeled after MMO tendencies, so you shouldn't worry about the story being superfluous. For those of you in the crowd who love a good story, Path of Exile will definitely deliver, insofar as an ARPG can weave a story.
This is what separates Path of Exile from established greats such as Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2. I'll start with what is probably the biggest innovation in the genre. Path of Exile does not use gold as a currency. Matter of fact, the concept of grinding bosses or champion packs for a single currency doesn't exist in Path of Exile. Instead, Grinding Gear Games plans to include up to 25 different and distinct items that have their own unique effects, but also serve as currency in a barter system.
Barter system, you may ask. That sounds like Fallout, you may wonder. However, in the time I've participated in the closed beta, the system works better than you'd expect for an ARPG. Basically, items of little worth sell for fragments of Scrolls of Wisdom (used to identify magic items). If you decide to sell a rarer item, you may get fragments of Orbs of Augmentation (which can modify magical items) or something else altogether. Likewise, to purchase items you need to give up some of your hard-earned currency items. It's genius in that it is a self-correcting currency sink. You can use the Orbs of Augmentation to buy items, to trade for items, or for their effect. Gold in most other games just got a bit more boring!
Another thing I really like about Path of Exile is a concept I hadn't seen implemented since Final Fantasy 7, which also means it is the first time I've seen the concept in an ARPG. I'm talking about linked sockets. For those of you in the crowd who have played other ARPGs, the concept of the socket is all-too familiar. However, if you have never played an ARPG before, I'll talk a little about what it's all about, at least within the context of Path of Exile.
Sockets are essentially spaces all pieces of equipment in Path of Exile have that allow you to place a gem within them. In Path of Exile, you have skill gems and you have support gems. Skill gems allow you to use the skill associated with said gem (interesting parallel with the Materia system in FF7) as long as the gem is equipped. Support gems modify a skill, but only if the socket with the skill gem is linked to the socket with the support gem. I can't sing enough praises about this system, because it allows you to customize your character any way you like, without the punishment of a skill tree as implemented in most other ARPGs, where one wrong choice can ruin your entire build. Here, you just switch one gem and you're all set!
The concept of potions in Path of Exile has also been played with. Instead of buying potions at your local vendor, or getting them as monster drops, you acquire empty flasks instead. While you are in town, the flasks fill up instantly. However, when you leave town, the only way to fill them back up is to defeat monsters. So, in one fell swoop, you remove one of the more annoying aspects of a lot of ARPGs (buying/hoarding potions) and prevent potion spam (the flasks can only fit so much healing liquid at one time, after all!).
I could probably mention more things about the gameplay, but you should go see it for yourself!
The graphics are decently good. Since I'm not a graphics freak, you'll rarely find me complaining about graphics in a video game. My one gripe (which could be a function of the game's unpolished, beta, state) is that animations look a bit jerky. I'm not the only person to say this, but I'm hopeful that the animations will be polished up between now and when Path of Exile goes gold. I'm sure Grinding Gear Games can pull it off.
I love the sounds and music in Path of Exile. There's nothing like smashing a monster's skull in with a maul and hearing your Marauder grunt while the maul connects with a thudding noise. The music is a bit dreary at the start, but that is actually a compliment. The music fits the setting you are currently in; lost, alone, and unsure of your own future in the world. I heard about three distinct songs in the time I was playing, and they all added to the atmosphere of their respective areas.
In conclusion, I feel like Path of Exile is going to be an awesome ARPG. It will scratch the itch for those people who loved the first two Diablo games and want a taste of the days of yore in their action roleplaying adventures. The best part is that the game is free, so if you don't like it, you can just uninstall it!
Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)