Path of Exile: Public Stress Test Weekend
By Meredith Watson, OnRPG Journalist
Path of Exile is an online free to play action RPG developed by New Zealand based Grinding Gear Games. Path of Exile is billed as a dark fantasy action RPG featuring six classes; the Marauder, Ranger, Witch, Duelist, and Templar have been available to play in the closed beta while the Shadow made its debut this past beta weekend.
When creating a character the player has the option to join different leagues. Most characters will join the default league which is rather like the general population. Leagues are a way to enjoy the game with a certain style of play or for different events. GGG is working on several different leagues such as Hardcore, Ironman, Cut-throat (PvP), and Attrition. Players can also create leagues with their own modifiers by paying for it.
Path of Exile is free to play but does have an item shop with items like extra stash tab, character slot and eventually items such as cosmetic pets, alternate spell effects, special animations, guild storage, and dyes as well as other cosmetic goodies. Often with other free to play games the first thing the player sees when logging in is the item mall; however, there has been very little item shop spam in Path of Exile during this beta.
Path of Exile is meant to be a gritty, dark fantasy and it is. Graphically, it doesn't disappoint. It may be too dark for some, though, especially with direct light on the monitor. There isn't a brightness or contrast option unfortunately. The animations are smooth, particle effects are showy and bright without being over the top, and the shadows are outstanding. For an indie game, this level and quality of graphics is impressive.
The different areas of the game all tend to have a varied look and feel about them. The indoor areas like the prison or caves maintain that dark feeling of the game. The soundtrack, composed by Adgio Hutchings, is both beautiful and haunting, adding to the immersion.
Combat is just what you would expect from an ARPG. Click click all the way to level 100. There are no defined roles in Path of Exile such as tank, healer or dps. As of this beta, there seems to be some contention as to whether Path of Exile is too hard. There is enough challenge to keep it interesting but Path of Exile may not be for the novice ARPG player.
The most interesting feature of combat is the skill gems. There are three colours of gems (red, green, and blue) that correspond roughly with the three attributes of strength, dexterity and intellect. Each piece of the character's gear will have slots for gems, and by equipping gems the character gains spells. These gems will gain levels as they are used. A level cap for the gems has not yet been introduced. The player also has access to an enormous passive skill tree separate from skill gems. With 110 skill points to spend in the passive skill tree there are many options.
One other thing of note is that there isn't any gold/money in Path of Exile but rather a barter system is used. When the player sells an item to an NPC, the NPC offers the player something in return such as a few scraps that will eventually make a scroll of wisdom as an example. When purchasing from the NPC the player must also have a specific item to trade.
Where this game really excels is graphically. The dark beauty of the game is striking and rich with ambiance due to distinct maps and a brilliant soundtrack. The combat is typical of the genre yet enjoyable. Path of Exile does offer some interesting features such as skill gems, a vast passive skill tree and an intriguing barter system. If you are new to ARPG, Path of Exile may not be the best to learn on but if you are an experienced hack and slasher then this game should tick your boxes.