At its core, Path of Exile is a typical ARPG hack-and-slash affair. Played over three acts, you take on quests, collect items, gear, and the drill. The combat is fluid as you hack your way through the mobs, firing off skills and bashing away at mana and health potions to stay alive. There is a story in Path of Exile but even if you don't pay much attention to the story it makes little difference, the gameplay is cracking fun. The main difference with POE and other ARPGs is that each character gives you a starting point for your progression within the game's passive skill tree instead of a set pool of primary skills to start whacking points into.
Each class begins at a different point in the passives tree based on their basic archetype, and to a certain extent the character you choose will determine how the character develops early on. As you progress, each character can start to move away from the starting point and move toward less obvious passive abilities in the tree, and move toward passives that other classes might expect to use. This is where Path of Exile’s character development starts to get interesting.
Grinding Gear Games wanted to create a skill system that was not completely tied to a particular class archetype and instead focused the skills around a gem system and item sockets. As you go about the quests, gems will drop which can then be used in item sockets. When socketed these gems give you a skill or support existing skill gems you’ve slotted into your gear. Different coloured gems are slotted into the matching coloured sockets on gear. It sounds complicated but it’s very simple in practice and any ARPG players will feel right at home with this.
With skills dependent on sockets and gems, this makes itemisation pretty interesting and it can cause some real dilemmas when it comes to what to equip based on the gems you’ve acquired. It’s an ingenious system that makes a player think about their gear, skills, and even where they allocate the passive points that are acquired when levelling.
Path of Exile has been around for a while and Grinding Gear Games have taken the Diablo ARPG formula and created something rather special. GGG is a developer that understands their audience and opted to fund the game through cosmetic item purchases. There’s no pay to win here and every ARPG fan should try POE at least once. GGG also release regular free expansions and content updates.
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