Path of Exile Review
Path of Exile is a new MMORPG from Grinding Gear Games. The new action RPG introduces exciting and complex new elements to the genre, and should be a delight to fans of games such as Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2. Path of Exile places players into the dark and gritty world of Wraeclast, which is designed to be the antithesis of modern action RPGs’ slant towards bright and cartoony motifs. Although it is certainly not adult-themed, this game is intended for mature players and long-time dungeon-crawler fans. After playing the open beta version for nearly a month, this reviewer is hooked.
The graphical style of Path of Exile is a breath of fresh air, and I’m impressed at every turn. Wraeclast is dark, dirty, gritty, and realistic. Characters and environments are not stylized in any way. The graphical experience truly captures the essence of a desolate, frightening and dangerous world, adding depth to the overall experience.
It is clear that the artists and designers paid close attention to the details, which serves to enhance the horror-themed visuals all the more. Zooming in can reveal things like clouds of flies buzzing around a character’s head, for example, or rodents scurrying around in a dungeon that feels damp and cold just from the visuals.
Sounds in Path of Exile enhance the setting and mood greatly. Abilities have unique and gratifying sounds — using an ability that causes enemies to explode in a rain of blood sounds appropriately disgusting, for example. The game has a compelling and atmospheric musical score, but, like all MMORPGs, it simply does not have the variety of music necessary to remain compelling over hundreds of hours of gameplay. As always, I turned off the music after an hour or two, but not due to poor quality. The music is spot-on, but there simply isn’t as much variety as there could be.
The core gameplay mechanics do not introduce anything new to the genre. Players click the ground to move their characters, using hotkeys to trigger abilities and use consumables. Gameplay can begin to feel like a grind after a while, as repeating the same procedurally-generated dungeons over and over is necessary to find the best gear and items.
The unique levelling and ability systems are what really sets Path of Exile apart. All classes have access to a single, massive skill tree with several hundred different passive skills to choose from. Players have access to a vast number of choices, creating a nearly limitless number of possible combinations and character builds. While different classes begin at different places in the skill tree, any class can travel across the tree to gain varying passives. Active abilities are gained through gems that can be socketed into any piece of equipment, and it is the gems themselves that level up through use. These two systems combined mean that no two player experiences will be exactly alike, and that everyone can build a character that perfectly suits their preferred play style.