This article comes from one of dear friends Jon “Bogus Meat Factory” Myer who is also a NerdyBlog fan. This article gives you guys brief details about what to expect from Path of Exile and how it compares to other free-to-play RPGs and Diablo 3.
Free-to-Play games have been existence since the early days of ShareWare in titles like the original Doom. Now, however, the market has changed. With the rise of casual, free to play games like Farmville, Maple Story and many others, game developers have found ways to create profit in the casual gameplay environment. This has opened up a flood works of similar, tag-along titles. Facebook games and Free-to-Play MMORPGS have sprung up from the earth to provide gamers with a unique blend of entertainment, ease of play and an addictive real world economy that brings in thousands of dollars a day.
As a hardcore gamer, I look at these titles and wonder where the entertainment is for a player like myself. Only recently have I come across such great Free to Play gems like League of Legends, a third person action strategy game that sprung up as a mod from the classic, Defense of the Ancients. Other games have followed suit from that success. Titles like EverQuest II, Team Fortress 2 and even World of Warcraft have taken stride with the rising market of the Free-to-Play world, adding incentives for players to plug in real world money for benefits in games. This is not about these games though. Instead, I am a privileged person with early access to an upcoming Free to Play game, Path of Exile by Grinding Gear Games.
Path of Exile is, at its core a third-person action RPG akin to games like Diablo and Torchlight. Players take on the role of one of six different classes, exiled from their home and cast into the cursed continent of Wraeclast. The key concept is survival as you travel the world, exploring its dark depths and uncovering the mysteries behind the horrors of the past. With you is an arsenal of skills and abilities to fight off the hordes of darkness. The real question you must ask though is this, “Does this game stand a chance against Diablo 3.”
The answer to this is simple; yes. Aside from the core mechanics of clicking on an enemy to attack, the similarities end there. Path of Exile has three definitive features that set itself aside from the competition.
First are the spell-gems. Unlike Diablo, spells and special abilities rely on gems found throughout the world as loot from enemies, or as rewards for quests. Each gem ties in to a certain attribute being: green for dexterity, red for strength and blue for intelligence. You place these gems into slots on your armor and weapons. Each piece of equipment is fitted with one or more colored slots that are related to the different colored gems. When the gems are placed into the items, you unlock that ability and, as you gain xp, those skills can level and become more powerful. Also, the gem slots can, depending on the piece of equipment, be linked with other gem slots allowing you to link tertiary abilities and enhancements to your spells. These allow for unique customizations of your characters and their abilities, as well as help customize specific load outs for your characters since the gems are removable once placed.
The second important feature is the passive skill tree. When leveling up, you are issued skill points that can be placed into a seemingly endless array of passive skills for your character. These skills are all passive and boost your character almost always on a statistical level e.g. adding a boosted percentage towards your critical strike chance, increasing damage with one handed mace weapons, adding chance to block, increasing run speed etc. The tree is divided by the same three major stats: strength, intelligence and dexterity that help define the skill gems and the classes. They cross over in an intricate web that, at first seems overwhelming, but as you progress through the game, they become much easier to grasp and add a unique level of depth in later stages of play.
The third aspect of the game is also the most unusual and foreign, and that is the lack of money. The people at Grinding Gear Games made a decision early on to remove gold from the game entirely. Their thinking was that gold was an obtuse goal for players, who spent a lot of time grinding over and over to collect it. In the end, they found that, when players traded with each other, they would simply barter with weapons and equipment instead of gold, leaving money out of the picture entirely making it seem useless in game. The plan, in Path of Exile, was instead, put power in the economy of enhancement items. There are a bevy of different items that can increase the quality, damage output, enchant, and randomize an item. These enhancement items are the basis of their economy, giving players an incentive to collect them and trade them at their leisure for gear. This gives players a choice to either use them to acquire powerful items through trade, or to use them for their own personal items and craft a more effective piece of armor or weapon. Like what was addressed earlier, this concept seems strange at first, but with extensive play time, I found it to be a refreshing change from the binding aspect of a gold-oriented economy.
Graphically, the game is also equally impressive. Environments are dynamic, with creatures skittering through the landscape. Enormous trees tower through the ruined world, weather effects added unique shadows as lightning strikes and spell effects seem to shimmer and erupt with extra amounts of glee. Add to this a high-quality of animation when battling. When struck, enemies seem to reel in a realistic sense of pain. Nothing is more pleasurable than watching enemies freeze and shatter in mass from an Area-of-Effect Ice spell. Add to this the diverse cast of enemies that fit their environments well and serve purposes beyond just bodies to wade through. A great example of this is a brutish ape that, when threatened calls for help, summoning a bevy of smaller apes from the treetops that climb down and swarm you. Another example is of an enormous crustacean that, once killed, breaks off it’s outer shell and reveals the disgusting body of it’s host; a ranged, fast moving creature.
Another great aspect of the game is its league system. Path of Exile has various modes of play that characters can partake in, each a part of something called a League. When making a character you decide what league to put your character into, a separate server that has unique rule sets that stand out from the default league. The Hardcore league adds an extra challenge to players by only giving them one life. If killed, the player is removed from the league and added into the default league. Another mode is called Cutthroat. In this league, all the battlefields are public, allowing all players a common environment. Player Vs. Player is enabled and, if killed, your items are lootable. Other leagues are in the works, but you already are beginning to see where they are headed.
You may also be asking about the Free-to-Play aspect of the game. Most games like this have a real world money aspect and Path of Exile is no exception. Grinding Gear Games have, however, made the choice to only sell cosmetic changes in gameplay. Players will be able to purchase taunts, different visual spell effects and other sorts of changes that do not affect gameplay or give one player an advantage over another.
These sorts of elements add variety and a flavor to the scenery that goes far beyond the monotony of item collecting. There seems to be extra attention to the details of the world and, even though still in closed-beta, can be seen as they continue to improve and reveal new modes of play, new environments and quests and a whole world of entertainment. I for one am very happy with how the game is shaping up and can safely say that this is not Diablo, nor was it ever trying to be. With its skill gems, passive skill tree, and league system, Path of Exile can be a great option for those that want a high quality Free-to-Play online game that caters to the hardcore crowd.
STAY NERDY, MY FRIENDS!
P.S. If you guys would like to write a one time article, video review, comic strip, or anything for NerdyBlog.com please just send me and Andrew a email we would love to have more NB-to-Fan interaction that is nearly unseen on other sites. Don’t be scared we don’t bite… much