Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Path of Exile Review (Closed Beta)

When I saw for the first time this games I was shocked.
What I've seen was what I expected that Diablo 2's sequel will look like. After the big disappointment I had when I saw Diablo 3, this was like a miracle.

Path of Exile is an action RPG developed by Grinding Gear Games.
It is very similar to Diablo 2, and inspired by it. It got same map display, random level and item generation, portals, identifying items, towns, acts and so on.
What I really liked about Path of Exile is that it preserved the gameplay from Diablo 2, while improving and adding other features.

Improvements over Diablo 2
The first improvement I noticed was the stash size. While Diablo 2 had a very small stash size(which at some point led me to download a mod to increase the space in my stash, to practically infinite), Path of Exile offers much bigger stash.
Another improvement is the ability to press Z to toggle the option to show items on the floor, instead of holding down the Alt key. When I played Diablo 2 most of the time I pressed Alt to show items, and occasionally I opened the map by pressing Tab, which led me to Alt+Tab and minimize the game. In single-player the game would pause, but most of the time I played online, which means that the game didn't pause and I could get in trouble and die.
You have more skill sluts. While in Diablo 2 you could only equip two skills at the same time(and switch skills using the F keys), in Path of Exile you could equip up to 8 skills at the same time.

You are an criminal who got exiled to an continent called Wraeclast.
There is a story, background behind bosses and characters, though I didn't really follow it.
Personally I don't want to read a lot of text when I go on a quest, but I certainly would like to hear it, like in Diablo 2. Currently Path of Exile doesn't have voice acting, but the developers working on adding voice acting so it's going to be just fine.

Cooperation with other players
The game encourages players to cooperate and party. Like in Diablo 2 when you play with other players the game difficulty raise and so does the rewards. For example the final boss of act one, Medveil, is very difficult to defeat alone at the normal level you reach her ( about 16). Players must party in order to defeat her and continue to act 2. I occasionally saw players in the chat looking for parties to defeat her.

Enemies and AI
The enemies in Path of Exile are varied and unique.
Some of them have specical abilities, like resurrecting monsters and using skills.
Some of them will come to attack you from different places, like zombies that will emerge from the ground, sand spitters that hide in the sand and reveal themselves once you get close, spiders that will emerge from the depths of the dungeon, and more.
The AI will do more then just spot and attack you. For example some enemies will call nearby enemies to aid them, and ranged enemies will try to keep distance from you.
Spiders emerging from the depths of the dungeon to eat me.

The graphics are beautiful.
When you are in closed areas like dungeons and caves, the environment is dark. Light comes from above your character, casting shadows behind objects like pillars and enemies.
Effects like when you freeze, ignite, shock, and poison enemies looks good.
Another thing that I really liked is that when you shoot arrows at enemies, they stick in them, which I find a very fun eye candy.
The game mostly have dark, grim atmosphere, yet some areas are green and bright which add veraity and a break from the grimness.

The sounds in the game are fitting.
After a short time of playing the game I could recognize which items are dropped by their dropping sounds, if it was a ring or an armor.
The music is memorizable. The menu theme music always catches my ear at about 1:35 and give me a gloomy feeling, moving me.

Classes and Skill Tree
If offers great flexibility with building your character.
Every character can use any kind of gear, as long as they meet the requirements.
The main difference between the classes is their starting point in the skill tree.
Path of Exile have an unique skill tree. The tree composed from many little passive skills.
Each skill needs another skill which is linked to it to be assigned in order to unlock
In the skill tree.
The skill tree offers great flexibility and let you choose in which way you want to play with your character, if it's with swords or axes, fire or ice, light or heavy armor and so on.
The skill tree... well, part of it.

Skill gems and Support Gems
In Path of Exile you get your active skills from skill gems, which can level up and become stronger.
There is also Support gems which you can use to add bonuses to skill gems, and they also can level up.
Items have sockets for placing support gem. Each gem have a related color to the attribute it belongs to - red for strength, green for dexterity, and blue for wisdom.
Gems gain experience when they are worn, which is 10% of the experience you earn.
Support gems in to be placed on a socket which is linked to another socket with a skill gem in it in order to give it it's bonus.
On the left side a skill gem, on the right side support gem, linked to each other.

The item randomization in the game is very similar to Diablo 2. There is normal items, magic items, rare items, and unique items. Path of Exile refreshes the system by adding some new kids of bonuses to the items.
Items also have quality bonus. Quality bonus improves the items basic stat, like defense for armor, and damage for weapons.
Some items also got sockets for skill and support gems, which can also be linked to each other.
Each socket got an attribute color, red, green, and blue, and only gems with the same color as the socket can be place in it.
I found myself sometimes waiving using a stronger items because they don't have the sockets I need for my gems. This consideration makes selecting which gear to use more interesting, because it's not about using the strongest gear, but using the gear which fits you the most.

Currency System
Path of Exile uses a unique currency system, It uses orbs. In the game you can find various kinds of orbs, each with it's own rarity and use. In general orbs are mainly used to improve items, but some have other uses.
Items can still be sold at the store for fragments and shards of three specific orbs.
This system is useful against farming since high and low level items sold at the store for the same items, and most of the orbs can be only found. The system encourages players to trade and interact with each other, making the game more lively. You will often see players in the chat posting trade offers for items they want to buy and sell.

Potion System
Path of Exile uses a special potion system.
It uses flasks which refill as you kill enemies.
Flasks can be magic items and add special bonuses, and can have improved quality like other items.
There are some special  flasks. For exmaple flasks that greatly increase your resistance to a specific element for a short duration, or recover both your mana and life, which are more rare then mana and life flasks.
The potion system is great, first of all you don't need to worry about restocking potions, second you can't "potion spam" and can't relay on potions to keep your health full all the time, while not being restricted with delay between uses, and third the flasks are improvable items and part of your gear.

Path of Exile have leagues. Each league have different rules.
Currently the closed beta have to kind of leagues - default league and hardcore league.
While that in the default league you respawn when you die, in the hardcore league your character dies a permanent death, and then moved to the default league.
There are more planned kinds of leagues, and I found one of them to be very interesting.
It's called cut-throat league. In that league all the areas are public, with PvP enabled, and Characters that die drop all of their items.

Free to Play
The game is free to play. Currently not everyone can enter the close beta, but once the open beta will start anyone will be able to play.
The game is planned to be funded by ethical microtransactions.
It means that buying items from the games store won't give the player advantage over other players.

Path of Exile is very unique, refined and enjoyable game.
As I mentioned before it's still in closed beta stage, and there are many more features that are planned to be added in the future, and perhaps some changes to the current features.
I highly recommend it to people who played  and loved Diablo 2, you'll probably love this game too.