Even though I did not have so much gaming time this week, I decided to spend the few hours I had on a fancy game called Path of Exile. Developed by Grinding Gear Games, PoE (what a poetic abbreviation, hah) is more than just an homage to hack ‘n slay RPG’s like Diablo: it’s a daring playground for some things we have seen never before in this kind of role-playing games, and my fisher hat-wearing old guy and I will tell you all about it!
After you chose one of the six classes (which are not as restrictive as in other games, but more about that later), you find your hero stranded on a beach. It seems that your boat has been crashed by some…alright, let’s drop the story here. Who cares about that anyway? I like good stories just as much as any role-player, but in a hack ‘n slay, I wanna do that: hack and slay. Luckily, just a few seconds into it, you have a chance to start chopping away at zombies. You find a weapon and a…gem? Well yeah, hopefully you like sparkling crystals, because this game has you putting them into your weapons to get your “kewl powerz”.
In practice, the Skill Gem system of PoE is like the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII: you put Skill Gems into the right slot in your gear, and then you can use the contained power. The spells and abilities in the Gems gather XP just like you do, and you can re-slot them freely if necessary. Also, linked slots can be used to empower one Gem with a support Gem. By doing that, your ordinary Fireball can be turned into a magical totem that fires burning ball after burning ball, or you can increase the area-of-effect of a spell. Only a few Gems are restricted by class, so no matter which class you pick, you can choose your powers freely.
Next to this free and open Skill Gem system, the game uses a massive Passive Skill Tree. Really, just look at it on their website. It is huge. With every level-up, you can pick a new Passive from the tons of choices you have, developing your character however you like. Every class has another starting point on the grid, but you can eventually go any direction you like. It’s big, it’s open, it’s great!
Even though so much about the gameplay is different, slaying monsters and farming loot in PoE makes me feel more like playing Diablo than playing Diablo 3. Through the audiovisual design of the game, Grinding Gear Games shows you a world that is new, but sometimes takes you back to the old days of Sanctuary, when Paladins had thorny auras and Barbarians leapt around shouting at people. For this nostalgic bonus, PoE gets another box of kudos.
Really, there’s no excuse for not trying this game, because next to a nifty skill system and its visual ode to one of the greatest action RPG’s, it’s also free. That’s right, you don’t pay a single dime to get into this game or for downloading it. Yeah, there’s a shop, but as far as I can see, it doesn’t sell anything gamebreaking.
So what are you waiting for? Head over to the site, and get this little beauty right now. It’s in Open Beta, so bugs are to be expected. That doesn’t bother me though, because no matter what I face, my fisher hat-wearing veteran can take it!