I decided to really get in and get my hands dirty with the free to play game Path of Exile today. I have been part of the beta for a bit now, but haven’t really taken the time to get to know the game. I must say I’m really enjoying it. It works well and it feels like a dark version of Diablo II. My main character is the ranger and I’m busy leveling her up. Since the game has such a massive skills board, it is interesting experience to level up. I found out I can link my ‘build’ via the Path of Exile website, so I thought I’d share what the board looks like and where I am at the moment:
Path of Exile Ranger Passive Skill board
This is called a passive skill tree. All the points a player earns for each level goes to these skills. As you can see, I’m putting all my points in to dexterity path and focusing on bow damage for now. When I finish the Bow Damage circle, I’m going to go back to the fork in the path. After that, I will continue with accuracy/projectile attack power and bow attack speed. There are 100 or so levels in the game, so there are many points that can be distributed.
The game does have active skills in the game, but these skills come by slotting different colored gems in to armor and weapons. The three colors I hae found are red, green, and blue. The gems seem to correspond to Strength (red), Mana (blue), Dexterity (green.) Therefore, I’m thinking there won’t be other gem colors in the game. Each gem has an ability attached to it, so when it is slotted in to gear the player now has access to that ability. At the momen I have three green gems slotted in to different pieces of gear. One gem does electrical damage, one gem is an three arrow attack, and one gem makes dead bodies explode. Since the main attack is hot-keyed to the left mouse button, the electrical attack is set to the middle mouse button and the split-arrows attack is set to the right mouse button. The exploding body attack is set for the Q Key but there are still W, E, and R keys available for future abilities. The gems also level up as the player uses the abilities. Some gear seems to have slots that can’t use gems under a certain level. A player can also switch out gems at any time to get an entirely different set of abilities as well. It’s a cool system that I like.
This video shows a bit of the early gameplay of Path of Exile. Create by Arogat`s Gaming.
Another thing to note is there is no currency in the game. When a player sells equipment and items to the vendors, the vendors give pieces of itemsf that stack up to form complete items. A piece of armor will give the playe a certain number of this paper item. When enough of the little slips of paper are stacked, the stack turns in to a Scroll of Wisdom. A Scroll of Wisdom is what a player uses to identify items. The vendors also have pieces of items that build up and turn in to Portal Scrolls and other items. The player can either keep these items to use or sell them back to the vendors for equipment and consumable products. There are many items that you can find pieces of that stack, from Transformation Orbs to upgraded health and Mana vials.
Vials are an interesting twist on the potion mechanic of Diablo/Diablo II. The player have the usual red health vial and blue mana vial. However these vials are refillable which seem to refill as enemies are defeated. The vials can also have magical attributes that help the character. For instance, I have a couple of health vials that make my character heal faster as well as gives her extra hit-points. The downside to these vials is that a player only has one belt that holds five vials total. A player has to decide whether or not he wants more health, more mana, or a mixture of both. At the moment I have no idea if this belt can be expanded.
Equipment has built in stats and abilities as well. For instance, there is a protection field that comes from certain equipment. This reminds me of force shield in the Halo games. When a player is in battle, the shield it is attacked first and goes down before health takes a hit. A little white line wraps around the red health orb to show how much of this shield is left. It doesn’t seem to regenerate in battle, but after the battle is finished it starts to regenerate. This is just one example of abilities that are built in to some equipment.
I think the game that really influenced Path of Exile is Diablo II. I think this because the levels reminds me of the game, both the way the map overlay looks and how the levels are laid out. It is a combination of free roaming boxed in areas with many dungeons underneath. The free roaming areas don’t seem to be randomly generated, but the dungeons are randomly generated. I found this out when I delved in to this one dungeon and went down to a sublevel to fight a boss, when I came back up the level was entirely different.
The graphics are on the realistic side, with very moody music and cool shadow effects. My computer system plays Path of Exile, or played the game well. After a mandatory server reboot, the game started to stutter and jump a bit. However, I have practically everything on high so I’m not really complaining. I did have to get used to the fixed camera angle, as I often do when returning to this type of game. I wanted to move my camera around to see what my character looks like but I could not The game reminds me of a modernized Diablo II that mated with the Cthulhu mythos. Enemies have consisted of zombies, lots of spitting spider things, and many creeping.squid things.
I’m only at level 8 so I haven’t played much of the game. I do like what I’ve played so far. It feels polished and well thought out, retaining elements of older action RPGs while adding some new features. I have no idea how Grinding Gear Games are going to make money, however, since it seems like a complete game now without a cash shop. Of course, games like Diablo III and Torchelight II are coming out soon. It’ll be interesting to compare the games.
I wasn’t sure I would like the passive skill board system, but I really have grown fond of it. I like that I can plan where I’m going with my skills with ease. It does remind me of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII skill boards and I’m sure they drew inspiration from the games. I like the focus on passive abilities for the level up points and active abilities for the swappable gems. I think it takes a little of the pressure off of the leveling experience.
Right now there are five different character classes with a six one on the way. The classes start out like typical fantasy classes but can be really customized. For Instance, my bow-wielding ranger is now popping dead bodies open like a necromancer for crying out loud. I am enjoying the game and can’t wait until it goes live for everyone.