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Free Game Review: Path of Exile

Hack n Slash goodness in a game that vowed to be the next Diablo, a game that’s absolutely free to play. It can only be Path of Exile. Named 2013 PC Game of the Year by GameSpot and best PC role-playing game of 2013 by IGN, it’s had high praise indeed. Now that it’s 2017, does the game still stand, or is it falling apart? With microtransactions as the primary means of keeping the game alive, is it just floating by because of this, or is this a very solid game? Here’s our complete run down of this free-to-play extravaganza.

Overview

Developer Grinding Gear Games
Platforms PC (Windows), XBox One*
Worldwide Release
October 2013
Genre Hack n Slash, Action
Price
£Free

Review

Story

I can’t say too much about the story really – You’re a character from a selection of basic classes (more on that in the Gameplay section), who has washed up on the shores of Wraeclast, a cursed continent which is ill-fated for anyone who winds up there. Whatever the reason that you ended up there, you are an exile and you now have to now survive the harsh and dangerous lands of Wraeclast for yourself. Whether or not you make it out alive depends on how you

Gameplay

Path of Exile is a hack n slash, which means that as you walk around a large open world, you will be attacking enemies whilst facing them. You bind buttons to your different attacks, allowing you quick access to up to 8 attacks on PC. As you level up, you will get access to new skills, all of which can be levelled up separately. Different skills means different damage, different effects, different range and even can be a support move, rather than an offensive attack. With so much variety in skills, you’d be forgiven to think that you have a set number of attacks per class (which we mentioned existed in the previous section). You can select from one of seven playable characters to begin with: Marauder, Ranger, Witch, Duelist, Templar, Shadow or Scion. The first three are “pure” classes, following a stat logically, whereas the last ones are hybrid classes, following two stats. For instance, I picked the Duelist, which follows the path of Intellect and Strength.

Classes do not have set skills: instead, you get skills by equipping gems in sockets in your gear. When I first started to play the game, I thought that your gems would only give you spells if you put them into your weapons, but it turns out that you can put your gems into any socket you have available and boom! You’ve got yourself another spell to add to your already growing arsenal of skills. You get these skill gems by drops, finishing quests, purchasing them from vendors or divination cards. More of this becomes available as you continue through the game, but a strange point that I’d like to quickly drive home – The currency in this game isn’t in gold or anything resembling currency. Instead, it’s with in-game items, such as shards which are used to create scrolls of identity.

As it is with the Diablo series, you still have scrolls for your portals to the current town you return to, same as how you have scrolls of identity. The scrolls of identity are used to check to see what stats a weapon will give you at better than a common quality. Item qualities means that you will get different stats or benefits for equipping them. Typically, the higher the quality, the better the item. For instance, a unique item will last you longer than a rare quality item typically. Understanding the different stats and benefits are what gives your character lots of added benefits.

Further to that, the final point that’s actually rather different to most hack n slash games, is the ability to create a completely unique build for your character. Whilst in the Diablo series, you were able to put all of your stats into vitality for a Necromancer, that might not have been your best option. In this however, you start off in your classes “starting zone” on the talent grid and you are able to build your characters talents over into other areas. It might take a while, if you’re playing as a class that favours one thing, but you want to become something completely different, but it does allow you to do this. The level of customisation available is utterly ridiculous and when you first look at the grid, you might think you’ve gotten yourself into something just a little bit too big. After a few minutes of getting used to the game, you’ll realise the grid system is very flexible.

An aside here: The game supports multiplayer, which is apparent when you see the amount of people in the towns. However, you can get into a party of up to 6 people. Me and my partner Jake have found this to be an excellent game to play together, as it’s just a game you can zone out and appreciate together. It’s a lot more fun if you play it with someone else than it is if you play it alone.

Graphics

The art direction of Path of Exile is rather dark and gloomy, more sinister than fellow hack n slash Torchlight. It clearly takes a lot of its art directions influence from Diablo, hence I would argue that it’s Diablo-Lite. However, considering it came out in 2013, it’s not quite as graphical as Diablo III. This isn’t a bad thing mind, as it looks like how I envision Diablo II would have looked if it was made more recently. Not only that, but the graphics have been tweaked in such a way that you’re able to really lower the settings. This means you can play the game on a brand new machine and it looks nice, or play it on an older gaming rig and it’ll play absolutely fine. You don’t really need a gaming machine to really get this going though. As always, looks can be divisive, so here’s our gallery:

Audio

 

Path of Exile likes to take ambience and turn it into something meaningful and powerful. With full voice acting bringing the characters to life, the music isn’t ever overpowering. It’s always a reflection of the zone that you’re in. There’s the calm before the storm kind of moments, along with the more powerful drum-filled tracks to get you pumped up. From foreboding sounds, to gentle melodies, Path of Exile likes to take you through a rollercoaster of feelings throughout. It’s really hard to imagine making a soundtrack like this on a budget – However the later tracks, which I’ve yet to get to, sound absolutely incredible. Powerful fantasy music for a game filled with swords and spells.


Overall

Path of Exile isn’t the perfect hack n slash (I hold that to Diablo II still personally), but it’s a great example on how the genre should behave. It’s not going to be inducted as one of the greatest games of all time, at least in my eyes, but it’s one that should be used to teach future hack n slash developers how it’s done. I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to play it and I’m really glad that it doesn’t force the microtransactions down your throat like the game depends on it. Its very laid back, very easy to get into and overall it looks beautiful. I can’t recommend this heavily enough if you’re looking for a game like Diablo but don’t want the price tag associated to it. What do you make of Path of Exile? Is this a game that you’d pick up and play? Do you play it currently? Let us know your thoughts below, or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

*P.S: Oh yeah, the developers have announced they will be taking Path of Exile to console too!

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2 responses

  1. I hope it comes to PS4 some day. Hack n Slash games are fun and this one seems to trump Diablo 3 in terms of character customization.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 16, 2017 at 8:29 am

    • Yeah, effectively that grid is just the most customisable character builder I have seen in a game. Especially when combined with the base starting points on the grid and skill gems. Hopefully the Xbox One announcement was a prelude for PS4!

      Liked by 1 person

      April 16, 2017 at 11:16 am

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