First Impressions of… Path of Exile

People say it’s the Diablo killer but I’ve yet to see him spawn anywhere. Maybe he’s an easter egg?

Path of Exile is firmly grounded in old style mechanics and offers a refreshing yet complex take on the ARPG formula of kill, loot, kill some more, loot some more, and return to town to sell your excess loot. From the moment you wake up on the beach you’re going to have a lot of choice which is a great experience (for me at least) but it can be a little overwhelming at first.

Choice of armour and weapons is extensive and slightly complicated if you’re not sure what you want to do just yet. There are six different types of armour that enhance various defensive capabilities and give you a different edge which are sort of softly tied to each class in the passive skill system. That is to say it gives you a small indication that maybe armour and energy shield is a good combination for the Templar but it doesn’t stop you from rolling a full armour build. Or even a full energy shield build. It’s just up to you to make that decision and swim across the trees to whatever your chosen build is. Personally, I find the energy shield a very interesting mechanic as it’s kind of like free health.

Energy shield is a buffer that absorbs damage before your health. If it regenerates fast enough, is high enough, or simply isn’t damaged enough, then you won’t actually lose any of your health from most attacks. However, it would seem that poison completely negates the shield and goes straight for your health pool. Chaos damage seems to do something similar. But for the average enemy that does physical or elemental damage it provides a nice bonus that regenerates naturally.

"Just popped up to say hello!"
“Just popped up to say hello!”

Weapons are countless in number and have a range of requirements, weapon speeds, damage types, socket types, general uses, and can be a very important part of your build as a whole. Skill gems (covered below) have certain requirements before they can be used and most of the physical attack types need a specific weapon type to be used. Some will work with an axe or sword. Some work with all melee weapons. Some are exclusive to two-handed weapons. Some are specifically tied to fast weapons with Dexterity requirements. Therefore, the choice of weapon should balance the offensive statistics and your choice of gems to make something that works to preferred killing speed.

You really will notice and feel the difference between a fast and slow weapon- especially if you’re accustomed to one and switch to the other.

While the first thing you do in the game is choose a class there isn’t much information given on which does what and how they actually work. It would seem that you start in a different place on the passive skill tree (or maybe each class has a unique one?), that your starting statistics are different, and that you look different. But there doesn’t seem to be any class specific skills. Skills instead come from Skill Gems which are fancy items that go in sockets to give you access to a range of talents. Some are simple melee attacks, others are devastating combos, some are spells, and others are sustained buffs. There’s a lot to choose from and you’re going to have fun picking your favourites.

Admittedly this creates a rather unique bundle of classes but it also means that you could have every class that uses a sword using Cleave. Or every class that uses two-handed weapons using Sweep. Which then reduces how unique and different the classes actually are. However, I see it a bit like how Dark Souls approaches classes- they’re not really unique but starting points to create your own unique classes.

That's... a lot of mouse clicks.
That’s… a lot of mouse clicks.

The way to create that unique combination of magic and melee? An absolutely massive passive skill tree that covers numerous talents for every kind of weapon, attack type, spell type, character type, armour, choice of beard length, and much more. This thing is huge. I don’t even know how much of it you can realistically fill out even at the level cap with extra points from quests and the like. But it does give you the chance to create just about anything with just about any choice of equipment. Of course, you are always going to fare better if you focus and fill rather than spread your points out into everything you can.

Overall, though I am only about half way through Act II, I’m enjoying the myriad of systems and equipment types. I’m interested in seeing how things change in Cruel difficulty and how they change again in Merciless difficulty. If it’s anything like the progression in Diablo II you’re going to lose resistances, lose experience on death, die a lot more, heal a lot worse, and generally spend a lot more time running back every few yards not to get swamped and killed by damage that wouldn’t have mattered in earlier difficulties. Given that the game is free to play if you’re a fan of ARPGs then this is one you should consider trying. It’s probably the closest you’re going to get to a modern Diablo II experience.

Have a great week, all!


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