Path of Exile – First Look

While looking at some Diablo III postings, I saw rather a lot of spam comments trying to redirect fans over to Path of Exile.  Normally, I ignore spam and condemn the author, but there were a lot of comments, and I was curious.  A quick look around turned up a game that’s still in beta, but already has a bit of a following..

Path of Exile - Exiles

Path of Exile is a free to play, competitive online action RPG, set in the dark fantasy world of Wraeclast.. a forsaken continent where exiles battle to survive against nightmare creatures.

The game has a barter-based online item economy, deep character customisation in the form of an immense skill tree, competitive PvP and ladder races.. and though there’s an in-game shop, it’s mainly for cosmetic items (clothing, victory animations and special effects); the team has promised that Path of Exile will never be “pay to win”.  Path of Exile is in development by Grinding Gear Games, an independent group of gamers who decided to build the sort of game they wanted to play.

There are six character classes: Templar, Shadow, Marauder, Ranger, Duelist and Witch.  Each class focuses on one or two key attributes: Strength, Dexterity and Intelligence.. e.g. the Witch uses Intelligence, while Shadow uses Dexterity and Intelligence.  I chose the Witch for my first character..

Path of Exile - Witch and Dying Exile

I started out on a beach, where another exile speaks to me for just a moment before the first undead appears!  I then made my way along the beach, fighting off the risen dead.. I found a Fireball Skill gem, too.  Skill Gems are special items which give characters new abilities once socketed into equipped gear; the gems level up with use too, allowing for stronger fireballs.. or sparks, auras, and so on.

It didn’t take long to level up, either.. and that brings me to the skill tree.

The skill tree in PoE is massive, with 1350 skills.  These provide passive bonuses to your character, and alongside the basic passive skills, there are Notable and Keystone passives, designed to provide guidance for players to build their characters up and change their play style a little.  All characters use the same tree, though starting off from different places, and players can choose to focus on core abilities or choose different skills from across the tree.

I like the freedom granted by this skill tree, though I think I’ll be choosing the more typical class bonuses to start with.  Over the first few levels, I’ve chosen increased spell damage and spell critical chance, heading towards the Fire and Lightning damage improvements.

Path of Exile - Chosen Skills

Exploration-wise, the first town in Wraeclast is Lioneye’s Watch, where survivors have holed up in an old lighthouse.  Quests sent me to retrieve medical supplies and explore the nearby areas.. and rewards offered a choice of Skill gems.

Merchants were available to buy up the gear I looted, and rather than paying in gold, they paid in items; Scrolls or Fragments of scrolls, Orbs or Shards of orbs.  These can be traded with merchants for other items, or used: a Scroll of Wisdom can be used to identify an item, while the Orb of Alchemy I looted allowed me to upgrade a normal item to a rare item!

Path of Exile - Rare Belt Pandemonium Strap

Gear has defensive properties aligned with the core attributes: Strength gear has an Armour rating, Dexterity gear has Evasion and Intelligence an Energy Shield.  With weapons, attributes affect the speed, damage and requirements to use them.  I was unable to equip some of the heavier weapons I found, but I was able to use all the armour I’ve found so far.. so my Witch is wearing a Rusted Helmet as I’ve found nothing better.  On the forums there is talk about some players choosing to use Armour rather than Energy Shield for their Witches.. I guess it all depends on the build you’re going for.

I’m only part way through the first of three Acts, but I’m enjoying the content.  It really does remind me of Diablo II, which has to have been an inspiration!

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