Path of Exile is an online action RPG set in a dark fantasy world. It is developed by New Zealand based independent developer Grinding Gear Games and is a downloadable free-to-play game supported by “ethical microtransactions”. On January 23, 2013, the Open Beta was released. By March 2013 the subscriber base has reached 2 million players. The game left Open Beta and was fully released both on Steam and on their own website on the 23rd of October, 2013.
The player controls a single character from an overhead perspective and explores large outdoor areas and underground caves or dungeons, battling monsters and fulfilling quests from NPCs to gain experience points and equipment. The game takes heavily from the Diablo series, particularly Diablo II. All areas aside from the central encampments are randomly generated for increased re-playability. While all players play on (currently) one server world the game play outside of encampments is highly instanced providing every player or party with an isolated map to freely explore.
Players can initially choose from six available classes to play as (Duelist, Marauder, Ranger, Shadow, Templar, and Witch). Each of these classes are aligned with one or two attributes. The final class, The Scion, can be unlocked by completing the game on normal difficulty, and is aligned with all three attributes. The different classes are not restricted from investing into skills not aligned with their core attributes, but will have easier access to skills that are aligned with their core attributes. Items are randomly generated from a wide variety of basic types and endowed with special properties and gem sockets. They come in different rarities with increasingly powerful properties. This makes a large part of gameplay dedicated to finding well-balanced and synergistic equipment. Skill gems can be placed in gem sockets of armor and weapons, giving them an active skill. As the character advances and levels up the equipped skill gems also gain experience and can be changed into more potent versions.
Active skills can be modified by items known as Support Gems. Depending upon the number of linked sockets the player possesses, a primary attack or skill can be modified with increased attack speed, faster projectiles, multiple projectiles, chaining hits, life leech, auto-cast spells on critical strike, and more. All classes share the same selection of about 1,350 passive skills, from which the player can choose one each time their character levels up, or occasionally through quest rewards. These passive skills improve the core attributes and grant further enhancements such as increased Mana, Health or Damage dealing capacity. Each one of the characters start on a different position on the skill tree. They are arranged in a complex network starting in one trunk aligned with each of the three core attributes. The player must therefore not only focus on maximizing all modifiers related to his primary attacks and spells, but must also take care to select the most efficient path through the skill tree, as the average character will only have 100 skill points to spend.
The game’s economy is based on bartering for rare currency items. Unlike traditional game currencies, these items have their own inherent uses and thus provide their own money sinks to prevent inflation. Most of these items are used to randomize statistics on equipment.
“PC Game of the Year 2013”
9 – Gamespot
“Path of Exile distinguishes itself with a unique ability system based on gems and a labyrinthine passive skill system that permits the creation of almost any type of character.”
8.8 – IGN
“Everything you wanted from Diablo 3 – and more”
PC Gamer Magazine October 2013