Hello Toastervision patriots and new readers alike. Today I want to tell you about an up and coming free-to-play title from Grinding Gear Games that’s been in production for over 5 years and has managed to keep a relatively low profile in the Action RPG genre. I’m well aware Diablo 3 is less than 20 days away from release, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. The ARPG scene has been dominated by Blizzard with Diablo series of games, and I admit that I’ve spent many years playing Diablo 2 on and off for months at a time. With games like Titan Quest, Torchlight, Dungeon Siege, and Baldur’s Gate having a huge influence on my youth, it’s safe to say that I’m a bit obsessed with spending countless hours running through dungeons to acquire gear that has no use but to be prestigious or traded for aforementioned fake gold in an e-community. This leads me to my first point and what immediately caught my attention with Path of Exile. Read on, fellow dungeon dwellers, to see why I think Path of Exile could be a budding star in a newly-revived genre.
Game Previewed: Path of Exile ( Closed Beta )
Release Date: TBD
Developer: Grinding Gear Games
Publisher: Grinding Gear Games
The promise of endgame content. ARPGs have a fault that lives at their core: the inability to really utilize gear that you spend a majority of your time collecting. Sure, you use items you find while leveling up your character, but what happens when you hit that level cap and the game turns into a farm-fest? Normally, you just amass a collection of goods and stare at them in all their glory while they waste away in your stash. The crew over at Grinding Gear Games, or GGG as they like to be called, have stated that they have intentions of creating and maintaining a form of endgame content in which the gear you acquire will be put to use. Whether it’s through PVP tournaments, timed dungeon races against other players, special dungeons designed by the developers to test your skill which will yield higher loot rewards, or even the currently dominant system of farming gear for a potential new character you are creating, they’re promising that the gear you collect at higher levels will be put to good use and actually encourage repetitive farming of their high level areas.
Endgame content is nice and all, but that’s not the only crucial change they’ve made to the ARPG brand of gaming. When you start playing, you’ll immediately notice a lack of currency in a coin format. That’s because Path of Exile is strictly based off item currency. This makes gold completely useless and is therefore not even in the game. Want to sell some items to the town vendor? Feel free. They will pay you in bits and pieces of items called Orbs. These Orbs help in the customization of armor and weapons that you find throughout your travels. Because the game’s currently in beta, there aren’t many options as far as player trading is concerned, but the overlords at GGG have some ideas as to ways they can keep the trading safe and scam free, which is another aspect that’s plagued the genre.
Customization’s always sought after in games such as this, and Path of Exile has found a way to make customization the most deep and fulfilling that I have experienced. With the use of a passive sphere grid system – similar to what you’d find in Final Fantasy X - the player fully determines the path of the character. Along with the passive sphere grid system, players can collect gems throughout their journey that represent skills that are available to you, each of which can be placed in sockets in the gear you find.
If you ever wanted to be a melee class champion with the ability to throw fireballs or ice spears at your enemy, then this title should grab your attention. You aren’t bound by any class structure. When you first choose your class you are essentially picking your starting location on the sphere grid as well as starting base stats, but after that it’s open season on customization. As with any game that offers this much customization, it can be as deadly as it is beneficial.
In conformity with the Diablo series, the game has multiple stages of difficulty that must be cleared in order to reach the next level. Path of Exile starts out relatively forgiving and basic, so none of your choices will really hinder your ability to play the game. Of course, as the game progresses the difficulty gets more and more apparent as you find yourself being potentially killed in one hit, even as the beefy melee class that I played. While this does limit the potential customization of the game, it doesn’t affect how you can use abilities from classes that normally you wouldn’t find suitable for the one you picked. Since the game is still in closed beta, we only have access to two full Acts on four difficulty settings, with the third Act releasing when open beta starts (possibly in June).
If you hold reservations against playing free-to-play titles because you don’t have the money to compete with those who do, then you owe it to yourself to try this game upon release. GGG has an avid stance against the fabled “Pay2Win” format that plagues the free-to-play industry. Expect to see cosmetics, extra character slots, extra stash tabs, and possibly even a sphere grid-clearing and respec option available through their shop. Don’t expect players making themselves stronger than others simply because they put money into the game.
If you are looking for an intense dungeon crawling experience that takes a lot from the famed Diablo titles, but improves immensely upon them, then you should give Path of Exile a try.
You can sign up for closed beta and wait for an email, or you can donate $10 to their cause and receive an instant beta key. Try not to get too caught up in your current character, though – they’ve already announced that there will be a character wipe when open beta is released.
Take this time to learn the ins and outs of the game so you can get a running start after the final character wipe. There will not be another reset after the game goes to open beta, and I urge you to give the game a try. Grinding Gear Games has been true to their core and has given us an experience in which you become the treasure hunter you’ve always wanted to be.