Quantcast
Review: Path of Exile - Destructoid




Game database:   #ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ         ALL     Xbox One     PS4     360     PS3     WiiU     Wii     PC     3DS     DS     PS Vita     PSP     iOS     Android


Path of Exile  




Review: Path of Exile photo
Review: Path of Exile

9:00 AM on 12.19.2013

Old meets new school


A free-to-play ARPG (Diablo-like) sounds like a terrible idea on paper, mostly due to the track record of microtransactions recently and the obvious exploitation potential of a loot-heavy genre. Enter Grinding Gear Games who, despite this set up, have beautifully married to two pieces together to create a wonderful whole in Path of Exile.

The result is a truly free-to-play unique romp through a carefully crafted an interesting universe. But beware! True enjoyment will demand patience and dedication from all who enter.

Path of Exile (PC)
Developer: Grinding Gear Games
Publisher: Grinding Gear Games
Release Date: October 23, 2013
MSRP: Free-to-play
Rig:  Intel i7-4770k 3.50 GHz, 8GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 560 Ti GPU

The very beginning of Path of Exile will immediately make seasoned veterans of the ARPG genre feel at home. Picking a class, the clicky-click nature of the combat, the Tetris-style inventory management, the dark atmosphere, and even one of the early quests that has players killing every last monster inside a sort of "den" filled with monsters that you might call...evil. It's a clear homage to the all-time classic, Diablo II, but an homage is all it is. Path of Exile is very much its own game, which becomes apparent the first time players encounter the passive skill tree.

It's impossible not to get lost in it. Some players will be reminded of the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X, others will just spend time being lost in its vast amount branches and nodes. Where to start? Where to end? What the hell am I doing? It's overwhelming to say the least, and it is pretty much a given that each player's first character will end up being relatively useless as they struggle to navigate a decent path through the skill tree. However as time goes by, mistakes are made and enough knowledge is gained to maybe eventually actually create a halfway decent character that feels unique.

In fact, studying skill tree builds has become a small hobby of mine since the game's release. I love seeing all of the various builds that players create and, more importantly, their reasoning as to why they took certain nodes over others. It's not something I expect to be able to do any time soon, but understand why decisions are made helps me think more clearly when it comes time for me to make a decision in my skill tree.

That's only the passive skills. The active skills operate on an entirely different mechanic, which is actually more similar to the Materia system in Final Fantasy VII. Skills are loot. Yes, you read that correctly, skills are drops in the game just like a character's gear. Once a player has a skill gem, it can be inserted into the appropriately colored socket (red, green, or blue) in a piece of gear. When a player has a piece of gear with a skill gem in it equipped, the player can then use that skill. It's a very simple mechanic that allows for a ton of freedom when building a character, and places a lot more emphasis on gear sockets instead of all the emphasis being placed on the gear's stats.

Things get a tad more complicated when support gems are introduced. Support gems add an extra effect onto a skill gem. For example, it is possible to link together a Melee Splash support gem onto a single-target melee skill, and suddenly it is an area of effect attack. It is also possible to attach a spell skill gem to the Remote Mine support gem and create a Remote Mine that can be detonated to use whatever spell you attacked the support gem to. Support gems must be linked to a skill gem through gear, however. In other words, the sockets in the gear must be the appropriate colors and be connected together in order to create certain combinations.

Combining both the passive skill tree and the gem system allows some of the strangest and unique builds ever encountered in the genre. If you thought creating a Barbarian that uses throwing weapons was unique in Diablo II, you ain't seen nothing yet. It's possible to do just about anything with enough dedication. Like a particular skill a whole bunch? Do some research and create a character build entirely around that skill. Chances are, it might not be terrible! But also, it could be terrible. It's probably terrible.

Ah, but I've gotten ahead of myself here. There are six different classes with a seventh unlockable after playing through the game once. Each has their own dominant statistics, either strength, dexterity, intelligence, or some combination thereof. Thanks to the freedom from the various skill mechanics, there is nothing saying that a Marauder, whose primary stat is strength, can't be turned into a semi-decent spell caster. No, he'll never be as good as the Witch, but the fact that it is even possible is a testament to the malleability of classes in Path of Exile.

Combat is your traditional ARPG mouse-clicking fare. Click to move, click to attack, click and key to use abilities. If you've played any ARPG ever, you know exactly what you're getting into. It rarely gets boring, since the difficulty starts relatively high and tends to keep players on their toes in order to avoid death. Players who can't stand clickity-click clicking away in other games of the genre won't have their minds changed here, but fans of past games will be able to feel right at home.

There is a slow grind to Path of Exile. For some, it may be go unnoticed. For others, it will be all they notice. As mentioned, the first, and possibly second, character are almost guaranteed to be failures. The main three acts will take players some time to get through on the default difficulty, and then there are two more difficulties to conquer while repeating the acts. Support gems are trickled in slowly, and going node by node on the passive skill tree can start to feel like no progress is being made at all sometimes. Path of Exile is most definitely a game that requires some patience from the player in order to give it some time to bloom.

Speaking of the three acts, there's a story in Path of Exile that focuses around the player -- the "exile." It's a serviceable story to say the least, but the world around it is far more interesting. Grinding Gear Games has slowly been adding in more and more lore as the game continues to evolve, mostly in the form of readable stone slabs out in the wilderness, which have really helped to expand upon this dark and gloomy universe.

My absolute favorite part of Path of Exile is its economy. I know that sounds boring, but I'm into this kind of stuff, alright? There is no gold in Path of Exile, just items. Buying items from NPC vendors requires players to use a bartering system. Want a new item? That'll be one Armorer's Scrap, please! You're selling all those? I can give you an Identification Scroll for your troubles! It's so perfect since the same idea is what dictates the player's economy. There's no gold auction house where a player can easily buy everything they need; they must do research as to its value and also research what type of currency is worth the most. It's absolutely brilliant.

When you're not utterly absorbed in creating new builds or leveling up a character, there are plenty of distractions available. Player versus Player (PvP) combat is available and plays as you would expect, but that's not all. There is a constant stream of what they call "races," which are timed runs through the game. Each race has its own rules, like having projectiles deal no damage, enemies attack faster, and forcing players to play solo or in a party. Doing well (really well) in these races awards players points which can then be redeemed for super-ultra-special unique items.

Path of Exile also has an interesting endgame. The endgame content focuses squarely on "maps." They function like loot -- they have a quality that can be improved, and affixes that can be added to increase the difficulty and rewards. Maps have a huge range of possibilities, and it can be exciting to see what kind of combinations come up. It also helps prevent against running Mephisto or the Cow Level over and over and over and over and over and over again until you are physically and mentally dead. Which is nice.

I know the free-to-play model scares a lot of people these days, since games often abuse it rather than embrace it, so listen to me carefully:

Path of Exile has a free-to-play model on par with any Valve free-to-play game.

The game is free. Simple as that! You can buy plenty of aesthetic items and extra slots for your stash, which still doesn't affect gameplay. The game and everything associated with it, costs you nothing but Internet and time. It's the kind of game that doesn't beg the player for money at seemingly every turn but instead, earns any money it makes through amazing developer feedback and player guilt. It really feels like stealing when playing Path of Exile, since it's such a high quality product for no cost whatsoever. 

Due to its free-to-play model, the game can only be played while connected to the Internet. It's a bit of a shame, absolutely, not to be able to play a quality game like this at any point in time, but the tradeoff is a real free-to-play game with a real living and breathing economy. Personally, I'm okay with that.

The game's aesthetic also deserves praise. The world has a grimy, grungy, uncomfortable feel to it that constantly makes the player feel slightly off just for inhabiting it, which is appropriate given what goes on. Every person and object looks like it's at its lowest point. Enemy design is equally morbid, though it does tend to fall back on enemies like skeletons and more skeletons. Combat can certainly pack a punch, though animations do tend to feel disjointed, which can lead to a feeling of clunkiness. The art style and design on the loot garners a special mention from me, since it brings me back to my Diablo II days of looking at Sigon's Shield, SOJs, and Windforces. It's just so damn nostalgic I can't take it.

Path of Exile is free (actually free), unique, and exciting, despite its often morose tone and themes. I don't have much else to say except GO DOWNLOAD IT!



THE VERDICT - Path of Exile

Reviewed by Patrick Hancock

9 /10
Superb: A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title. Check out more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.








Comments not appearing? Anti-virus apps like Avast or some browser extensions can cause this.
Easy fix: Add   [*].disqus.com   to your software's white list. Tada! Happy comments time again.

Did you know? You can now get daily or weekly email notifications when humans reply to your comments.





timeline following:
Path of Exile



2:30 PM on 08.21.2014
Path of Exile: Forsaken Masters expansion is live

Kiwi game developer Grinding Gear has released the latest expansion to its popular action-RPG Path of Exile, titled Forsaken Masters. After updating your game to version 1.2.0 you will at times cross paths wit...more



11:00 AM on 12.04.2013
Path of Exile has over 250,000 players online every day

Path of Exile has been out for about a month now and is already proving to be quite the hit, with the development team behind the game revealing some rather interesting figures. Grinding Gear Games has announced that its...more



8:00 PM on 10.23.2013
Path of Exile is now officially released and on Steam

Path of Exile, the extremely well-crafted Diablo-like ARPG is finally officially released! It's a weird transition for a free-to-play game to go from "open beta" to "released," but it happens all the time. Now that it's "rel...more



5:00 PM on 10.04.2013
Path of Exile launches on Steam this month

Over the past year, Path of Exile has made quite a name for itself. As one of the few and continually growing hardcore-focused action/RPG titles for PC players, Grinding Gear Games' uncompromising and open-ended playstyle has...more



8:00 PM on 06.03.2013
Path of Exile's open beta gets a huge content patch

Grinding Gear Games' free-to-play ARPG Path of Exile is a really good time. I've been enjoying the open beta for some time now, and lots of stuff is about to be added to an already content-heavy game. In what they're cal...more



10:30 PM on 04.17.2013
Season two of Path of Exile's race events announced

Path of Exile, the free-to-play ARPG that you should really be playing has just announced its second season of events called "races." These events are, as you might expect, a race between players to see who can get ...more



10:45 AM on 04.02.2013
Path of Exile to be supported for '5 to 10 years'

Joystiq recently spoke with Chris Wilson, co-founder of the Path of Exile development team Grinding Gear Games, and got some great news for fans of the game. While the free-to-play ARPG has been in an open beta state sin...more



2:30 PM on 02.20.2013
Path of Exile announces its first Race Season

I am thoroughly enjoying my time with Path of Exile's open beta, more than I ever thought I would. It's just so finely crafted with a strong love for the genre that I can't help but feel endeared. Races are one of the ...more



10:00 PM on 01.24.2013
Action-RPG Path of Exile enters open beta

While it feels like we have been overloaded with announcements of betas over the past week and it's all starting to blend together, news that online action-RPG Path of Exile has opened up access to a pre-release build should ...more




Role-Playing Games

11:00 PM on 09.18.2014
Former Final Fantasy devs team with European studio on JRPG Zodiac

French developer Kobojo has announced a new game, Zodiac, made in collaboration with frequent Final Fantasy composer Hitoshi Sakimoto (Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII), series scenario writer Kazushige Nojima (Final...more



9:00 PM on 09.18.2014
A bunch of skeletons explode in the first 20 minutes of Hellraid

Techland's decision to delay Hellraid and move it to PS4, Xbox One, and PC seems to be paying off. That said, you may want to skip the first half of this 20-minute video -- it begins with the first level, which is slow to ge...more



5:30 PM on 09.18.2014
Legend of Grimrock 2 gets a pre-order trailer and an October release date

The highly anticipated sequel to 2012's first-person dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrock is nearly upon us. Finnish indie development studio Almost Human has released a stunning new trailer for it that demonstrates some of th...more



View all Role-Playing Games






Back to Top




All content is yours to recycle through our Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing requiring attribution. Our communities are obsessed with videoGames, movies, anime, and toys.

Living the dream since March 16, 2006

Advertising on destructoid is available: Please contact them to learn more