GAMING POINT OF LOU – PATH OF EXILE
Ok everyone, it’s time to take a trip in the wayback machine with me. The year: 1997, a very young, and super nerdy Lou was at his local Funcoland, and saw a game on the shelf, it was a PC game. Up until that point Lou didn’t use his PC for gaming, he did all of that on consoles. But this game caught his eye, the cover featured a picture of the devil, and emblazoned on the front was the title “DIABLO” with all the letters wreathed in flame. So he bought it, took it home, and installed it on his Intel Pentium 2 256 MB Windows 95 PC with his 36.6K dialup modem, and began to play…
Needless to say that game changed my life, I was hooked, I put too many hours to count into that game. I’d get home from school / work, boot it up, and playing until the sun came up the next day. I would lug my PC over to my best friends house to use his second phone line in his basement just so we could play online together. I didn’t think it could get any better….
Then Diablo 2 came along…..
I’m sure that the folks at Grinding Gear Games have quite a few people working there who feel exactly the same way I do, and Path Of Exile is their obvious love note to those masterpieces. The game launched on PC in October of 2013, and I have to admit, I hadn’t heard much about it until they decided to port it over to Xbox 1, but better late than never they say… right???
This is the part of the article where I, the reviewer, should divest myself of any personal feelings, and simply review the nuts and bolts of the game in an attempt to give you, the reader, a bias free rundown of all the games features. But the more I sit here trying to figure out a way to do that, I realize that it’s damn near impossible, so I am going to write this my way, and if you agree with my opinion, that’s fantastic. If not, it’s a free game (yes you read that right, it’s free), so its not like you are out any money anyway. With that disclaimer out of the way, lets begin:
The Land of Wraeclast provides the backdrop, and in my opinion is the truly unsung hero of the game. Through the ten acts of the standard campaign players will be treated to a dark, depressing, and dangerous place full of all manner of enemies that want you dead. Everything in the world is randomly generated, from the environments and enemy placement, to the loot that drops. No two playthroughs will be the same. Players start the game with their choice of seven different hero archetypes: Duelist, Shadow, Marauder, Witch, Ranger, Templar, or Scion. These initial choices only serve to dictate your starting point on the games ridiculously large “Passive Skill Tree”, from there, you are free to branch out in any direction you wish. Does your heart desire a Tanky Witch or a Nimble Marauder? Those options are well within your reach.
This is also where the games second genre bending element comes into play: skill gems and socketing. In most other RPG’s socketing is a secondary element, something that provides minor buffs to your character, place “x” gem in “y” socket, and you get some minor damage resistance. In PoE gems are BOTH your skills, AND buffs. It’s an incredibly flexible system that allows for some really powerful combinations even early on in the game if RNJesus is on your side. It works like this (and i am simpifying this for the layman): Say you get a skill gem that lets you cast fireball, and that gems color is green (it can happen). You would simply put the gem in any green socket on a piece of armor or weapon you have equipped, and bang, you have fireball. Now lets say you get a secondary gem that boosts the attack value of any damage that will hit an enemy, and that gem is red, if you have a piece of gear that has a green socket linked with a red socket, you can put both gems on that piece of gear, and you now have a boosted fireball spell. Or, you could apply that red gem to any other socket with any other type of attack gem, and boost that attack instead. All the gems level up through use, providing upgraded stats, and all the gems are completely removable, and re-socketable into different pieces of gear, so no worries about loosing a gem if you want to upgrade equipment.
While the Xbox 1 version lackes some of the endgame content currently enjoyed by the PC crowd, Grinding Gear Games has made sure to include at least some of the features of the PC version including their Race Leagues and Map Areas. Race Leagues are completely different servers with game play modifiers, and economies. Think of it like this: Dark Sun and Eberron are both campaign settings for Dungeons and Dragons, but they are different worlds. And while they mechanically play the same, there are special conditions which effect the gameplay in both of those settings. Map areas are high level, limited access instances only accessible through the aquisiton of special maps. These instances give you the chance at high level loot, and provide a significant challenge to even the strongest of characters.
Quite simply put, this is the game that Diablo 3 SHOULD have been. Every. Single. Mechanic has been polished, and refined to near perfection, and any fan of Blizzard’s seminal work owes it to themselves to at least give this game a try. I can’t heap enough praise on this game and the folks who created it. It truly is an example of the student surpassing the master.
Until next time everyone,