As some of you may know, Path Of Exile – a free-to-play Diablo 2-style dark fantasy hack and slash instance-based MMORPG – is currently undergoing an open “stress test” beta weekend. Up to this point, only those with closed beta keys could play the much-anticipated title, so for many of us this stress test was the first chance to get their hands on the game. Having decided to write a first impressions review, I thought I’d spend an hour or so playing the game and would try and do my best to summarize my experience. That hour turned into two, those two turned into four and, well – I played for ten hours straight (and I would probably play even more if not for the fact if my organism could go on for longer without sleep). Needless to say, I liked the game. Here’s why!
Unlike what you’d come to expect from modern MMORPG’s, Path Of Exile doesn’t force you to grind like there’s no tomorrow with no goal in sight. Instead, the gameplay consists of a single-player-like campaign that consists of several arcs, which themselves consist out of a multitude of quests (think Diablo 2). The combat is fluent and fast-paced, lose your attention for a second and BOOM – you’re dead. The looting system is also taken from Diablo 2, meaning that every time you slay an enemy or open a chest, you may end up with a rare item or weapon (this doesn’t happen often, but you genuinely fill up with joy when it does).
Playing alone is fine, but nothing feels better than slaying a horde of demons with a couple of buddies. I’m glad to tell you that party system is quite decent. The environment scales to the size of your party, providing you with a decent challenge, local chat isn’t much worse than what you’d find in most games and the feeling you get after surviving a horde of monsters when your high school friend doesn’t is as good as ever.The graphics look alright, considering the fact that this is an indie game. They’re not as sharp as they could be, but I guess there’s nothing that can be done about that. The setup options are quite basic – you can choose the resolution, the amount of shadows and anti-aliasing, enable vsync and windowed mode – but it does the job. The music is okay at best, but nothing stops you from firing up some death metal in the background and begin slaughtering skeletons to that.
While Path Of Exile did it’s fair share of copying, it also brought a few new things to the table. The most notable original features of Path Of Exile are: a) a truly enormous skill tree; b) a skill or system and c) a barter trading mechanic (there is no gold in the game, you have to barter with vendors instead). These additions help distinguish the game from other Diablo 2 clones.So is Path Of Exile a perfect game that every gamer absolutely has to play? No. The thing is this is a play on Diablo and I find it hard to find a scenario in which someone never was a die-hard would even consider playing this. The game is targeted strictly at the hardcore Diablo 2 community, so if you didn’t like D2 – chances are you won’t like this. If you have never played a hack and slash game, however, Path Of Exile is not a bad place to get your introductions.
In summary, you’d be very silly if you’d try to deny that Path Of Exile is not a Diablo 2 clone – it draws inspiration from D2’s gritty atmosphere, gameplay and progression system. But since when has drawing inspiration from great games become a bad thing? Isaac Newton once famously said: “We stand on the shoulders of giants,” and this is exactly what Path Of Exile does. If you have spent countless hours in Diablo 2, you’ll be both familiar with the basic gameplay and pleasantly surprised by the new concepts introduced in Path Of Exile. The combat is as just a fluent as that in D2. The core gameplay is instance-based and, in a daring decision by the developer, plays out much like the single-player portion of Diablo 2 (if you’re not in a party that is). If you’re an ex-Diablo player – this one’s a must-play.