Path of Exile
is an independent game developed by Grinding Gear Games
that was recently released into open beta
, and it is getting quite good reviews
Its heritage is obvious, and many observe its spiritual relationship not only to Diablo 2
and Dungeon Siege
, but perhaps more directly Diablo 1
, in terms of tone and feel. It has a number of things that keep it in obvious continuity with other recent games in the genre, but arguably improve on it in a number of ways. Why should you consider this game? Let me count (just a handful) of reasons.
First, the game totally rethinks the idea of gold as currency
, and instead implements a system where everything is done via barter, whether with other players or NPC characters. This allows for a deep and rewarding currency crafting system based off of the numerous items that show up in the game. The results can be used to enhance skills and game-play experiences. This design not only creates a compelling and ongoing mini-game of sorts that can encourage community participation (if desired), but it effectively does away with issues of gold inflation that plague other games.
Second, its passive skill development system
is deep, flexible, and aesthetically pleasing. Most striking is the skill management tree that reminds one of Final Fantasy X's grid system
. It looks neat and is fun to use. Every character starts in a different place on the same map, but in theory can navigate to any other place.This allows you to create characters that are highly unique and imaginative.
Third, active skills are attained by finding and implementing gems
into socketed equipment. As you use the gems, it levels them up. You can swap gems in and out of equipment to provide highly flexible character traits, or simply to change up a strategy that a particular part of the game requires.
Fourth, it has a unique end-game component that keeps people coming back for more after the main campaign is completed. End game maps
of various flavors can be found that are highly randomized and have unique bosses and equipment to be plundered, either solo or with groups of friends.
There a number of other interesting refinements (including a unique take on competition ladders and hardcore mode), but just a handful of other things to consider: the graphics are more than passable and downright compelling at times; the soundtrack is top-notch; the developers are very involved with the community and implement player feedback; the maps are truly randomized and often times HUGE; the voice acting is top-notch; and they have implemented consumables such that they become part of your overall approach to character development and battle strategy rather than being stackable, spammable items of last second desperation.
Oh, and the game is 100% free to play, with the plan for it to stay that way. Grinding Gear Games is an independent company from New Zealand made up of 19 developers who have been working for free for the last six years. How, then, do they afford to provide a game of such high caliber? Although they are very much against a "pay-to-win" model
as part of their development DNA, they choose instead to provide attractive cosmetic and non-game-changing enhancements to your gaming experience
, like pets, more stash slots, or non game-changing UI enhancements.
Keep in mind that this game can get very, very dark. Where some game sequels have been criticized for perhaps going too bright (see Torchlight II or Diablo III), Path of Exile intentionally goes down a path that might show up in some bad dreams. It's hard to deny, though, that GGG has done something here that is on par with many big and well funding gaming studios.