Video Games

Beta Impressions: Path of Exile Part 2

Last time on Stands In Fire, I discussed some of the basic mechanics surrounding the hack and slash game Path of Exile, by Grinding Gear Games. Today continues that, with a closer look at the game play, graphics, and story elements. Let’s jump right in.

The game play is about what you would expect from a hack and slash genre title, with only a few exceptions. Potions are very interesting. You don’t have individual use potions, but rather have up to five flasks, default number pad 1-5. Each potion flask has a few characteristics: health restored, number of charges used, quality, and number of charges. Quality just directly effects the number of charges and health restored. Quality caps out just as equipment does, at 20% increase. Charges fill up as you kill monsters, and each use of the potion decreases the number of charges present. Flasks often has “on use” effects too, such as brief movement speed increase, remove frozen or shocked, or increased damage reduction. This is a neat system in design, but in functionality it means you always have potions to use, which is fine if that’s their goal. I almost always have fully charged potions and one good area of effect spell will top it off in the middle of a fight. This is to say nothing of the fact that I have five slots of potions to fill, so I always have multiple uses ready to go. Outside of the potion system, the ability system is a little different than Diablo 2, but it’s very easy. Letters Q-T are your default hotbar, and you select what skill goes there. Thus far it hasn’t really been a limiter, as I either don’t fill up the bar, or don’t go over five. I suppose a hybrid character might have problems, but I haven’t as either a Witch or a Ranger. Attacking is your basic click to kill, like you would expect from a hack and slash, with the feature of “hold shift to not walk around” ported over from the Diablo series. Items are dropped on the ground and picked up just like in Diablo 2, and you have the standard style of Diablo 2 inventory. This is not ideal, but inventory management isn’t for everyone. You end up making trips pretty frequently, but there is a Waypoint system, so you don’t have to burn your portal scrolls all that often unless you just really want to do so or you are in the “in between” areas.

The game is divided into Leagues and difficulties. The default is normal/normal, of course. This is the average difficulty with no other rule set restrictions. The Hardcore League is similar to the old Diablo 2 Hardcore mode in that one death is all you get. However, dying in Path of Exile just moves that character down to Normal mode, not locking them out forever. Cut-Throat is a competitive PvP mode. This matters, as the game is somewhat massively multiplayer in the town areas. Those are all safe zones, but you can see the other players on the server there, and form groups with them if you like. Once you venture out of town, however, everything is instanced. Instances reset after 15 minutes, at which time even active portals fade away. You in no way HAVE to group with people. If you do, difficulty, experience and treasure rewards all increase, however.

The camera is a fixed perspective, which is mildly annoying. I would love the ability to zoom in or out, but that’s supposedly in the pipeline. This is a shame, because the graphics would probably pretty nice slightly larger scale. The spell effects look gorgeous, but you can’t see character models for shit. A friend wanted me to talk about Sexism and this game. No problem. The game is not sexist because you can’t see anything in detail. If you could, maybe it’s sexist, maybe it’s not! My vote is actually on not, as all the characters look pretty awesome without any real overt sex appeal. MAYBE the Witch, but meh. The gamma levels are a problem for me, as I would love to be able to brighten the game a little. It really follows the Diablo 2 aesthetic in that it’s dark, gloomy, and gritty. Colors are more earth toned than bright colors. However, the colors are all a little too dark for me to distinguish all the time, being color deficient, so I would have appreciated a gamma setting in the game. A 20% increased would change the world for me, in this regard. The ghosts look pretty incredible, and I love the arrow details when you fire into them. I think there is a lot going on at the fundemental level that would be really pretty, but it’s just hard to tell at this fixed zoomed out distance. In short, the game isn’t going to win over anyone on its graphics alone, and it gives the game a bit of a dated feel. However, they really aren’t bad, just a little poorly presented. I have a feeling the act 2 apes would be amazing looking if they were larger, as their entrance style is still pretty amazing.

Finally, the story really feels like a mix between Conan and Diablo. The Witch feels like a magic using cultist straight out of a Robert E. Howard novel, and the game even starts with an opening sequence that is almost exactly like the opening of Age of Conan. The second act opens with killer apes that slide down the trees in your fore vision. There are a lot of horrific water creatures, focus on the terror of drowning and knowledge what men was not meant to know. There isn’t really much of a story to speak up, with that same sparse style of dialogue and questing that was so prevalent in the Diablo series prior to Diablo 3. There are around 10 quests per act, nothing huge. The feel of the game is great, the story is basically non existant as you crawl around hacking and slashing your way around the place. It’s a great time, and a fun experience, just don’t expect a BioWare game, or even a modern Blizzard game for that matter.

Overall it’s an incredible value for a game of this quality, and it’s a lot of fun to play with other people. If Diablo 3 isn’t doing it for you, give Path of Exile a shot. It’s a much truer successor to the Diablo franchise, with a lot of neat improvements and changes. You won’t regret giving it a chance.

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