Preview: Path of Exile is a free-to-play Diablo-style RPG to watch out for

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We often see video games pop up here and there that are inspired by highly lauded IPs. These games become something of a conversation piece, with individuals thinking about the possibilities and hoping for the best. They can also be completely worthless projects that are obviously rip-offs of much better ideas. Ya know, like The War Z. Thankfully, the latter's not the case with Path of Exile, a Diablo-influenced free-to-play PC role-playing game. Quite the contrary, actually. Path of Exile has just entered open beta status, and it’s already enjoyed much success as a worthwhile and meaningful effort from developer Grinding Gear Games.

The Diablo-ness of Path of Exile is noticeable at first glance, but there are several wrinkles to the formula that help make the experience stand on its own. Grinding Gear has really put a lot of attention to detail as far as the mechanics of the game are concerned, and what players could potentially get is a free-to-play game that feels like a retail product. For individuals who loved Diablo 3, it provides another action-RPG to jump right into. For those who were let down by Blizzard’s effort, Path of Exile offers a ton of potential and a price point that literally allows them to try out the game for free.

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Character customization is one of the strongest aspects, and it’s completely vast and allows for a myriad of options. Upon first seeing the skill tree and its various branches, I was instantly reminded of Skyrim. At first, this element may seem a bit daunting due to just how robust it is, but it’s not that difficult to understand. Basically, you enhance the skills you want your character to excel at. The more you advance in the game, the more customization you can build around your character. There’s so much to play around with and really work on in Path of Exile that diehard action-RPG fans are sure to find a lot to love, and this is only in the skill tree.

To add to the depth, you can customize more than just your character. Along your travels you’ll collect countless items that can be used to boost your items and abilities. These act as buffs that enhance certain elements of your equipment or give an extra edge to your attacks. Potion flasks, for example, are used to refill your health meter when you’ve taken considerable damage, but they can also be altered with buffs to give them special abilities that benefit your character. Don’t take this to mean that Path of Exile goes easy on you. During my short time with the game, I encountered several enemies that were all too happy to outnumber me. It’s up to you to take on your foes wisely and use buffs in as efficient a manner as possible.

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As individuals who have been following Path of Exile will already know, the game’s world is entirely randomly generated. Enemy spawn points and loot will never be found in the same place twice, which means you can get a different experience every time you play. For someone like me who enjoys playing games with cooperative multiplayer both by myself and with a buddy, Path of Exile will make for quite the unique adventure every time. Additionally, the inclusion of 24 character slots means players will be able to jump in and enjoy the game multiple times and test out different character classes without having to wipe their data.

As far as the campaign in Path of Exile is concerned, there are three difficulty levels for players to check out. Beating the game once means you’ll be able to play it again with the same character (like in Diablo 3), and because enemies and loot will be leveled up more significantly, you’ll have the opportunity to experience a greater challenge and collect better items. The campaign in Path of Exile is made up of three acts and will take players anywhere between 12 and 15 hours. For those individuals who love to explore, however, the game can take considerably longer to get through.

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how spectacular Path of Exile looks. Oftentimes, free-to-play ventures have a graphical style that just screams low budget. That’s not the case with this project, and it’s evident that a lot of hard work has gone into creating the game world. There’s a nice mix of both technical prowess and fine artistry visible in Path of Exile, offering a great treat for the eyes and providing some cool architecture and aesthetics.

As it is, Path of Exile looks to offer a lot for players to dig into right out of the gate. Grinding Gear apparently doesn’t think that’s enough, though, because there will be plenty of post-launch content for long-term players to experience if they so desire. Special events will be held, PvP events are being looked into, and more acts will be added to the campaign. For action-RPG lovers, there’s certainly a lot to look forward to. If you’re a fan of Diablo, the PC RPG genre, or are simply looking to get into the whole free-to-play thing, Path of Exile definitely looks like a game to watch out for.

Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.

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Games: Path of Exile

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