Nobody seems to talk about Path of Exile much anymore. Even around here at PCGamesN, after being pretty high on the game when it came out, our attention shifted to Diablo and stayed there once Reaper of Souls came out and fixed Blizzard’s action RPG. Before I talked to Grinding Gear Games about their upcoming expansion for Path of Exile, I decided to give the a game a shot, just so I could have some idea of what I was talking about in the interview.
About forty-five minutes later I was hooked. Path of Exile is not the off-brand, free-to-play Diablo that my prejudices had me expecting. It’s not something that ARPG fans used as a generic substitute while Diablo 3 got its POE Currency act together. It’s a nuanced, challenging ARPG with an identity all its own. And most importantly, for certain types of ARPG fans, it’s a game that takes Diablo 2 as its foundation, and moves in a different direction from the rest of the genre. And with The Awakening expansion, that direction has led to some interesting places.
Path of Exile does not care about what is convenient. It does not care about being accessible. For a free-to-play game, it doesn’t even seem that concerned with making money. It’s the Portlandia of ARPGs, a place where the 90’s never ended, and that wears its idiosyncrasies on its sleeve.
Let’s start with the most obvious element of Path of Exile: the enormous character skill-tree. Any of the game’s classes can veer off in wildly different and mutually exclusive directions, assigning skill points to open up giant skill branches that Cheap POE Currency can transform what your character is capable of. But here’s the catch: you can’t just re-spec your character at-will. If you want to see what else you could do with your favorite character class, you have to create an entirely new character and replay the game. You can’t even buy respec options with real money.