Path of Exile Previews

Several hands-on previews of Grinding Gear Games' highly anticipated action RPG Path of Exile have appeared on the web since the last time I looked, so I figured it was as good a time as any to do a round-up.

PTFGN has some good coverage with lots of beta screenshots:
I got to my first hub only to find out I had completed a quest for beating this giant mega guy named (Hillock.) He was really big and guarding the entrance to the town. so naturally, I killed him. What's great about Hillock is he has all the right makings to become a staple in the Path of Exile community, much like Hogger in the Warcraft community, or The Cow King in Diablo II. He always appears, does the same thing and is really a push over. As I entered the town I attempted in vain to sell some of the loot I had grabbed (Currency is currently not implemented in this version of the game) but an interesting system is in place. Bartering, and I'm not talking that fake (Elder Scrolls Bartering) where you buy and sell items in bursts, then cash out at the end only to rip the guy off and steal all his cash because your barter skill is maxed. This is real bartering wherein you can sell two scrolls of Wisdom for a new helmet that's better than your last.

I casually threw my items into my chest not expecting much to come from this aside from storage. I was wrong, see I forgot at the time that this game is a persistent MMO style experience, where I can place an item inside my stash and then log out, chose another character, go into my stash and grab whatever items I need. Yeah, global banking, its actually really convenient, my Templar character had no Scrolls of Wisdom (Scrolls of wisdom are much akin to Diablo II's scrolls of Identify) left so I took the opportunity to try the Witch class. After running through the first instance again I found a few minor gripes about the game. There is no tutorial at this current stage in development, this can be really bad considering I wanted to toggle the view all loot function and couldn't find out how until I opened up a key binding window. Then I came across a series of foes named (Sand Skitters) and could not hit these things for the life of me, I'm pretty sure it was just the poor frame rate on my own laptop but, I found myself close to death a few times.

Tower Dive continues where they left off:
Another area of innovation in Path of Exile are the potions. This is something that every modern Action-RPG has tried to tackle, because the classic system is stupid and annoying. I've actually been playing Diablo 2 recently and man oh man is the potion management a huge pain in the ass. Titan's Quest does a MUCH better job, but it still falls into the problem of just encouraging you to buy a bunch while in town and then spam your hotkey while in a boss fight.

In Path of Exile, your potion slots are very much like gear. You have five slots to play with, and so far I have found both health and mana pots to equip into those slots. The key difference is that the potions are not consumed in the standard manner. They have 30(?) charges each, and every time you use them it consumes 10 charges. Every time you kill a monster, the potions GAIN a charge. (Note that potion flasks in your inventory are always empty. You need to equip them and then start killing before they begin to fill up.)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun does a smaller piece:
Despite having a PVP element, the developers have repeatedly stated that though free-to-play this will not be a pay-to-win game. Instead, it's a pay-to-be-pretty game, with a raft of aesthetic options available for a bit of coin. This is particularly impressive given the apparent depth and customisation offered through the skill tree. It would have been easy to lock off pathways and combinations behind a wall penetrated only by a credit card, but that's not the case. The whole twisted skill tree, which is more web than tree, is available to everyone. There's a picture of it here. I don't know whether to be impressed or intimidated. Both, most likely. Intimipressed. Or terrifroused.

Although there is a class system, with six to pick from, every character can unlock the skills of his or her choosing. Different classes are more suited to certain paths (of exile) but they're not locked down. The level cap is currently set at 100, which sounds like a lot. Obviously, it's not necessarily a lot. It's an arbitrary number and if it takes two minutes to earn a level, 100 is suddenly an exceedingly rubbishy arbitrary number. But fear not. Grinding Gear claim that it'd be possible to improve a single character (for years on end).

The Escapist recounts their time with the game at PAX:
As opposed to many other online game developers, New Zealand-based Grinding Gear has no desire to "sell power" to players. In other words: Players can't buy a leg up over other gamers. Wilson did confirm that micro-transactions will allow folks to purchase cosmetic additions, but, "if you see a player with an amazing sword, we want you to respect them because they earned it. We don't want people to think they bought it."

This whole "cutthroat" approach is certainly a unique idea, and it's one that also simplifies gameplay. Because players can't buy potions to replenish their health, there are a set number of potions (which players can determine the type of) for them to use, and they replenish over time as enemies are slaughtered.

And then The Cynical Brit does one of his "WTF is" videos for it: