‘Path of Exile’ Open Beta First Impressions & Gameplay Video

Published 2 years ago by , Updated January 31st, 2013 at 9:17 pm,


Are you a PC gamer and a fan of action RPGs? New Zealand-based indie developer Grinding Gear Games have something special that’s absolutely worth your attention and it’s called Path of Exile. Path of Exile is an under-the-radar fantasy action RPG in the same vein of Diablo  and Torchlight with a few notable differences and the added bonus that – like Marvel Heroes – it’s free-to-play. The Open beta launched January 23rd and players can download and jump online to test it out.

We did last night for several hours and recorded our first impressions, entering the online world with little to no knowledge of  the game’s lore or gameplay features, instead opting to learn as we play, for better or worse. Like Diablo 3Path of Exile requires an always-online connection, with the difference being it takes place in an online world where other players will pass you in hub areas. And it’s free.

Path of Exile takes place in the land of Wraeclast and is a game about looting (big focus on items) and character customization with loads of PvP features. There are six characters/classes to choose from (the Marauder, the Ranger, the Witch, the Duelist, the Templar and the Shadow), falling into the traditional tropes of the genre, but there are notable differences which make Path of Exile stand out.

Path of Exile Screenshot Act 3 Town

Wraeclast is a dark, brutal continent. Scarred by mysterious catastrophes of the past and inhabited by creatures of nightmare, the very environment challenges exiles who dare explore it.

We’re sick of the recent trend towards bright, cartoony RPGs. The art style we chose for Path of Exile is dark, gritty and realistic. Wraeclast is terrifying, and we’ve tried hard to do it justice.

Gameplay is your standard affair, with left click as primary attack (unlimited arrows for the Ranger, etc.) and right-click for a keyed up special ability, with ‘Shift’ to hold the player stationary for ranged attacks. There’s a hot bar with numbered keys setup for health/mana potions, and lettered keys for abilities and items. The interface is very familiar for Diablo/Torchlight veterans as are the information windows, from the character screen, inventory menu to the world map/questing window. It all works very smoothly and as expected. The only problematic screen is pressing tab for the area map which brings down a semi-transparent almost DOS-like map over the entire screen. It’s difficult to read and needs improvement.

Path of Exile Screenshot Act 3

As a norm for the genre, there are item drops everywhere, occurring in every combat encounter, but what’s neat about the weapons, armor and other equippables in Path of Exile is the inclusion of a Skill Gem System. Gems can be acquired via quests, rare drops or through trading with vendors in-game and certain items contain slots where they can be inserted.

As you’ll see from the gameplay footage up top, there are three types of slots and items will randomly feature different combinations and amounts of them. There are also orbs which let players switch what types of slots a particular item has. The gems level up as the player does and the obvious benefit here outside of having multiple ties of player progression, is that as player loot better equipment, the orbs can be transferred from one item to the next without penalty, encouraging item swapping and purchasing.

One of the things that’s most fun about playing a competitive online Action RPG is taking part in a levelling race on a fresh server. In Path of Exile, we wanted to capture this feeling without constantly resetting our main economy, so we’ve created a set of race leagues that are run frequently as separate game worlds with their own ladders and economies.

In addition to regular races, leagues can substantially modify the game rules. In a Cut-Throat league, you’re able to invade other players’ instances and kill them to take their items. In Turbo leagues, monsters move and attack 60% faster than normal.

Varying in duration from one hour to several months, players can enter these leagues to show off their mastery of the game and compete to win valuable prizes.

Path of Exile Screenshot Dungeon Lava

Unwanted loot can be traded in for various types of scraps which represent the currency in Path of Exile, but in and of themselves, scraps form useful items as well, from identification scrolls to orbs that alter item gem slots. From only playing Act I of the game, all of the items and upgrades have meaning and purpose, and there’s no case of gold piling up with no foreseeable use.

One of the big selling points of Path of Exile however, is its incredibly expansive passive skill tree which features 1350 skills. All six character classes share the same tree and are differentiated by their different starting points within it. What this means is that no matter what character a player chooses, as they progress through the game and level up, they can build towards earning attribute bonuses and skills that would traditionally belong to other characters. Just to get an idea of how big the skill tree is, the size of the full map image is 16135 x 15300 so we’ve got a version that’s 7% of that size. Full version here:

Path of Exile Passive Skill Tree

As you’ll see in the gameplay video up top, the Witch begins in the top center, surrounded by mana bonus unlocks and the Ranger begins in the bottom right, with two starting paths for dexterity and evasive bonuses. Players or the simply curious can experiment with builds and plan the character build ahead of time here, with an interactive map of the passive skill tree.

So, it’s cool and free, so what’s the catch? There is no catch. From the game’s FAQ:

Path of Exile is 100% free to play, for everyone, forever. Our website will allow the purchase of many in-game perks and aesthetic upgrades, but all of these are completely optional, and players can have a complete, fulfilling gaming experience without spending a penny.

There is no catch at all, once you download the client you are free to play for as long as you like, with no charge. The purchasable perks do not convey any gameplay benefit, but help you create a unique look for your character and its fighting style.

For a beta, the servers work wonderfully and the gameplay is highly polished and easily accessibly. We’re still in Act I but will keep chugging along, as Path of Exile has left a very positive first impression with us.

Path of Exile is available in open beta for PC.

Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

TAGS: Grinding Gear Games, Path of Exile, PC

  • jwalka

    this is best played with at least one other person b/c the act bosses are stupid strong (mainly merviel). plyares on the forums are also elitist d***s and barely anyone bothers to help out in the in-game party boards.

    everything else is fine, classes are really varied and allow for a lot of different play styles, it’s just the length and balance at higher levels that stop this from being the perfect diablo 2 sequel 😛

    • John McClane

      I actually liek the fact it’s hard. I’m sick of those “made to win” games. This is the closest we’ll get to Nintendo Hard for an Action RPG for non hardcore mode.

    • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

      I’ve not gotten far in this at all, but that’s pretty good for a free game still in beta from an indie dev :)

      Looks like the future is bright for this one.

      • jwalka

        they’re currently working on act 3 (last time i checked) with merviel being the act 1 final boss (brutus is the mid act boss). little things like brutus being stupidly fast or merviel being able to spam freeze every second is what really pisses me off b/c the only way i found i could beat her was through the portal ‘cheat’ which they haven’t fixed b/c obviously they know it’s something the players need.

        difficulty on the whole is no problem, i like a challenge from tie ot time, but making a boss OP just to keep egotists happy is not cool.

        • Tenko

          Melee shadow, my first charc, and in hardcore mode. Life and cold resist is all you need. Think i wet myself a few times as I ran away to let my health pots bring me back up as I had triple cold missles flying after and around me. It was hard, and took my breath away, but thats what makes it fun.

          Fights can go from decimating 10 creatures at once, to the next pack of mobs teleporting on you and smacking you face into the dirt as you turn to run with your tail between you legs. GrindingGearGaming is doing it right!

        • Romedi

          A little reading and ingenuity goes a long way. Resist rings drop like candy and are sold at the vendors. Getting to Merviel with two cold resist rings is a joke. Brutus has two attacks, learn to move out of the way. Hit and run if you’re light armored. If you’re heavily armored you still need to move away from the slam. Getting so ticked off that you can’t think straight because you didn’t prepare is not a fault in the game, but in your own own ego of thinking you are better than you are.

  • Cariannis

    There’s no respec all option. I hated that Diablo 2 and I find it even more stupid here. Other than that Path of Exile is more Diablo than Diablo 3.

    • Trikko

      You’ll gain 12 or so respec points through quest rewards. Plus, there are consumable items that respec one point per use.

      • Cariannis

        But you still can’t respec all can you? You can respec around 12 out of 111 with quests/items. Which is my main problem with this game.

        • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

          Nah, in their FAQ then want to deter players from doing that and encourage them to create new characters to explore different paths.

          • Cariannis

            Its stupid game design. I haven’t heard one good reason not to have a full respec. Unless there going to add it as a micro transaction which I wouldn’t be surprised by.

        • http://gamerant.com Rob Keyes

          The only reason I can think is to keep players longer. By not letting respect all, they’ll build new characters from scratch, right?

          Otherwise with respec all – because of the design of the shared skill tree – they could keep the same one char forever and that’s not a good business model for a free-to-play game.

    • jwalka

      it’s not stupid design, it makes you think about your choices and live with the consequences, like in the real world. you can get these stone that give respec points, but they’re low drops. i had something like 20 respec points by the end of one play through.

      besides, by the time you get to the level cap you should have a good idea of what play style you’re going for 😛

      • Cariannis

        So you can guarantee that a patch won’t come out that makes one or more specs obsolete? Or makes a build so under powered that its not even fun any more?

        “like in the real world” who plays games to be like the real world? Last time I checked we couldn’t throw fireballs in the real word. I didn’t see any reason why having no respec all option is a good idea. Like I said stupid game design.

        • Tenko

          Had a Dev ingame today say that when changes come to the passive tree they may do passive wipes to reset everyone’s points. So if they fix your “too powerful” build and you have to change to a build more inline with what the game expects, you can enjoy the game for what it is.

          • Cariannis

            That’s better than nothing. Thanks for the info

        • jwalka

          when someone takes a person’s comment literally when something in it is meant as a metaphor, i stop arguing with them.

          • Cariannis

            I’m impressed you didn’t cuss or insult anyone in your post, unlike all you other posts on this site. That word, it doesn’t mean what you think it means BTW.

  • tawny56

    too bad this guy already hacked it :/ fun over :'((( http://youtu.be/8SpWzQE3H1M

    • Progar

      I hope noone is stupid enough to believe a ridiculous scam like that tawny.

  • Jak Frost

    cough cough diablo 3 cough

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