Path of Exile has been reaching new heights with recent player numbers growing each new release. The first expansion of 2021 Echoes Of The Atlas saw an 11% increase in player numbers during the launch, but is it worth jumping into?
Path of Exile explores the world of Wraeclast in an action RPG that features a 10 act campaign followed by a vast endgame, full of exciting and unique gameplay mechanics. PoE is available on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox and is free to play, with a new league every three months or so that features a reset of content bringing in balance changes and a new core league mechanic - and each marks a perfect starting point.
What Have You Got To Lose?
While it is true Path of Exile is a free-to-play game, it's also incredibly complex.
The 10 acts that introduce the story are only the beginning, and its endgame is where many players will find the most enjoyment. Once there, the game will pick up quickly and is extremely rewarding in both character progression and gameplay, but you'll have to put in the work.
Path of Exile has a unique item trading system that is handled via the game's website. If a player wants to sell an item, they must post it online and wait for people to message them asking to purchase it.
Finding items and online players can be frustrating, as can returning to your hideout to hand over items, but trading is important in the endgame.
Path of Exile also lacks a single identifiable currency for trading, instead of leaning on crafting and enchanting materials to facilitate trading. While that does take some time to wrap your head around, it also makes everything you earn worthwhile.
Character customisation is Path of Exile's biggest draw as well as its largest turn-off.
The game's talent tree features a staggering 1325 potential talent choices but hear me out – it's not as complicated as you think. Each time you level up and complete certain quests you unlock a new skill point, which roughly turns out to be around 120.
There are seven potential classes you can pick and while every class can use most of the items and gems, some have it easier than others. Each class has different base stats and starts at a different point on the talent tree making certain nodes easier to reach. For example, the Witch class starts closer to mana and spell power nodes as they tend to build around those stats.
Apart from the levelling process is a system called “The Labyrinth” where players undergo a set of trials and are rewarded with upgrading their starting class and “ascending”. These ascendancies are a type of sub-class and provide a large damage or survival stat increase.
The skills that are used for each build are from items called gems. These gems come in two different forms skill gems and support gems. Gems fit into sockets on gear and different slots have a different potential number of gems from 1-6. If the sockets are linked (which can be done with the help of a type of currency) their abilities stack, so the general setup is to equip one skill gem and add support gems onto it to empower the ability.
The only downside to the vast character customisation is that there is so much information, especially for a newcomer. Playing the game for the first few times you are almost required to follow some sort of build guide so that you don’t fall behind while levelling.
Stick with it, though, and it's a rewarding system with plenty of flexibility.
What Comes Next?
It’s worth a quick mention that Grinding Gear Games has announced Path of Exile 2 for release sometime during 2022.
While the game will be somewhat different, the base mechanics will remain the same so it's worth playing before the launch of PoE 2 to learn the game.
The original storyline will still be playable and all cosmetics that are purchased will carry over into the new game.
So, is Path of Exile worth playing in 2021? Personally, I would only jump into the game if you're in it for the long-haul.
Path of Exile is a complex game with even more complex systems layered on top of each other. Researching beforehand what skills you should use and how you should select your talents is almost a must for your initial playthrough, and we've barely scratched the surface of some of the deeper systems.
Still, Path of Exile is an extremely rewarding game if you give it the respect it deserves and should be a must for any fan of the action RPG genre.
Reviewed on PC