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Making A Difference: Path of Exile

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By hearstDate: Oct 09 2017 Views:

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After the success of the first and second Diablo, many top-down hack-and-slash dungeon crawler RPGs followed suit. Only a few, however, managed to be as solid as Blizzard’s diabolic franchise. One of those would be Path of Exile. And contrary to the popular belief of gamers that only play AAA titles, Path of Exile is by no means a rip-off of the Diablo series. Other than the perspective and the dark atmosphere, Path of Exile is perhaps one of the most unique games of the subgenre, or even the entire RPG genre as a whole.

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Path of Exile Items, Classes, and Builds

Developed by New Zealand game studio Grinding Gear Games, also known as GGG, Path of Exile puts players in whatever footwear, or even bare soles of the eponymous exile. Whether they’ve committed a crime or unjustly ostracized, the fact is that they – or rather you – have been thrown to Wraeclast, a mysterious island that has a dark and terrifying secret, and is inhabited by a wide plethora of strange and sinister enemies that are out to kill you. 

Thankfully, you’re not just an exile. You could also be a tough-as-nails Marauder, an adept Ranger, a deadly Duelist, the scheming Shadow, the devout Templar, and the arcane Witch. Each class has its own way of dealing with the island’s evils, so it’s up to the players’ preferred play style when it comes to which class they’re going to pick.

Classes also have attributes, which defines their approach in combat and the PoE items they can equip. Strength ups HP and physical damage, Dexterity increases evasion and accuracy, and Intelligence increases Mana and Energy Shield. The Marauder, Ranger, and Witch only have one primary attribute: Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence, respectively. Then there are classes that have two main attributes: Duelists with Strength and Dexterity, Templars with Strength and Intelligence, and Shadows with Dexterity and Intelligence. Last but definitely not least is the Scion, which can work with any attribute; that means you can use this character any way you see fit.

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Setting Itself Apart

On the surface, Path of Exile gives players a tried and tested Diablo-esque formula: top-down point of view, traditional class archetypes, randomly generated maps and items, and an air of horror and mystery. That, however, is where the similarity ends, as Path of Exile features a free-to-play model, and a completely different skill system that gives players so much freedom with their character builds. No wonder players spend a lot of time dabbling with PoE currency and PoE trading just to perfect their characters. 

Two unique Path of Exile features make the game’s characters among the most customizable ones in the entire genre: skill gems and the shared passive skill tree. 

In Path of Exile, classes don’t learn active skills by leveling up. Instead, characters have to use skill gems, PoE items which are slotted into gear in order to be used. Skill gems are color-coded and have to be put in slots of the same color. They’re also associated with a particular attribute, and require a certain amount of a particular attribute in order for them to be used. 

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The Tree of Path of Exile Life

The latter, on the other hand, is a massive skill tree that only contains passive skills. It’s shared by all classes, but that doesn’t mean all classes are the same. To make them distinct from one another, classes begin in different points in the skill tree, depending on their class. For example, the Marauder starts out in a passive skill tree branch that is mostly about gaining Strength and dealing damage, while the Witch starts out in a branch that increases Intelligence, Mana regeneration, and Energy Shield. 

From these starting points, characters progress through the skill tree and learn passive skills that will give them capabilities outside their stereotypical capabilities of their class, be it a passive or stat boost that will let them equip certain skill gems. For example, a Witch can branch out and learn skills that increase Attack Speed or Evasion, or get a boost in either Strength or Dexterity and use skill gems that require them. 

A dark yet delightful fusion of traditional and unconventional, Path of Exile manages to be familiar yet new all at the same time. For that, it deserves much attention, and of course, more players. Or exiles. 

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