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Amid all the controversy of “Resolutiongate” some gamers have probably become fatigued with a war over resolutions that PC gamers have been rocking since the era of the PS2. For those of you needing a little break from all the flaming, fire and roasting flesh of butthurt fanboys on the grill of truth, there are still games out there that focus on something we can easily forget about: fun.
Grinding Gear Games recently released Path of Exile as a free-to-play MMO action-RPG. It's a very different take on the MMO genre (from what I've played so far) and unlike my Final Fantasy or Gas Guzzlers: Extreme impressions, I wasn't given a free promo key or pestered to write about this game... (gasp) I actually chose to write about this one.
So anyway, Path of Exile follows a basic story about a series of characters exiled to a cruel and unpleasant island. There are seven classes to choose from but, I'll be honest and say that I've only put in time with one character class, the Marauder; it's a beastly class that focuses on crushing skulls and beating the living pulp from out the flesh sacks of anyone unfortunate enough to get in the way of his swings, swipes and slashes.
I thought it was interesting that each character class has their own little storyline to follow and an actual backstory. The only problem with this is that each character class is gender-locked and if you're into any kind of role-playing, it can sort of take away building the character you want because of the class restrictions.
However, games like Path of Exile aren't really played for their stories. I mean, who picked up a loot-grinder to find out how the loot grinding affected the main character's psyche at the end of it all? That's just silly. We play loot grinding games to loot cool stuff from monsters we grind, and the grinding has to be fun, immersive and fluent. I'm happy to report that Path of Exile is fun, immersive and fluent.
In a way, Path of Exile feels like the game that Diablo 3 should have been.
One of the best parts about the game is the gritty, uncompromising art-style and brutal animations for all the weapons. I also love how even if you are restricted to a character class, you can still use various weapons designed for other classes, so if you want to use a Marauder and dual-wield a hatchet in one hand a glass shank in the other hand, you're welcomed to do so (and I did it).
The other cool part about the game are the orbs that change a weapon's skill sets, affinity and affixes. I think that is such an awesome thing – being able to add the gems to the weapon slots and completely change up the way they behave. Not every orb is compatible with every weapon, so some skills that enable you to perform certain skills such as AOE attacks or critical strikes may or may not fit into certain bows, clubs, knives or swords. This mix and match system forces players to grind out the right kind of orbs for the right kind of weapons and helps keep the game dangling that carrot in front of the player's nose.
Now considering that this is a first impressions piece, I haven't made it very far into the game and have mostly grinded out my levels on low-class trash mobs. However, I have put in enough time to really appreciate that massive, mangled piece of awesome known as a “Skill Forest”. This thing is a beastly transmutation of all sorts of build types spread across a circular maze of skill pockets. It's insane and it's cool.
Real quick, the combat is mostly handled with the mouse, but Grinding Gear has enabled an option for players to rebind skills to the keyboard, so if you want to use your keyboard to setup macros for skill combos, you can. That's pretty cool.
Path of Exile seems to have gotten off to good start and hopefully it keeps the momentum going as I grow out of the newb levels.
The game is available right now and is free-to-play with a cash shop. You can learn more by paying a visit to the official website.