Path of Exile’s Impressive Debut

Path of Exile’s Impressive Debut

Path of Exile is the newly-announced action-RPG by a new gaming studio, Grinding Gear Games. It’s an MMORPG, playable online by anyone in the world, for free. The game will feature six character classes, an innovative and very feature-rich skill gem system, large communal towns, instanced dungeon areas that are randomly generated (both surface areas and dungeons), a vast variety of randomly-generated items, a balanced PvP system with character rankings, guild support, and every other feature you might want in an MMORPG.

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The team is planning to release regular expansions through the Path of Exile website, and they’re committed to supporting and developing the game for the long haul. They all loved Diablo 2, and that game’s long term success did a lot to inspire GGG to try for a similar run with their own. It’s also what caused them to invite me to see and play the game earlier this week, since they’ve been readers of this site since before Diablo II’s launch, and thought our readers would be very interested in their ARPG-styled game. (I think they’re right.)

Path of Exile is a horror-themed game, like the first Diablo. It’s gritty and cruel; the team is fond of calling their world “cut-throat,” and it’s designed with a high level of realism. As you can see from the screenshots and the gameplay movies, it’s not a lot of flash and style over substance. Armor looks like armor, there are no WoWish oversized shoulder pads or chain mail bikinis, and while PoE has plenty of fiery spell effects and magically-glowing weapons, it’s generally old school in appearance. It reminded me a bit of Titan Quest, in terms of the visuals, the size of the units, and the smooth animations.

Their financial model stems from what they’re calling an “ethical” item shop; they’ll sell name changes and realm transfers and such, along with bonus goodies like armor dyes, evil pets, and some graphic shifts. They will not sell any items or abilities that affect the gameplay, though. No super items, no armors, no double experience potions or +magic find abilities, or anything else that players are told are optional, but that turn out to be essentially mandatory in order to properly enjoy or compete on an even footing with others while playing the game.

PoE is well into their friends and family alpha test, and is rapidly approaching the start of a closed beta test. If that goes well, the team hopes to launch the game in early 2011.

From my play time on the demo, and a long conversation with the game creators, I feel confident in predicting that most Diablo 2 fans will want to take a long look at this title. The gameplay is fast and fun, reminiscent of Diablo 2’s, and it’s got surprisingly deep features and design plans. If you’re into RPGs, and you like the Diablo III runestone system and concept, you’ll be fascinated by the much deeper and more varied system of skill gems in Path of Exile. Plus it’s got all the vast item slot machine elements that make the Diablo games so long term addictive, a wide variety of areas and monsters, and detailed long term plans for expansions and added content.

Grinding Gear Games presents, Path of Exile

Several weeks ago, I received an email from a guy named Chris Wilson. He said he’d been a long-time reader of the Diablo site, and that he’d even contributed a guest article, long ago, in the early Diablo 2 days. In more recent years he and some friends had founded a game studio called Grinding Gears Games, and for the past 4 years his small design team had been working on an action-heavy RPG which would be free to download and play online. Chris and the others at the company were all huge Diablo 2 fans, their game was heavily-influenced by the Diablo style of fast action fighting, and since they were about to announce their game, and were going to be in the San Francisco area in late August to meet numerous media outlets, they very much wanted me to come and see it.

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