PoE is an evolved mixture of Diablo 2, Dungeon Siege, Sacred, Titan Quest, Torchlight and Diablo 3. Theres even some Guild Wars 1 influence in PoE. Take much of the best from all of these games, wrap them into a new game designed by an independent group of dedicated developers who build only for the community, and you have Path of Exile. However, PoE is not an easy game; as a matter of fact, it is rather complex and can be too overwhelming and challenging for casual players. While the 2.0 version has refined the game and fixed issues such as desync, the core complexity that so many love is still there; but its also a level of complexity that can drive players away.Its also important to mention this is a Free to Play game.It costs nothing to jump in and try out, and for those who end up enjoying the game, there are numerous enhancements one can purchase to support the team at GGG. Even better is the fact PoE is not Pay to Win. All market purchases are supportive in nature and do not provide an advantage to players beyond visuals and storage space.
Once you have vanquished Dominus, you enter the new Act IV content from the Awakening expansion: Highgate. There are 14 new areas, 40 new monster varieties, 6 new quests and 9 new bosses. The core goal is to go after Malachai, and during this process, fight through aqueducts, mines, lava-laden underground caverns and arenas compete with spectators throwing flowers down upon you. The final boss fight against Malachai is extremely difficult and the end of the story-based content (taking the player into the next or final difficulty level). However, even with the new Act IV boss, Atziri still remains the true end-game boss fight (which is covered later on).
Path of Exile (PoE) was started by a handful of developers in New Zealand back in 2006. They named their company Grinding Gear Games (GGG) and released the 1.0 version of PoE in October of 2013. Now, nearly two years later, GGG has launched version 2.0 of their game (the Awakening expansion), and they have done an amazing job. There is a reason this game has a score of 4.5/5 on Metacritic, 9/10 on Steam and 9/10 on Gamespot; and the majority of the negative reviews cite desync as the biggest problem (which has been fixed in 2.0). A complete list of the patch notes for 2.0 can be foundhere.
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There are two types of quests in PoE. The first areStoryline Quests. They are designed to take the character through Wraeclast through the execution of specific goals. There arent a lot of them (the game really is about exploring, fighting and finding treasure), but they are designed to guide the player through the world. Act I has 9 quests, Act II has 7, Act III has 10, and Act IV has 6. The quest/travel map provided within the game makes it easy for players to see where they need to go and how they need to get there. While most quests involve killing boss mobs, there are some which require the player to secure items, open a passage, or make choices (such as theBandit quest). You can see a list of the questshere. At this time there is just one quest in the game that provides permanent enhancements to your character, and thatsDeal with the Banditsfrom Act II. While a character can change their option (its very expensive) it is one quest that a player should familiarize themselves with prior to completing so they know what core enhancement they would like to obtain for their character (i.e. increased cast speed vs. physical damage).
One of many beautiful player-built hideouts.
Path of Exile 3.1 Abyss Best Starter Builds
There are a great number of nasty creatures in the game, all of themEnemiesthat are out to kill you. There are four difficulty types monsters: (1) the normal (white) mobs, which are the most common; (2) magic (blue) mobs which have basic affixes in their name (such as deadly for more damage, or hexproof if they resist curses) and are usually identified by their darker texture (which often shifts and moves) and size; (3) champion (yellow) mobs which have a number of modifiers including auras, and usually glow; and (4) unique (gold) mobs which are bosses with special and often unique abilities. If the game feels too easy at the beginning, dont you worry, the enemies get very nasty later on in higher difficulties. Ive found groups of blues to often be the most dangerous because of their enhancements paired with the fact you can encounter a large number of them. One thing I like about this game is the behavior of the monsters. The animations and actions tied to their special abilities (such as charging or jumping or laying eggs) is very well done, and its quite satisfying to shatter cold enemies, litter the ground with those pesky octopus creatures, and crumble the living statutes . You will quickly learn what different monsters can and cannot do, which includes learning how to avoid their nasty abilities. One of the first nasty Damage Over Time (DOT) attacks players are exposed to is Puncture, which causes you to bleed/lose hits profusely if you move around while afflicted. Monsters can also have inherit resistances which can make them challenging for certain elemental builds. Theres nothing worse than specializing in lightning magic and running into a room of lightning resistant monsters that do high damage and are blue (thus enhanced). But thats part of the fun of the game. The other thing I really like is the bodies (or whats left of your victims) stay on the ground; they dont disappear until you load a new version of the zone (covered below). Be wary of Necromancers and other monsters that can raise the dead as theres no limit to the number they can bring back! Another thing I like about PoE is the wander radius of monsters. Its very common for another group of creatures will come out of nowhere while youre fighting, as if theyre drawn to the sounds of combat. One must also be very careful leaving a character unattended as PoE has mobs which like to wander. If you think youre safe because you cleared the mobs around your area and get up to get a drink, by the time you return, you might be dead. Its also important to point out monsters will use the very same skills you do. They will curse you, cast frost pulse, shock, fireball, and cleave you and anyone who fights with you. Its fun!
Each Act has its own TownHubthat serves as the point of operation. Within these hubs are the quest givers, merchants, stash access, masters (covered later) and notice boards. When players are in a Hub they will see other players running around, which is a nice touch and gives the feeling of a living breathing world. Note however once you leave the hub, unless you are in a league that shares areas (covered below under Gameplay), you will only encounter other players you are grouped with.
Authors Note:I wrote myfirst reviewof Path of Exile (PoE) back in November, 2013, shortly after the game launched. I provided an 8.3 score citing Desync and Death Penalty as the biggest issues. Instead of writing a review covering just the PoE expansion, Ive decided to publish a new and complete Path of Exile 2.0: The Awakening Expansion Review because so much has changed. Some of the content will be very similar to my original review (for details that havent changed), but after playing the game thoroughly (since launch and through the release of 2.0) and taking numerous characters to end-game and playing nearly all of the content PoE Has to offer, this review provides a complete perspective.
of nearly all passive skills with 2.0. Nodes have been moved, changed, removed, and added, requiring those who are familiar with the old matrix to re-familiarize themselves with the new one. The changes are so extensive, its not practical to cover them here. Just dive in and start exploring!
PoE takes place in the dark fantasy world of Wraeclast where you are an exile who was aboard a ship that sank during a storm, yet you managed to survive and crawl upon the shore of the lands. TheStorybegins here, also with inclination some force was behind your exiling. With the addition of the expansion, there are four acts to the game. Act I takes you up the shore through the prison and into the lair of Merveil, the Siren. Act II takes the player through the monkey-infested Forest and into the mainland to deal with undead, bandits, and finally the Vaal Oversoul, which is inside the top of a pyramid you must climb. Act III takes the player through the city of Sarn, overrun by numerous nasties, and then through a terrible palace with torture and mutilation in its depths to fight the first antagonist named Piety. In 2014 PoE expanded act III and added a second boss, a nasty guy named Dominus.
Lets first talk a little about the history of ARPGs and the games on which PoE is based. Released in June of 2000, Diablo 2 is held as the finest ARPG created, holding a special place in the hearts of all. Not just because of gameplay, but the community aspect of it namely the chat lobby and ladder system which brought players together. After Diablo 2, we have Titan Quest, which is held as the second best ARPG. Other fun ARPGs have come since then including Dungeon Siege 1 & 2, Sacred 1 & 2, and Torchlight 1 & 2. Lets take a quick look at this timeline. The Diablo 2 expansion, Lord of Destruction, was released in June of 2001; just a year after Diablo 2 was launched. Dungeon Siege 1 was released in 2002, then for roughly two years we had no activity. Sacred 1 was released in 2004, Dungeon Siege 2 in 2005, Titan Quest in 2006, Sacred 2 in November 2008, Torchlight 1 in October of 2009, Diablo 3 in May of 2012, and Torchlight 2 in September of 2012. While this may seem like a lot of games, its really not. Sacred, Dungeon Siege and Titan Quest (while good games) failed to capture the community aspect of Diablo 2. Torchlight 1 was a single-player only game, and Torchlight 2, while allowing multi-player, didnt really bring players together. It wasnt until Diablo 3 was released with its support that the community was back for the ARPG genre, but there were also problems with Diablo 3. They dropped the chat lobby and ladder systems (which people are still upset about today), and injected a real money auction house which had adverse affects on the game the developers are still trying to address to this day. While Diablo 3 is a good game, and Torchlight 2s addition of multiplayer paired with its customization and fun factor earn both products proper credibility, none of these products brought the players together like Diablo 2 did;until now.
Introduced with the Forsaken Masters expansion in July of 2014,Hideoutsare customized home zones a player can design, build, and expand. They are account based (i.e. all characters within an account will have access to them) and can be used as central operating hubs for gameplay, crafting and running maps. Most players will also use their hideout as the meeting location for executing trades. The tileset of a hideout is based on the chosen master used to create the hideout. Haku is Coast, Eleron is Library, Catarina is Graveyard, Tora is Forest, Vorici is Sarn, Leo is Garden, Vagan is Barracks, and Zana is Solaris Temple. The size of that tileset is based on the level of the master. There are numerous decorative objects you can purchase from the masters (which take favor points you acquire by completing master quests). You can also purchase a number of decorations from the real-money marketplace. When you acquire a new decoration, it goes into your hideout stash and can be placed with the click of a button. Whats very cool is many decorative objects have numerous variations which can be cycled through by using the mouse wheel. Players can also rotate their decorations, which allows for nearly any variation of layout. Players can also place pets in their hideout. Once placed, pets will run around on their own, but will not pass through solid objects (allowing for the creation of pet rooms and corrals). Want to build a mansion of blood, bodies and fireflies? Not a problem! Perhaps a zoo with scorpions and spiders? The game has it! What about a steampunk steam engine looking artifact complete with tracks? You can do it in PoE. The diversity in hideout customization is simply astounding. GGG runs a Hideout of the Week contest, and has created a list of all the hideouts theyve coveredhere.
Path of Exile 3.2 Bestiary Best Builds
The content offered by PoE is solid and great quality, especially with the 2.0 expansion. The Story is dark and disturbing, but also empowering as you traverse the lands and kill evil leaders. There is a wide variety of zones, and the class & passive tree combination is unprecedented (and often overwhelming to new players). The environment is immersive, the world is filled with strange, disgusting and dangerous creatures, and Rogue Exiles add a dynamic aspect of fun to any adventure. The Quests are fairly common, and the treasure is bountiful. No other ARPG has done what PoE has accomplished with Hideouts, which adds another dimension of fun to the overall experience.
Rogue Exilesare custom-built AI-controlled characters that can randomly appear throughout the world. They are mean, have their own unique set of actions based on the numerous skill gems within the game, and behave as if you have encountered another player. At this time there are26 of them, and each one is different. There are tanks, ranged shooters, shield slammers, DOTters, and more. They are a lot of fun in normal difficulty, but can be very dangerous by the time the player reaches merciless. The good news is when you kill one, they explode like a loot piñata and give up at least one item per character slot, often resulting in numerous valuable drops.
There are also numerousLoreobjects spread throughout the world, which will provide a detailed narrative when the players click on them. These lore objects are important for those who want to learn about the history of the region they are in, and there is a lot of history to learn.
Raging Spiritsare another special type of enemy. There are many variations, but all are similar in the fact they fly away from you and can be quite difficult to kill before they disappear into the sky. The advantage to killing them is they always drop rare items (sometimes uniques) and count as credit toward achievements. They can also posses nearly rare and unique monsters, turning their victim into an augmented killing machine! Theres nothing more interesting than entering a boss fight only to see a spirit in the corner of the room fly into the boss and turn it into a raging machine of death complete with even more dangerous augments! Spirits also augment other monsters they fly by, adding their special modifier to anything they touch, but that also includes improving the item drops of those monsters they have touched! Some players drive spirits through large groups of monsters to tag them before killing the spirit; then when the monsters are killed, they drop extra loot!
Numerous changes have also been made to Acts I-III, and are as follows: The Lower and Upper Submerged Passages have been combined. The Waypoint in the Mud Flats has been moved to The Coast. The Waypoint in The Lower Prison has been moved to be near the start of the level. The Coves area has been removed. The Chamber of Sins Level 2 has been replaced by the Chamber of Sins Level 3. Its Waypoint is now at the start of the new Chamber of Sins Level 2. Plagueretch has moved out of Chamber of Sins Level 1 and has been replaced by Black Death. We wish Plagueretch all the best on wherever his new journey takes him. The Wetlands area has been moved prior to the Vaal Ruins. They now connect to The Riverways. You can now find Oak without having killed Loretta (the tree). A Waypoint has been added to The Riverways. The Dark Forest has been removed. The Vaal Ruins Level 1 and Vaal Ruins Level 2 have been merged. Its waypoint has been removed. A new area, the Northern Forest, has been added after the Vaal Ruins. The Dread Thicket is now attached to the Northern Forest rather than the Wetlands. The Dread Thicket is now always 50%. The Caverns Level 1 and The Caverns Level 2 have been merged. Clarissa has been moved into the City of Sarn (from the Slums). The Slums no longer attaches to The Warehouse District. You can no longer access The Warehouse District or beyond without opening the Sewers (by finding Tolman and freeing Clarissa). The Sewer Waterway has been removed. The Marketplace Sewers now has two entrances in the Marketplace. The Marketplace waypoint has been moved. The Ebony Barracks waypoint has been moved. Lunaris Temple Level 1 and Lunaris Temple Level 2 have been merged. The waypoint is now in this merged area. Pietys boss arena in Lunaris Temple Level 2 has been changed.
Prepare to enter the Belly of the Beast! watch your step, its slippery.
To provide some guidance for newcomers, there is a website that has numerous builds a player can follow from the start in order to create end-game viable characters. Two of these sites arePathOfPoEandPathOfExileBuilds. Players can study these builds and decide what suits them best. But be warned; many builds require certain unique items in order to make the builds viable. This is why a starter character is always a good idea so the player can get a feel for the the game, find unique item drops that may be necessary for following a more advanced (and costly) template, and thus gather the necessary items to make the next build viable.New players be patient!After a few weeks of play, the Passive Skill Tree wont seem nearly as intimidating and youll have a great time creating your own builds. Once you are ready, you can build out your own Passive Skill Treehere. As you build a tree out, youll notice the site changes the URL; when youre done, simply save the URL and you can now share the tree with anyone by giving them the URL. Characters gain one Passive Skill Point point per level and also gain additional points by completing quests. The total amount of points a character can currently achieve is 123, but its more realistic to plan around 100-110 since the last 10 levels take a monumental amount of time to achieve.
NPCsin PoE are pretty standard for an ARPG, but it is worth noting the excellent quality of the voice acting. Most of the NPCs are in town and act as quest givers and merchants. There are also 8Mastersthat can be found throughout the lands (the only exception is Zana, who can only be found in maps). When a player encounters a master in the game world, they are offered a quest. If the quest is completed, the player gains experience towards leveling that master. Once a master is level 3 (the max is 8), it will appear in town and becomes available to create or join the players Hideout. Masters are critical to custom crafting and also sell items. They also function as a passive leveling system that offers daily quests and hideout enhancements that can be used by all characters on an account (in the same league). I will cover hideouts and masters in more detail later on.
Due to the complex nature of PoE, this review can also serve as a guide. I hope there is information in here that both new and experienced players can benefit from.
Path of Exile 2.0: The Awakening Review Introduction
Path of Exile 2.0: The Awakening Expansion Review
Character Creation is very simple. You pick a startingclass,choose your league (covered below) and name your character. There areseven classesto choose from: Marauder, Ranger, Witch, Duelist, Templar, Shadow, and Scion. The starting class defines the sex and voice of your character as you play the game, but the next part is where PoE is very different from other games. While other ARPGs and even MMOGs factor in numerous static/starting actions, skills and abilities relative to your starting class, PoE does not do this. Instead, the starting class defines your starting point in the massive skill matrix and whatquest rewardsare made available when you complete a quest. A player can turn any class into pretty much whatever they want. For example, while a Witch traditionally goes the route of Magic, the player can branch out and create a melee tank Witch. On the other hand, a player can also turn their Marauder (traditionally a Melee class due to its starting point) into a spell caster or ranged warrior. As such, there are no class-specific actions, skills, or abilities. The chosen class only defines your starting point in the massive passive skill system, not what you can or cannot do. I will cover all of this in detail as PoE is a complex game, especially to new players.
Ready for more than 1,300 nodes of character customization?
One of the biggest changes with the new expansion is the addition of Socketed Skill Nodes and
. They add a completely new dynamic to the game, allowing players to socket passive skill settings in a fashion that supports a specific build. While some jewels offer bonuses (such as extra damage to spells), others will convert values within a radius of the placed jewel to something different (e.g. all strength nodes within a radius of the jewel will become intelligence nodes). This empowers players to plan, experiment, and seek out very specific upgrades and build templates that have never been tried before.
Path of Exile 3.3 Incursion Best Starting Builds
The second type of quests areMaster Quests, which consist of either random quests (e.g. encountering a master in a zone or map) or daily quests (which are provided from masters in your hideout). Executing daily quests becomes essential for players who are looking to level their masters to 8 (in order to maximize crafting abilities). Many people collaborate and share master quests in order to level them up quicker. A group of 6 players can get together and run each others daily missions, and everyone gets credit for it. Common etiquette is you only join a group if you can share your master quests (i.e. they havent already been done), that way nobody is a freeloader. But sometimes players will post free runs for others to join in on.The global chat channel everyone uses to share master quests (and form daily groups) is 820.
In addition to the warband/tempest features of the new leagues (covered below), the expansion also features a complete re-balance of monsters throughout the game. Returning players will notice a big difference in the overall feel of combat. Rogue exiles are a bit easier (and more fun), you wont get 1-shotted nearly as often as you used to, and many of the boss fights are more involved (and enjoyable) than before.
TheEnvironment & Ambianceof each area is very well done and contains a fantastic combination of visual and audio components all based on the areas theme. While the game doesnt have destructible objects to the extent of Diablo 3, each zone is refined, the colors are vibrant (especially in the City of Sarn), and lighting/time of day is a big factor in the game, adding an extra feeling of realism to each area the player explores. When youre in Koams realm, you truly feel as if you are inside a mountain surrounded by rivers of lava. Shadows are also very well done in PoE, adding an extra level of depth and overall immersion to the game. The forests in PoE feel like forests (especially when monkeys swing off the trees down on top of you), and there seems to be more variation to the random layout of the zones compared to other ARPGs. When you run through a nasty wet cave or the ruins of an ancient city, there is no doubt the developers put meticulous love into the refinement of the overall look and feel of the game. Act IV brings a new lively aspect to the game as well, providing the player with a real feeling of fighting as a gladiator in an arena. The Act IV mine walls burst forth with elemental creatures after the decaying dead have finished their digging, and the final run to Malachai is a disgusting maze of eyeballs, entrails and blood. Its fantastic.
Path of Exile 2.0: The Awakening Expansion Review
Story & Lore, Regions & Hubs, Classes & Passive Skill Tree, Environment & Ambiance, NPCs (Masters & Enemies), Rogue Exiles, Quests, Treasure, Hideouts, and Maps (Corrupted Zones & Atziri)
Of courseTreasureis one of the main reasons we play games like PoE, and luckily, the world of Wraeclast is littered with numerous chests and other lootable objects. The game has boulders, bodies and other objects that are often hidden which can cough up valuable orbs and items. I have found unique (legendary) items in caskets and exalted orbs under stones. Always open/break every lootable object you encounter, you never know what could be inside/underneath! I cover rewards in more detail later on in this review.
Mapsare end-game item drops which open some of the highest level and most difficult content available in the game. When a character has completed the quest given by Lady Dialla in the Solaris Temple in Merciless difficulty, they gain access to the Eternal Laboratory (which has a waypoint). To run a map, the player enters the laboratory and throws their map into the Map Device. The result is six portals into the map world, and each portal can only be used once, which means only six trips back and forth can be taken. This also ensures players cannot engage in too many recharge runs back to town if they are too weak to handle the bosses of the map. Maps start at Level 68 and currently go to level 82. They are also custom drops which can only be found in Merciless difficulty. Most map drops are only within 2 levels of the area you are currently in. In order to find higher level maps (72+), they must drop within map runs. Normal mobs drop within their level, magic mobs drop within a +1 range and rare/boss mobs drop within a +2 range. This means a rare mob in a level 68 map can drop a level 70 map. Wi
ThePassive Skill System(aka Skill Matrix) is the most unique feature of the game, allowing for unprecedented character and class customization more in-depth than any other ARPG. The depth of this system is so extensive some even refer to it as esoteric. While other class-based ARPG games (including MMOGs) define a preset template for their classes (of skills, abilities, traits, etc), the starting class of PoE only defines the starting point within the massive Passive Skill System Tree. This means a player can plan out more than 100 points to spend in this comprehensive skill matrix of1,321 nodes, and if planned properly, can blend together benefits revolving around different classes. While the nodes around the starting points are related to the particular class (e.g. a ranger has dex and ranged-related nodes around their starting point), the player can quickly break out of their surrounding class nodes and shoot into other nodes wholly unrelated to their core class. This ensures all nodes can be accessed, but must be chosen with thought and planning. When a player starts PoE for the first time and sees the passive skill matrix, they are often overwhelmed, but each starting location can only branch out in two directions (except the Scion which has 6 starting points), simplifying the initial exploration into the system for the new player. This is how players raise their stats and obtain everything ranging from increased attack speed to additional mana and life. Characters can also acquire special abilities such as Hex Master (curses never expire) or Blood Magic (which removes mana and uses life to cast spells). While a player acquires refund points as they progress through the quests (and through Orbs of Regret) which can be spent to take back a spent point, because of the depth of this matrix and the difficulty of the game later on (level 50+), many players choose to rebuild new characters rather than reverting their current one as they better understand the Skill Matrix and nodes that are very important (such as stats to support item use, and life & resistances to support survivability at higher levels). But this isnt a bad thing; the game is so expansive and immersive, players enjoy creating new characters and doing better each time around. It is nearly impossible for a new player to plan out a solid skill build that will be viable at the highest levels and difficulty of the game (70-95) without having spent weeks playing the game, getting a feeling for it, and understanding the mechanics and veritable threats that exist through the game world. When looking at the Passive Skill Matrix, you will notice four types of nodes: Normal, Notable, Keystone and Socketed (covered below). Normal nodes are the standard looking circles (usually stats, life, etc), notable are the circles with the flashy gold border (usually bonus stats and modifiers), and keystone nodes are the ones with the big thick borders. Keystone nodes are often the most unique and powerful nodes in the game, offering game-changing modifiers to the character. You can see a list of the nodes and their bonuseshere.
NPCs, Masters, Enemies and Rogue Exiles
Strongboxeswere introduced with the Masters expansion. They are special loot containers that can appear randomly throughout the game and come in 11 categories including Cartographers and Gemcutters (which drop maps and skill gems). They can be extremely dangerous to open through, often freezing you with a trap and spawning large groups of monsters right on top of you. But the rewards can be exceptional, especially for those who are seeking maps. You can roll Strongboxes just like you can items by using orbs on them (covered below in economy). This allows a player to adjust them to provide the types of modifiers they are looking for (as long as the currency is available).