Path of Exile
|Path of Exile|
|Developer(s)||Grinding Gear Games|
|Publisher(s)||Grinding Gear Games
|Distributor(s)||Grinding Gear Games|
Path of Exile is an online action RPG set in a dark fantasy world. It is developed by New Zealand based independent developer Grinding Gear Games and is a downloadable free-to-play game supported by "ethical microtransactions". On January 23, 2013, the Open Beta was released. By March 2013 the subscriber base has reached 2 million players. The game left Open Beta and was fully released both on Steam and on their own website on the 23rd of October, 2013.
The player controls a single character from an overhead perspective and explores large outdoor areas and underground caves or dungeons, battling monsters and fulfilling quests from NPCs to gain experience points and equipment. The game takes heavily from the Diablo series, particularly Diablo II. All areas aside from the central encampments are randomly generated for increased re-playability. While all players play on (currently) one server world the game play outside of encampments is highly instanced providing every player or party with an isolated map to freely explore.
Players can initially choose from six available classes to play as (Duelist, Marauder, Ranger, Shadow, Templar, and Witch). Each of these classes are aligned with one or two attributes. The final class, The Scion, can be unlocked by completing the game on normal difficulty, and is aligned with all three attributes. The different classes are not restricted from investing into skills not aligned with their core attributes, but will have easier access to skills that are aligned with their core attributes. Items are randomly generated from a wide variety of basic types and endowed with special properties and gem sockets. They come in different rarities with increasingly powerful properties. This makes a large part of gameplay dedicated to finding well-balanced and synergistic equipment. Skill gems can be placed in gem sockets of armor and weapons, giving them an active skill. As the character advances and levels up the equipped skill gems also gain experience and can be changed into more potent versions.
Active skills can be modified by items known as Support Gems. Depending upon the number of linked sockets the player possesses, a primary attack or skill can be modified with increased attack speed, faster projectiles, multiple projectiles, chaining hits, life leech, auto-cast spells on critical strike, and more. All classes share the same selection of about 1,350 passive skills, from which the player can choose one each time their character levels up, or occasionally through quest rewards. These passive skills improve the core attributes and grant further enhancements such as increased Mana, Health or Damage dealing capacity. Each one of the characters start on a different position on the skill tree. They are arranged in a complex network starting in one trunk aligned with each of the three core attributes. The player must therefore not only focus on maximizing all modifiers related to his primary attacks and spells, but must also take care to select the most efficient path through the skill tree, as the average character will only have 100 skill points to spend.
The game's economy is based on bartering for rare currency items. Unlike traditional game currencies, these items have their own inherent uses and thus provide their own money sinks to prevent inflation. Most of these items are used to randomize statistics on equipment.
Grinding Gear Games aims to offer several alternate play modes for Path of Exile. Currently, the following permanent leagues are available:
- Standard - the default gameplay league. Characters who die here respawn in the last city visited (with experience loss on higher difficulties).
- Hardcore - Characters cannot be resurrected but instead respawn back in the Standard league.
New temporary 3-month leagues are currently up.
- Rampage - in this league slaying enemies in rapid succession will give rise to Rampage bonuses.
- Beyond - hardcore league where killing monsters in close proximity to each other creates portals that spawn creatures from another realm.
Other leagues are usually designed for specific events. They have their own set of rules, item accessibility and aftermath. These rules widely vary depending on the league. For example, timed "Descent" league features another map set, new monster sets and rewards, but characters in this league are no longer available for playing after the league ends. "Turbo solo immolation" leagues, as another example, are running on the same maps as standard modes, but with much harder monsters, no partying, replacing physical damage with fire damage and monsters exploding on death—and return the survivors to Hardcore league (while dead characters resurrect in Standard). Racing leagues last between 30 minutes and 1 week. The permanent leagues have counterpart ladder leagues with different rulesets that last four months.
The game is set in a dark fantasy world. The player starts the game waking up on the shores of Wraeclast, a continent that once was the center of a mighty empire but is now a cursed land which serves as a penal colony for criminals and other unwanted individuals from the nearby island of Oriath. Regardless of the reasons for his/her exile the player must now face the unforgiving wilderness with its dangerous inhabitants, alongside the crumbling ruins and bloody secrets of the Eternal Empire and the Vaal civilization that came before, and band together with other outcasts to survive.
Path of Exile began when a small group of Action RPG enthusiasts became frustrated by the lack of new releases in the genre and decided to develop their own game. It was developed under the radar for three years before being publicly announced on September 1, 2010. In the time since then Grinding Gear Games has published a number of development posts on their website ranging from screen shots of new classes, monsters and skills to presentations of game play or technical aspects.
Following a period under closed beta which players could pay to join, the developers started an open beta on January 23, 2013 which was free to play with purchasable microtransactions.
Path of Exile's first digital expansion, Sacrifice of the Vaal, was released on March 5, 2014. The expansion included new bosses, currency, areas, leagues, and PvP modes. A new expansion, titled Forsaken Masters was announced on the 31st July 2014, releasing on 20 August. It comes with a host of new features, including crafting, a new class of NPC called Master, reworked passive skill tree and personal hideouts.
The developers of Path of Exile stress that one of their core goals is to provide a genuinely free-to-play game financed only by "ethical micro-transactions". Most other games require either some initial or recurring payment or are financed by micro-transactions which are often hard to avoid because they provide significant game advantages. Path of Exile is planned to offer only cosmetic changes or vanity items in its item shop. Players will also be able to pay to create private, invite-only leagues, each secluded in its own economy.
During closed beta, by January 21, 2013, Path of Exile received US$2.2m in crowd-sourced contributions.
As of February 28, 2014 the game has five million registered players and is profitable for Grinding Gear Games.
The game is commonly praised for its strategic depth in character building, exciting item randomization, frequent fine-tuning of character and skill balance, strong virtual economy, and very high replayability. The game is commonly criticized for being unfriendly to new players and client-server desynchronization. The game continues to be updated with new content and fixes on a roughly monthly basis.
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