Path of Exile

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Path of Exile
Path of Exile Logo.png
Developer(s)Grinding Gear Games
Publisher(s)
Designer(s)Chris Wilson
Programmer(s)Jonathan Rogers
Artist(s)Erik Olofsson
Writer(s)Nick Jones
Edwin McRae
Brian Weissman
Composer(s)Adgio Hutchings
Kamil Orman-Janowski
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, macOS
Release
  • Microsoft Windows
  • 23 October 2013
  • Xbox One
  • 24 August 2017
  • PlayStation 4
  • 26 March 2019
  • macOS
  • 18 September 2020
Genre(s)Action role-playing
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Path of Exile is a free-to-play action role-playing video game developed and published by Grinding Gear Games. Following an open beta phase, the game was released for Microsoft Windows in October 2013.[3][4][5][6][7] A version for Xbox One was released in August 2017, and a PlayStation 4 version was released in March 2019.

Path of Exile takes place in the dark fantasy world, where the government of the island nation of Oriath exiles people to the continent of Wraeclast, a ruined continent home to many ancient gods. Taking control of an exile, players can choose to play as one of seven character classes – Marauder, Duelist, Ranger, Shadow, Witch, Templar, and Scion. Players are then tasked with fighting their way back to Oriath, defeating ancient gods and great evils during their journey.

Gameplay[edit]

The player controls a single character from an overhead perspective and explores large outdoor areas and caves or dungeons, battling monsters and fulfilling quests from non-player characters (NPCs) to gain experience points and equipment. The game borrows heavily from the Diablo series, particularly Diablo II.[8] All areas aside from the central encampments are randomly generated for increased re-playability. While all players on a single server can freely mingle in encampments, gameplay outside of encampments is highly instanced, providing every player or party with an isolated map to freely explore.[9][10]

Players can choose from seven available classes to play as (Duelist, Marauder, Ranger, Scion, Shadow, Templar and Witch).[11][12] Each of these classes are aligned with one or two of the three core attributes: Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence. The exception is the Scion, formerly a locked prestige class released in 2013, which 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.[13][14] 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, weapons and some types of rings,[8][15] giving them an active skill. As the character advances and levels up, the equipped skill gems also gain experience, allowing the skills themselves to level up and increase in potency.

Active skills can be modified by items known as Support Gems.[16] 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. Given limits on the number of sockets, players must prioritize gem usage.[17] All classes share the same selection of 1,325 passive skills,[18] from which the player can choose one each time their character levels up, and as an occasional quest reward. These passive skills improve the core attributes and grant further enhancements such as increased Mana, Health, damage, defenses, regeneration, speed, and more. Each one of the characters start on a different position on the passive skill tree. The passive skill tree is arranged in a complex network starting in separate trunks for each class (aligned with the permutations of the three core attributes). The player must therefore not only focus on maximizing all modifiers related to his primary offense and defense, but must also take care to select the most efficient path through the passive skill tree. As of the 3.0 Fall of Oriath Release, the maximum possible number of passive skill points was 123 (99 from leveling and 24 from quest rewards).[18] Each class also has access to an Ascendancy class, which grants much stronger, specialized bonuses. Each class has three Ascendancy classes to choose from, except for the Scion, who only has one Ascendancy class that combines the elements of all other Ascendancy classes. Up to 8 Ascendancy skill points can be assigned out of 12 or 14.[19]

Path of Exile is unusual among action role-playing games in that there is no in-game currency. The game's economy is based on bartering "currency items."[20] Unlike traditional game currencies, these items have their own inherent uses (such as upgrading an item's rarity level, rerolling affixes, or improving an item's quality) and thus provide their own money sinks to prevent inflation. Most of these items are used to modify and upgrade equipment, though some identify items, create portals to town or grant skill refund points.

Leagues[edit]

The game offers several alternate play modes.[21] The following permanent leagues are available:

  • Standard – The default gameplay league. Characters who die here respawn in the last city visited (with experience loss at higher levels).
  • Hardcore (HC) – Characters cannot be resurrected but instead respawn back in the Standard league. This mode is analogous to permadeath in other games.
  • Solo Self Found (SSF) – Characters cannot join a party with other players, and may not trade with other players. This type of gameplay forces characters to find or craft their own items.

Current temporary (challenge) leagues:

  • The Ultimatum league.

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 three months.

Synopsis[edit]

Setting[edit]

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 their exile, the player must now face the unforgiving wilderness and its dangerous inhabitants amidst the crumbling ruins and bloody secrets of the Eternal Empire and the Vaal civilization that came before, and band together with other exiles to survive.

Plot[edit]

High Templar Dominus exiles the player character, referred to as "Exile," from Oriath for some crime depending on which class the player chose. The Exile is sent to Wraeclast, a penal colony, where they kill various monsters and people who have been tormenting other exiles in Wraeclast. It is discovered that Dominus has been secretly working with his assistant Piety studying thaumaturgy and are the cause of many of the troubles in Wraeclast. The Exile finds and kills both of them. In the process, the Exile encounters a 200-year old woman called Dialla who explains how a thaumaturgical "Rapture Device" created by a man called Malachai is being used to awaken and release "The Beast". The Exile travels to Highgate where they enter the Beast and kill Malachai.

Now that Wraeclast is apparently saved, the Exile return to Oriath. The successor to Dominus, High Templar Avarius, has been abusing his ordained power of divinity. The corrupt templar are exercising their power to wrest control of Oriath, enslaving a race of people known as Karui. The Exile takes advantage of the ongoing Karui slave rebellion and overthrows the templar order by killing Avarius and defeating the Templar god "Innocence". After defeating Innocence, his brother Sin returns and informs the Exile that by killing the Beast, the Exile has inadvertently caused the old gods of the world to reawaken. The formerly oppressed Karui are now empowered by their god Kitava and is running rampant in Oriath, destroying whatever they can find. Sin takes the Exile to fight Kitava, but the Exile fails. Sin explains that the essence of the Beast is needed to battle Kitava - and that the Beast was his creation. A plan is formulated to return to Wraeclast to extract the essence from the Beast's dead body and use it to stop Kitava from destroying Oriath.

After travelling through Wraeclast once more and defeating the gods that have reawakened, the Exile returns to Oriath and finds that Innocence has returned. With Innocence reborn and amending for his past mistakes, Sin and Innocence take the Exile to Kitava's lair, and with their combined strength they destroy Kitava.

Development[edit]

Path of Exile began when a small group of action role-playing game 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 1 September 2010.[22] 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.

Alpha started around June 2010, and ended when 0.9.0 was released in August 2011. Following a period under closed beta which players could pay to join, the developers started an open beta (ver. 0.10.0) on 23 January 2013 which was free to play with purchasable microtransactions. The game was patched for release version 1.0.0 on 23 October 2013. On this date, it was also made available on Steam.[23] The game continues to be updated with new content and fixes on roughly a monthly basis.[24]

The developers of Path of Exile stated that one of their core goals is to provide a genuinely free-to-play game financed only by "ethical micro-transactions".[25] Players can create multiple accounts and even have more than one logged in at a time. Path of Exile mainly offers cosmetic item skins for players willing to spend money on the game, but it does also gate specific account features such as semi-automated public trading inventories or additional character slots behind a paywall. It is also possible for players to pay to create private, invite-only leagues, each secluded in its own economy. On 18 January 2017, Grinding Gear Games announced they would be expanding into the console market.[26][27]

During closed beta, by 21 January 2013, Path of Exile received US$2.2m in crowd-sourced contributions.[28]

During Exilecon in November 2019, Grinding Gear Games announced that a version of the game for mobile devices was also in development within their studio. One of the main topics discussed in the reveal video was the current trend in free-to-play mobile business models (such as "pay-to-win microtransactions, time gates, energy bars, random nag screens, notifications, video ads") and that POE Mobile would aim to avoid that approach, and retain the full gameplay of the desktop version.[29][30] However, it was also stated that the mobile version was "experimental" and that continued development will be dependent upon the feedback from fans.[30]

The game started with DirectX graphic rendering which supports a wide array of video cards. During Delirium league, February 2020, Grinding Gear Games (GGG) released a beta support version of Vulkan graphic rendering with the goal of providing more consistent game play and to collect feedback from players to improve the new mode through bug reports.[31] Vulkan support implementation provided a smoother experience, reducing the number of times the games frames-per-second would drop or bottom out during high intensity game play. Vulkan beta support continued into Harvest with updates at the start of the league but negatively affected performance. Another release late into the Harvest league with 300+ changes that affects both DirectX and Vulkan beta support are still waiting for feedback.[32]

In September 2020 through patch 3.11.2, Grinding Gear Games released a substantial code quality refactoring which required a full game download to deploy. The release includes: optimized future game patching for stand-alone and Steam game store versions, game file storage which improves HDD game load time, compressed and sharper texture quality, audio quality improvements, graphic engine improvements, a first-ever Apple macOS version release and Epic Game Store version release.[33][non-primary source needed]


Expansions[edit]

Patch Title Release date Notes
1.1 Sacrifice of the Vaal 5 March 2014

Path of Exile's first digital expansion, Sacrifice of the Vaal, was released on 5 March 2014.[34][35] The expansion included new bosses, currency, areas, leagues, and PvP modes.[36][37]

1.2–1.3 Forsaken Masters 20 August 2014

The second expansion, Forsaken Masters, was announced on 31 July 2014 and released on 20 August 2014 at 3pm Pacific.[38][39] It comes with a host of new features, including crafting, recruitable NPCs called Masters (who remain at the player's hideout offering them daily training missions and specialized items), reworked passive skill tree, and customized personal hideouts. The next major patch, 1.3, was considered part of the expansion,[40] which adds another NPC, the PVP Master, Leo, as well as other minor feature and new league.

2.0 The Awakening 10 July 2015 The Awakening, entered closed beta on 20 April 2015. It includes the addition of a fourth Act containing new map tilesets, quests, and monsters.[41] Other additions include new skills and items, passive skill tree sockets and jewels, item filters, two new challenge leagues, and game balance.[42][43] The expansion also added an optional "Lockstep" mode in an effort to fix the desync network synchronization issues at the cost of latency.[44] The Awakening expansion was released on 10 July 2015.[45]
2.2 Ascendancy 4 March 2016 The Ascendancy expansion pack was released on 4 March 2016. Including more than the usual new items and skills, the expansion added several new skills and 19 new ascendancy classes.[46] This expansion was also timed to be made live at the same time as the Perandus Challenge Leagues. The ascendancy classes are each tied to one of the base classes, with three ascendancy classes for each base class, except the Scion which only has one ascendancy class. Each of these new classes will contain its own unique ascendancy skill tree to advance. These new skill trees are much smaller than the base classes full-blown passive trees, but provide a unique specification to one's class not previously seen in the game. An example is the ascendant Necromancer skill tree, which would allow a witch's summoned minions to release chaos-damage explosions on death, increase the effect of auras, or increase spectres' health and damage.[47][48]
2.4 Atlas of Worlds 2 September 2016

An expansion, titled Atlas of Worlds, was released on 2 September 2016. It introduced a new end-game, 30 new maps and 19 new bosses.[49]

3.0 Fall of Oriath 4 August 2017 The Fall of Oriath expansion was released on 4 August 2017. The expansion adds six new acts and was the largest expansion released to date.[50] The expansion replaced cruel and merciless difficulties with Acts V-X. A new Character Selection Screen was added. A help panel has been created for players to use as well as eight new Vaal side areas with new bosses. There is also a new passive skill tree planning system. There are three new skill gems and numerous support gems added as well. 24 new unique items have been added, five of them being designed by supporters of the game.[51] The areas of the first five acts are revisited with changes to the environment that were the result of the players' actions. The Pantheon system has also been added, where a player can obtain interchangeable buffs from boss gods found in the new content.[52] The associated league of 3.0 patch is Harbinger, which its mechanic is occasionally featured in the core gameplay since ver 3.1.
3.1 War for the Atlas 8 December 2017

The War for the Atlas expansion was revealed on 16 November 2017,[53] and released on 8 December 2017. It focused on overhauling the "Atlas of Worlds" end-game system, adding 32 new maps, as well as other new items. After the 3.1 patch (which also introduced the Abyss mechanics),[54] the leagues Bestiary, Incursion and the Delve had introduced new mechanics to the game. They became permanent mechanics in the Betrayal expansion.[55]

3.5 Betrayal 7 December 2018

The Betrayal expansion and league was revealed on 13 November 2018,[55] and was released on 7 December 2018.[56] The Betrayal expansion offered a rework of in-game systems: the Master, crafting system as well as other content.[57] After Betrayal league and expansion, GGG released new league and big patch every 3 months: Synthesis,[58] Legion[59] and Blight.[60] The big patches also contain minor gameplay new features. At league end, except Synthesis, all the league gameplay were incorporated to the core game.

3.9 Conquerors of the Atlas 13 December 2019

During ExileCon, Grinding Gear Games announced the 3.9 expansion, to be released in December 2019. ExileCon was held in New Zealand in November 2019, it also announced the sequel of the game Path of Exile 2, which previously known for its working title Path of Exile 4.0, to be released in 2020 (or later). The 3.9 expansion was known as Conquerors of the Atlas, which overhauled the end-game system. It also shipped with bow attacks rebalance and new bow skills. At the same time the temporary league of 3.9 would be Metamorph.[61] Metamorph and the leagues after: Delirium (3.10) and Harvest (3.11) are all incorporated into the core game later on.[62]

3.12 Heist 18 September 2020 The 3.12 expansion introduced Heist league[63] as well as other features such as rework of curse and "Steel" skills that can be use by in-game player character. The studio also started the public beta access of their MacOS port. The Heist mechanic of the league, which added to the core game in 3.13, introduced the ability to hires combat NPC to perform special role in a heist, as well as new unique item subset called "Replica" and new skill gem that have alternative skill effect.[64]
3.13 Echoes of the Atlas 16 January 2021 Echoes of the Atlas expansion reworked the end game "Atlas of Worlds" system by introducing atlas passive skill, 11 new end-game map areas and new end-game pinnacle boss, the Maven. The patch also reworked some of the Ascendancy character classes as well as a new end game mechanic, Maven's Invitation, that deals with fighting multiple bosses at the same time. The associated temporary league of the patch is Ritual, which introduced new item basetypes.[65][62][66]
3.14 Ultimatum 16 April 2021 The 3.14 expansion introduced Ultimatum league as well as overhauling the loot of past leagues content that incorporated into core game in the past.[67]
4.0 Path of Exile 2 2022[68] Announced in 2019, Path of Exile 2 features a new seven-act storyline that is available alongside the original campaign. Both the current and new storyline lead to the same shared endgame. Path of Exile 2 will retain all expansion content that has been created and introduces a new skill system, ascendancy classes, and engine improvements.[68]

Reception[edit]

Path of Exile received "generally favorable reviews" according to review aggregator Metacritic.[69] Critics praised the innovations to the action role-playing systems from its predecssors such as the Diablo series.[71][73][74] Destructoid 's Patrick Hancock praised the world design, remarking that it has "has a grimy, grungy, uncomfortable feel to it that constantly makes the player feel slightly off just for inhabiting it".[71]

Kyle Hillard of Game Informer was critical on how the game "throws a lot at you with little direction", adding that "[t]he experience is not friendly to newcomers".[73] Eurogamer was not impressed by the graphics and presentation, saying that "Path of Exile doesn't have Torchlight 2 's sense of style or Diablo 3 's polish".

Path of Exile was named 2013 PC Game of the Year by GameSpot,[83] and best PC role-playing game of 2013 by IGN.[84] By February 2014, the game had five million registered players.[85] IGN's Leif Johnson remarked how Path of Exile was "into far darker territory than I'd seen in other contemporary action-RPGs".[76]

In 2020, it won the award for "Best Evolving Game" at the 16th British Academy Games Awards.[86]

Sequel[edit]

In November 2019, Grinding Gear Games announced the sequel, Path of Exile 2 during their Exilecon. Previously known as Path of Exile 4.0.0 (working title), the sequel introduced a new 7 act storyline campaign with a major overhaul of the engine and gameplay. However, both Path of Exile and Path of Exile 2 share the same game client and end-game system, leaving the player a choice to play the Path of Exile or the sequel campaigns before reaching the end-game. Players can also interact with each other regardless of their choice of campaign.

A Beta version of Path of Exile 2 was expected to release in "very late" 2020.[87] However, it was delayed due to COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand as well China and the rest of the world where the outsourcing companies are located.

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