Path of Exile
|Path of Exile|
|Developer(s)||Grinding Gear Games|
|Publisher(s)||Grinding Gear Games
Path of Exile is an online action role-playing game developed by New Zealand-based independent developer Grinding Gear Games. It is a downloadable free-to-play game supported by microtransactions. On 23 January 2013, the Open Beta was released, and by March 2013 the subscriber base reached 2 million players. The game left Open Beta and was fully released both on Steam and on their own website on the 23 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 borrows 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 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.
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 of the three core attributes, Strength, Dexterity, or Intelligence. The final class, the Scion, can be unlocked by freeing her near the end of Act 3 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, allowing the skills themselves to be levelled up and increase in potency.
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. Given limits on the number of sockets, players must prioritize gem usage. All classes share the same selection of 1,325 passive skills, 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 attacks and spells, but must also take care to select the most efficient path through the passive skill tree. As of the 2.0 Awakening Release, the maximum possible number of passive skill points per character was 123 (99 from leveling and 24 from quest rewards.)
Path of Exile is unusual among action rpg games in that there is no gold/money. The game's economy is based on bartering "currency items." 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.
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. This mode is analogous to permadeath in other games.
Current temporary (challenge) leagues (running until Thursday, 6 March 2016):
- Talisman – As you play in the Talisman challenge leagues, you'll occasionally encounter monsters that are under the influence of Talismans. The ancient magic improves their abilities, resulting in dangerous encounters if you choose to engage them. Talismans have such a strong lure that monsters are irresistibly drawn to them. If a monster possessed by one is slain, other monsters will rush to claim the Talisman for themselves. Given their power, can you resist equipping one yourself?
- Hardcore Talisman – The hardcore variant of the above challenge league.
Previous temporary leagues:
- Warbands – Warring clans of enemies with synergistic abilities are spread throughout Wraeclast.
- Tempest – A Hardcore league where tempests affect zones and their monsters in a variety of ways, increasing risk and reward.
- Torment – Tormented spirits can haunt rare or unique monsters for extra challenge and loot.
- Bloodlines – hardcore league where packs of magic monsters each have one of many bloodline mods for added difficulty.
- 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.
- Ambush - Various new types of chests called Strongboxes could be found throughout Wraeclast.
- Invasion - hardcore league where areas of Wraeclast had substantially more monster variety.
- Domination - Variety of powerful shrines spawned along with large groups of monsters that received powerful buffs from the shrine.
- Nemesis - hardcore league where rare monsters had one additional mod from the Nemesis Pool, which could make a fight substantially harder.
- Anarchy - In each area, Rogue Exiles could spawn to attack the player.
- Onslaught - hardcore league where monsters had a +20% bonus to move speed and attack/cast speed.
- Darkshrine (IC003) - Players encounter shrine-like objects that allow users to sacrifice rare items, upon which various things happen. From the Darkshrine announcement thread: You might get a powerful buff for the area. An item in your inventory might be modified in some way. Hard monsters spawned in the level. The monsters in the level might even start fighting each other. It should be unpredictable at first and hopefully surprising.
- Darkshrine HC (IC004) - Functionally similar to Darkshrine, but the hardcore variant. Players still encounter shrine-like objects, and their deaths are permanent.
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.
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.
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. 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 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. The game continues to be updated with new content and fixes on a roughly monthly basis (from Version History).
Path of Exile's first digital expansion (version 1.1.0), Sacrifice of the Vaal, was released on 5 March 2014. The expansion included new bosses, currency, areas, leagues, and PvP modes.
The second expansion (version 1.2.0), Forsaken Masters, was announced on 31 July 2014 and released on 20 August 2014 at 3pm Pacific. It comes with a host of new features, including crafting, recruitable NPCs called Masters (who remain at your hideout offering you daily training missions and specialized items), reworked passive skill tree, and customized personal hideouts.
The Awakening, the third and biggest expansion (version 2.0.0), entered closed beta on 20 April 2015. It includes the addition of a fourth Act containing new map tilesets, quests, and monsters. Other additions include new skills and items, passive skill tree sockets and jewels, item filters, two new challenge leagues, and game balance. This expansion also adds an optional "Lockstep" mode in an effort to fix the "desync" network synchronization issues at the cost of latency. The Awakening expansion was released on July 10, 2015.
The upcoming Ascendancy expansion pack will be released on March 4, 2016. Including more than the usual new items and skills, the expansion will also add several new skills and 19 new ascendancy classes. This expansion is also timed to be made live at the same time as the "Talisman content update" and the new four-month temporary leagues. The Talisman update will include an entire new item type, called Talismans. These items are like amulets in the fact that they are equipped in that slot and have similar mods, but Talismans have unique and more powerful base properties, including being the only amulets able to have a socket. Talismans are also unique in the fact that they always drop corrupted, and as such they are uncraftable by players and unmoddable using currency items. 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 aura's, or increase spectre's health and damage.
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 21 January 2013, Path of Exile received US$2.2m in crowd-sourced contributions.
As of 28 February 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.
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