It’s been awhile since I played Path of Exile. The last time was at least three years ago on a PC. Back on those days the developers hadn’t finished anything past act IV. When Grinding Gears’ PR team reached out with news of a new expansion for the game being released on the XBox I decided it provided a pretty good reason to justify my ownership of an XBX so I downloaded the game and gave it a whirl.
40 hours later I’ve managed to complete up to Act VI of the game (turns out there are X). Along the way I’ve discovered a lot of things have changed. But one major item has stayed consistent. This game is fantastic. It is bar none one of the finest ARPGs on the market. Nevermind that the game is supported through microtransactions. The amount of content that you actually receive for free is staggering. Along the way at no time did I feel compelled to spend money on the game either. I’m not really drawn to pets or fancy character portrait frames. The only thing I thought about purchasing was extra back tabs because those fill up fast. And maybe I’m a bit of a pack rat. Hey don’t judge me!
The game runs well on the XBox One X. It doesn’t seem to be enhanced for it though. Along the way I did notice a few frame rate issues which surprised me a bit. This machine ran Assassins Creeds Origin at 4k with barely a hiccup. A few times when the enemies built up on the screen and a lot of effects were running the game chugged a bit. This was not a common occurrence though.
I chose to make my run through as a Templar. I intended to be deliberate with my build. The skill tree is still a winding path with many choices to make and if you step off the wrong way early you can pay for it in the later game. I breezed through the first 4 acts dual wielding maces with a focus on elemental splash damage. I learned the hard way in act V I was going to need to rely more heavily on shields. My survivability dropped to nothing and I went from feeling like a hero to a zero quickly. A shuffle of gear and abilities and I was able to get going again. I really like the gem system and the different abilities they confer to your character. Combine that with the linked slots on items providing support gems a way to buff other abilities and it increases the games flexibility. It also creates a number of different ways to focus your abilities. Physical damage, elemental damage, splash damage, AoE, single target, shouts, totems. It becomes a very deep rabbit hole to plunge into.
Path of Exile just spews loot. Where some games don’t get that loot is what makes it fun Path of Exile gets that in spades. My only complaint is how few times I got an item and it felt like a genuine upgrade. I get that there are going to be trade offs. There are a number of different stats and resistances to juggle. Bonus armor, bonus damage, number of slots, slot colors, linked slots, etc, etc…. But it would be nice to get an item from time to time and just KNOW that it was an upgrade and get that rush from equipping it. That never happened. I did run across two named aka legendary items but neither of them were useful for my class and both of them were for characters way lower than the enemies in the area I was fighting. What went from being a potentially awesome moment ended up causing just a little bit of resentment.
My experience wasn’t all roses though. There was also a bug that I ran into twice at the very beginning of the game dealing with the tutorial. Each time I opened a chest that was supposed to contain a gem the game wouldn’t register that I opened the chest. In order to progress the tutorial I was to slot that gem in my gear. Because the game didn’t register me opening the chest there was an invisible wall that would not come down. This isn’t a new bug either. I did some searches on the forums and found people complaining about this six months ago. Because this bug happens so early in the game I was concerned about what I would find later on. Turns out those concerns were for naught. Once I created my third character and was able to progress past that part in the tutorial I didn’t have another issue.
Controller support worked well. You are limited to using 8 skills on a regular basis, and really 4 instantly but being able to move around and chase enemies was clean and precise. Using flasks and belt potions is also intuitive. Picking up items off the ground could be a bit of a bear though it does seem there was some logic to which items were selected in order when you were picking up a ton of items at once.
At some point I’ll hopefully be able to finish the final acts. So far most of the story has been nonsensical and it seems every time your exile tries to help they end up making things worse. The game play really does make up for where the narrative falls short. If you are looking for an ARPG for PC or the XBox and haven’t tried Path of Exile yet I highly suggest you do. Grinding Gear Games is a developer that does microtransactions correctly and while Path of Exiles is far from perfect I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this game.