When Path of Exile Mobile was first unveiled at ExileCon 2019, I honestly thought it was a tongue-in-cheek joke thanks to Blizzard’s spectacularly bad reveal of Diablo Immortal a year ago. However, when the UI for Mobile first showed up on the video in Aotea Centre in Auckland, New Zealand, I knew at that point this was real. Thankfully too, Chris Wilson and his team at Grinding Gear Games had it ready for players to check out and provide feedback at ExileCon that weekend. So how does the Path of Exile experience translate to a mobile device?
So many games nowadays are making that mobile jump. We’ve seen Black Desert Mobile in recent months, even EVE Online is getting into the action with EVE Echoes. But Path of Exile might be one of the few games that really gives the type of experience that lends itself well to a mobile platform. It’s gameplay loop isn’t as overly complicated as say EVE Online’s, and the mechanics themselves are well designed for the mobile experience. But how does it fare?
Rather well, at least at this early stage, though it’s not without room for improvement.
Visually, this looks like Path, though the visuals are obviously pared back some compared to the PC version.The textures really pop on the small phone screen (my playthroughs were on an iPhone 11), giving the world around your character the fine detail needed on a smaller screen. You can choose initially between a Marauder, Witch or Ranger, much like the Path of Exile 2 demo on the show floor, and I decided to go with the Marauder to check out how it feels up close the action.
Movement is mapped to a virtual thumbstick on the left hand side of the screen, and thankfully that thumstick tracks with your hand, meaning if your grip drifts a little bit you needn’t readjust to control - the thumbstick will recognize this and move with you. I found that incredibly helpful, as the back of the iPhone was getting so hot I was constantly adjusting my grip to compensate.
Your skills were mapped to the right hand side of the screen with three, rather large buttons to use - your main skill centered and slightly larger than the other two to make it more accessible. In motion, Mobile feels just like any other game of Path of Exile - you explore a map, taking out waves of enemies along the way, grabbing any loot they drop while doing so. Rinse and repeat. And Mobile feels like a proper Path experience.
However, it’s not without its issues. One of the major ones I encountered is some of the UI elements just aren’t as responsive as they should be - specifically your health and mana flasks. This was relegated to menu towards the middle-top of the right side of the screen - and I struggled, especially in the heat of combat to adequately open this menu and select the right vial I needed. Oftentimes it wouldn’t even open the pull out menu - it would just consume whatever flask was there - so if I needed Mana, but the most recently used flask was health, I found myself healing when I didn’t need it. This really needs to be more prominent, and responsive, especially considering how important healing and replenishing mana can be in the thick of a fight.
The inventory screen is pared back a bit - you don’t have as much space in your inventory than your PC counterpart, and I’m not sure if that’s just a tech limitation on the Mobile side, or if it’s simply the space of the UI on the screen, but it did feel limiting. In a game all about collecting loot, not being able to loot as much felt a little awkward.
However, for the most part Mobile is traditional Path. You’ll earn gems and, though instead of slotting in weapons and armor, you'll slot them into a skills screen to give your Exile the skills they need to take on the next round of enemies. The socket system is present as well, allowing you to augment these skill gems with support gems to make them more powerful.
Combat itself feels incredibly tight - and the responsiveness between my inputs and what I saw on screen for the most part was incredible.. I did notice input lag and some framerate issues when all of the things were going off on screen, but that can simply be blamed on it being and early build and there obviously will be improvements made to optimization down the road.
But man, when you take out a massive wave of enemies, sending limbs flying and racing back and forth across the screen, each movement and attack more satisfying than the last - it’s so much fun.
And as someone who doesn’t play mobile games, nor even really give them much thought, the fact that I was having as much fun as I was surprised me.. Even with the phone going nuclear in my hand, I didn’t want to stop playing. I could easily see myself sitting in bed playing Path of Exile Mobile before going to sleep, eager to clear one more map before I nod off. If executed well it can be a proper Path of Exile experience, and in Grinding Gears Games’s history, nothing suggests it won’t be executed well.
While no release date has been announced for Mobile, I’m actually finding myself chomping at the bit to get another go at the mobile build. It’s fun, and I honestly can’t wait to try it out again whenever Grinding Gear Games releases another test - mainly because I cannot wait to see where it goes from here. If I had this much fun at the earliest of stages, I can only imagine how my experience will be once it’s been improved and iterated on based on the feedback from ExileCon.