There have been many ARPGs ported from PC to consoles over the years and with my love of the Diablo series I have tried most of them in one form or another. Torchlight 1 & 2, Titan Quest, Marvel Heroes, you name it I’ve probably tried it. However one that never really sparked more than mild interest was Path of Exile. Not so much that I didn’t want to try it more that I just never had anyone in my circles mention it at all, and so it went ignored until I heard it was being ported to PS4.
I have devoted much of my ARPG time to playing Diablo 3 on PC through their seasons making a new hardcore character and leveling it each time. Overall it has become a little stale even with the addition of the Necromancer class, and don’t get me started on the console port as I’ve already had many discussions on why I dislike it though I can appreciate some “console modifications”.
Jumping into Path of Exile was like nostalgia to my Diablo 2 days only with a much better coat of paint. Many of the things we are used to like inventory/stash management, vendors, and quest givers all function as they have in similar games for decades. Once you get past the initial few minutes you start to dissect all that this game does differently than its competitors.
For one, you don’t “learn” abilities or skills when you level. Instead you find gems which have the abilities on them and they themselves can gain experience and become stronger with you. Skill gems must be placed into sockets in your gear with the matching colour and can be mapped to the face buttons on the controller once you socket them. They can be removed at any time and replaced with different skills with no downside other than that you only gain experience on gems that are socketed. There are also support gems which modify how certain skills function by adding elemental damage, adding projectiles, or even summoning an ally to use the same skill. This is done by using linked sockets in gear. With some weapons and armor having up to 6 linked sockets the variety of ways to combine gems is ridiculous.
Opening the passives menu I was definitely overwhelmed. The amount of options you can put points into is astronomical. I mean look at it…. This grid is huge! Once I became acclimated navigating it I did notice that most of the points are largely non-influential on gameplay though with tons of +Dex/Int/Str nodes.
Everything is wonderfully voice acted, however I didn’t find the story to be particularly engaging. You’re and exile and you have to find a way to not be an exile is the easiest way to explain the overarching story without getting into any spoilers. There is a lot of lore to be found throughout the world but again none of it really grasped me until the later chapters which started to make the beginning storyline make a little more sense.
On top of going through the main story there are a ton of extra side things to do such as the memory nexus, the ascendancy labyrinth, and the beast menagerie. Most of these feel grindy and tacked on since they bear almost no meaning to the story, but are a great way to get gear, and specifically with the labyrinth is required to unlock your classes extra features. Although I still enjoyed going through these optional areas there is almost no explanation on how to navigate them. For example the beast menagerie is used to craft gear or currency by summoning groups of captured monsters and fighting them all at once in an arena. For the life of me even after looking online or answers I still don’t understand why the combination of monsters I select don’t work. I’m sure once I figure it out it will make sense similar to how the hideout crafting makes sense after a lot of trial and error.
Controls on console are fluid and although radial menus may have been functionally better they are not so unwieldy as to cause annoyance while playing. I’m not sure if it was a console only problem but I did have some issues with lag after a couple hours of play. This happened frequently during the first couple weeks but hasn’t been as much of an issue lately. Although it’s likely been rectified it did leave a sour taste in my mouth and I have been reluctant to play longer than an hour at a time now.
The gripes I have with the game are overall pretty minor as the usual ARPG gameplay is still intact and enjoyable. The lack of tutorials in optional areas hurts but again doesn’t ruin the experience. The lag issues I had not everyone will have and can be patched or fixed with better servers as time goes on. Path of Exile is a good but not great game.
I wanted to give my thoughts and score prior to telling why you should play this game. Path of Exile is ‘free to play’… you do not need to give them a cent to play it, and although it does have a cash shop it doesn’t offer more than stash upgrades and cosmetics. They also don’t push it on you with in your face ads or other methods. You literally have to go to the shop menus to see what offers they have. For all the good and bad I’ve mentioned this far you can’t beat the price of free. So go download this and try it for yourself.