After having clocked hundreds of hours of Diablo 3, I decided to try out the closed beta of Path of Exile (POE).
It is a pretty amazing game as far as design is concerned. The only things I didn’t like about it had to do with implementation: the combat feels a bit clunky at first, and items don’t stack properly and can’t be transferred from or to the stash with a single click.
The rest of the game is pretty awesome. Let’s go through the cool features one by one.
Path of Exile’s item system is leaps and bounds more sophisticated than that of Diablo 3. One interesting aspect is that there is no gold, and thus there is no currency that serves the sole purpose of currency. Instead, the “currency” consists of stackable items that have different powers, such as identify scrolls, town portal scrolls, orbs that can transform normal items into into magic items, bizarre things that can change the color of sockets, etc.
The gear is very similar to Diablo 2 (that’s right, Diablo 2) with many unique bonuses. So far, I’ve found stuff like +1 Level of Bow Spells and Increased Block and Stun Recovery. The game is also not nearly as gear dependent as Diablo 3, at least in the part I’ve played.
There is also a very interesting potion system. Instead of being once-usable, potions have infinitely many uses, but they take monster kills to recharge. Potions themselves can have magic properties like gear. For example, a potion might have the ability to break chill and freeze effects on use.
Spells are also done very uniquely. Instead of learning them as you get to certain levels, you obtain spells by finding spell gems and socketing them into your gear. You can level them up by killings monsters and gaining experience. This is very cool.
If that wasn’t enough, spell gems can be modified by support gems. If I am using a Lightning Arrow spell gem with a Piercing support gem, the Lightning Arrow spell now has a chance to pierce through targets!
Passive Skill Tree
At first, it seemed like a somewhat above-average-complexity skill tree…
Then when I zoomed out, my mind was blown:
Granted, a lot of the nodes are generic stat bonuses like +10 Dexterity, but there are many interesting unique nodes along the way.
As I stated before, combat feels a bit clunky, but I’m sure it will feel more smooth when the game is actually released. Combat itself is pretty fun, because the dynamics are so much more complex than Diablo 3’s super-simplified system. In Diablo 3, combat is just each side doing damage to each other. Kiting exists for ranged classes, but often there are some monster abilities that completely prevent movement or kiting (such as Waller, Jailer, Fast), in addition to the guaranteed-hit detection system.
In Path of Exile, you can actually dodge attacks by moving out of their way, and there is a lot more to a fight than just seeing who can do damage faster. From what I’ve played of the Ranger class, positioning and maneuvering are pretty important. Item affixes and potion effects also complexify the combat system. Complexity is good.
Awesome-looking lightning arrows are also good.
How Does This Compare to Diablo 3?
Diablo 3, being made by Blizzard, is a ridiculously polished game. The graphics of Diablo 3 are also much better. However, the gameplay mechanics are simply too dumbed down to be fun for the gamer type. It appeases the casuals pretty well, but it fails to keep the dedicated gamers interested in the long term.
The item system in Diablo 3, for example, just isn’t fun. For example below, all I want on pants are Strength, Vitality, and Resistance to All Elements (and Armor, if possible). All other stats are strictly worse.
Diablo 3’s skill system is quite lacking as well. There is absolutely no complexity in the skill system. You pick a skill with a certain rune, and that’s about all there is. Your skill with that rune is the exact same as everyone else’s who also used that rune…. which is almost everyone.
The combat system is also pretty lacking. Theoretically we should have a lot of different skill combinations we can use, but all this flies out the window in Inferno, where some skills (such as War Cry) are forced. So right now combat is just a matter of how much dps, hp, and damage reduction you have from gear. There is almost no skill involved.
So far, the Path of Exile beta is more enjoyable than Diablo 3. Granted, both games will continue to improve. Path of Exile will become much better at release, but I just don’t know how much a small company can maintain such a game. Blizzard has a track record for turning decent games into amazing games via expansions. They have the money. Plus, Diablo 3 has a built-in money making machine via the Real Money Auction House.
Because of this, I think Diablo 3 by default has far more future potential than Path of Exile. However, Path of Exile is just much more fun at the moment and the guys who are working on it have done a wonderful job. I continue to look forward for improvements to both games.
Edit: I have since written a more in-depth review of POE.