Thursday, 4 July 2013
Path of Exile - I am finally hooked by this game
So a while back, I downloaded Path of Exile to try out. The game was still in closed beta at the time, and at the time, I only played it for a short period of time but never really got hooked onto the game. I played in hardcore, but died fairly early in the game, so I kind of got a bit discouraged given how sudden and abrupt the death was. So at the time, I still had lots to do in Diablo III, so I continued to play for several more months. Path of Exile then turned to open beta, and I tried to get into it again, however, it still didn't hook me in. I didn't follow any build or anything, and just winged it. My ranger at the time, made it to the low 20's and I put the game aside again to continue my Diablo III. It also probably helped that I was still streaming Diablo III and generally having a good time being part of that community.
Near the end of May, I heard news of a fresh ladder starting up with some extra things being thrown into the game which, to me, sounded very interesting. Luckily as well, I had just reached my third paragon 100 character on D3, and was starting to feel burnt out on the game. This time around though, I decided to follow the advise of others, and actually follow an established build. Being that I personally like ranged play, I decided to stick with the ranger, and chose to go with a Lightning Arrow build.
This time around, there was a bigger group of us playing the game, so it made farming for items that much quicker as we would end up sharing a lot of gear and items to help each other progress. This, combined with following a proper build, I finally got hooked.
So, the start of a new ladder appealed to me, since that meant everyone started on the same fresh economy. From what I was told, some items that are normally available in the standard league, but since I didn't play much in the standard league, its not something I would have noticed, but some build write ups may reference these items, so for those who are looking to start playing POE, just keep that in mind.
Another major thing that has been added are the roaming exiles, which are modeled around the playable characters using the skills available to players. This I found very interesting, and felt it was cool that they could create such mini-bosses to shake things up. These mini-bosses will show up randomly throughout the game after a certain level, which I think is a nice way to shake things up and to break the regular grind of any farm session. I just wished the rewards were a bit better than they currently are for killing them. They did increase the rewards a bit already, but a lot of the time, I just skip them since I finally got the achievement for killing each of them once.
What I like so far.
Having finally spent a decent time with a single character, here are a few things I like about POE. The skill system is quite flexible and relatively open. Meaning, the developer can add in anything they want, and tweak things quite quickly depending on their needs. By allowing any character to potentially use any skill in the game, it really does open up a lot of build possibilities. Not all of them will be OP or good farming builds, but at least, they will at least work at some level. This flexibility also leads to more interesting items in the game, and the itemization in the game is a really nice system. It makes for a lot of interesting choices. It also means that a lot gear can still be useful for a long time even if the item is "low level". In the end though, its still about getting the higher item level gear to get the best stats, but at least its not a necessity in order to play at a decent level of content.
I really like the depth the game has with its passive and skill system, and how items interact with skills to further push your character forward.
Another thing I really like about the game is the ability to create new instances of zones on the fly. This speeds up the farming efficiency a lot since I was so used to having to leave the game entirely and start up a new game in order to reset the maps. So it is quite refreshing given what I have been used to with D3.
Death is meaningful again.. even in softcore.
So I only play softcore right now for a couple reasons. First, I felt that there maybe a lot of times where I would die to things outside of my control (i.e. server/connection issues). However, looking back at my time while playing in Anarchy instead of Onslaught, I don't really recall actually dying due to a connection issue, so maybe later down the road I'll try playing on hardcore again. Another reason is that the group I am playing with, all decided to just play softcore since a few in the group are completely new to the game. Which is fine, and gives one less thing to worry about when learning the ropes of the game. Playing with a group of players does help a lot, so if you are looking to start, definitely look for a few people to play with as a group so you can help each other out with loot and such.
Even though death itself doesn't mean the end of the character, once you get to a high enough level where experience becomes VERY hard to come by, dying and losing good chunk of your experience within that level is actually a very tough pill to swallow.
I got very lucky in the mid to late game when I six linked my chest armor, which allowed me to run my "end game" build's main attack with its intended support gems. From that point on, my farming sped up by quite a bit. I was surprised how much that extra support gem changed the game, and it felt really good. The only problem is the way the game scales experience based around your character level and the level of the zone. This then forces players to either grind endlessly for little to no experience, or have to take part in the current end game of maps.
At first, I didn't quite like the idea that you are forced into this game mechanic to further your progression. but once I started playing a few of these maps and beginning to get into the sub economy of maps, I have come to accept this concept a bit more. I just think that right now, there needs to be some tweaking to this system, or we need at least one more act to farm in so that maps are not the only option for high level progression (which they aren't in the long term as the developer has stated that there will be a lot more acts to the game). Not to say that its not a bad thing to slow down character progression after a certain level, but I just think that it is a bit too slow, or at least make maps a little more appealing by making it a bit more rewarding (i.e. a better chance to get something better in return for the currency invested to roll the properties of any given map).
No matter how powerful your character becomes, there are still enemies in the game or certain map affixes that can still threaten you. I kind of like that. You feel a certain level of power, but the game is designed in a way that once you feel way too powerful for a certain zone, you are somewhat forced out by lowering the rewards you receive. I think the developers have done a pretty good job at balancing this and its what gives this game such a appealing end game in my opinion.
Maybe I have been spoiled by the auction house of diablo 3 where I could get gear almost instantly (which some might see as a bad thing). But in POE, you have to actually do it "old-school" and trade via forums and trade chat. The bad thing about this is you get a lot of people who are not very experienced in sales, trying to sell things. For the most part, trade chat does work fairly well, and if you are active enough in it, you will be able to make decent trades. You will get a lot of people who have no idea how much an item is worth, so you end up at a point where the trade does not happen. The potential buyer might make an offer that seems like a low ball and then the seller just plain ignores the person, rather than actually making a counter offer, or any comment back to the buyer making the bid. Its this lack of sales skill among the player base which I personally hate (as do most of the friends I play with). It is OK that you don't know the value of the item, but at least understand that the bartering process is not just a simple one step process. There is some negotiating involved, but it seems like a lot of players don't have this patience. My message to these people is, set a price and be flexible from there. Even if the price is too high, at least its a start point and you can lower your asking price from there if you are not getting the attention you are looking for. The developers have talked about eventually adding the ability to trade directly on the forums in the future, I hope that it happens sooner, rather than later, as that would help make trades smoother, and it doesn't end up being a game of cat and mouse as you hope to be online and in-game at the same time as the person you want to trade with.
The currency system is probably one of the more interesting aspects of this game. There is no gold currency, instead, you trade consumable items. So you have a stockpile of these items, which you may end up actually consuming for your own purposes, or you use them to trade to other players for items. I also like that you can craft your own items, and although there maybe a certain point where it doesn't become economically smart to do so, I find it fun and satisfying to finally get something useful that you created yourself.
Community & Communication
The developers are quite open (relatively speaking) about the game and the things they are working on. They also communicate very well with the player base and fix things very fast if its something that they can do. I think in this day and age, it is very important that the developers keep the players in the loop, and to give the players a sense that their voice is being heard. I hope that a lot more developers take this approach on things in the future.
Given the game is free to play, there is no reason not to download it right now if you haven't already. If you are into an item hunt game or into any action RPG style game, I would definitely recommend it. It might not have the smooth combat polish of D3, POE offers a lot more in depth to make up for this, and given that it is still in beta, it can only improve from here!