Let’s revisit the topic of Path of Exile for a moment, shall we?
Maybe you don’t know much about it, or you heard about it and don’t know what makes it special. Well, ever since the Closed Beta I have been praising Path of Exile for being these very unusual things:
- Very pro-consumer in their business model
- Daring and original in a widely-known, well-established genre
- Incredibly deep in their character progression systems
- Very good at communication and responding to the community
- Very good rate of updates and new content
With the second expansion being released, all of these remain true. The actual gameplay content remains 100% free, with only cosemetic things like skins, cosmetic pets, and advanced guild functionality being monetized, along with the Stash Tabs for hoarding even more junk. You can install it, make a load of new characters, and play through the whole game as many times as you want (including the end-game system) with without paying a single dollar. I was telling this to a friend of mine, who kept saying things like, “Oh so they just charge for the expansions? That’s cool.” He didn’t even understand what it meant, or how they could sustain the business model, but no: all the content is free.
The economy has no gold, silver, copper, or other useless currency. All currencies in the game are consumable items, and are spent on gear in order to improve them, which you will certainly be tempted to do as you try to create the ultimate set of items for your character. This means the game doesn’t need any “money sinks” such as repairing gear, buying health potions or ammunition, or money penalties for dying, or whatever. It also means that you basically need to barter with other players when you feel like trading, because there’s no such thing as an official “value” for something.
The “skill forest” is what sucks a lot of smart players into the deep end of the game, and although it can seem intimidating and confusing at first, it’s a brilliant way of giving players extreme freedom and creativity in their builds. The Build of the Week video series is a great way to get jealous of the crazy stuff people have invented. The skill forest hinges around the concept that actual abilities used by your character come in the form of “Skill Gems” which are socketed into your items and can be swapped out at any time, while the “skill forest” itself is about enhancing character attributes and specializing in one thing or another, regardless of your Skill Gems. I could discuss the genius of this for pages, but let’s move on!
Grinding Gear Games is very in touch with the community, and they answer demand in a tasteful way. New skills are created specifically in order to fill “gaps” where certain build types aren’t thriving, new experimental “leagues” are created in order to test out features and provide variety to people who’ve experienced everything else, and there’s always some kind of events happening. The previous expansion, “Sacrifice of the Vaal”, was a clever way of peppering the game with optional but fascinating content.
The new expansion, “Forsaken Masters”, is going to add a whole new layer to the game and spice things up significantly. Obviously the best way to learn about it all is to go to the official page, but I’d like to give you my reaction as a fan of the game.
I find it absolutely dumbfounding that Grinding Gear Games is producing an expansion this innovative and substantial so soon after their last one, and it has renewed my confidence in the long term health of the game. The Forsaken Masters adds the following things:
- New interesting quests spread out randomly, but on a regular basis, from low level to high. This is very important for keeping the game fresh and varied for everyone, since the main game can be sped through if you’re an expert, and can be predictable after many playthroughs even though it’s good.
- A new progression system with each Master that unlocks features as you gain their respect. Progression along new lines (besides accumulating stuff and leveling up) is a great way to spur on competition and keep players hungry.
- Hideouts that you can own, customize, and show off. In fact, they say you can “create your own town”, whatever that means! This is huge, because having a home to call your own in a game as hostile and combat-oriented as Path of Exile will really feel special. Whether they sell the customization through microtransactions or allow you to earn them somehow, it is guaranteed to be a whole new level of personalization.
- Crafting without relying on pure randomness. Each Master has a type of item they can help you craft, and it looks like they remove a lot of the randomness from the process by giving you a list of improvements, and a cost for each. This is extremely valuable for those who have sunk dozens of currency items into a piece of equipment with no luck, which can end up feeling like a flaw in the game.
- New Challenge Leagues. These are leagues where crazy things can happen — a sort of hybrid beta realm/prize league where you can get better stuff and help test out dramatically new ideas that might get rolled into the main game eventually. Considering how cool past leagues have been, I’m excited.
- New skills, again. Unlike most RPG’s, new skills in this game are exciting to find and integrate without disrupting what you had before. Trying out new skills in creative ways is what keeps me fascinated with each character I create.
- PVP spectator mode. I don’t generally like the pressure of PVP because I’m more interested in exploring ideas than perfecting them, but it will be perfect to just watch other people fight it out.
- Tutorials. I don’t know how they’ll work, but there’s a lot to learn in Path of Exile and I’m sure it will be a valuable resource.
I’m a big fan of Path of Exile, and I strongly suggest it to anyone who is bored with the barren console wasteland, copycat shooters, and quirky little games that don’t reward months of investment. It’s one of the deepest games I’ve ever played, as evidenced by the insane builds people end up creating, and you just can’t argue with the fact that it’s free. I want to write a review of it some day, but they keep improving it so fast that I feel like I’d never be able to do it justice.
New information will be coming out in the following weeks, and I hope a lot of you will check it out before then so you can be prepared for when it lands.
I should look into Guilds, if enough people who read this site are interested.