Walking the Path of Exile

A few months back, I wrote a post about how I would probably never play Path of Exile. From that point on you had to know it was inevitable that I would.

The character select screen in Path of ExileI did not, for the record, end up trying PoE because my view of it had changed. Instead, it was due to my job with Massively Overpowered. MJ provides most of our PoE coverage, but since ARPGs are one of the main genres covered by my column, I feel I should have at least some minimal experience with the big names in the genre, including PoE. And since it’s free to play, there’s not much to lose by trying.

Path of Exile is not entirely what I expected, though it is pretty close.

Given its popularity with the “uphill in the snow both ways” crowd, I was expecting this game to have some quality of life issues, but I was not prepared for just how bad it would be. What stands out for me about Path of Exile more than anything else is just what an absolute nightmare inventory management is in this game.

Maybe it gets better later on, but at least to start, inventory space is severely limited. Making matters worse is that there’s no gold in this game; it’s all barter. Yes, really. So your “currency” also takes up inventory space.

The barter rates aren’t exactly generous, either. Town portal scrolls, for example, are actually fairly pricey, at least from the perspective of a low level character. I quickly realized the optimal way to play was to just not pick up the large majority of loot. It doesn’t sell for enough to justify the cost of taking a portal back to town to sell it.

For a loot-grinder game, this feels downright bizarre.

My witch in Path of ExileOh, yeah, and unlike any other game made in the last twenty years, you can’t double click or right click to sell things, either. You have to click and drag each item over to the sell window — which is entirely separate from the buy window, because screw you, that’s why — which itself has limited space.

On the subject of items, I do want to note how irritating it is to have your skills tied to socketed gems. Nothing like not being able to equip an item that’s an upgrade because its sockets are the wrong colour.

I also quickly realized that there isn’t actually much depth to PoE’s massive and much-applauded skill web. The large majority of the passives are very simple, and it’s not hard at all to figure out a build. It doesn’t exactly take a rocket scientist to figure out that if I’m playing a class focused on magic and pets I should take the passives that buff magic and pets.

The only thing that makes it challenging is the fact that the damn thing is so huge and is not exactly laid out in the most logical fashion.

The really funny thing is that the actual gameplay — at least at low levels — is really easy. Right now I don’t even have to push buttons on most fights. My zombies can just mow down everything for me.

Near as I can tell Path of Exile’s vaunted challenge is based almost entirely on bad UI design. Clear up some of the QoL issues and you’re left with a relatively simple and pretty easy game.

Combat in Path of ExileNot that I’m really surprised. The kind of people who speak most loudly about games being too casual these days are generally not the upper tiers of players. They’re people who want gatekeeping so they can feel elite regardless of their actual skills.

All that said, there is one thing that impressed me about PoE: The world-building actually seems really good. The setting seems quite deep and fairly original, and I found a lot of interesting lore snippets out in the world. Each is narrated by some surprisingly strong voice acting, and as in Diablo III you can keep moving and fighting while you listen to the narration. It’s great.

Based on its reputation, I had not expected PoE to be a game that puts any effort into story at all, but instead the story seems to have had quite a lot of love poured into it.

This is a world I would like to spend more time in. I am more than a little tempted to keep playing based on the strength of the story alone. I’m just not sure it’s worth fighting with the gods-awful UI and inventory issues.

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3 thoughts on “Walking the Path of Exile

  1. I agree with your assessment of the world/story. I liked what little I have played of it. I’m a pretty casual-level gamer, so I’m rather forgiving of some of the things you mentioned. That said, though, I have to say that the game becomes a grind and it would be nice if there was a “real currency” rather than barter – your assessment of that is spot on. Enjoyed the post.

  2. i spent a couple of hours in it one afternoon and didn’t care for it at all, so I uninstalled it the same day. I didn’t get far enough to even notice a story, so…. for me it was just a big “meh” overall. Maybe I should have tried a different class or something, but… I wasn’t feeling it enough to care to try.

  3. Some hopefully helpful advice from a guy who has spent thousands of hours in the game. You can either shift-click or ctl click items to move them from your inventory to a vendor or stash can’t remember which offhand it’s just muscle memory while playing. And you really almost never buy anything from vendors or bother picking up most of what drops the loot clutter is one of the biggest issues in the game and one the devs are supposedly working on it can be minimized by using a loot filter not sure if the game even tells you about them but they are an option in the settings. The currency, while people do call it that it’s mostly used for what they actually do the crafting hence why people value it the only ones I would avoid using for crafting is chaos orbs and exalts as chaos are the main currency when trading and exalts, are usually at least 100 chaos. I will agree unless you wanna spend some money for some of their extra stash tabs particularly the unique one and the currency one trying to get by with only the four default tabs is a massive pain.

    Oh and the main thing to keep in mind when doing your skill tree is not the little nodes but the large keystones those can really change up a build and have a lot of cool interactions especially with your ascendency class and unique items.

    Away from just advice, my favorite thing about the game is actually the socketed skill system and the variety it offers so it was funny to hear that as one of your complaints. True with your zombies, there’s not a whole lot you can change beyond numbers but for some skill’s depending on the supports linked it can feel like totally different skills.

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