STAFF REVIEW of Path of Exile (Xbox One)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

Path of Exile Box art Here at XboxAddict, we try to consider each and every game as a value for your money spent. As a reviewer, I understand that gamers have to make tough choices from time to time, and the last thing they want experience is a game that set them back lots of cash, only to find out that it is nothing but a colossal disappointment. Well, the team at Grinding Gear Games has just thrown down the proverbial gauntlet by providing their game, called Path of Exile, which is an almost identical clone of Diablo, for free. Yes, you read that correctly, it is 100% free to play. So, let's quit with the pleasantries and dive right in to this action RPG masterpiece.

If you are a gaming developer that wants to make a quality dungeon crawling action RPG game, then you have a plethora of quality content to sample from, but when you make something almost identical to one of the greatest dungeon crawlers of all time, Diablo, then you've already set yourself up for huge success. However, it takes more than just structure to make your game a hit. It takes the proper execution that will contribute to your hours, weeks, months, and yes, even years, to meld together into one massive time lapse of enjoyment. Now, there are a few dings and dents in the shiny armor of this game, but let's kick the review off with one of them so we can get it out of the way.

When you begin you will have your choice of 1 of 6 different character classes. Normally, when you are talking about an action RPG game, you try to find characters that fit your gameplay style, and in Path of Exile you not only have three characters that represent one of the core attributes of the game (strength, dexterity, intelligence), but you find three hybrid characters that share a balance of two of the main character properties, and not an overwhelming dominance of just one. There is also a secret character to unlock, but you'll have to play the game to find out who it is.

Each one of these characters, excluding the secret one, can evolve into one of 3 different classes. For instance, a Marauder, which is focused primarily on strength only, will have the option to evolve into either a Juggernaut, Berserker, or Chieftain class, each of which offers their own unique skills and benefits. This type of "end game" build is something to take into serious consideration given how you may like to play. One negative here though is that characters are name specific so you cannot make a character with a name someone else has already taken. This can lead to an extended time creating your character, as the game boasts a lot of players with many popular names already taken.

Each one of these characters supports what could easily be considered one of the largest, if not THE largest, skill trees ever seen in a game. A titanic web of various nodes that you can illuminate to grant you bonuses and skills lays before you. While you gain points for it by leveling up, you will also obtain points by completing side quests as well, so get ready for a lot of extra combat. These additional tasks are usually on your way to your main quest goals, so thankfully you'll be able to tackle some of these others to help your character level up organically. Sadly, you will not be able to fill the entire skill tree, so make sure that you think about your character and what build you want. You'll have to plan ahead, because to reallocate points is quite rare in the game. It's like the old phrase: measure twice and cut once. Think about your character and how you want to play the game and then see how the various parts of your skill tree assist and aid your character appropriately.

Once you're in the game and begin your journey, you'll notice that it is broken up into chapters, much like other games that are named Diablo. The story isn't much and the game does very little to hold your hand. The interface though is done well, with a character that can equip 2 slots for weapons, slots for a headpiece, chest piece, boots, gloves, belt, 2 rings and a pendant. Each one of these items can come with its own slot(s) too, allowing you to equip gems of varying color and skills. Outside of your initial weapon attack, these skills are going to be mapped to your A, B, X, and Y buttons, and you can stack a second set by utilizing the Right Trigger as the switch between pallets.

These skills are supported through not only the skill tree, but also with other gems. For instance, if you were to take a skill called Sunder, you could support it with gems such as "life on hit" which grants your character health whenever that skill strikes an enemy, so you can use that to supplement your health and mana potions which can be mapped to any of your D-Pad buttons. While this is deep, when you start to fathom the various classes of items and the fact that almost everything can be altered or changed, you can start to feel a bit overwhelmed by the game's size.

When you progress through the various acts and levels, you'll come across characters that offer you side quests to complete. These are essentially tasks that alter between a few variants. The quests grant you experience for your character and also begins to form a bond between your character and the various NPCs who offer them. Once you have done enough quests for these people, and you have built your relationship to level 3, you can start talking to these people about a hideout for your character, which can be like your own little getaway that you tailor to yourself.

As you are probably wondering, if this game is free then what costs money? That answer is: everything cosmetic. That is right folks, Path of Exile grants you the ability to spend obscene amounts of money to obtain skins and visual effects for everything from your boots and gloves to your weapon and even pets and hideout items. If you thought spending $60 on a Season Pass for a game was expensive, how about a cosmetic package for your character that costs $399? That isn't a typo, and I didn't forget to insert a period anywhere. While you can spend seemingly harmless amounts of real money, you don't have too, and that is a great gameplay feature, as it's 'not-pay-to-win', or in this case 'pay-to-excel-and-look-good'.

When all the in-game discoverable items were equipped, the spaces that were left open were numerous, which means you can go to great lengths to customize the appearance of your character into truly something memorable. I cannot stress how amazing the structure is setup. If you don't want to spend a single dime you don't have to; however, with the quality of the game at hand, spending money on these upgraded packs for your character is worth its weight in gold and goes to supporting a company that is giving you an incredible game for free.

I must admit though, there are some downfalls to this game. If you're playing a multiplayer game and someone else kills your enemy for you, you don't receive any experience. Your gems can level up thanks to the number of enemies killed, but your character won't gain any XP to level up. This issue also carries into the loot and how it's structured. In games like Diablo for instance, you get individualized loot and you can only share should you drop an item for someone else. In Path of Exile, it's a free for all. If you have someone who is just a straight up loot #*%@&, then expect to be fighting over gear for quite a while.

Another issue I have to mention is that, as of writing this review, if you want to sell/buy items on the trade board, you have to spend real money on the game. It seems like a cheap shot to make an entire feature of the game out of ones grasp unless you pay real money on a free game that already gave you so much. Granted, on the flip side, you could always go hunting for these types of items, but with the ability to gain more items of things you need for weapons and gear you want, then the barter system works wonders in a social setting. While the interaction itself leaves a lot of room for polish and fine tuning, the basic structure that is in place now can provide a good foundation to build upon.

The game itself is presented in the same top down camera style that you find in Diablo, and each of the areas is designed with its own unique atmosphere that seems to follow through several different iterations throughout the stages. This can be pretty disturbing, as you see some areas called prisons that have grates on the floors with arms and hands waving and clawing and grabbing at feet that cross their path. This coincides directly with the audio, because in the same level you get a Castlevania feel to the music that is only enhanced when you hear the screams coming from distant victims as their lives are being ended. On the contrary, when you first begin, you start out on the beaches and can hear the water and waves come crashing up on the shore and the birds chirping. Such dynamic contrasts make every area one amazing experience after another. Overall, the video and audio presentation is quite solid.

Without question, Path of Exile is a great, if not one of the greatest, values for dollar you can find on the Xbox platform at this very moment. Grinding Gear Games has demonstrated that you don't need to spend $60 and up on a game that is going to be shelved in a matter of weeks as you wait for more content to arrive. Despite a few hiccups, Path of Exiles is a pure joy to play, and with a quality microtransaction system in place (Editors Note: I know, who knew we'd say something like that), it's worth every single penny to play this game.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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