Yesterday, I caught a demo of Path of Exile by Grinding Gear Games. The game is a free-to-play action-RPG that reminded me of an ultra-hardcore version of Diablo. The game also has features the reminded me of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X. The developer cites Magic: The Gathering and Call of Cthulhu as influences. Check out the video interview by Paul Semel above, as well as the screenshot gallery below.
One of the most striking things about the game is how customizable everything is. As you’d expect, armor and weapons can be upgraded. What’s really unique is that items like potion bottles and maps can be upgraded as well. In the case of potion bottles, the effectiveness and potency can be manipulated. As for maps, they lead to portals to secret areas; they can be upgraded to increase monster level and difficulty, as well as to give your character a gameplay advantage.
Armor, accessories, and weapons can be adorned with different gems that grant various spells and boosts. The developer noted that the materia system in Final Fantasy VII was an influence. Gems can be stacked for more powerful attacks at the expense of more mana (generally speaking). For example, a fireball gem can be armed for a basic projectile attack. It can be accompanied with a “fork” gem, which causes the fireball to split in two after it hits an enemy, allowing a single fireball to potentially hit three foes. The spell can be further enhanced by a “multishot” gem, resulting in three forking fireballs (say that five times fast).
The skill tree is a massive map of powers, passive abilities, and boosts, with each section of the tree specializing in certain types of powers. It reminded me of a much more flexible and diverse version of the sphere grid used in Final Fantasy X. While I wasn’t able to explore the intricacies of the skill tree during my short demo, I was impressed by its size and the amount of choices it gives players.
Another curious facet of the game is that there’s no gold. The developers eschewed currency in favor of a barter system. As armor, accessories, items, and weapons are modified, they become more valuable. Players can choose to stash items for future use, trade them to a generic in-game trader, or trade them with other players. I was told that in the closed beta, some players got so into the crafting and trading elements of the game that they spent more hours on selling goods than slaying monsters.[nggallery id=119]
Path of Exile hits open beta on January 23, 2013. The full release should be some time in Summer 2013. Be sure to watch the video interview for more details, including the Kickstarter-like system the developers used to fund the game. Find out why 176 gamers spent $1,000 to get cool and unique in-game items. Lastly, let me know what you think of the game. Do you think the hardcore gamers that were disappointed in Diablo III will find what they’re looking for in Path of Exile? Are you interested in trying the game?