Path of Exile’s beta hints at an excellent final product: Our hands-on impressions

Path of Exile

By on January 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

What if I told you that right now, you could be playing an action-RPG with the quality of Diablo, completely free of charge? Well, you can: Path of Exile, an online action RPG from New Zealand’s Grinding Gear Games, just entered open beta. I spend the better part of this weekend playing to see how it’s shaping, looking at whether it’s worth spending your time on.

And did I mention it’s free?

More complete

I’ve spent a whole pile of time on Path of Exile in the past, and the biggest new change here is the welcome addition of Act Three. Path of Exile is actually a complete game now, with a clear beginning, midgame, and endgame. The previous closed beta, with only two acts, forced you to just grind into nowhere. Now with a complete story, Path of Exile gives context to your time as an outcast in Wraeclast.

As an action-RPG, Path of Exile still is, admittedly, light on the story. The game is closer to Diablo 2’s six broad quests per act, rather than Diablo 3’s epic quests to unlock the gate down the road, and then find the church 50 meters east, before stopping to recalibrate your GPS.

This light approach works in Path of Exile’s favour, though. There’s enough story to hold the looting game together, without going so far you forget why you were really playing in the first place—killing zombies and robbing them.

More polish

However, it’s the little touches that make the move to open beta truly shine. First among these is the voice acting added to all characters and NPCs. The quality of the acting is surprising, for the credits don’t include any big names, and voices were all sourced from New Zealand. This makes a huge difference in moving the impression of the game from ‘cute indie title’ to ‘serious contender’.

More player skills have also been added—a lot more skills. Path of Exile used to feel lacking in the skill department, with little choice given over what skill you were going to spend spamming your way to riches. The open beta has addressed this problem, with more and more skills added to use. My ranger uses one single target skill, one area skill, one group buff, two curses, and two traps, with multiple support buffs added to the direct fire skills. It’s enough to keep things interesting.

More players

The open beta brought tens of thousands of new players to Path of Exile. The current peak player record is 69,850 players logged on at once. This makes finding multiplayer parties extremely easy. Although this might settle down after the initial launch weeks, right now plenty are around to play with.

This influx of players allowed me to take multiplayer for its first real test. Group size is up to six people, and… it’s really spammy, in a fun, cut-throat sort of way.

Keeping with its homage to Diablo 2, Path of Exile has no permanent personal loot. When a rare item drops, it will be locked to one person to loot—for two seconds. Multiplayer basically consists of firing as many area skills as possible while constantly racing to beat others to loot. At the very least it keeps you awake.

More Lag

Unfortunately, the influx of players has also brought a ton of lag. Over the weekend this server stress resulted in multiple frequent disconnections, and one very frustrated writer. Ordinarily, this would be a severe black mark on the game, with me devoting half an article to complaining about how there wasn’t even a red hair option for my ranger to make up for it. Like all Australians, lag free online play is my expected right.

However, several issues would make such a claim unfair.

First, the developers have been very active in working to scale the capacity of their servers to support more players. The problems surfaced on Saturday, and were mostly gone by Sunday. While 24 hours on a weekend is a frustrating time for random disconnects, it is only 24 hours, after all. As you’re reading this, the game is stable.

Second, half the weekend problems were caused by frequent DDoS attacks on the servers. All I can say is that people on the internet suck.

And third, the game does have a Singapore server gateway, which during closed beta reduced my latency down to a fairly tolerable 120-180ms. However, earlier this month, Australia’s undersea cable to Singapore got cut, making this gateway pointless. The estimated fix for this is sometime in February, and it’s completely the responsibility of the Singapore telcos.

And it’s free

Path of Exile is free to download and play, with a cosmetic microtransactions business model—you can buy vanity pets and new visual effects. An initial selection has been made available on the store, though what’s on offer is a little uninspiring—glowing weapons and frogs with crowns don’t scream “Shut up and take my money”. That said, in the open beta they did manage to sell several million dollars worth of kiwi pets, so it could work for them.

Minor niggles aside, for a free game, Path of Exile is extremely high quality. I remarked in my last look at the closed beta that it was an homage to the more hardcore days of action RPGs, before Diablo 3 and Torchlight cartoonified the genre. That’s still the case. Path of Exile open beta is still a hardcore, high quality action RPG, reminiscent of the genre’s glory days, which you should definitely check out.

Download the Open Beta client from our file library right now and get playing!

Some screenshots via Reddit (here and here)

19 comments (Leave your own)
GeneralHerpes.

Clunky as hell and your character feels like a brick.

Attacking also feels like you are hitting nothing.

D3 may have had no end game but the combat was fluid, responsive and smooth.

Free game I guess but eh, totally overrated.

 

GoN contact them to host PoE servers!?

 

shlaimon:
GoN contact them to host PoE servers!?

We have already spoken to GGG, but we weren’t able to come to an agreement yet. It’s not as simple as dedicated servers for, say, TF2, but we are keen to keep working on it with them!

 

generalherpes:
Clunky as hell and your character feels like a brick.

Attacking also feels like you are hitting nothing.

D3 may have had no end game but the combat was fluid, responsive and smooth.

Free game I guess but eh, totally overrated.

Clearly you played for 5mins and said “this is crap” and went back to d3.

Least my server queues will be down with you gone.

For this game to shine you have to get to at least 20ish, or at least play it through once, it’s clunky at the start on purpose, because they want you to feel your character grow in strength, not a god and one shot everything that strays in your path.

Tim Colwill: We have already spoken to GGG, but we weren’t able to come to an agreement yet. It’s not as simple as dedicated servers for, say, TF2, but we are keen to keep working on it with them!

Awesome to hear, I read GGG write something in a twitch chat that they are looking at an Australian/NZ server and are trying to find a host. Here’s hoping GON will be able to come to agreement with them and host it, would be awesome.

 
GeneralHerpes.

subw00fer: Clearly you played for 5mins and said “this is crap” and went back to d3.

Least my server queues will be down with you gone.

For this game to shine you have to get to at least 20ish, or at least play it through once, it’s clunky at the start on purpose, because they want you to feel your character grow in strength, not a god and one shot everything that strays in your path.

Actually got to level 18.

Leveling up doesn’t change the clunky controls one bit nor does it make hitting things satisfying.

No matter the level it’s not going to change.

 

Seems quite deep, though lacks the smoothness of Diablo and Torchlight. I have to spend more time playing it, but at this stage I’m a little disappointed by it.

 

generalherpes (and others disappointed by the start of the game),

It’s a bit of a cop-out to say it, but it’s true: It gets better.
Brian Weissman (one of the creators) addressed this issue directly on the game’s Reddit page.

It’s an open beta. Which means there’s not likely to be any game breaking bugs, but there’s tweaking and balancing to be done. They’ve also said there are plenty of things still to come (I believe they’ve said there should be an Act 4 before the proper release.)

Maybe it’s not worth your time to get past the early game, but if you do put in some hours, you’ll be rewarded.

 

I find it really odd that a game made by people in NZ it doesn’t even have NZ based servers.

I’m currently 39 and I do agree it doesn’t feel as fluid as D3 but given it’s avoided most of the design decisions that made D3 a horrible follow up to D2 it’s quite welcomed. If they add more content (Acts and story) it will be quite nice.

 

generalherpes:
Clunky as hell and your character feels like a brick.

Attacking also feels like you are hitting nothing.

D3 may have had no end game but the combat was fluid, responsive and smooth.

Free game I guess but eh, totally overrated.

^ this is pretty much my impression of it aswell not a big fan of the skills system either the whole gem thing just seems tacky and overly restrictive

 
ViolentSeizure

Combat has felt completely fine for me, coming from a heavy d2 background. I really hope Internode are able to host some servers for them :D

 

Smoothness? Nah it feels just fine. Besides, when I hit something with a weapon, it should feel anything but not smooth. ;)

Anyway, it is quite impressive what they pulled off. The game is very high quality and feels much more in line with Diablo2 than Diablo3 does. Loving it so far.

Oh and as mentioned in the article above, the voice acting is superb. You’ll immediately notice that in the character creation, when u first start the game.

 

violentseizure: Combat has felt completely fine for me, coming from a heavy d2 background. I really hope Internode are able to host some servers for them :D

This^

POE feels like a direct sequel to Diablo 2 and I LOVE IT (regulars will know how rare it is that I’m not bitching out a game lol), the whole thing plays like the developers were huge D2 fans who sat down and said “you know what we need? Diablo 2 with more skill points and more content”.

Game is great and anyone who says they like the genre and think that it’s crap are just flat out trolling. It takes a steaming dump on D3 and it’s not even a finish build yet.

Edit: for those having lag, my group have found that running via the American gateway is a lot less laggy (not noticable most times).

 

D3 isn’t really a finished build yet either :P

I’m close to my download cap but I need something to entertain me. This sounds absolutely perfect. I loved TL2 but it felt easy, which led me to not really play around with skills and diversify. The build-testing number cruncher in me is keen to try this out at last.

 

Level 26 Templar now.
Setting is a bit generic. Voice acting is nice. Visuals are good. Skill spamming is getting dull. I’ve been using Fireball for the past 10+ levels. Support gems take too long to appear and don’t do much. Not seeing any synergy happening with my hybrid class. Economy system is interesting, but I’m not getting much use out of the crafting stuff.
Hoping it gets better.

 

Anyone know if there’s good guides yet on where to put your mastery points based on what type of character you want to play? I want to start playing but as I read the game doesn’t allow you to learn and experiment with different mastery builds and forces you stupidly to start over if you don’t end up liking where you’re heading which has turned me completely off atm with the prospect of countless dozens if not hundreds of hours wasted numerous times.

 

I have to say, inventory management is teh sux. Torchlight pretty much solved this, GGG apparently thinks it’s ‘working as intended’, which is a shame.

 

andraxem:
Level 26 Templar now.
Setting is a bit generic. Voice acting is nice. Visuals are good. Skill spamming is getting dull. I’ve been using Fireball for the past 10+ levels. Support gems take too long to appear and don’t do much. Not seeing any synergy happening with my hybrid class. Economy system is interesting, but I’m not getting much use out of the crafting stuff.
Hoping it gets better.

My support gems are uber. :P

Right now my main attack is a lightning arrow with lesser muiltiple projectiles, faster firing, and added fire damage.

This means that it fires 25% faster for multiplayer spam, does 30% extra damage, and hits three times, each of which hit can then chain three times again due to the lightning arrow effect.

I’m not really seeing the whole clunkyness/lack of interesting skills issue. There is, however, a lot of rope to create a really crappy character if you don’t come upon the decent combos.

 

Well, I’ve only got two gems so far (+ lightning damage and chance to ignite), and the few others I have seen were equally meh.
Which is weird, cos the skill gems are far more interesting. I had heaps of fun with Infernal Blow, which converts half your melee attack to fire, and causes an instant corpse explosion if it kills the target. I’d like to add that as a support gem to Arc. A lightning/fire chaining attack the explodes enemies on death would be great.

Another thing, this game runs smoothly on my laptop. I’m impressed.

 

Another thing you can do is run up alts to get more support gems. It only takes about an hour to get to the quest for Act 1 that rewards a support gem, and sometimes these can be good.

The added fire damage gem I use on my ranger comes from playing a Duellist for an hour, and adds 30% more damage to my main attack…

 
Leave a comment

You can use the following bbCode
[i], [b], [img], [quote], [url href="http://www.google.com/"]Google[/url]

Leave a Reply

PC Gaming Calendar 2014

Follow Games.on.net

YouTube

Steam Group

Upcoming Games

Community Soapbox

Recent Features
EA Access

EA Access isn’t perfect, but get used to it: This is just the beginning

Other major publishers will be watching with interest as EA offers the first subscription service.

Destiny

Destiny continues to impress in beta: Our thoughts as Bungie’s new juggernaut rolls on

It's clear that Bungie are putting their best foot forward with Destiny, but as James discovers, playing on your own can be strangely empty.

Screencheat

Five Australian Indie Games We’d Hand Arbitrary Awards To: AVCon 2014

From a split-screen shooter where everyone is invisible to an abandoned space station, Australian indies are killing it at this year's AVCon.

Streaming Radio
Radio Streams are restricted to iiNet group customers.

GreenManGaming MREC

Facebook Like Box