The game will soon be coming to Xbox One, as well, along with the upcoming Fall of Oriath expansion. At E3 2017, we played the new content and learned about the game's Xbox One X support!
Path of Exile first launched on PC in October 2013. Since then, developer Grinding Gear Games has released five free expansions. The sixth expansion, The Fall of Oriath, is scheduled to arrive this July. Alongside it or shortly thereafter, the game will debut on Xbox One. A PlayStation 4 (PS4) port is possible in the future, but the developers want to perfect the Xbox One version before spreading to other platforms.
The game itself is an action-RPG in the style of Diablo. You play as a warrior who has been exiled from his or her native land of Oriath to a troubled region called Wraeclast. From there, you have to fight through numerous regions.
Path of Exile features seven primary character classes, one of which (the Scion) unlocks after completing Act 3. They all have one or more subclasses, called Ascendancy classes. We played as three classes at E3: the Templar, Duelist, and Witch.
- Duelist: My favorite of the characters I tried, he fights with melee attacks and can also summon an AI minion to fight alongside him.
- Templar: Fires projectiles, including three balls of lightning at once and a chain lightning attack.
- Witch: A female spellcaster with high intelligence.
- Ranger: She uses a bow and is extremely dexterous, but can wield swords as well.
- Marauder: A melee fighter with tremendous strength.
- Shadow: A dexterous and intelligent fighter, he uses short-range weapons and traps during battle.
- Scion: Can develop into almost any character build thanks to Path of Exile's deep skill system. This makes her an advanced character, and she must be unlocked later in the game.
All of these characters can be developed in different ways thanks to Path of Exile's deep "passive skill" system. Passive skills boost stats and attributes without input from the player. Players receive a passive skill point each time they level up, as well as some from completing quests.
The passive skill system is similar to traditional RPG skill trees. But instead of a small tree for every character, this game features one enormous tree full of skills that all characters can access. Thus, you can mix and match abilities by unlocking skills along with various branches, but this creates an opportunity cost compared to sticking with the character's native abilities.
Gameplay and controls
Instead of a single hot-bar with skills assigned to every button, the diamond-shaped hot-bar here is located in the lower-right corner of the screen, with an attack or skill assigned to each face button. By holding Right Trigger, players can access a second set of skills. Thus you get access to eight skills using just the face buttons and one trigger, freeing up the other three buttons for other tasks.
Potions that restore health and provide other benefits are assigned to both bumper buttons and three directions on the D-Pad, providing quick access to five total items. Down on the D-Pad toggles the map overlay, facilitating navigation of Path of Exile's tremendous randomly-generated environments.
Inventory management is another area in which Path of Exile's developers deviated from the standard Diablo template. Every piece of loot you acquire takes up varying amounts of space in your bag. To carry as many possible things at once, you have to move items around and squeeze everything into the allotted spaces. The aim is to create a sense of weight and value for your loot.
Path of Exile's world includes shared encampments where players can meet and group up, as well as instanced areas to tackle solo or as part of a group. The actual multiplayer is online-only, but Grinding Gear tells us they'd like to add local multiplayer at some point in the future. The instanced areas are randomly generated, so levels are different every time you play.
Originally, Path of Exile consisted of four Acts and multiple difficulty levels for each act – a game structure based on Diablo. With the Fall of Oriath expansion, the structure has shifted so that players no longer have to move through difficulty levels in order to reach higher difficulties. Instead, Grinding Gear chose to add six new acts on top of the original four acts, more than doubling the size of the game.
The plan is to keep adding content like the new acts to the game instead of making sequels. That way, players won't lose their characters, time, or money like they typically would when moving over to a sequel.
We sampled a few of these new acts, and here are some details.
A new section at the end of Act 4 bridges this act with the next one. Players will climb a mountainous region to find a magical machine that teleports them back to the homeland from which they were exiled (hence the game's title).
Act 5, the first new chapter added in the latest expansion, sees your character returning to the city that exiled him or her in order to exact justice. This act involves a visit to the Torched Courts. Your hero has accidentally released the gods of the world, once held in check by a divine creature called the Beast. This has a destructive domino effect on the rest of the game world.
Acts 6 through 10 primarily involve revisiting areas from the first portion of the game that have changed since the first time you explored them. Naturally, they include new areas, enemies, and items – not to mention increased difficulty. Twenty-four new boss fights spread across the new acts further ratchet up the challenge.
In Act 6, we visited the Brine King's Reef, a location from Act 1 that has undergone many changes. The grotesque water and sand-based enemies include Animated Reefs, Sand Strikers (mud men), and Brine Vassals (octopus monsters merged with human skeletons). This act shows off Path of Exile's gorgeous water effects, which have been significantly improved since the initial PC launch.
The Brine King's Reef ends with a boss fight against the Brine King himself. Upon reaching the throne, players encounter a mermaid they met earlier in the game. A haunted amulet she found has corrupted her body, transforming her into a huge monster called the Brine King. The big boss summons lobster-like minions and eventually creates a tunnel of water around the area that players must avoid. It's a visually impressive and exciting boss battle.
Path of Exile was conceived as a free-to-play title that would truly be free to play, with in-app purchases (IAPs) designed not to throw off the game balance or nickel and dime players. The primary source of purchases is cosmetic items that allow players to customize the look of their characters.
Still, a few purchases provide gameplay benefits. Each player has an in-game stash with a limited amount of room to keep their extra gear. You can opt to buy new stash pages with real money, thus increasing the amount of stuff you can keep. Additional character slots are available to buy as well. On the whole, it's a very fair system – and far lighter on overall IAPs than other online RPGs like Neverwinter and Star Trek Online.
Enhanced for Xbox One X
Although Path of Exile can't compete with Diablo on a story level (this is a story-light game at present), it certainly holds its own in the looks department. The Xbox One version of the game runs at 1080p and 60 frames per second (FPS), with dynamic resolution helping to maintain a steady framerate. The demo version we played had occasional frame drops, but the developers plan to wipe these out by launch.
Most excitingly, Path of Exile will take full advantage of the increased horsepower of the Xbox One X. Grinding Gear Games tells us that once they received their development kit for the new console, it took them only an hour of work to get the game running at 4K resolution.
The 4K integration provided an instant boost to visual quality at the 1080p resolution, as well, thanks to the magic of supersampling. The developers plan to add further enhancements by the time the Xbox One X comes along, so the game really should look incredible on Microsoft's best Xbox hardware.
Path of Exile will arrive with all of the content of the PC version when it lands on Xbox One, including the Fall of Oriath expansion that adds Acts 5 through 10 and other content. The developers are currently targeting a late July or early August release date.
The E3 build already looks and plays great, and this is definitely an action-RPG to watch out for!
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