Diablo III has accumulated plenty of sins since it was first released in 2012. From the Auction House debacle to the seasonal resets, there has been no end to the criticism leveled on Blizzard. Despite all that, Diablo III remains the king of the isometric ARPG loot grind and no others have even come close. Things are different now, however, since Path of Exile has come into the ring and is proving to be a tough and true contender for Diablo III’s crown.
The Classic System with Modern Roots
Path of Exile is not ashamed to say that it took its core gameplay from Diablo; naturally, there’s no way around the loot crawl without acknowledging the original. However, the Diablo franchise has seen better days in the heyday of Diablo II and the original, despite the arguable relative success of Diablo III today.
Path of Exile comes from the same family of games, but it does more to separate itself from its cousins and ancestry. For one, PoE manages to stand out by making some very unique classes and combat mechanics; these focus on gem equipment in order to determine skills in combat.
There are six basic classes in the game; Marauder, Ranger, Duelist, Shadow, Templar, and Witch. These all ultimately have an analogue in Diablo III save for some unique differences. Regardless, the game is easy enough to pick up by the Diablo veteran or the genre newbie since each class performs a specific role akin to the holy trinity found in ARPGs like these.
The one thing that PoE does well is its ability to imitate the tropes and trends of Diablo, without becoming too much like Diablo. Enemies of the same quality are there with blue-named enemies being a “rarer” genus than white ones. Gold would be the enemies that may or may not completely destroy you. From the basic shuffling demon to the irreverent demon, many of these enemies will be familiar to fans of the genre. This is a good thing. PoE manages to replicate the same things people enjoyed in Diablo and other isometric ARPGs, while being able to keep it unique with its Dark Souls-inspired aesthetic and feel. This way, PoE does not manage to alienate a whole player base who may think that the original did it better, and it manages to be intriguing enough to draw in the genre newbie.
Perhaps the only downside to PoE is its Xbox One port. It is not awful in any sense, but it certainly could be better. Diablo III’s console ports are very fleshed out and polished, but this is the first time Grinding Gear Games went for a port of their flagship game, thus this was expected. There is not any cross-platform play, but that is also expected. This is due to the different balancing of the peripheral differences for controller and mouse and keyboard. Being out on the Xbox One for only a year, PoE will still find plenty of improvements on a console and, if Grinding Gear Games finds enough reason, even cross-platform play.
The best thing about PoE, however, is that it is completely free-to-play along with all seven expansions currently released. You do not have to spend a single dollar to be able to experience the breadth of content it has. It does have a cash shop as is standard in F2P games, but everything that could be purchased there is mere vanity items that do nothing to improve your game. Grinding Gear Games is one of those developers that took an ethical stance with cash shops, by maintaining that there will never be an advantageous purchase over another player that does not want to spend a dime on PoE. Perhaps the only somewhat essential item on the cash shop is the extra bank space that would not normally be purchasable with in-game PoE currency. However, many players would find this forgivable as it is not a game-changing thing. It will make your dungeon crawling considerably easier though.
Just Like Diablo But More
It is very similar in scope and size to the Diablo franchise with its sprawling, loot-laden dungeons and drop-in/drop-out co-op where enemies scale according to the number of players. However, there is much more content in PoE due to Grinding Gear Games’ penchant for releasing updates and expansions on a regular basis. PoE is already up to its seventh expansion in the form of War for the Atlas. There is a whole slew of things to do and explore – much more than Diablo III’s meager vanilla game and its single expansion, Reaper of Souls.
With an interesting storyline and hours upon hours of fun, Path of Exile is proving to be a serious contender for Diablo III’s crown as the undisputed king of isometric ARPGs. It is a wonder how PoE does not have the same level of fame as its predecessor. Grinding Gear Games simply does not have the advertising power Blizzard has since it is an indie company. If you would like a break from Diablo III’s seasonal resets, you may want to give PoE a try for a fresh take on the ARPG genre.