Steven checks in with PathofEx­ile.

PC GAMER (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Steven Mess­ner

Path of Ex­ile is not the same game it used to be. When it first launched in 2013, it was a charm­ingly grim but janky throw­back to

Di­ablo II that dou­bled down on char­ac­ter cus­tomi­sa­tion us­ing an ob­scenely com­plex pro­gres­sion sys­tem. In the years since then, how­ever, that ob­scene com­plex­ity has spread to nearly ev­ery other sys­tem, cre­at­ing a sprawl­ing, daunt­ing and deeply sat­is­fy­ing RPG that evolves at such a rapid pace it’s a chal­lenge to keep up. Thanks to a rig­or­ous sched­ule of four ex­pan­sions a year, Path of Ex­ile is a free-to-play game that never stays in one place for long.

Take Delve, Path of Ex­ile’s last up­date, for ex­am­ple. Like all of Path of Ex­ile’s Chal­lenge Leagues, Delve re­quires play­ers to start a new char­ac­ter from scratch. This would be enor­mously frus­trat­ing in any other on­line RPG, but Path of Ex­ile’s Chal­lenge Leagues make start­ing a new char­ac­ter a tan­ta­lis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause of how dra­mat­i­cally each re­works the main cam­paign. While I’m still com­plet­ing the same quests and killing the same bosses from the reg­u­lar cam­paign, Delve adds an in­fi­nite dun­geon that I grad­u­ally ex­plore at the same time, along with new skills to play with and tweaks to ev­ery­thing else. Path of Ex­ile’s char­ac­ter pro­gres­sion is so stag­ger­ingly di­verse that start­ing over is just an op­por­tu­nity to try some­thing en­tirely new.

This in­fi­nite dun­geon isn’t just a gim­mick on the side, but could eas­ily be the set­ting of an en­tirely sep­a­rate RPG. Ca­sual play­ers might oc­ca­sion­ally spelunk their way through it look­ing to plun­der some new trea­sure, but more ad­vanced dun­geon delvers will spend thou­sands of hours push­ing their char­ac­ter to its ab­so­lute lim­its try­ing to be the first to un­cover what lies in Delve’s in­fi­nite depths.

That’s a very dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to the pre­vi­ous In­cur­sion ex­pan­sion, in which play­ers strate­gi­cally cre­ated time paradoxes by trav­el­ling to an an­cient tem­ple in the past where their ac­tions would shape its lay­out. Avail­able re­wards could then be found in the present. The ex­pan­sion be­fore that had play­ers play­ing Poké­mon but with a suit­able grim­dark twist: cap­tur­ing dif­fer­ent rare mon­sters to use like bak­ing in­gre­di­ents in a blood of­fer­ing in or­der to mod­ify or create dif­fer­ent pieces of gear.


The big­gest down­side to these Chal­lenge League ex­pan­sions is that they are tem­po­rary. If you take a few months out of play­ing Path of Ex­ile, you will miss out on the cur­rent league and all of its ex­cit­ing new fea­tures and unique re­wards. For­tu­nately, it’s com­mon for Grind­ing Gear Games to take the best ideas from pop­u­lar Chal­lenge Leagues and find ways of in­cor­po­rat­ing them into the base game, like the Prophecy ex­pan­sion which chal­lenged play­ers with find­ing and ful­fill­ing spe­cific prophe­cies in ex­change for rare loot.

But not ev­ery­thing in Path of Ex­ile

is so fleet­ing. The Fall of Oriath

ex­pan­sion was the big­gest to date, in­tro­duc­ing six brand-new story chap­ters that ad­dressed many of the nar­ra­tive threads that were left dan­gling from the orig­i­nal cam­paign. War for the At­las also re­worked the en­tire endgame by adding two ne­far­i­ous pow­ers that vie for con­trol of Path of Ex­ile’s mul­ti­verse. Along the way, Grind­ing Gear Games is con­tin­u­ally ad­just­ing and im­prov­ing the game’s core sys­tems. When Path of Ex­ile first re­leased, for ex­am­ple, net­work lag made com­bat painfully un­pre­dictable, but that is­sue was solved years ago.

Rein­vent­ing the wheel

The end re­sult is an ac­tion RPG that is al­ways trans­form­ing – a cease­less wheel of rein­ven­tion, in­no­va­tion and it­er­a­tion that never stops churn­ing as play­ers start new char­ac­ters, level them up, gain pow­er­ful items and start the process over again to re­fine their process and (hope­fully) earn even more pow­er­ful gear the next time around. That process is daunt­ing for new­com­ers, but it also makes Path of Ex­ile one on­line game where you will never see and do ev­ery­thing – let alone un­der­stand it. That’s a big dif­fer­ence over sim­i­lar games like Di­ablo III, which hasn’t changed all that much since 2014’s Reaper of Souls ex­pan­sion came out.

Un­like Di­ablo III, Path of Ex­ile isn’t a game de­fined by one sin­gle up­date. Like all the best MMOs, it’s a world that grows as much as each new char­ac­ter I start, and it’s the sin­gle big­gest rea­son to keep play­ing month af­ter month. Even if you don’t fancy a spe­cific ex­pan­sion, there’s al­ways a new one on the hori­zon filled with new fea­tures and clever sub­ver­sions of its core DNA. Oh, and loot. There’s al­ways more loot.

not ev­ery­thing in

Path ofEx­ile is so fleet­ing

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